Tillich theory of art

The concept and perception of depth in art is the ability of a piece of work to explore more than two dimensions. In narratives it is the ability of a product of art to interrogate and appeal to more than the visible dimension. It is the ability of the narrator to move in and out of several realms of thought and sight.

The extent to which a narrative world appeals to this aspect determines the quality and persistence of the piece of work. The depth dimension functions to inspire a since of ambiguity and length to the narrative (Purves and Lotto 43-58). It develops and sustains a curious interest in its audience which is the basis and object of quality and objectivity in as far as the narration is concerned.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The aspect of depth in art creates a widow for the creator of the piece to develop a several themes from the same piece with the help of more than one dimension. The piece of art therefore sways between moods while maintaining a consistent and tolerable collection of activities and reflections within the piece. (Stiles and Selz 40-56). The depth in a photo for instance inspires a more realistic and believable concept of the photo.

Tillich’s theory is inspired by the general human propensity to consider art as a celebration of the obvious human dignity or in a strict sense an appreciation of human nature and reality. This basic notion has formed the foundation of the works of several other related theorists of Tillich’s era.

Ramachandran and Blakeslee (45-90) for instance based their theory on the hypothesis of brain response to pieces of art. Their research being the first of this nature, gave way to a host of other similar researches that have come to the conclusion that the appreciation of art depends on the constituent elements in the piece of art.

This marks the beginning of Tillich’s argument that the quality of a piece of art relies heavily on its ability to employ the various artistic tools and mechanisms at its disposure. The objective cause of any piece of work is not merely to reflect or masquerade mere reality. This is too simple a task for the complex phenomenon of art that can be articulated by any piece of information or sketch (Heidegger 23-70)

The difference between any piece of information and a work of art is the ability of art to distort, enhance and indeed transcend reality all of which are elements of depth in a piece (Wollheim 1).

Zeki notes categorically that it is not a mere coincidence that an artist’s ability to distract the irrelevant features such as the depth dimension of his art and vividly describes the irrelevant features is similar and identical to what the relevant aspects have evolved to do.

This in narratives for instance the depth dimension goes an extra mile in transcending reality to serve its actual cause in a more interesting version that has more to offer as compared to a plain realistic piece of work(5-20).

Zekis research on the response of rats showed that if a rat is taught to differentiate a square and a rectangle, with a reward for a rectangle it learns to respond more promptly to the rectangle than the square. Interestingly the response of the rat to a longer rectangle is much higher than to the normal size rectangle (20 -45). This supports the conception of the depth dimension in Tillich’s theory as a tool of cognitive response.

Tillich’s theory of art embraces this aspect of depth by analyzing the role and relevance of depth in artwork. Inspired by the theological mindset and thinking he interrogates the concept of depth in narratives and similar art works and constructs a hypothesis that great art reflects a conscious awareness of the problem associated with the loss of the dimension of depth

Depth as an element of art plays an important role in the definition and translation of the message of the artist. In narratives the depth dimension shapes the content and conveys the message to the audience in a specific line of interest. Since Tillich’s first attempt at this line of thought, there has been very little attention on the issue and this therefore presents an interesting and relevant research gap that I wish to address in my research. I will discuss the importance Tillich’s approach and the relevance it has to various narrator works (Manning 153 -163).

The research takes an idealist metaphysical perspective by interrogating the various aspects of the narrative that appeal to the depth dimension based on Tillich’s philosophy of art.

This functions to evaluate the value and importance of the depth dimension and document the extent to which various narrators of the century vividly or actually employed this tool in the formulation and creation of their pieces of work. This will also allow the contemporary narrators to consider employing and exploiting the value of the depth dimension in their art works.


Tillich’s philosophy defines autonomy as the individual’s compliance with the personal law of reason. This goes entirely contrary to the general reference of autonomy as the individual independence from a law. The ability of a piece of art to resist the imminent concerns of being conditioned to a specific timeline environment or even shape explains the autonomous character of the item of art.

In effect, the ability of a narrative to generate autonomous reason beyond the basic sense of being able to exercise free will in as far as expressing individual and personal opinion but in the rebellious potential of the narrative to engage in a disobedience of authority and defiance of the fundamental structures and rules inspires a depth dimension. An autonomous culture therefore is one that engages a slim relation between the cultural and religious constructs of theoretical and practical rationality.

The narrative builds on an attractive friendly and acceptable character that falls in line with the religious and cultural demands. He is to be contrasted with a rather compliant but autonomous friend who seeks to address a societal injustice of economic imbalance that cannot be solved by mere expression despite his clear freedom to do so in the hope of finding consolation or revival.

Papabuddhi therefore chooses to formulate a rebellious plan that would see him cheat his friend Dharmabuddhi into accepting to join hands to earn a fortune. Going against both culture and religion, he cheats his way to the total wealth and fortune by placing the blame on the socially accepted friend and acquires the wealth to himself.

This aspect of the narrative engages the reader into an independent yet rebellious stream of thought that goes towards not only generating a reaction but also developing a layer of the depth dimension and giving the reader another reason to align their interest.


According to Tillich’s philosophy the ability of a piece of art to challenge the independence of autonomous reason and maintain a consistent ability to command constructs beyond the grasp of reality and its shape allows the piece to maintain a margin of consciousness of the depth dimension of a piece of art. The depth dimension is therefore not conceived as a contest between reason and non-reason but as a conflict of reason it’s self.

Heteronomy therefore acts to react to any autonomous sense of reasoning that confines the depth of the piece of art and allows the piece of art to maintain a conscious distance between depth and complexity in a narrative. The engaging conflict of interest between religion and culture for instance challenges the reader’s ability to accommodate a conflict of morals and a choice of evils that in reality is only a matter of a conflict of reasoning.

The narrative engages the reader in a choice of cultural values of honesty and good faith in sharp contrast to the religious autonomous requirements for unfettered loyalty to friends and family. Dharmabuddhi represents the cultural perfection of a good person while his friend is represented as the exact opposite and still the narrator maintains an even impression of close friendship.

This comes in as the first layer of depth and goes to invite the reader to take a stand from the beginning. It creates the first layer of bias by aligning the reader to favor a character in the narrative. The harmony in which Dharmabuddhi and Papabuddhi operate and acquire a successful climax develops into the second layer of depth that takes a heteronymous challenge of the ability of two autonomous and independent interest’s ability to cooperate and collaborate to deploy a realistic scene.

The narrative is based on a traditional Indian setting that has religious and cultural ties that work in harmony to motivate the behaviors and attitudes of the society. It centers on the values of two men of different moral standing who are involved treachery. The narrative which is part of a series of Indian fables has a limited since of depth and therefore fails to fundamentally capture the reader or listener due to the straightforward since of narration (Goldstein 120-145).

It however makes attempts to identify with depth by engaging in parables and sayings whose purpose is to diversify the piece to incorporate a variety of other societal conceptions and attributes (Wollheim 456- 490). The narrative transcends the rural and urban setting placing the story on a path of ambition that carries the objective and main themes. The narrative also merges the cultural and theological realms in creating a perspective to the reader.

The narrator makes a conscious identification of the depth dimension by maintaining a margin of safety between the narrator and the reader or listener and the narrator and the reader’s subconscious. This recognition adds value and importance to the narrative and allows the narrator to leave a memorable impression of the story. This research will therefore seek to determine the value that is attached to the depth dimension in any such given narrative or alternative piece of work.

Heteronomy and autonomy

The conflict between heteronomy and autonomy in a narrative often forms the climax for the reader and creates the highest point that the depth dimension participates in modeling the narrative.

According to Tillich, this often leads to the destruction of reason, its self and the reaching of a compromise for the acceptance of both autonomy and heteronomy the two aspects bear their own depths that maintain and sustain the long or short-lived climax that often leads to the end of the narrative.

It offers closure to the reader or abandons the reader in order to allow the m to generate their own closures and streams of thought. The narrative therefore bows down to structural laws while still maintaining a close link to the authority and power of its own inexhaustible ground.

Dharmabuddhi clearly loses his share of wealth to the treachery of his friend. The narrative develops the final layer of f depth by ensuring that the reader is frustrated at the eminent danger of termination of the better of the two. It stimulates a conflict of reason that is motivated by injustice and unfairness embodied in the treachery of Papabuddhi.

The narrator ensures that a compromise is reaches that settles for the authority of the structural provisions and confines of the autonomous self-interests. It does not mean that it is a just compromise but it settles the conflict anyway. The plan however is not fool proof since Papabuddhi is unable to effectively dispose of his accomplice to the treachery. The events that lead to the failing of the plan are partially a contribution of cultural constructs as well as religious interference.

The mimosa tree receives pivot attention as a tool of engaging cultural myth and religious symbolism. It therefore plays a uniting role between these two themes and supports the depth dimension in the narrative. The dialectical blend between these toe concepts allows the narrative to haunt or hurt the reader by breaking a well-established relationship between the reader and Dharmabuddhi

The relevance of this marriage in the contemporary context is that it provides a way forward for the technical reason by exposing the shallow empty and meaningless nature of a narrative without the depth dimension. The harmony between these two constructs ensures that the narrative goes beyond morel teaching by appealing to both the subconscious and sense of reasoning.

It gives the reader a reason to associate and repeat or apply the convictions of the narrative in other situations in real life. It also assures the narrator of attention as well as interest in the narrative from the audience or reader. The emptiness of autonomy alongside the destructive nature of heteronomy forms the attitude and tone of any narrative or contemporary piece of work.


Most readers have a general tendency to enjoy narratives that employ a riveting plot that engages reversals revelations alongside innovations in the better part of the reality conception of the storyline. Ashliman’s narrative “Dharmabuddhi and Papabuddhi” (1-45) employs a simple plot as the framework and vehicle that conveys and gives substance to the narrative.

This then opens the door to ever-deepening length basic layers of association with the various references resonating with each other in a harmonious dissonance. The depth acts to compete with the attention of the reader from the vivid beginning to the end.

In his theory Tillich proposes that, a good narrative does not just begin to tell the story of a bad person and how bad they are and what bad things they did and how they got caught. It brings in several connected layers of stories and bits of scenes that are allowed to build the final narrative. The theory further recommends that every piece of art must maintain a clear relationship between the heteronymous and autonomous concepts that provide a clear path on which the depth dimension in any piece of work may be developed.

The dialectical interaction between the various factions of a narrative of whichever kind determines to a great extent the chances of success to the audience readers or participants in delivering the objects and propositions of the artwork. According to the theory the depth dimension in a narrative therefore brings together the various antagonisms in the story and blends them in layers of a dimension. The layers in the dimension should therefore connect with each other to bear a concrete sense of completeness.

Work Cited

Goldstein, Bruce. Sensation and perception .Pacific Grove CA: Wadsworth. 2002

Heidegger, Martin. “The Origin of the Work of Art”. Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper Perenniel. 2001. pp 23-70.

Manning, Russell. Tillich’s Theology of Art. ND. Retrieved on 7/30/2011 from http://aberdeen.academia.edu/RussellReManning/Papers/104579/Tillichs_Theology_of_Art

Purves, Dale and Lotto, Beau. Why We See What We Do: An Empirical Theory of Vision. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates. 2003

Ramachandran, Vilayanur. and Blakeslee, Sandra. Phantoms in the Brain New York: William Morrow and Co. 1998

Stiles, Kristine and Selz, Peter. eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. ND

Wollheim, Richard. Art and its objects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1980) p.1,

Zeki, Sarah. ‘Art and the brain’, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 127 (2), pp. 71–104. [1998]. Reprinted in Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6 (6–7), pp. 76–96.


I'm Barry!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out