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Philosophers reacting to modern art and contemporary art

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Kant: Oh mein Gott! Was ist das?! This horrendous array of objects cannot be art! This is absurd! Is there any beauty in this that people would want to share?

Nietzsche: It only matters if the artist defies suffering in life through his art! This is the only thing he does!

Camus: You are right, we serve both beauty and suffering. Art should be the voice of all that seek justice and freedom.

Kant: Indeed, there could be the beauty of context that I have never experienced in my time. If a work of art gives pleasure because the audience understands the story behind... Or does pleasure not matter that much anymore? How can I foresee the drastic change in the world a century after my death? I wonder if my philosophy would have been a bit different if I had lived through the two world wars. But it is also because of the rise of reasoning and rationality that led to modernisation in every aspect, including industrialisation and weaponry that account for the huge loss in modern warfare...

Sartre: Didn't Hegel said "Wesen ist was gewesen ist"-

Hegel: That's your word but my idea is similar anyway...

Sartre: Yes that summarises how we end up here pretty well. But it is up to us to define the meaning of this past. It is up to us to give meaning to anything in this world. So I understand Nietzsche, your emphasis on art in the later stage of your life.

Nietzsche: Art is the metaphysical activity of life!

Plato: I wonder if it is a good thing that our metaphysical debate around art, God, and form doesn't matter that much anymore in this bizarre age where people are prone to be split into two polar of superficial life and will to knowledge life, as the minority. Although I'm glad that my cave seems to be quite timeless.

Aristotle: Such refreshing words from Nietzsche that free us from the argument of higher power-or has he not yet-

Sartre: Sir, we are all free, and we are condemned to be, to live an authentic life!

Aristotle: I think I've said that beauty varies with the time of life in my book Rhetoric. Seeing visitors appreciating art in this modern museum, maybe it is time to think about the beauty that is not beautiful at all. What do you think, Plato? If that is just another existence of the form of beauty? How do we declare that this kind of visual is or is not beautiful anymore if we don't think about that?

Socrates: Hey fellows! Look at that poster there! It's said that there is a SYMPOSIUM about art coming up, oh! And in fact, look at this peculiar metal plate! Frames after frames of pictures are coming up on this screen! There seem to be numerous symposiums that we can attend! I need to talk to these modern people first before I go to any of that!

Camus: It's such an interesting conversation. I heard that the coffee on the third floor is quite nice, why don't we go and grab one for each of us?

Plato, Aristotle, Socrates: Coffee?! What's that?

Sartre: C'est la liberté, et son contraire!




Camus, A. and O'Brien, J. (1991) The myth of Sisyphus and other essays. (1st Vintage international) New York: Vintage Books.

Hofstadter, A. (1976) Philosophies of Art and Beauty. Chicago: Un. Chicago.

Nietszche, F. (1913) The Will to Power, Book III and IV An Attempted Transvaluation of all Values. Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis.

Sartre, J.-P. (1969) Being and nothingness. London: Routledge.

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