The Owner and I bring home her new Poster from the Framing Person and I help her Unwrap it. As a Moral Dog, you will appreciate this, Hergest, she says. It is a Work of Art. We will enjoy Hanging it Together.
I am, given this kind of build up, expecting a work of great Beauty. I prepare to Enjoy Hanging it Together. I am expecting flowers perhaps, or the sky and the sea, beautifully framing a Flattering Image of the Moral Dog. Imagine then my disappointment when she unwraps it to reveal only lots of writing in a Frame.
What does it say? I ask.
It is a copy of the First Page of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, says the Owner.
I could not possibly have known that, I say. It may have skipped your attention that, owing to my being A Dog, I cannot actually read.
You can Take My Word for it, says the Owner. It represents a Milestone in History, a Message of Unity in Diversity fostering a sense of Common Humanity. It is one of the Greatest Consensus Achievements of Modern Times, and has helped prevent violations, obtain justice for wrongs, and strengthen Human Rights Laws. It has helped countless people to gain greater freedom, wellbeing and security. Does that not bring Tears to your Eyes?
That may all be true, I say, but it is not Very Pretty. I think before we jointly hang something on the Wall because it is a Work of Art we should Both Agree it is a Work of Art.
That requires us to agree on what Art Is, says the Owner. Are you suggesting that Art has to be Pretty? I note that, with a lack of Democratic Engagement, she is already hanging the Document on the Wall as if it is the Mona Lisa which even she would Presumably agree is Art.
The Conventional Theory of the Definition of Art says it is that the Person who Made it Actually Intended it as Art, I say. I do not believe that the United Nations were engaged in an Art Class when the declaration was signed. If they had been they might have Used Some Other Colours.
I do not accept the Conventional Theory as sufficient explanation for the Nature of Art, says the Owner. Whilst it accounts for the Perspective of the Artist it Denies the Perspective of the Viewer. Surely if something Moves the Viewer and brings Tears to their Eyes, it is Art?
I do not think being Dragged away from a Taunting Duck is Art, I say, but it certainly Both Moves me and Brings Tears to My Eyes.
Perhaps, says the Owner, we could agree on an Aesthetic But Personal Definition of Art. What if Art is Also Defined in the Eye of the Beholder?
You would say that, I say, because you have just framed some Words and hung them on a Wall because they Make you Cry. It seems to me that the first Requirement of Art is that it is Intentionally Endowed by its Makers with a degree of Aesthetic Value surpassing that of everyday objects, and that the Viewer is therefore Aesthetically Engaged by it. Perhaps if they had done it in Turquoise I might agree it was Art. That nice shade of Turquoise one sees in a Magritte Sky.
I do not believe something of such Profound Importance has to be Turquoise to be Beautiful, says the Owner. It would be Undignified to the Universal Declaration to suggest that its Beauty would rely on it being Turquoise. That would be like suggesting that the Moral Dog is more Beautiful when he is not Muddy. The Moral Dog is always beautiful.
You cannot Get Round me That Way, I say. Just because something is of Profound Importance that does not make it Art. If it did then Donald Trump would be Art.
That is not a Good Thought, says the Owner, although sadly there are those who might suggest that an Image of Donald Trump could be Art. Immanuel Kant saw art as a representation that promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication. Are we not communicating sociably about it?
We have discussed Immanuel Kant before, I say, and noted that he did not think Dogs were Moral. His views on Art are, therefore, Not To Be Trusted.
Hegel said that Art reveals the deepest interests of Humanity by sensuous means, says the Owner. On that definition an Image of the Universal Declaration must surely be Art. It makes me want to Look at It. Do you not want to Look at It?
No because I cannot read it, I say. I could probably agree it meets Hegel’s definition of Art, I say, if it was Decorated with Cheese. Then I would also want to Look at It.
You cannot Illustrate the Universal Declaration with Cheese, says the Owner. That would be an Outrage when it is a Document of such Innate Dignity.
So would putting up a Picture and Calling it Art without the Agreement of your Moral Dog, I say.
You are Such a Pedant, says the Owner. Very well, I will consider the idea of the Cheese. We will discuss this later.
I know she will not put Cheese on it. It is, after all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I just wanted to make the Point.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.