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431
THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE ARTS

distinguish the one from the other. In nature all is useful, all is beautiful."[1]

We submit, then, that the commonly accepted classification of the arts is an arbitrary one. Its foundation, the supposedly ignoble character of productive labor, is a false idea. Labor, not leisure, is the real badge of dignity. 'The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner.' Hence the old classification of the arts, a classification which tends to disparage labor, is an anachronism, and an impertinence. It is, in a way, a gratuitous reflection upon the laboring class.

Before proceeding to reclassify the arts, let us carefully define the scope of art. The word art usually suggests the fine arts. "'Work of art' to most people," says Huxley, "means a picture, a statue, or a piece of bijouterie; by way of compensation 'artist' has included in its wide embrace cooks and ballet girls, no less than painters and sculptors."[2] The word art properly includes 'all the works of man's hands, from a flint implement to a cathedral or a chronometer.' It embraces all phenomena in which intelligence plays the part of conscious and immediate cause. The supplement of art is nature. Art includes everything not embraced by nature.

The field of the arts being thus defined, we may now construct our classification.

All arts are alike in this—their medium is matter. No art can free itself wholly from material things. Some arts, as music and poetry, may seem to do so, for the ideal elements of these arts predominate to such an extent that we forget the material by which they are made manifest—writing and printing materials, musical instruments and sound waves. No matter how idealistic an art may be, it must still deal with matter.

This being the case, a logical classification of the arts may be based upon a classification of material phenomena. And if this latter is an evolutionary classification, that is, if it proceeds from the simple to the complex, the resulting classification of the arts will be in the order of complexity and potential utility. It will also be a classification in which each art will be a means to those above it, that is, a classification of superiority and subordination.

Now one of the most obvious divisions of the material world is into the inorganic, the organic and the superorganic. From the standpoint of evolution these divisions rank in the order named—the organic is higher than the inorganic, and the superorganic higher than the organic. Each division furnishes the material upon which is exercised


  1. 'Essays,' First Series, Essay XII., Art.
  2. 'Evolution and Ethics, and Other Essays,' authorized edition, New York, 1899, p. 10, foot-note.