By Stephen David Ross
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Extra resources for A theory of art: inexhaustibility by contrast
Complexity is the foundation of ordinality. Mimetic theories emphasize the relations of a work of art but over-simplify them. The doctrine of the work itself emphasizes the uniqueness of the work though every being is uniquely what it is. What is needed is an understanding of how works of art can be both sovereign and relational, and especially, how the sovereignty is a function of constituents and relations. Both the ordinal theory and the theory of intensity of contrast address this issue directly, in two different ways, one metaphysically, providing a foundation for art in the integrity and constituents of every order, the other through the polarity of the elements of intense contrast.
The ordinal theory is essential to a theory that emphasizes the diverse and inexhaustible relations of works of art yet maintains their sovereign integrity as well. The theory of intensity of contrast maintains a vital and intrinsic role for invention and creation: the production of intense contrasts in the context of established conditions. The work and its constituents are neither entirely subordinated to what they stand for, as in representational theories, nor entirely unique in themselves, but a synthesis of opposing forces.
Page references are to the Corrected Edition, D. R. Griffin and D. W. , New York, Free Press, 1978. Page 4 one experience is the central movement in Whitehead's theory, and it inevitably engenders contrasts: the synthesis or unification of a multiplicity in one prehension or feeling. This notion of prehension is very general in Whitehead's theory: for the moment we may neglect it and consider his position, with some simplification, to be that the conjunction of diverse components is a contrast, that a contrast is comprised of a synthesis of one and many in which multiplicity is preserved, in which synthesis does not supersede differences.