The Quotable Morse Peckham
On Literature, Life, and Beyond

Topic

"Those who try to make science and art rivals do not know what either is."
["Constable and Wordsworth" (1952) in The Triumph of Romanticism (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 116n22.]

"So tremendous is the status of art in our times that it has become a substitute for religion, a revelation of the true meaning of human life."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 3.]

"The observer of the work of art already has an order which he uses to perceive it with; not art but perception is ordered."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 33.]

"A work of art is the deposit of artistic behavior."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 33.]

"The usual assumption is that art is a conjunctive category, that is, that all works of art have something in common. But this is not so; it is not so even within the various arts."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 47.]

"A work of art, then, is any artifact in the presence of which we play a particular social role, a culturally transmitted combination of patterns of behavior."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 49.]

"A work of art is any perceptual field which an individual uses as an occasion for performing the role of art perceiver. (This assumes, naturally, that any individual who does this has already learned the role of art perceiver from his culture.)"
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 68.]

"Any object (or perceptual field) from any culture may, then, be properly categorized as having been the occasion for artistic perception if a chronologically arranged sequence of such objects shows both functional identity and non-functional stylistic dynamism."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 71.]

"The title 'symphony' informs you not that those rules governed the composer but rather that the composer wishes the perceiver to listen to it with the formal expectancies prescribed by the term 'symphony.' He may or may not violate them."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 237.]

"The only moral justification for the study of the highest level of art of the present and of the past, and for the years of difficult self-discipline and training necessary to make one capable of responding adequately to it, is to take what it can give so seriously, so passionately, with such conviction that one can learn to do without it. Of all man's burdens, art is one of the most terrible and certainly the most necessary. Without it he would not, he could not be human. But of that burden, with effort, with skill, with intelligence, and above all with luck, it is perhaps possible—at least for the very old—to be free."
[Man's Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior, and the Arts (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965), 315.]

"Art is best understood as the deposit or consequence of a particular kind or category of human behavior. The advantage of this approach is that it makes it possible to assimilate art to other kinds of human behavior and to understand the work of art as the product of decisions made by the artist."
["Aestheticism to Modernism: Fulfillment or Revolution?" (1967), in The Triumph of Romanticism (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 204.]

"Since artistic style shows a higher rate of change than any other mode of human behavior, decision-making is most easily observable in art; and further, since art is irresponsible, since neither artistic production nor artistic perception demands manipulation of the environment to one's own benefit, or requires adaptation to the nonartistic environment, it is the perfect instrument for the exploration of the character and strategies of decision-making. Hence it is also the perfect medium for experimentation in decision-making, since, as the Stylists themselves were the first to realize, the specific intellectual and moral content of art ... is a matter of indifference, at least if one is alienated and seeking strategies for self-transformation and self-transcendence. Hence, also, it is an are of behavior in which it is least dangerous to apply the maximum pressure upon oneself. Even philosophy does not offer the opportunities for irresponsibility that art does."
["Aestheticism to Modernism: Fulfillment or Revolution?" (1967), in The Triumph of Romanticism (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), 224.]

"To teach art in the name of order is to use art for the purpose of interactional policing and for the strengthening of self-policing."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 303.]

"The teacher of art ... must abandon the aesthetics of order and give directions in such a way that the richness of the possibilities for perceptual discontinuity in the particular work are fully extracted. ... In this way, the teaching of art can become an admirable training in the toleration of tension and disorientation."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 310.]

"The teacher of art should emphasize in his semantic analysis the incoherence of the work as a set of directions, thus showing why the historical conditions in which the work was produced have been transcended and abandoned. The theory behind this is that the dynamics of cultural history are to be found in the fact that changing circumstances of a society reveal incoherences in its culture which were once felt as coherences. ... The presentation of such incoherence is one of the best ways of training the individual to tolerate tension and even to seek it out, the aim being to direct his awareness toward the irresolvable tension between policing and correction."
["Arts for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity" (1971), in Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), 311.]

"Art is training in not knowing how to respond."
["Philosophy and Art as Related and Unrelated Modes of Behavior" (1973), in Romanticism and Ideology (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1985), 195.]

"Philosophy and the formal aspect of art are related modes of behavior only in their opposition or negation of each other, the first having as its function the channelling of behavior, the second as its function the increase of the probability of generating unchannelled or random behavior. Philosophy and the semantic aspect of art, on the other hand, are related modes of behavior in that the primary task of art is to exemplify philosophy, whether it be the philosophy of the street or of our most abstract philosophers. Yet even so, because of the highly exemplificatory character of the semantic rhetoric of art, it can be and historically has been subversive not only of philosophical explanations but of explanation itself. It can generate unchannelled or random behavior and occasionally does so."
["Philosophy and Art as Related and Unrelated Modes of Behavior" (1973), in Romanticism and Ideology (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1985), 201.]

"Music can be responded to in two ways, by an emotional response, in which the music becomes cultural directions for experiencing a particular emotional flow; or by an apprehension of its meaning accomplished by a metamorphosis of music into verbalization—or by both at the same time."
[The Birth of Romanticism, 1790-1815 (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1986), 356.]

"Music is not, as is so often claimed, innocent. Like all cultural instructions, fundamentally it is political. Like all culture it offers controls for the behavior of a citizenry in a polis. Nothing could be more political than a rock concert—except a symphonic concert. ... Music abstracts emotion from behavior, and it's constructs of emotion make possible a unique understanding of the character and attributes of the emotional flow, just as the abstractions of physics make possible an understanding of the physical world. And in both cases 'to understand' means 'to provide instruments for control.'"
[The Birth of Romanticism, 1790-1815 (Greenwood, FL: The Penkevill Publishing Company, 1986), 356.]