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April 26, 2015
Aesthetic Reasoning: Art and the Thought of It
At first glance of the book, Freedom as It Happens by Tshombe Sekou, I am thinking:
this is just a book—a mere representation of one man’s ideas. In the same glance, I am asking
what is so very artistic about ideas; aren’t they but thoughts or opinions that everyone holds the
ability to possess? Glancing again, I conclude that the object is not an object of art, and that it is
precisely what I initially thought it was a book—just a book. Nothing fancy; nothing special. The
book is not aesthetically valuable because it is merely filled with thoughts. Everyone has
thoughts, even me. I wonder then, whether or not my thoughts would be considered valuable,
and too, the thoughts of everyone. Or, is aesthetic value only held for the very famous, very
philosophical, very scientific. And then, I wonder how the so-called famous, philosophical,
scientific get to be that way. Are their ideas better than everyone else’s?
Generally, I see art—real art—as drawings, paintings, or sculptures. Real art is that of the
very elite like Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, or Rembrandt. Then I further conclude that the object
does not meet my preconceived notions about art. It is certainly no Rembrandt. It was a given to
me as a gift and upon receiving it, I found the cover to be interesting and very visually appealing.
However, surveying the cover cannot account for what is inside. It is not an art book, but just a
book with words and ideas. A deeper glance and I was beginning to see the book differently.
Using the principles of aesthetic reasoning, I decide that aesthetic functionalism would best
describe the book. According to our text and the eight aesthetic principles, I determine that
principles one through six, are similar in that they “identify aesthetic value with the capacity to
fulfill a function” (Moore and Parker 406). Okay, makes sense—kind of: function, functionalism.
But I know there’s more to it, so I read over each of the eight principles carefully and settle on
principle five as the one which best describes the object. The object contains the ideas of
Tshombe Sekou in his book, Freedom as It Happens and can, in actuality, be regarded as artistic
because the speaker shares thoughts that channel meaningful emotion, grant the reader access
into an alternate world, and lend accompaniment on a journey beyond subjective experience.
Tshombe Sekou’s words are of aesthetic value, which flow as an introspective stream of
inspired memories, imparted lessons, and awakened imaginings. In the first stanza of the opening
poem “Fear” the speaker seems to search soul and mind, as Tshombe Sekou expresses with:
I have no fear of dying
for I have survived the trials of life
and many of its deaths and reincarnations
ignorance is one of them
love yet another…as much as self-deception. (Sekou 1, lines 1-5)
It seems a memoir in which the reader is invited to recollect the pretentiousness of youth-hood as
it is poured forth from a fully developed appreciation for naturalness as a being. Perusing over
principle number five again, which, according to our text, is explained as thoughts or ideas that
are objects of aesthetic value, “…if they have the capacity to produce certain emotions we value,
at least when the emotion is brought about by art rather than life” (Moore and Parker 406). In
Sekou’s poem, “Fear” the speaker presents lessons as lucid nudges of wisdom from an adept
student of life. Also, as described in Aristotle’s Poetics, in which he analyzes fear to be a feeling
we are hesitant about in real life. Eric Gans, in his article “Aesthetics and Cultural Criticism”
writes, “Our relationship to the imaginary world of the artwork oscillates between our
participation in the content of that world and our this-worldly return to the sign as its formal
basis” (Gans 68). In Sekou’s work, the reader is urged to partake in a perceptive light, radiant
and resonant with prolific imagery. In the work—or the art—speaker and reader have become a
cohesive entity, at least in the readers mind. In functionalism, according to Jerrold Levinson,
“One concept of art [is seen] as tied to the mimesis, imitation, or representation of the external
world” (Levinson 5). This is to say that art, as an outlet of expression, can only strive to mimic,
or imitate life.
In order for the reader to gain access into an alternate world, or the world imitated or recreated as life, by way of the artist—or author’s—expression, we learn that words do more than
send and receive information. The words, as our text states, “… that constitute reasons can have
an emotive force directing our attention to particular aspects of a work” (Moore and Parker 413).
For instance, in Sekou’s Freedom and in the poem entitled “Green” one can feel the emotion of
the speaker emulating verve through words that offer up meaning in his thoughts, as Sekou
commences in the first line of stanza one, “I / ever tried to explain the color green—
subtractive...” (Sekou 40, lines 1-2). Near the end of the poem in the sixth stanza, Sekou writes:
mint and evergreen
too soon spilled from lips;
it’s the jaded ugliness of beauty
the scar so beautiful
it is unblemished (Sekou 41, lines 36-41).
In such, the speaker’s descriptions replicate something seen, heard, felt—dreamt. But, what are
the reasons for such descriptions? Elliot W. Eisner, in the book, The Arts and the Creation of
Mind, gives an interesting account for attempting to understand the role of art. In that, humans
establish contact with their world or environment and, as Eisner asserts, “That environment is, in
its most fundamental state, a qualitative one made up of sights and sounds, tastes and smells that
can be experienced through our sensory system” (Eisner 1). The artist/author illustrates the
natural world around him with an interest to connect and convey these sensory interpretations.
The reason is his adaptation of depictions as stimuli that are, perhaps, his way to approach his
own perception of the qualities of an object.
Tshombe Sekou’s Freedom as It Happens is the author’s appraisal of depictions,
approaches, and perceptions, while the reader is invited along on a journey through the speaker’s
thoughts. This creative venture takes shape by way of the observations and sensitivities in the
work/art of the author/artist. The speakers within the works aesthetically approach the
interpretations by constructing a pathway for the reader to travel through; according to the way
the author perceives and connects with the environment around him. In the book, this concept is
presented in another poem, “Mulatto Blues” in which Sekou utters, “if you get pas[t] the
aesthetics you’d find / a dark lit alley / littered with spit and piss…” (Sekou 52, lines 17-19).
Here, the four letter words, although not as offensive as most four letter words, still evoke rather
coarse images—even scents. According to Moore and Parker, who affirm in the text that, “These
prescribed ways of seeing evoke favorable (or unfavorable) responses or experiences” (413). An
explanation of aesthetic value is given in the fifth principle of the eight aesthetic principles,
which states that “objects are aesthetically valuable if they provide their audience certain
emotions” (canvas chapter outline). Within such, we may be able to recognize how these
thoughts and ideas become conveyed as emotions, descriptions and devices of the author’s
As we discover ways in which aesthetic reasoning helps in the formulation of judgments,
and aesthetic value brings about a functionality of creation and stimulation, we may come to see
how principles assist in our appreciation of art. Our object functions to identify the ideas of
Tshombe Sekou as artistic. His book of poetry, Freedom as It Happens, supplies an avenue of
expression that lets the reader approach the author’s ideas, and to pass through his imagination.
Is a book of poems merely a writer’s meandering of thoughts and ideas, or does it hold true
artistic value? Perhaps, aesthetic reasoning is helpful in this aspect. However, and ultimately,
these questions can be better answered as we learn to analyze art with reason, as a way to make
more sound judgments about various objects.
Eisner, Elliot W. The Arts and the Creation of Mind. Harrisonburg: Yale University Press, 2002.
Gans, Eric. "Aesthetics and Cultural Criticism." boundary 2 25.1, Thinking through Art:
Aesthetic Agency and Global Modernity (1998): 67-85. Web. 25 April 2015.
Levinson, Jerrold. The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics. Oxford university Press, 2003. Print.
Moore, Brooke N and Richard Parker. Critical Thinking. 11th. New York: McGraw-Hill
Education, 2015. Print.
Sekou, Tshombe. Freedom as It Happens. Yokosuka: Emet Productions, 2014. Print.