Models pp 357-369 | Cite as

Art as Humanizing Praxis

  • Marx W. Wartofsky
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 48)


Human beings become human in coming to know themselves as human. I will argue, in this paper, that the creation and appreciation of art — the very activity or praxis of art — is a praxis which comes to know itself, i.e. which takes itself as its own object; and that this very activity is a fundamental mode of human self-knowledge. It is therefore a humanizing praxis. The thesis I am rejecting is that art is a representation of human nature, a mirror for man, insofar as it represents semblances or images of human beings, or of actions, or of events or scenes in general. One standard view is that art is an imitation of nature, that it is a portrayal or depiction of something beyond art. This is certainly true, of representational art (whatever the canons of representation may be) but it is not in such portrayal or depiction that human self-knowledge develops, and thus, it is not in this sense that art is a humanizing praxis. What I will claim is that art — or the artwork — is a representation of a mode of action which is distinctively human — namely, the creation of artworks; in short, that art represents its own process of coming into being and insofar, exemplifies and objectifies the distinctively human capacity of creation. It is in the self-recognition of this creative capacity that human beings come to know themselves as human, in the specific sense that they come to know themselves as creators or as artists.


Human Nature Human Existence Capitalist Production Artistic Creation Labor Power 
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  1. 1.
    K. Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959, p. 72.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

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  • Marx W. Wartofsky

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