- Written by Sophie Lofi
ART: what is our taste worth?
Standing in front of “Kaputt” by Maurizio Cattelan, two opinions diverge.
Which one is yours?
Peter, an admirer of the Italian artist, welcomes the impact of the artwork. He perceives it as a representation of the folly of the world, a condemned humanity of the same title as all the domestic spaces for which the horse is an emblem. This artwork goes straight to the point in telling man that he’s headed directly into a wall.
John refuses to be led by these interpretations. He finds these horses locked inside a wall to be as worthless (a poorly chosen qualifier compared to Maurizio’s ratings) as they are shocking (a shock provokes the suspension of judgement). For him, «it’s all total nonsense».
The debate over the artistic value of this artwork remains calm because the two friends quickly agree on one point – «to each his taste».
It’s here that Socrates intervenes. Peter and John don’t recognize him.
Socrates tries to understand
Socrates: Would you two be disciples of Protagoras the sophist or Gorgias the sceptic??
Peter (surprised): What?
Socrates: Your opinions impress me as much as their...
John (flattered): Oh, yes!
Socrates: I’m impressed because each of you seems to be the measure of the value of this object
Peter (circumspect): The value of this object?
John (more assertive): Its value in our eyes, in any case.
Socrates: Its value in your eyes or in your thoughts?
John: Don’t play with words… its value is based on what we feel when we observe the object
Socrates: And to define its value, it’s unimportant that your opinions are different or opposing...
Peter: What’s important is to be able to express one’s opinion, one’s feelings
Socrates: It is this opinion, this feeling, that creates value, or to talk about it using one of my words, the truth of this object...
John: Yes, that’s what it is.
Socrates : So, there are as many truths as there are opinions and feelings…
Socrates goes to the limit of reasoning
Socrates approaches the faces of the two friends, takes them by their shoulders and whispers into their ears
Socrates: My friends, how are you feeling today?
John & Peter : Very well, thank you. Why?
Socrates: Imagine that each of you feel bad, sad, depressed, wouldn’t your feelings be different?
Peter & John (loosening up) : it’s possible
Socrates: But this object, would it have changed?
Peter & John: ???
Socrates: Think about it, my friends. A world without truth is a world exclusively composed of changing, uncertain, and subjective appearances.
Jean: And so?
Socrates: So, if an «artwork» holds no truth on its own, we can’t distinguish it from other objects.
Peter (malicious): And so?
Socrates: So, if it’s impossible to distinguish them, all objects can qualify as «artworks». And if all objects can qualify as «artworks», no object can be called an “artwork”.
Peter: What’s the point?
Socrates: My friends, if no object can be called an «artwork», an artwork doesn’t exist. In that case, I don’t understand what you came to do in this place.
John & Peter: Why ?
Socrates: Didn’t you come here to see artworks?
In the 5th century BCE, Socrates walked the streets of Athens. He approached passers by affirming that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. He expected them to bring him some knowledge but these interlocutors were as ignorant as he was. The opinions they had about things were enough for them. To make them face their contradictions, and to give them a desire to think, he created a particular form of dialogue – the maieutic (meaning ‘to act as a midwife’ in Greek). To discover the very essence of things (their Truth), and to know to formulate it by means of a clear and precise expression, he had to move on to a more demanding practice – dialectics. Here, thinking is illuminated by means of an argumentative dialogue and requires an elevated self-awareness.