A Short Explanation Given by Eli Siegel in an Interview with
of the New York Times Book Review, January 14, 1969
Realism sees the world and a person or self as an aesthetic situation.
It also sees the various sciences and arts as aesthetic situations:
painting, the drama, chemistry, geology have something in common.
question then is, what is an aesthetic situation? An aesthetic
situation is one in which the forces of the world, like rest and
motion, tranquillity and agitation, depth and surface, oneness and
manyness, spontaneity and control, familiarity and strangeness, humor
and sadness, are present. We have just given some instances of what
Aesthetic Realism and the English dictionary call opposites.
world is infinite and finite at once. There is a God who is personal
and impersonal—that is, there are both purpose and mechanism in him.
These opposites in reality correspond to our desire for freedom
(infinite) and our desire for security (finite). We also think
ourselves fools, but important people: we have to. We look in the
mirror and see a surface, but there is also depth. We have to take care
of ourselves and see ourselves as first, but we also have to be
regardful of other people. We want to love ourselves, and oh, how much
we want to be close to another. We want to be alienated, as the comic
novelist John Updike shows, and we also want to be the life of the
party and say the brightest, most probing thing of a Saturday night.
we then a situation of opposites, dually and in orchestrated form? Do
we have to be ourselves and relate ourselves to our wives and the
stars? Do we have to be aware of our backyard and unexpected happenings
in Asia? Are we near and far at once?
essential difference between Aesthetic Realism and Freud is that Freud
saw nervousness as arising from what, earlier, was incomplete
expression in sex, and, later, a damming up or conflict in the libido—a
prettier word than sex. Freud would disagree with Aesthetic
Realism because he did not see, as many people don't, that an attitude
to the world, to reality, to the universe, to things, and even to God,
governs one in one's everyday life. If you feel that the world is
ill-managed, is contemptible, is unkind, you have to show that in how
you see Mildred or how you see Morton. The world is in us because self
is never unaccompanied by anything less.
Realism then says that the purpose of life is to see the world in the
best way. Here art is deeply helpful; so is science. In order to see
the world in the best way, we have to ask whether it is against us or
doesn't care or is for us. When we see in art the oneness of beauty and
fear, as Aristotle hinted, the world honestly is more acceptable. We
have to put together cancer and the latest Hollywood sweetness.
we are contraries also, we have to like ourselves as a possible
relation of contraries. When Beethoven had to put the contraries of
energy and grace together, he was in an aesthetic situation. When
Mozart had to put together truth and fancy or inventiveness, he was in
an aesthetic situation. We all of us have this aesthetic situation, and
we all should try to understand it.
(c) 2014 Aesthetic Realism Foundation