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John Dewey's Theory of Art

In his theory of art, John Dewey emphasizes the importance of continuity within the art object. In this regard, Dewey seems to be insisting that organic unity is the essence of all aesthetic experiences. According to Dewey, a work of art is an experience in which meanings or values "are expressed, or shown, rather than stated or said" (Bernstein, 1966, p. 156). As such, art stimulates an experience which can be said to be "qualitative" in nature (Pepper, 1939, p. 375). Dewey considers art to be a very special kind of experience, or consummatory experience. A consummatory experience can be defined as one which is both fulfilling and satisfying. In his 1934 book Art as Experience, Dewey claims: "Such an experience is a whole and carries with it its own individualizing quality and self-sufficiency" (p. 35). Bernstein relates the consummatory experience to art by describing consummations as "the direct aesthetic enjoyment of immediate qualities" (1966, p. 151). Dewey claims that such experiences are "intrinsically worthwhile" ("Art as Experience," 1934, p. 37). Rockefeller takes this perspective a step further by stating: "Such consummatory experiences are what make life worthwhile" (1991, p. 396).

In Dewey's aesthetic philosophy, all consummatory experiences are distinguished by their sense of continuity. In order for an experience to be qualitative in nature, it must not include any of the breaks and distractions which are characteristic of most day-to-day interactions. Thus, in a consummatory experience, "every successive part flows freely, without seam and without unfilled blanks, into what ensues." (Dewey, Art as Experience, 1934, p. 36). Dewey indicates that this type of experience consists of "continuous merging" and contains "no holes, mechanical junctions, [or] dead centers" to break its continuity (p. 36). Even when breaks or pauses do occur within an art object, they are actually intended to serve a role in r...

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John Dewey's Theory of Art. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:33, February 23, 2017, from