Art and Aesthetics

I collected some blogposts I wrote about David Bohm and ordered them on different subjects. This page is about David Bohm on Art and Aesthetics. Links to all posts can be found on the page David Bohm Blogposts.

Beauty is Not Just in the Eye of the Beholder

Creativity has to do with recognizing differences and similarities. Recognize patterns that have a certain appeal to us, patterns in which we see beauty.

Now it is often said that beauty is subjective. That beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But according to David Bohm in On Creativity, beauty is not purely subjective. He says there is a more objective part about it.

Beauty is not simply a matter of personal opinion, dependent primarily upon the eye of the beholder. It is the result of dynamic, evolving processes that consist in order, structure, and harmonious totalities. Consequently, Bohm suggests the need for a new language in which these processes are conceived in objective terms, asserting that their coherent interplay results in an aesthetic perception of wholeness that is not strictly subjective.

So it is about recognizing a certain harmonious totality. Maybe a certain structure that makes sense to the person. At best a person who can see beyond the concepts. Seeing beyond the static, already known concepts and see that what lays beneath them.

Seeing that, means there can be formed other patterns or concepts from that underlying wholeness. Seeing new relationships between things.

Such sensitivity to similarity and differences enables one to perceive new orders of structure, both in the objective world of nature and in the mind.

Adorno about Aesthetics

I thought that David Bohm’s views on that are very interesting. Some time ago I read something from the philosopher Adorno, that seemed to say something similar about art.

The art object and the aesthetic experience of the art object contain a truth-content. Truth-content is a cognitive content which is not exhausted either by the subjective intentions of its producers or by the subjective responses of its consumers, and that may be revealed through analysis. Whereas Kant conceives of beauty as a subjective experience, Adorno suggests that beauty mediates between subject and object.

It seems that Adorno’s opinion about art is different from the philosopher Kant, who says that it is subjective. Kant says that it is in the eye of the beholder, while Adorno says that the artobject and the observer together are the truth.

That truth part is not just the artobject. And it is also not just the observer. Maybe it is not art at all, until the artwork is understood.

UPDATE: I have to stay with this a little longer, as it seems that Kant differentiates between taste and beauty.

Aesthetics is the philosophical notion of beauty. Taste is a result of education and awareness of elite cultural values; therefore taste can be learned. Taste varies according to class, cultural background, and education. According to Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. The contemporary view of beauty is not based on innate qualities, but rather on cultural specifics and individual interpretations.

So in my next post I might better compare the views of Bohm, Adorno and Kant more closely.


The Worldview of Aesthetics

With my previous post I compared different views on aesthetics. It were the views, as I understood them, from Kant, Adorno and Bohm. But I did not compare their totality.

Now that is too difficult for me to do, as I only have a very general understanding of each of their views. But even if it is way over my head, I have this desire to find the essence of each of their views and compare them.

So in this post I will first define aesthetics and then see if I can find the essential difference between those three views. Or maybe not so much differences, as well different emphases on what they saw as important.

Definition of Aesthetics

– A philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art and taste.
– The creation and appreciation of beauty.
– The judgments of sentiment and taste.
– Critical reflection on art, culture and nature.


The emphasis of Kant is in a way rather static. Taste is subjective and you feel what you feel and your opinion is just that. But you can learn new things, which might alter your taste.

On the other hand he says there is beauty that is universal. And there is no such thing as an opinion about that.


With Adorno the emphasis is on the interaction between subject and object. Between artobject and observer. Their exchange is essential. An artobject is art because it is recognized and understood.


Bohm also talks about an interaction between object and subject. But he goes further. He talks about changing the patterns. Looking beyond the aesthetics and recognize differences and similarities.

Development in Worldviews

So the interaction of Adorno is a further developed view than the view of Kant. And the view of Bohm goes beyond the interaction of Adorno. It is not just an interaction, it is one influencing the other. It is not about consuming. It is about creating.

So …

there is a development from ‘a world out there that can be viewed’ (beauty) with your own reaction to that world (taste) where your taste can be altered

to …

an interaction between the world (artobject) and the individual (observer) where the world is altered by artists

to …

an interaction between the world beyond the aesthetics (maybe potentials on a quantum level) that can be altered by the individual.

In short

Kant: view can change, world can not change.

Adorno: view can change, world is changed by artists.

Bohm: view changes the world directly.

Very simplistic view on my part, but if I would not put it so brief, I get lost in words with their different meanings. I will try to write a better post later, that does more justice to each of the views, but for now this is my best understanding.


The Art of Language

I love it when suddenly things start to make sense, when thoughts come together. I was again reading the book On Creativity, because I was searching for the definition of some concepts.

Those of creativity, aesthetics and art.

All my previous posts about aesthetics point to the importance of those concepts as an essential step between instinctive and moral human behavior.

But before I could understand it better, I wanted to have some sort of definition. A definition as general as possible. And who would be better to talk about general definitions that take in account the whole, than David Bohm.

In the chapter ‘The art of perceiving movement’ Bohm talks about the split in our language between our emotional and aesthetic perception on the one hand, and our rational and functional perception on the other.

A very good case in point is provided by considering the word art. The original meaning of this word is ‘to fit’. This meaning survives in articulate, article, artisan, artifact and so on. Of course, in modern times the word art has come to mean mainly ‘to fit, in an aesthetic and emotional sense’. However, the other words listed above show that art can also call attention to fitting in a functional sense.

The fact that we are hardly aware of the syllable art in words such as articulate or artifact is an indication of an implicit but very deeply penetrating fragmentation in our thought between the aesthetic, emotional aspects of life and its practical functioning aspects. This fragmentation tends to operate also in the meaning of the word beauty, which is ‘to fit in every sense’. Nevertheless, this word also tends mainly to emphasize aesthetic and emotional fitting.

It can be seen that, in a very profound sense, all these activities are concerned with fitting,  i.e. with art. All that man does is a kind of art, and this implies skill in doing things, as well as perception of how things fit or do not fit. This is indeed self-evident for the visual or musical artist as well as for the artisan. It is true also for the scientist and the mathematician, but less evident.

It is clear, then, that reasoning is to be regarded as an art. And thus, in a deep sense, the artist, the scientist, and the mathematician, are concerned with art in its most general significance, that is, with fitting.

With that in mind I found a post about language with a video of Stephen Fry, about the ‘correct’ use of language. And the following caught my attention:

But that is an issue of fitness, of suitability. It has nothing to do with correctness. There is no more correct language than there is correctness of clothes. Context, convention and circumstance are all.

The video is mainly about the critical approach to language. How being too critical and too focused on a correct use, can prevent us from being creative with it.

But at the same time it brings to attention the importance of context. How the right use of language depends on the circumstances.

It has to fit, we have to find the right balance. A balancing act that requires skills to recognize the resonance.


The Developing Definition of Art

Art is a difficult word to define. Wikipedia defines it as ‘a product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions and intellect’.

It also says that the word art was traditionally used for skill or mastery, but later as an intention to stimulate thoughts and emotions.

According to David Bohm, as I quoted in my previous post, the original definition was ‘to fit’. He said that the word art has come to mean ‘to fit, in an aesthetic and emotional sense’, but, as Bohm showed, art can also mean ‘fitting in a functional sense’.

When I read that, it indeed made very much sense to me. But ‘fitting’ was not exactly a word that I found when I searched for several definitions of art. So I searched specific for that and found some old definitions that said ‘fit together, join’ and ‘skill in joining or fitting’.

Taking all the definitions together, I get the following ingredients that have to be present in order to call something art:

  • a product or a process
  • skill or mastery
  • fit together in a certain context
  • affect senses, emotions, intellect in others

So far this is a definition of art that describes a person to person thing. One person has the skill to produce something (a product or process that fits together in a certain context) that affects another person.

Searching for New Patterns

But there is also an element of ‘fitting’ in the whole of society. Or actually of not fitting, not going together harmonious in society, that is the ground for art to rise. Even how we nowadays are more likely to define art. Many things show the skills of a person and affect another person, but are not seen as art.

Now, in general, art is more about changing contexts, going beyond what is known. But it is still about seeing a new ‘fit’. Going beyond the well known, but still making it appealing.  Searching for new patterns ‘that are fitting in every sense’, as Bohm defines beauty.

So apart from the previous four ingredients in the definition of art, there is a fifth:

  • a search for new patterns that fit in a greater whole

Something that goes beyond the individual. Which is about the individual in the whole of society. Or the society in the whole of the world. Or history. Or even of the world in the whole of the universe.

Searching for a new order, that can only arise if the individual gets a sense of a new pattern. Patterns that are underneath and go beyond the visible and already known.


Other groups of posts about David Bohm

David Bohm on Creativity

David Bohm on Confusion and Inner Conflict

David Bohm on Language and the Rheomode

David Bohm on Communication, Dialogue and Thought

David Bohm on Science and Information

David Bohm on Art and Aesthetics

David Bohm on the Individual and Meaning


  1. Kant and Adorno’s views of aesthetics are heavily influenced by humanistic ideas. This humanism requires that essence must underlie ideas, and that these essences must exist on a binary scale: subject/object, beautiful/ugly, inside/outside, art/non-art, etc… Bohm comes from a post-structuralist approach where there is a blurring between binaries like subject/object, you can trace this post-structuralist view back to Hegel’s “dialectic”.

    Your approach to art and aesthetics represented on this page seems to describe art as an essence, and you do not account for the possibilities of discourse that creates “art”. You should read John Berger’s “Ways of seeing”. This is a seminal work for many current artistic philosophies.

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