The Moral Instruction of Art
Abstract: What function does art play in the moral development of human behavior? Underlying every culture is a collection of values and traditions which ensconce the ethical norms of a particular social group. This shared network of values is passed on from generation to generation, with the slow amalgamation of the culture’s collective wisdom unfolding over time. In order to preserve the health and vitality of the culture, the transmission of these values must be adopted and practiced by the individual members of the society, establishing a tentative basis for accepted moral behavior between individuals in the group. For these traditions and values to prosper, a means of conveying the wisdom or utility of their function must be developed, one that can foster the production of a form of instruction. From this necessity to teach and proffer knowledge, the imitative capacity for human expression is greatly explored and expanded. As the complexity of societies evolve, the range of artistic development adapts along with it, forming new and complex modes of aesthetic expression, giving voice and form to the many psychological and spiritual yearnings of mankind.
The great religions and mythologies of the world survive because of the imaginative power of their art form, often finding expression through the use of story and narrative. As these artistic conventions develop, the potential to engage in more nuanced thought grows along with it, allowing the capacity for greater abstract experimentation. Art slowly evolves the capacity to synthesize the conflict of competing world views by vividly mirroring the action patterns of lived reality, often finding expression in symbolic representation. Ultimately, one of the great functions of art is the ability it provides in mapping a framework for moral instruction, distilling the collective wisdom of a given culture into a palatable and fantastic form, offering moral and spiritual guidance for those who enter into the creation of its imaginative world.
Judging Forms – Official judges only