The Creation of Meaning

The real difference between art and science lies in the specific form in which they give us the same object in quite different ways: art in the form of 'seeing' and 'perceiving' or 'feeling', science in the form of knowledge (in the strict sense, by concepts).

[...] art makes us 'see' 'conclusions without premisses', whereas knowledge makes us penetrate into the mechanism which produces the 'conclusions' out of the 'premisses'.

This is an important distinction, for it enables us to understand that a novel on the 'cult', however profound, may draw attention to its 'lived' effects, but cannot give an understanding of it; it may put the question of the 'cult' on the agenda, but it cannot define the means which will make it possible to remedy these effects.

[...] in order to answer most of the questions posed for us by the existence and specific nature of art, we are forced to produce an adequate (scientific) knowledge of the processes which produce the 'aesthetic effect' of a work of art. In other words, in order to answer the question of the relationship between art and knowledge we must produce a knowledge of art.

[Louis Althusser]
'A Letter on Art in Reply to André Daspre', found in The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism, p.1481-2

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  1. The blog Scandalum Magnatum posted an entry on Simon entitled "Balzac of Baltimore," arguing that Balzac, Marx’s favorite novelist, sought to portray society in all its aspects, always thinking of it as a whole, showing how it was falling apart at the hands of the rising bourgeoisie.

    As Engels observed of Balzac, although his sympathies were with the class doomed to extinction, there was more to be learned from his fiction than from all the professed historians, economists and statisticians of the period together.

    In building a whole world, The Wire rivals the breadth of vision of the realist masterworks. It too anchors its sympathies in a class doomed to extinction, living in the shadows of the "brown fields and rotting piers and rusting factories," "dead-ended at some strip–mall cash register," "shrugged aside by the vagaries of unrestrained capitalism."

    [Helena Sheehan & Sheamus Sweeney]
    From here:

  2. Walking out of the theater I felt that this could be your grimmest ending to anything you've done so far. And maybe it's because of my own personal nueroses I've brought in with me, and the way the film's neurotic elements resonated with me, but at the end, when he's never really lived his life because of the way he has become consumed by the work, it's so sad and so grim. Is that coming from a grim place in you, or do you not agree that it has a grim ending?

    Before I answer I want to say that you say 'Maybe I'm bringing my own neuroses into this,' and I think that is the other element that is the collaboration in this movie or anything that I think is a real work of art, and that's the collaboration between the person who starts the conversation, which in this case is me, and the person who interacts with it. It's always been my goal to have that collaboration at the end of this process. You can't be wrong. It's designed so that you can have your conversation with it. So the fact that you think it's grim at the end is not something that I feel I want to argue with.

    [...] I also think that if I see something expressed... something that's sad in a work of art is not necessarily grim to me if I relate to it. Because that's when I connect with it. I say, 'Oh my god, there's somebody else in the world that I'm related to, the people who made this movie.' I find that all the time when I read books, and it's irrelevant - you can read the happiest book in the world and it can make you so depressed if it makes you feel isolated.

    This is the community we're in; we're in a community of people who die. Who go through their lives, who try different things, who try to connect to people, who struggle and fail and die. And that's just the truth. We all know it, and that's sort of the definition of being a human being. On a certain level I guess you could say that's grim, but it's also the truth. If you come out of the movie understanding that somebody else feels that way, it's not a happy sort of bullshit that makes you lonely.

    I don't know. That's kind of a convoluted answer, maybe. It wasn't my goal to be grim and say it's all meaningless. I think there's a grimness in our existence, obviously, but there's a lot of other colors in our existence.

    Interview with Charlie Kaufman
    From here

  3. Is "meaning" necessarily more than mere interpretation - an interpretation secreted into something by an intellect hungry for meaning? Art, it has been said, is beauty, and "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." It needs no meaning, for meaning has nothing to do with art.

    But when I speak of the relation of psychology to art we outside [the sphere of art], and it is impossible for us not to speculate. We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, otherwise we would be quite unable to think about them.

    We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings, images, concepts, well knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery.

    As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition.

    But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call "meaning."

    What was a mere phenomenon before becomes something that in association with other phenomena has meaning, that has a definite role to play, serves certain ends, and exerts meaningful effects. And when we have seen all this we get the feeling of having understood and explained something. In this way we meet the demands of science.

    [C.G. Jung]
    On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry
    found in The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism
    , p.998-9

  4. A work of art provides an opportunity to create meaning, and in creating meaning we travel away from the work, to somewhere else; a place of concepts, structures, and science.

    We mine the seam, recovering a precious metal. The metal is taken back to the world of people, melted down and turned into everyday items; a necklace, a ring; an adornment to be carried around daily. And so the meaning infiltrates our lives.