Depth and Insight
Posted by Michael Dickens on September 23, 2010
Let us consider art in the broadest sense. Let us assume it to include visual art, music, prose, poetry, performing arts, and any other medium that could be considered art.
The two primary measures by which the merit of art is judged are depth and insight.
The core purpose of art is to provide insight into the nature of some aspect of reality or humanity. The quality of this insight is the first criterion by which art is judged. Crime and Punishment is considered high art because it provides insights into morality and human nature, whileSports Illustrated is not considered a high art because its insights are about sports, which are generally considered to be not as broad or important. The long-term purpose of a piece of art is to provide one or more insights, and the merit of the art depends on the quality of these insights.
The second measure of art is how effectively it serves to cover each insight: that is, depth. The deeper a work of art delves into a particular insight, the more valuable it is. The Da Vinci Code may provide some insights into human nature, but they are very limited and shallow and thus the novel is not as valuable as an art form as Crime and Punishment is.
What is the reason for the importance of these two measures? The answer has to do with the purpose of art. In the end, the reason why we like art is because it makes us happy. Low arts such as The Da Vinci Code make us happy in the short term. High arts make us happy in the long term, by provoking thought or giving our minds room to grow. The best way to promote growth is to provide insight; and the deeper the insight, the more growth there can be.