The Dialectic Nature of Artworks in St. Augustine's notions

Document Type : Research Article



One of the most contentious issues in aesthetics is whether there is any place for ‘truth’ in art or not; an ancient subject which still arises various debates between contemporary philosophers. The notion of St. Augustine, a late Ancient and early Middle-Ages philosopher, about representational art works is remarkable. Since painting and sculpture are mimetic in their nature and consequently contain less numerical order and unity, Augustine gives the lowest ratio to them among others. In addition, he believes that representational art works involve in inevitable falsehoods. In fact ‘false’ is such indispensable issue to art works that without it, there would not be true art works. Failure to reconcile one to the falsehood of an art work amounts to a failure to reconcile to art in general. In this paper, it will be tried to show that Augustine’s theory of “the dialectic nature of artworks” is a remarkable step in history of the modern theory of autonomy of art. Moreover, though Augustine’s theory of beauty and art is specially religious and spiritual, his theory of the dialectic nature of artworks could be seen as the base of a secular interpretation. On the other hand, he gives an emphasis on presentation in art which could be one of the conditions of existence of artworks.