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akeefe's picture

Artistic Evolution

I found Daniel Dennett to be an excellent contribution to our studies of sciences stories and revisions. There are many things I could discuss, but I would like to elaborate one passage that stirred in me throughout the day. It came way at the beginning, and it meshed the principle “nothing comes from nothing” with Darwin’s story and Creationism. I remember discussion on “nothing comes from nothing” in my tenth grade biology class. We were of course discussing reproduction and evolution of organisms at the time, but
I have sine then been musing on it literary implications. The concept of “originality” is one that I believe is the plague of any artist. While artist traditions are praised for their ability to teach and inspire, I know very few artists who wish to be defined in the confines of some tradition.

Using “nothing comes from nothing” as a model, we are able to blink at the concept of artistic originality in a way not so unsimilar to the argument of evolution and creationism. I have read those who believe that art ultimately stems from the artist mirroring God, and that their ability to create a piece out of mere thought is chief asset. I have heard writers suggest not reading in order to further the development of a unique voice. In the other camp, I have heard artist proclaiming that all that can be done has been, and the only point of the modern artist is to rehash old ideas into modern contexts. I would dare say that the debate of the evolution of art is just as heated as the evolution of organisms, as both seem to conflict existentially.

It is my view that this “nothing comes from nothing” is a way to connect the branches of these camps. Yes, any artist is influenced by traditions and history, but this does not mean that there can never be unique interpretations. For other classes, I have recently finish three versions of the Faust legend, Marlow, Goethe, and Stein, all of which are based upon the very same folktale. However, each of these revisions could only have been written in the unique voice of their author. I’ll admit that as one who enjoys the arts, I have not yet so neatly reconciled these ideas, but using science as a model, I do believe them to be ultimately reconcilable.


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