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Lesson Plans


Do Animal Create Art/Beauty

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
marcia m eaton (marciameaton)
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 05:13:05 -0500


The question about whether animals can create art is always bound to get a
fight. (My husband and I nearly ended up in divorce court over the question
of whether or not animals can thin!) My own view is that the creation of
art must be an intentional act----and thus when animals build nests, dens,
etc and are acting from instinct it does not constitute art. There is the
famous case of the elephant (I think her name is Ruby---but I am certain
that someone out there will know the name) who seems to "discard" paintings
she does that do not suit her. This begins to look like intentional
choice. However, I always worry that we interpret what she is doing as
"discarding", i.e. read into her actions more than is really there.
But having said that animals don't create art per se, we can still ask
whether what they produce is beautiful---and certainly much of it is. Here
we have an important distinction that might help your students: the
difference between artistic objects and aesthetic objects. The class of
the latter contains more things than the former, e.g. sea shells (again I
don't think oysters are artists), snowflakes, etc. 'Beauty' is a term that
can be used to describe both artistic and aesthetic objects. But some
terms that we use to describe our aesthetic experiences seem to be limited
to art, e.g. 'sincere'. A poem, but not a snowflake, can be sincere.
I hope this helps your students----I love it that students are getting into
the discussion with Ron and me. Please tell them that they are invited to
email us directly. Best, Marcia Eaton

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