Armaan: Personal response to Knowledge and the Arts

In Knowledge and the Arts by Eric T. Macknight it raises questions about the purpose of art, how important is art to our lives depending on how we choose to view it? In Western culture “the purpose of art was to create beauty” but how about now (p. 1). If we merely view art as an attempt to create beauty then does it have a purpose other than for our pleasure? Nowadays art takes many forms and can be created to showcase disaster instead of beauty. These disastourous works “claim to be art” and this questions what art can truly be. How relevant is the artists mind compared to the viewers when it comes to judging artwork? People tend to view things differently and merely agree upon a similar judgment based off of what others have chosen. This sometimes leads to an ignorance towards the artists intentions.

“We don’t really need the arts. They are like the little fruits and candies added to a cake to improve its appearance. In other words, the arts are nice, but not essential” (p. 3).

There is a reason for our existence and as so there is a reason for the upbringing of art. I believe that everything exists for a reason. That the way people think, act, and talk have logical reasons for occurring. If we view art as mere “fruits and candies” on a cake then we restrict the purpose of art to only improve the appearance of the world. Honestly when we say “Art can mean whatever we want it to mean” this shows that we do not care for what it really means (p. 5). We should at least try to make sense of art with the use of logic. If something doesn’t make sense look at the colour, the shapes, the brush strokes, even if you can’t find a meaning behind art don’t automatically assume it has no meaning or it can mean anything you want it to be. However, can we rely on logic when trying to comprehend art? Lastly when we call something “great art” what does this mean (p. 10). What makes art “great,” why are some art pieces viewed as significantly more valuable compared to others? If an experienced artist creates a pieces and we judge that work when comparing it to a child drawing then we may always pick the work of art that is more beautiful, that shows more skill, that has meaning. Does “great art” raise questions? If so isn’t it just like good writing?

Knowledge and the Arts

Once I reviewed the “Knowledge and the Arts” document, provided by Mr MacKnight, I found myself heavily disagreeing with the idea of art being ‘useless’, as in today’s modern society, we find most forms of art to be gateways of expression. We relay our expressions as emotional outlets which are conveyed through our senses; when we’re sad we listen to depressing or slow songs to cry alongside the lyrics, with art, we connect with what we hear and our forms of interpretation. We draw or scribble to bring out a visual representation of our thoughts, and so it goes.

On the other hand, I found myself in agreement with the idea that we ask the wrong questions; we tend to be generally objective, looking at the superficial effects art can have on us, when in reality we should be observing the deeply emotional, logical and psychological effects we experience. In most cases, we are overloaded with emotional questions which come from how we first react to a literary piece, a play, a song, etc. But we must remember to stop ourselves and observe the true meaning and concepts being these pieces.

Response To Knowledge and the Arts

In the Knowledge and Arts essay on page 1, I was not convinced there are only two parties involved in a work of art. Sure the artist creates it and the audience views it, but there must be more. I can agree that technical and personal knowledge as well as experience are factors in the production of art, but how do we know we can trust these experiences and simply claim we have created or displayed knowledge? One specific aspect of studying the art is tracing where the artist’s ideas were derived from. Are they truly original, or are they simply expanding on a previous individual’s philosophies? It’s easy to say there are many ways of knowing, but how do we know what we claim to know? This is important to ponder as simply concluding the arts produce knowledge may be misleading. However, I am not arguing that the arts do not produce knowledge. I truly believe they do, but mainly when important issues such as politics, sexism, and global catastrophes occur, do they truly evolve. For example, if a new undiscovered or depicted natural disaster occurred, and someone made an art piece depicting it, I would consider that pure knowledge production. However, proving that the artist did experience the event may be hard unless a whole group of people testify and say it did happen.


I believe looking at an artist’s background to help understand their art is complete nonsense. It shapes our perception of them and may lead to the misleading conclusions of the initial knowledge they were trying to produce. On page 2, when it asks whether we would be better off studying such things as history and anthropology directly, I question whether that would work either. For example: If you wanna study Inca gold and you have it in your hand, besides weighing it and looking at the designs engraved on it, what knowledge are you producing? How do you “study something directly”? I believe we sabotage our ability to effectively learn from the arts. The constant sensationalism ( empiricism limiting our experiences as a source of knowledge to sensation or sense perceptions ) is ruining the real knowledge we can obtain from it. I believe this is what causes an almost automatic decision to derive our ideas from previous individuals and knowledge. I do agree with the ideas presented on pages 4-6, regarding the habit of asking the wrong questions. “What does it mean?” is not specific and allows for someone to give any crap answer from ‘knowledge’ they may have received from their grade 10 science teacher (just an example). “Where was it derived from?” is not perfect, but would be more suitable. If you use the tree example provided on page 6, and you ask “where was it derived from?”  you could be asking how science (or a higher power, if you believe in that) came up with all these cool creations that come in multiple forms such as trees. I believe that the questions raised on pages 9 and 10 are nonsense (sorry). They lead to bigger questions that cause us to question what we claim to know and further sabotage the whole process of figuring out who we are, and what we are meant to be doing. See, it’s a big endless loop. Despite this, it was a well thought out, and well written essay.


PR: Knowledge and the Arts

Reading Mr, MacKnight’s essay “Knowledge and the Arts,” I particularly agreed to how “asking the wrong question” about art is a problem (p. 4). As a self-certified artist,  the most intimidating question I get asked is indeed “What does it mean?” It is difficult to explain emotional weight and inspiration without sounding cringe (and sometimes the artist might not even know what it means). The creator shouldn’t give any explanation to the “meaning” of an art piece; it is the audience’s responsibility to reflect on the artwork’s impact on themselves. Perhaps that’s what makes some people good viewers, even though everyone’s interpretation and taste is different. Art has no value if it has no audience. Its purpose is not to preach a universally agreed standard on something (e.g, beauty), instead, its purpose is to inspire the audience to question “what it means to be human” (p. 11).

I disagree when people say art is “useless” during times of crises such as War. From art, we obtain wisdom. When a society is deprived of art (such as when a regime oppresses artistic freedom) it might as well be that the given society is deprived of wisdom on a collective level. It is also not good when an overwhelmingly majority of people in a society indulge in the “lower” forms of art, and is ignorantly proud of it. Using Mr. MacKnight’s ice-cream story as an example, It would be one thing to like a Mr. Softie ice-cream; It would be another to like Mr. Softie ice-cream and hate a Waldorf-Ritz Gourmet ice-cream when you’ve never tried one. That isn’t having subjective taste, but being ignorant. That’s why knowledge from art is heavily dependent on audiences. The audience actually has more responsibility of questioning, learning, and responding than the artists who created the works.

Personal Response to “Knowledge and the Arts”

In “Knowledge and the Arts”, Mr. MacKnight highlights the contrast between technical knowledge and wisdom to illustrate the importance of the arts. When reading this piece, I noticed that Mr. MacKnight’s definition of technical knowledge resembles his definition of form. In this essay, he defines technical knowledge using the examples of poetic verses, paint qualities, and lighting in cinematography (p. 2). To compare, common examples of form in literature are narrative structure, imagery, and diction. When we explore the form of literature, we must ask ourselves, “So what?”. Noticing the diction used in a poem, without exploring the effect of that diction, is somewhat futile. Connecting the form with the content is what allows us to effectively analyze literature. Similarly, noticing the technical details in artwork only becomes truly valuable when you explore the effect of that knowledge. Often, when people claim that art is non-essential, they are only looking at the technical knowledge of art. However, Mr. MacKnight defines the wisdom that we obtain from art, to argue its necessity. When exploring how art produces knowledge, he claims, “[through learning] about who we are, where we are, and how best to live, we gain the highest form of knowledge, which is traditionally called wisdom” (p. 10). Technical knowledge is simply a stepping stone on the way to wisdom. We observe technical details of artwork, to elicit a deeper understanding of the piece, the artist, ourselves, and our society. Technical knowledge is one element that proves the importance of artwork, whereas wisdom is the fundamental knowledge we gain from it. As Mr. MacKnight summarizes on the last page of his essay, art is essential because wisdom is essential (p. 11).

This essay raises several questions on the nature of knowledge, and the education we receive in school. Often, school subjects are ranked in a hierarchy. Whether based on difficulty, importance, or practicality, maths and sciences are typically placed near the top, whereas arts and languages are frequently diminished. Those who agree with this hierarchical configuration may also agree with the claim, “The arts are nice, but not essential” (p. 3). To contrast, Mr. MacKnight describes how our interactions with art make it crucial. The ways in which we respond to art help us uncover our biases, discover our identities, and learn about our cultures. As previously expressed, we gain wisdom through art, which cannot necessarily be said about the courses that are often prioritized. In the arts, we are instantly taught to question everything, from the techniques used to the global issues presented. Despite that, the arts are significantly undervalued and underfunded in our society. We always advertise math competitions, but hardly advertise painting ones. Similarly, math is a mandatory course, whereas art is optional. In our schools, employment, university applications, and even extracurricular activities, most everything is evaluated through numerical standards. We’re frequently taught to prioritize quantity over quality, as a product of our capitalist society. The arts provide balance for this numerical system, by restoring qualitative and profound knowledge. Perhaps, if we begin to value the arts as much as we value mathematics and sciences, our knowledge will progress. And perhaps, if we start to appreciate wisdom as much as we appreciate technical knowledge, we will grow as a society.