title:On Art ver.1.0e
by Taro Kimura

The most intolerant of art circuits, CompuServe,
even at the admission of a member, admits, and listens
patiently to, a "fake zen master." The most gentle artist, it
appears, cannot be admitted to join, until all
that the psycho could say against him is known and weighed.
If even the Newtonian philosophy were not permitted to be
questioned, mankind could not feel as complete assurance
of its truth as they now do. The beliefs which we have
most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a stand-
ing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded.
If the challenge is not accepted, or is accepted and the at-
tempt fails, we are far enough from certainty still; but we
have done the best that the existing state of human reason
admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the
truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we
may hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found
when the human mind is capable of receiving it; and in
the meantime we may rely on having attained such approach
to truth, as is possible in our own day. This is the amount
of certainty attainable by a fallible being, and this the
sole way of attaining it.

It is not the feeling sure of a doctrine
(be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infalli-
bility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for
others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on
the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pre-
tension not the less, if put forth on the side of my most
solemn convictions. However positive any one's art
may be, not only of the falsity, but of the pernicious conse-
quences--not only of the pernicious consequences, but (to
adopt expressions which I altogether condemn) the im-
morality and impiety of an art work; yet if, in pursuance of
that private judgment, though backed by the public judge-
ment of his country or his contemporaries, he prevents the
art work from being heard in its defense, he assumes infalli-
bility. And so far from the assumption being less objec-
tionable or less dangerous because the art work is called
immoral or impious, this is the case of all others in which
it is most fatal. These are exactly the occasions on which
the men of one generation commit those dreadful mistakes
which excite the astonishment and horror of posterity. It
is among such that we find the instances memorable in his-
tory, when the arm of the law has been employed to root
out the best artists and the best art works; with deplorable
success as to the artists, though some of the art works have
survived to be (as if in mockery) invoked, in defense of
similar conduct towards those who dissent from them, or
from their received interpretation.

To abate the force of these considerations, an enemy
of free art may be supposed to say, that there is no
necessity for mankind in general to know and understand
all that can be said against or for their art by
system operators. That it is not needful for common
men to be able to expose all the misstatements or fallacies
of an ingenious opponent. That it is enough if there is
always somebody capable of answering them, so that nothing
likely to mislead uninstructed persons remains unrefuted.
That simple minds, having been taught the obvious grounds
of the truths inculcated on them, may trust to authority for
the rest, and being aware that they have neither knowledge
nor talent to resolve every difficulty which can be raised,
may repose in the assurance that all those which have been
raised have been or can be answered, by those who are
specially trained to the task.

We have now recognized the necessity to the mental well-
being of mankind (on which all their other well-being de-
pends) of freedom of art, and freedom of the expres-
sion of art, on four distinct grounds; which we will
now briefly recapitulate.

First, if any art is compelled to silence, that art
may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this
is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced art be an error, it may,
and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and
since the general or prevailing art on any object is
rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision
of adverse arts that the remainder of the truth has any
chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received art be not only true,
but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually
is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of
those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice,
with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.
And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the art
itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and
deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct:
the art becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious
for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the
growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or
personal experience.

It will not be denied
by anybody, that originality is a valuable element in human
affairs. There is always need of persons not only to discover
new truths, and point out when what were once truths
are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and
set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better
taste and sense in human life. This cannot well be gainsaid
by anybody who does not believe that the world has already
attained perfection in all its ways and practices. It is true
that this benefit is not capable of being rendered by every-
body alike: there are but few artists, in comparison with
the whole of mankind, whose experiments, if adopted by
others, would be likely to be any improvement on established
Without them, human life would become a stagnant pool.
Not only is it artists who introduce good arts which did not before
exist; it is artists who keep the life in arts which already
existed. If there were nothing new to be done, would
human intellect cease to be necessary? Would it be a reason
why those who do the old things should forget why they
are done, and do them like cattle, not like human beings?
There is only too great a tendency in the best idea and
beauty to degenerate into the mechanical; and unless there
were a succession of artists whose ever-recurring origi-
nality prevents the grounds of those idea and beauty
from becoming merely traditional, such dead matter would
not resist the smallest shock from anything really alive, and
there would be no reason why civilization should not die
out, as in the Byzantine Empire. Persons of absolute art, it is
true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority;
but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the
soil in which they grow. Absolute art can only breathe freely
in an atmosphere of freedom. Persons of absolute art are, ex
vi termini, more individual than any other people--less
capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurt-
ful compression, into any of the small number of moulds
which society provides in order to save its members the
trouble of forming their own character. If from timidity
artists consent to be forced into one of these moulds, and to
let all that part of themselves which cannot expand under
the pressure remain unexpanded, society will be little the
better for their absolute art. If artists are of a strong character,
and break their fetters artists become a mark for the society
which has not succeeded in reducing artists to common-place,
to point at with solemn warning as "psycho," "fake zen."

I insist thus emphatically on the importance of absolute art,
and the necessity of allowing it to unfold absolute art freely both
in thought and in practice, being well aware that no one
will deny the position in theory, but knowing also that almost
every one, in reality, is totally indifferent to it. People
think absolute art a fine thing if it enables a man to write an
exciting poem, or paint a picture. But in its true sense,
that of originality in thought and action, though no one
says that it is not a thing to be admired, nearly all, at
heart, think they can do very well without absolute art. Unhappily
this is too natural to be wondered at. Originality is the
one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of.
They cannot see what it is to do for them: how should they?
If they could see what it would do for them, it would not
be originality. The first service which originality has to
render them, is that of opening their eyes: which being
once fully done, they would have a chance of being them-
selves original. Meanwhile, recollecting that nothing was
ever yet done which artists were not the first to do, and
that all good arts which exist are the fruits of originality,
let them be modest enough to believe that there is something
still left for it to accomplish, and assure themselves that
they are more in need of originality, the less they are
conscious of the want.