The Distinction between Aesthetics and Fine Art
People confuse aesthetics with art. The issue of art and aesthetics is a philosophical one, but art itself is something that emerges as a direct result of acts of art; it is not a philosophical issue. When philosophy deals with art, it asks the question “Can there be a science of art?” and thus was born aesthetics, the science of art. For Greeks, aesthetics (aisthesis) meant perception, that is to say sensory perception. However, as Hegel notes, this word entered philosophy much earlier, and has been used by philosophers to emphasize sensory perception since Ancient Greece. Hegel says he would like to begin his lectures on aesthetics by leaving this word as a noun and giving it a new conceptual content. What he means is this: Art is a form of expression, and in the historical process, various art disciplines –plastic arts, theater, music, poetry, etc.– have emerged as particular arts. Can we make a science of these arts? Is the science of art possible?
Because he asks these questions and offers conceptual and philosophical propositions about the issue, giving it a systematic structure, Hegel says this systematic structure is rational, and concepts acquire meaning through their own internal organization – without taking anything from the outside world, or from the world of senses. He calls the consciousness that emerges when concepts form a systematic whole by interlocking with one another the “aesthetic consciousness”, and says “Aesthetics is the science of art and is possible.” This is the subject of a huge controversy because nothing like this had ever been said before. And this was something offered by the modern age.
What Did Hegel Mean When He Said “Art Is a Thing of the Past”?
As the first philosopher of the modern age, as a modern philosopher, Hegel says that tradition, the tradition of art and ethics, has taken different forms until now; it has taken a religious form, an ideological form, and other forms. However, leaving these engagements aside, say the use of art by the church or by kings and aristocrats, is it possible to arrive at art’s own principles and laws, its own rational and comprehensible concepts? Pure philosophy. A subject of pure, pristine philosophy. This is his objective, and then he says “Art is a thing of the past.” This pronouncement is taken out of context, I see many people quoting Hegel, saying “Hegel said we can no longer make art.” How so? We have artists all around, art is being made all the time. What he means is that what used to emerge spontaneously and specified as art and artist by certain circles, a phenomenon that emerged in the context of a master-apprentice relationship in workshops, is now a science with a methodology; it can be taught in schools, it can be on a curriculum.
Indeed, in the modern period, we have conservatories, academies, and even faculties (that I have been criticizing) in all countries of the world. Hegel and his friends –not just him, of course, but a group; philosophers of the romantic period in Germany, all those “philosophers” that we call German idealists– took this position by the time the first universities were being established. It is true that there were earlier universities, but these people planned to establish the modern university: one that was based on universal knowledge, and was truly universal as the name university implies. We are now educated in these universities. As they imagined this, they asked questions like “Can art be part of a curriculum? Is it a science? Does it have a methodology? Does it consist solely of random perceptions, or can we really train people in art?” and then answered in the affirmative and placed methodological knowledge in university curricula. Similarly, they questioned the traditional structure of religion and ethics, asking “Can there be a science of this? Can we make a science of ethics?” Aristotle had written about Ethica in the form of a book and studied its methods –and partly on this basis– they decided “ethics can be conceptualized as the science of morality, and taught to people through rational methods.” Plato was the first person to propose educating all people. Plato said, “Humanity cannot develop unless all people are educated.”
Plato’s view was brilliant. There were no such ideas at the time. He had an academy, Aristotle had the Lyceum, and there were also the Milesian school and the school of Pythagoras. We all know about them, but these were efforts undertaken in a single, temple-like place. Plato says there should be universal education all over the world, and all peoples should be educated. If you look closely, his light reaches all the way to our present time; his ideas are still very much alive. He was the first person to propose widespread education. He said, “All individuals should be educated,” and he said this at a time when it was impossible. Today, all states spend enormous sums to follow Plato’s advice.
To repeat: When Hegel said “Aesthetics is the science of art,” what does it mean that art is a thing of the past now that it has a methodology and is part of education? It means art making is now a conscious, methodological act, and we can make aesthetic art. I keep repeating this lest you think that I am questioning the perceptual aesthetics of art. No. This was done by Kant. Moreover, by the time Kant moved on to aesthetic judgments, it had already become a subject of education. Aesthetic judgments meant having and implementing a conceptual understanding of art. This was the case for ethics and religion as well. Philosophy of religion means explaining religion using philosophical concepts; it is not about whether one has faith or not. It is just an attempt to uncover truth, if any, and expose any falsehoods; in other words, to question and make it comprehensible, make it an object of consciousness.
We can now make aesthetics but no art. What does that mean? It means we can now make principled art with universal principles, the requirements of which have been shown, proven, and logically demonstrated. The word haphazard or naive would be a perfect fit here. Art that is not rational is “naive” art. Art now must be placed in the context of art history.
Evolution of Craft into Art
The distinction between craft and art was made by conceptual, rational, or systematic philosophy. They were the ones that made this distinction. Previously, techne was identical to art. Techne, or craft was art, because crafts are made to order. Let me tell you something very interesting, something you have probably heard before: a French cardinal commissioned Michelangelo to make a pieta for his tomb. Pieta means Mary cradling Jesus, it represents compassion. When he was commissioned, Michelangelo was 26. Someone aged 26 makes a tombstone, and the result is a masterpiece. It is now an unsurpassed pinnacle of sculpture. Just look at it, and you would be amazed. What sort of a craft did he make, what sort of a quest, what sort of a passion did he have that the marble block turned into something that almost literally captures the compassion of Mary for Jesus? What makes this possible? This questioning marks the point where craft ends and art begins, where the activity which started as a craft takes a leap and becomes art – this is not an evolution, there is no such thing as evolving into art. This is according to Hegel, and I strongly agree; there can be no such evolution.
When dealing with a craft, you may be touched by art, and that would be it. Otherwise, it is not really possible to say, “Let me make more efforts and I will arrive at art, I will produce beautiful art.” If so, what do art schools teach today? I believe they teach an appreciation of art. We provide the education needed to appreciate an artist. If that were not the case, we would be minting new Michelangelos and new Leonardos every time we graduated someone from these schools. We will have new artists from among them, there is no doubt about that; but what education provides is an appreciation. This, and not training artists per se, is what is meant by education; we provide the setting and the conditions to unearth their geniuses, if any, and develop their sense of appreciation.
A Work of Art Can Be Critiqued by a Critic Trained in Aesthetics
The logic or the comprehension of aesthetic-based knowledge comes from the senses and is judged by the senses, but when we question its laws, principles, comprehensibility, and suitability or not for education, we are dealing with philosophy. In other words, do not assume that a philosopher would also be an artist. This is not the case. They may be artists of concepts, though. However, it is the philosopher that shows the actions of the artist to the artist; it is amazing. Even though this is exploited –the word exploit can also be used in a positive sense, as you know, but here I am using it in a negative sense– or abused today, artistic phenomena are evaluated by critics. These critics in fact must be philosophers or be able look at art from a philosophical perspective. There is abuse because this is not always the case, but this is another matter.
Someone not trained in aesthetics cannot evaluate an aesthetic work. Thus, aesthetics, which began with Baumgarten and continued with Hegel and other philosophers, is a theory put forth to train people in the science of art. We can only then start seeing the work of art. This is because seeing is undertaken by reason; we are talking about a rational vision, a vision related to the evolution of reason. A design-oriented mind can never see a work of art. It can ask what the work is for. Great artists later made the argument that works of art are devoid of function, that they are essentially displays. Duchamp said, “Anything abstracted from its function can be an object of art.” If it is functional, then it is Bauhaus; it is design.
The Historical Development of Systematic Philosophy
Plato was the first systematic philosopher. Previous philosophers were categorical philosophers; they investigated arches, but Plato engaged in systematic philosophy. What I mean by systematic philosophy is this: Plato was the first to try or establish systematic philosophy in the sense of making an effort to combine differences and create a holistic understanding concerning a whole that contained politics, law, aesthetics or art, ethics, scientific knowledge, epistemology, and their sub-categories. If we accept the claims of thinkers such as Hegel, who said “Systematic philosophy is rational,” then Plato is the first philosopher. However, in terms of creating a basis for thought, as Plato says, the real debate concerns the issue of existence. This, in turn, was first put forth by Parmenides; in this case, Parmenides would be the first philosopher, but only in terms of providing a basis for thought. Behind the appearances that we today call phenomena are arches. It is the same in Turkish too; as in arka (behind) and arkaik (archaic). You must have noticed that Greek and Turkish overlap significantly: arkaik (archaic), arke (arche), and ilke (principle). However, this search for principles, the search for a knowledge behind different appearances that brings them together, this arche or experience was first seen in Thales; in that sense, Thales was the first philosopher. When all these efforts for abstraction –abstractions of being or arche– correspond in reality to facts and motion, and not to appearances; when the concept of becoming emerges, the first philosopher is then Heraclitus. In that case, whoever introduces a new concept to philosophy is always the first philosopher. Whoever introduces a new, basic concept is the first philosopher. This means that philosophical precedence does not follow historical precedence. What matters is conceptual or logical precedence, making a more prominent contribution to logic, comprehension, or logos…
This is why when say “prior”, it refers not to a historical past but to a previous step in the process of understanding or comprehension. However, this understanding would remain abstract, like a philosophy in heavens, and it did actually do so, up until Hegel. Hegel again. This is why I keep coming back to Hegel. According to Hegel, “This rational or conceptual process was also manifested in the form of personalities in history. History and logic overlap; reason and reality overlap. In this case, what is rational is actual and what is actual is rational; it is reason that shapes history.” This is a terrific story, but today no one studies this. We no longer have dissertations on Hegel. There are postmodern stories, postmodern stories of literature. Derrida, Deleuze, Guattari… These are opponents of philosophy. If you read Karl Popper, and please do so, you will see that he insults Plato. When you start insulting people, this is no longer philosophy. Philosophy is a matter of rational nomos. The word namus in Turkish, meaning honor, is derived from the Greek nomos. Nomos means both name and law. Nomos physis in Greek means “laws of nature”. The word entered Arabic with these relationships, and became namus in Turkish. Both namus and nomos mean law.
Now, thinking with laws is rational thinking. This is why the nomos of reason is its law. This law in question consists of the concepts themselves or truths; it is not arbitrary. Philosophy cannot coexist with arbitrariness. They can be literary views; in fact, all of postmodernism consists of “in my opinion, in your opinion…” Opinions are fine, I don’t have anything against them. Polemics are fine in daily life, but a philosophical conceptual structure must have laws or involve necessity to be rational. Now, can we find a set of necessary concepts when dealing with aesthetics? This is the real issue.
Why Is It Assumed That Philosophy First Began in Greece?
We can have a look at the trajectory of philosophy from its beginning to the emergence of the issue of aesthetics. Ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, early modern philosophy, and today, modern philosophy. What should we understand from the term ancient philosophy? Let us remember ancient civilizations. What were the ancient civilizations? Following the literature, there were five civilizations. Let us remember them. We had Indian, Egyptian, and Iranian –which is still alive, also called the Persian– civilizations, as well as Chinese and Greek civilizations. The –ancient– Greek civilization is no longer, it has become a myth. The Egyptian civilization has also become a myth, it no longer exists. Interestingly, the Persian civilization is still alive. So is the Chinese civilization. We can also include the Indian civilization in this group; these three are alive. According to rational philosophy, a culture is elevated to the level of civilization when it destroys and rebuilds itself. This means that it becomes part of history if it affects the spirit of the world or the course of world history. If it continues at the same level of culture, it is not a historical being; it is a cultural being that remains at the human level. It cannot be included in civilization or rationality.
We can apply the same thing to individuals as well. If an individual does not engage in self-reflection and fails to question and redesign their life, beliefs, behaviors, understanding, ideology, consciousness, and philosophical position, if they fail to reach that level, then they would be a cultural being outside of civilization. These are big words; if we were to understand and agree with these, we would also understand what sort of a motivation a society needs. We would understand that this is a serious issue in terms of education, political views, intellectual efforts, and art activities. We said there were Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Greek civilizations. Didn’t these civilizations have thought? They did. They had art, and they had thought. However, things may be different when it comes to philosophical thought and we ask, “Did ancient Egypt have philosophy?” These people did think, there is no doubt about that. They had their political and economic views and views about life; what was missing was a principled quest or effort to build a rational background by reflecting on these views. In this sense, philosophy was unique to Ancient Greece.
Philosophy was a property of the Greeks, and the reason art emerged in Greece was that they already had philosophical thought. What does that mean? It means thinking about oneself, consciousness of consciousness, or what we call awareness. It means thinking about ourselves –or our thoughts– and judging ourselves, just like we think about and judge others. It means judging our morality, but in intellectual terms. In other words, it means asking “Is what I do good or bad?” What does good mean? Doing or not doing good is found in all civilizations. They all have the notions of good, of evil, of beauty, of ugly… In ancient Greece, however, the style of thinking that we call philosophy asks the question “What is good?” The moment you ask this question, you start searching for a substance, an object of reason. This is how philosophy begins.
Philosophy Is an Evolution from Mythos to Logos
At its birth, at the moment of the emergence of philosophy in conceptual terms, what was its object? What was being questioned? What was the question, problem, or issue? What was the basis of thinking about issues, or taking problems to a conceptual level? Was it detached from life? Or was it a direct reflection of life? When I think about this issue, I cannot help but remember Xenophanes. In addition to Xenophanes, who sorted out myths with reference to Logos in his “Reflections on Myths”, other thinkers also attempted to explain myths. They tried to make sense of them instead of rejecting them, and this has created a mysticism as well. “Mystic” is a Greek concept because Mysterions, or Greek mystics, were in Greece.
We also have Indian mystics at a later time, but they were called mystics because they resembled Mysterions. The expressions “Indian mystic” and “Muslim mystics” are based on this comparison… For example, they also describe Sufism (tasawwuf) as mysticism, but this would be wrong, for Sufism is another story. Sufism is not mystical, it is not comparable to Mysterions. Sufism is esoteric. Esotericism and mysticism are two different things. Esotericism has blessing, it has barakah, or holding hands all the way to Haqq, theTruth; it has a heritage and inheritance. Its training in the form of a master-apprentice relationship is unlike philosophy, which is written in books, transferred from books to minds, and then discussed. Love directly from heart to heart, manners, morality training conveyed, and then knowledge (ilm) and the internalization of knowledge, known as wisdom (irfan). Wisdom means inheriting knowledge, finding it within oneself. Sufism is the method of finding within oneself. Mystic experience, on the other hand, is different.
Mysterions provide their own definition. The story of the three monkeys. What were the three monkeys? Sight, hearing, and listening. How were they interpreted? Just look at the literature, and you will see. It was interpreted completely differently even though it was the symbol of Mysterions, of mystics and mystic religions in Greece. People say another thing; they say “Don’t look, turn the other way, let’s avoid trouble.” This was how it was interpreted, completely irrelevant to the original meaning. First of all, why monkeys? A monkey is an imitator, they repeat after what we do. Monkeys represent imitation. We all have this monkey-like quality, we like to imitate, but we need to leave imitation behind and move on to examination. This issue of examination begins by cutting all contact with the outside world first, and remaining alone with ourselves. It is not “Do not look,” but “Close your eyes.” We are told to close or seal our ears, and stop talking. In other words, we are asked to stop all mental activity.
Now, this is not something you can explain with philosophy. Philosophy says the following about this issue: “Take your thought to nil so you can have dialectics.” “Take it to nil,” it says, but this is a matter of abstraction. Abstraction is when you really track the thought itself, and engage in genuine, meditative abstraction. It is not with a mystic and meditative posture like that of Buddha. You get so lost in the flow of thinking that you don’t even hear drums. Most artists know about this. When there is an art activity in progress, your ears do not hear any noise, and your eyes do not see anything around. You only track the thought; this is called tafakkur or contemplation. Tafakkur is different from other styles of thinking. If tafakkur concerns truths, that is to say if it concerns the essences and truths of concepts and not the objects of the outside world, then, this meditative thinking stops the eyes, the ears, and the tongue, and this internal or reflective sort of thinking that revolves around itself does create a meditative effect, abstracting the person engaging in it. You get abstracted when abstracting. What the Far Easterners cannot achieve in decades of meditative training and experimenting, you can achieve through the actions of the thought itself.
Artistic sensibility does not necessarily mean being an artist. What would the artist do in the absence of people who can perceive the artist and their sensibility? What would be the audience of art, then? Who would receive the message, right? This applies to philosophy as well. Now, let us remember Niyazi Misri, who says: “Let us close the doors of eye, ear, and tongue for a while.” These are the three monkeys, as you can see, and he says, “Stop imitating.” Let us turn to our essence. Until when? Until we discover our self-existence. Whether we can achieve that or not is another matter. This is what artists do, artists engage in talwin, they change states. Sufis are artists too; they are all Sufis. Sufis are artists. Can’t we call Rumi an artist? The pinnacle of dance, the pinnacle of philosophy, the pinnacle of poetry, the expression of the inner world – an extraordinary artist. They first open up; they engage in talwin. Talwin literally means colors or colorful. This means they deal with all cultures without reserve, and enter all sorts of high-quality spiritual worlds because they are man-made. Then, they stay away from people and spend some alone time with themselves, called i’tiqaf or seclusion. This is what really matters. Being alone with oneself for the activation of one’s inner voice, deserting all one has collected from the outside world, without thinking or worrying about this world, faith, or the afterworld, and giving up oneself… This is what artists do as well. You then start to get inspiration; you either take up painting, in line with your abilities, or take up singing. Children also do this, they immediately start drumming on something or drawing. It is immediate in children, but adults cannot discover the talent within themselves so easily because they need to purify or become children again. So, the Greek Mysterions, mysticism, or secluding oneself from others and being alone with oneself…
When they ask Plato “What is philosophy?”, he says, “Philosophy is seeking what is right, good, and beautiful.” “What is thinking?” they ask, and he says, “Thinking is conversing with oneself,” pointing to the internal nature of dialogos. If you pay attention to thought, when you say something, its opposite immediately emerges, but we tend to ignore it. That is the voice of Satan, but we always want to walk down our own path. However, tafakkur, contemplation is impossible without that internal dialogos. Tafakkur is impossible without internal contradiction and conflict between thoughts. In this sense, bees make the honey within themselves. We, each and every one of us, can thus utilize everything and every culture, there is no doubt about that. We can take their nectars, if we can. However, to make honey in our own honeycombs, we would need to be alone and calm; it is only possible when all commotion ends and the mind reaches a state of serenity. “Only then can you hear your inner voice, or the voice of Rabb (the Sustainer),” say Sufis. This is the case in philosophy as well; if you are sincere in your efforts at abstraction, if you have a serious concern, you get abstracted without knowing when you were in the process of questioning and abstracting; it just appears before you, and you say “I found it!” That “finding” is not, in fact, done by the mind.
Philosophy also has processes of intuition. Ibn Arabi calls this “intuitive knowledge”. We do not receive this intuitive knowledge directly from Ibn Arabi; Ibn Arabi inherits it from Plato, and we inherit from him. Plato calls this Phronesis. This is not Noesis because that refers to logical, discursive thinking – inferential, comparative sort of thinking, the truth of knowledge. Plato, who posited the theory of ideas, says “Ideas are remembered.” We inherently have them; we don’t learn but remember them. But how do we remember? It is just revealed to us when we think about or question a truth. Interestingly, he says “Ideas recall one another,” in other words, when we comprehend one idea, other ideas come to the rescue. What is idea derived from? It is derived from eidos, which means “seeing”. Idea also means seeing, but with what? Not with the biological eye, but with the mental eye. This is why philosophy refers to the type of thinking that is based on the mind itself, not on the senses or outside objects.
Philosophy means mental vision. It is like geometry, but geometry is not yet at the level of ideas. Mathematos is not at the level of ideas, according to Plato, but in between ideas and senses (or sensory data). Plato says that you need to learn geometry and mathematics first if you want to comprehend the theory of ideas or philosophy. On the door of Academia, it says, “ Those who do not know these two cannot enter.” “Cannot enter” does not mean school is forbidden to them. School is a symbol, it means “you cannot enter the world of concepts.” What is that place? The land of philosophy. What sort of a land is this? It is your own mind. You cannot enter your own mind. Mathematos means wisdom. That wisdom consists of two complementary elements: one is rhythm or arithmetic, and refers to the knowledge of numbers or knowledge of arithmetic. Pythagoras’s narrative on numbers is in fact a knowledge of rhythms, that is to say repeating or a rhythm that keeps returning onto itself. This is what he means when he says this entire universe consists of rhythms or numbers. The other is geometry. Geometry and arithmetic together make up Mathematos. “Mathematos trains us to comprehend ideas (concepts),” says Plato.
I have identified philosophy, from different aspects, with Mysterions and with this story of abstraction, and now I would like to refer to Socrates here. In his Phaidon, Plato quotes the following from Socrates: “The philosopher is not interested in his body. He directs his attention, to the extent possible, to his soul. He becomes a philosopher to the extent he stays away from bodily pleasures and meets the wisdom of the soul.” Now, what Socrates means here is the following: It spontaneously happens, not when you implement it as a methodology, but if you focus on thinking the way that I have described above, in the form of tafakkur. This is because external things cannot add to philosophy. What do I mean by external? External to consciousness. All things that are external to consciousness are objects of consciousness, and cannot contribute to movements of consciousness itself.
Plato says, “The soul obtains correct knowledge not through senses but through thinking.” If thinking is to arrive at ideas, at reliable knowledge, it will happen through episteme, not through doxa. What is doxa? It is sensory information. It will not happen through doxa or designed information. The laws of reason are ideas, we can arrive at truth only through information demonstrated using ideas. Now, if one deals with the knowledge of ideas, with episteme, with what is called rational knowledge, then this is abstraction. Nothing we do with the design-based or sensory mind can take us to abstraction. In other words, they cannot take us to nil or help us find our own selves. This is why Socrates says, “Self-purification is a prerequisite for philosophy.” Self-purification is a prerequisite for philosophy because you would need to be pure and cleansed. How does that happen? Do you know what he says? “Self-purification happens when one reflects on their own thinking.” It starts with reflective thinking. How much of our thoughts are true? How much light can they shed on truth? Once you start questioning that, you turn away from the outside world and toward yourself, and this purifies you. These can be considered a form of self-defense for philosophy against the sort of purely mental philosophy that we today try to learn from books. These are overlooked because it is such a serious issue. Dedication is not possible. Dedication would make us philosophers if we were to follow the concept itself through our own rational actions. If you were to say “I am a philosopher,” the standard response you would get would be “Who are you to be a philosopher?” However, what does philosophos mean? It means “lover of wisdom”. What is wrong with that? Are you not allowed to love wisdom?
Socrates, as you know, said “Know thyself, and you will know gods.” However, Socrates was not the first to state this. This was inscribed above the door to the Delphi temple, visible from the inside and not from the outside. This was what entrants to the temple saw when they turned and looked at the entrance: Know thyself, and you will know gods. This is a very ancient saying because it comes from Egypt, it is a hermetic saying, a saying by Prophet Idris. The phrase “you will know gods” takes us to mythologia (mythology), and mythologia is gods, the gods of Olympus. In philosophy, Olympus refers to myths. When people talked about them as myths or gods of Olympus, they assumed that the myths existed in nature symbolically or in a realm of imagination outside of them. However, they were within, they were the roads to knowing oneself. Where were they taught? They were taught in Delphi temples. They were the mysteries or Mysterions; in other words, the images of these myths told the story of human beings themselves, that people don’t know their inner worlds. People develop methods or instruments to discover their inner worlds. These can either be the realm of creative imagination –what Ibn Arabi called tahayyul (imagination) or realm of imagination, and what Plato called realm of ideas or symbolic ideas– or the rational, principled realm. In other words, we have these two: the realm of imagination and the realm of reason. What the realm of imagination has is visions, this is where dreams take place. Dreams are not a matter of reason, they are a matter of insight. However, it is reason that explains the vision in dreams. Every dream needs interpreting, and this is done by reason. Reason comprehends because it turns images into principles, but the images contain the vision. Vision meets thought, and this creates tawhid (unity), two hemispheres uniting in a single knowledge. Image is its content, and reason is its form. Reason provides form, and image provides content.
There are multiple gods, but Zeus is the king of gods. What was his story? He was the thunder god, and the son of time, of Chronos… Chronos was the god of time, but he ate all his children; all phenomena disappear in time. The later denial of phenomena in philosophy, the idea of phenomena disappearing and becoming history, features in the myth. Chronos –from which chronology is derived– or historical time eats all phenomena; it eats all his children or offspring with the sole exception of Zeus because Zeus is intelligence. In other words, human intelligence creates all phenomena and phenomena disappear over time, but intelligence keeps creating new phenomena. The lightning thunders of Zeus represent sparkles of intelligence, right? However, this has an equivalent in nature as well. Then, it is the job of mystics to tell us that the mythical images in physis, or nature, have their equivalents in social structure and in individuals, and they need to be experienced or dreamed. Philosophers discover its conceptual structure by thinking about it, and they build the reason. According to philosophers, in other words, reason, like a rough diamond, is innate. The rough diamond already exists, but it is through the actions of people that rough diamond becomes polished diamond – or reason becomes advanced reason. Failing that, it would remain as rough diamond. “If you do not know yourself, you are wasted,” they say. This is what they all say, philosophers, mystics, and Sufis – it is a shared opinion. In the case of philosophy, this warning by Socrates is ignored. People don’t remember these things when it comes to philosophy; this abstraction, reflecting on one’s own thoughts, or making progress through internal actions or internal steps is forgotten, and people claim to engage in philosophy by taking external steps in the yard.
Philosophy is an evolution from Mythos to Logos; it is the way of knowing the visions or ideas contained in Mythos, that is to say in imagination, by carrying them to Logos or to consciousness, through the faculty of reason. We have nature myths in the transition from Mythos to Logos, which correspond to natural philosophy. We have human or moral myths, which are rationalized in the form of principles of ethics. In other words, philosophy is the act of rationalizing what is imagined. However, reason is not creative, it is regulative – it provides order, or creates cosmos. This is why we have the dichotomy of Nous and Cosmos. Nous is the cause of Cosmos in nature. Cosmos means order, and it is reason that provides order. Imagination does not provide order, it destroys order. It turns all orders upside down, it is creative. Albert Einstein created this extraordinary synthesis or tawhid by synthesizing the different categories of energies; in other words, he proved the transformation of energies into one another. When asked “How did you come up with this magnificent thing?”, his response was “I did it with my imagination, and then translated it into mathematics.” He says he created it in his imagination. “Alright,” they say, “can you tell us a beginning point that influenced this imagination?” “When I was a kid, I used to go and watch the reflection of light on ripples of water. I was so moved by these reflections, so influenced by them that I wondered what light is. And I spent my entire life researching this question.” This is how intuition or discovery works. “I devoted my entire life with passion, I just could not get rid of that thought. I did it by traversing the world of imagination, through discoveries, not through deductions derived from discursive, logical thinking. I worked in the laboratory, and worked, and worked, and I was so tired at some point, my mind was so tired that I stopped, I never wanted to go back to the laboratory again. Then, when I was shaving in the morning, I said ‘Wow!’” See, a solution was offered. This is not a logical deduction, this is not a product of discursive thinking. At that point, following intense mental activity, talwin (being painted in many colours) gives way to tamkin (determination), and that moment is a calm, meditative moment. However, you have to be calm to capture that moment. When your mind is out wandering, you cannot engage in philosophy, nor in Sufism, nor in art. Try this as a method, and you would still fail. If, on the other hand, you were to arrive at purity when dealing with a craft, you do find the inspiration inside and art is born. You just need to be determined to make art and put the effort, and you will succeed. It is obvious…
The Relationship between Imagination and Art
Imagination does not have a one to one correspondence with the concept of art because the art that we learn from aesthetics refers to images of the imagination placed before senses through the concepts of reason. This is what art is. Using the concepts of reason to place imagination before senses. Placing them before senses is a must for art. Placing the concept and the image before the senses; this is what aisthetis means. Concept is the form, image is its content, and its object can be a stone or voice. In other words, we give form to voice, paint, or marble, and in either case, the goal is to have them perceived by the senses. Art refers to ideas placed before the senses. Science, art, philosophy, and tasawwuf – I believe the process of discovery is the same in all four. Processes of discovery are the same, but they are different in terms of their own objects or substances; in other words, they differ in substance. In terms of the source of reason, they all have the same source. Hegel also confirms this, as you know. He says, “Art, religion, and philosophy are all products of absolute spirit.” These three spring from the absolute spirit, that is to say reason, but they have different substances. “Philosophy, art, and religion deal with the same subjects,” he says, “they only differ in terms of their contents.” Identical in absolute terms, different in relative terms. The real issue is this issue of unity and diversity.
There Can Be No Ethics Without Aesthetics!
Bashar (bodily aspect of humans) lacks artistic perception, let alone artistic judgment. Farabi says, “You are not a human being if you do not enjoy the sound of oud.” Why did we choose aesthetics? Ethics has its roots in aesthetics. There is no ethics without aesthetic perception or aesthetic judgment. Aesthetics or aestheticizing the soul is a matter of training; it is not enough to purify senses only, it is also a matter of taking thought to the conceptual level. However, this is not like making a leap, it is a process.
* Based on a speech Metin Bobaroğlu gave in AAV (Anatolian Enlightenment Foundation) on October 24, 2016, titled “Comparative Eastern and Western Aesthetics”. Translated by Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz, and revised by the editorial board.