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Approaches to Truth and Art

Art as a representation of reality

Aristotle’s idea of art was that art causes a cognitive value to the viewer. In other words, Aristotle believed that when one perceives an artwork, one can have an understanding of reality. Furthermore, according to this philosopher, art is a technical question, but most importantly, it is a structured whole. Art as a structured whole relates to human emotions, experiences, and emotional experiences (Anoop 2010). While using this argument, Aristotle also argued that art as a structured whole imitates nature, and this perception was very different from the perception that Plato had of art. Aristotle thus described art using the term mimesis. The philosopher describes the term mimesis to mean that art is not only an imitation but also it involves the use of mathematical ideas and symmetry. In employing all these approaches, the artwork is expected to illuminate perfection, timelessness, and contrasting being (Anoop 2010). In other words, even if art is all about imitating or copying the styles of others, it is also important to understand that in itself, it represents nature. These are all traits that can be used to define nature, which is why the Aristotelian perception of art was very important for understanding nature. This definition of art by Aristotle helps to reaffirm that art is not just a depiction of nature but also a reflection of the reality of human nature.

The best example of art that shows this definition by Aristotle is the famous painting of Jules Breton. It is imperative to remember that Breton’s panting was a realism genre of art. This knowledge should help us understand that the artwork was intended to portray nature in its natural form. His late-century realism painting carries some poetic allegory because the lark symbolized daybreak. Hence, his painting of a peasant woman expresses nature and the beauty of nature regardless of status. In other words, this painting reaffirms that people have an essential human nature, and art reflects the human nature in every individual. This conclusion is because, in this painting, the subject is a peasant woman standing in a field. In her hand, there is a scythe. While her presence shows the sign of deprivation, the artist has deliberately added that the sun is rising on the horizon, creating soft colors in the sky, thus adding a beautiful backdrop to the woman’s state, which shows the beauty in all humans regardless of status. Thus art represents reality.

Art as truth

Apart from expressing the elements of truth in a culture, art also creates the truth of that culture. Art thus provides the platform upon which what exists can be revealed (Watson 2006). In other words, this philosopher believes that art does not just represent things as they are but also depicts things in a manner accepted and agreed upon by the community. Hence, any time a given culture embraces a new kind of artwork, the meaning of existence changes. Heidegger argues that the artist and the artwork co-exist so that each is a provider of the other (Watson 2006). In other words, none can exist without the other, and neither is a single supporter of the other. While Heidegger’s idea about art is that art and artwork make each other exist, his bottom-line conclusion is that artwork depicts the truth of what is.

One artwork that shows that art depicts reality is the painting of slave trading in New Orleans. In this painting, the artist has painted a hall that looks like a place where some form of trading occurs. There are many white people in the hall, and from the way they are painted, their clothes make them look like people of higher economic status. Moreover, some who are seated on chairs have their legs crossed in such a manner to show their wealthy state. On the other hand, they are tied, they do not have clothes except for the wrappings around their waists, and it is evident that they are on sale. This painting shows the reality of slavery and the slave trade in New Orleans. The painting, which was done either in the 1770s or early 1800s, truly shows the life of slavery in America. This observation is seen in the trends of other art forms like music. Today, popular music markets lavish lifestyles and a life full of parties and fun. This is a true depiction of the ideology that dominates society today. Hence, art, as explained by Heidegger, depicts reality.

Therefore, art is a representation of reality, and also art is a depiction of truth as it is in reality. Based on the observation about art, it is evident that art can be understood or interpreted from various angles depending on the angle supporting the observer’s argument. Additionally, and most importantly, art is used to understand and express various societal issues. Similarly, Philosophy is used to interpret and understand various issues in society. This is the number one link between art and philosophy. Also, the other connection is in the area of interpretation. In this discussion, one can see that art can be interpreted differently, depending on the individual’s perspective. Similarly, philosophy does not have a specific formula for interpretation and creating understanding. In this area, art and philosophy are connected.


Anoop G. (2010). Rethinking Aristotle’s <em>Poetics</em>: The Pragmatic Aspect of Art and Knowledge. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 44(4), 60–80.

Cluit, F. E. (1906). The Art of Jules Breton. Brush and Pencil, 18(3), 106–110.

Watson, S. H. (2006). Heidegger, Paul Klee, and the Origin of the Work of Art. The Review of Metaphysics, 60(2), 327–357.


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