Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Making and Doing

~from Jacques Maritain's Art and Scholasticism. 
Doing, in the restricted sense in which the Schoolmen understood this word, consists in the free use, precisely as free, of our faculties, or in the exercise of our free will considered not with regard to the things themselves or to the works which we produce, but merely with regard to the use which we make of our freedom.

This use depends on our specifically human appetite, on our Will, which of itself does not tend to the true, but solely and jealously to the good of man...This use is good if it is in conformity with the law of human acts, and with the true end of the whole of human life; and if it is good, the man acting is himself good -- purely and simply good.

Thus Doing is ordered to the common end of the whole of human life, and it concerns the proper perfection of the human being. The sphere of Doing is the sphere of Morality, or of the human good as such...

...In contradistinction to Doing, the Schoolmen defined Making as productive action, considered not with regard to the uses which we therein make of our freedom, but merely with regard to the thing produced or with regard to the work taken in itself.

...The sphere of Making is the sphere of Art, in the most universal sense of this word.

Art, which rules Making and not Doing, stands therefore outside the human sphere; it has an end, rules, values, which are not those of man, but those of the work to be produced. This work is everything for Art; there is for Art but one law -- the exigencies and the good of the work.

Hence the tyrannical and absorbing power of Art, and also its astonishing power of soothing; it delivers one from the human; it establishes the artifex -- artist or artisan -- in a world apart, closed, limited, absolute, in which he puts the energy and intelligence of his manhood at the service of a thing which he makes. This is true of all art; the ennui of living and willing, ceases at the door of every workshop.

But if art is not human in the end that it pursues, it is human, essentially human, in its mode of operating. It's a work of man that has to be made; it must have on it the mark of man: animal rationale.

The work of art has been thought before being made, it has been kneaded and prepared, formed, brooded over, ripened in a mind before passing into matter. And in matter it will always retain the color and savor of the spirit. Its formal element, what constitutes it in its species and makes it what it is, is its being ruled by the intellect. If this formal element diminishes ever so little, to the same extent the reality of art vanishes. The work to be made is only the matter of art, its form is undeviating reason. Recta ratio factibilium: let us say, in order to try to translate this Aristotelian and Scholastic definition, that art is the undeviating determination of works to be made.

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