Saturday, September 3, 2011

Yoga, Art, Aesthetic Need

A few days ago, in my philosophy of art class, we continued our ongoing discussion of the question of what art is. We continued to study the views of Monroe Beardsley. Beardsley's view is that art serves a distinct need in society: A need for aesthetic experience. Briefly, his view is that as a society attains a certain level of maturity and develops a distinct culture, its members cease to only be occupied with fulfilling basic survival needs such as the needs for food and shelter, and begin to develop other needs that are distinct from such basic needs. The need for aesthetic experience is one such need. It is not entirely clear if this need is a single need, or a conglomeration of various other needs; at any rate, the idea is that members of any society that has a distinct culture experience such a need. The relationship between culture and the need for aesthetic experience is a mutually reinforcing one: The existence of the culture gives rise to this need, the fulfillment of which, in turn, further nourishes and enriches the culture.

All of this casts an interesting light on the question of whether yoga is art. If yoga is art in Beardsley's sense, does it then serve to fulfill some kind of aesthetic need? What is this need like, and how do we experience it in the course of our daily yoga practice? Is the practitioner fulfilling this need in himself or herself as he or she does the practice? Or is he or she fulfilling this need in others around him or her?

If yoga is not art in Beardsley's sense, then in what sense might it be thought of as an art, if it is?

Well, I'll have to keep this post short, as I need to go fulfill a basic need now: The need for food. But maybe all this might be good food for thought (no pun intended)?    


  1. Nobel, do you think yoga is art? it could be in the sense that one would hope to achieve the aesthetics of a beautiful pose. in such a way then it would be like ballet is an art. but when i think of art, i think first of painting and sculpture. you could say architecture is an art on a grand scale.

  2. Hello Arturo,
    I suppose yoga can be seen as art from the point of view of "achieving" the aesthetics of a beautiful pose. But I think that would miss the essential experience of yoga as we practitioners understand it, since we know that yoga is about much more than achieving beautiful postures. I just wonder if there is a way to understand yoga as art in a way that goes beyond the achieving of postures. I don't have an answer here. I'm just thinking aloud.

    Yes, I certainly believe that architecture is art on a grand scale :-)