Let’s get to know the word “value” a little more closely. Value is a concept. It has a name, scope and content. While the name of a value does not change in a social structure, its scope and content may change depending on time and space. For example, freedom is a value, but it is also a concept. In the same social structure, its content and scope change over time. The same concept may have different content and scope in different social structures in the same time period.
At this point we have to ask the following question: Who is the authority that establishes the values that guide our lives? Here we encounter two sources. One is a human being and the other is God. If value is defined by a human being, such as a philosopher or a sage, its content and scope may naturally change over time and space. Because the philosopher or sage who established the value is also a human being, and the person who comes later who wants to change it is also a human being. We can even think that the person who comes later has more life experience and is therefore more entitled to such a change. The instrument used by the philosopher or sage in establishing values is reason and the material is thought. As we mentioned above, from this perspective, there is no categorical difference between the author and the modifier of value.
On the other hand, if God, i.e. the transcendent source, has decreed the value, no change in its scope and content can be made by human beings. This “cannot be done” applies to those who believe in that transcendent source. In reality, this kind of value is already a value for those who believe in a transcendent source. For non-believers, it is of no value. Maybe it is just a matter of knowledge. Such a value can be changed in terms of its content and scope by the source that has given it. This provision also applies to believers. Human beings live in a changing space of time and space. It has to produce new forms and interpretations without prejudice to the content and scope in order to realize the value that the transcendent source has given.
The highest and decisive set of values for human beings are those related to existence, life and human beings. Let us call these values the “core set of values”. Once an individual’s basic set of values is defined, all other values needed to live, that is, to act, are also defined and determined. By matching the object or phenomenon perceived by the individual with a concept in his/her mind, he/she gains knowledge about that object or phenomenon. But it also evaluates this knowledge. A core set of values comes into play during this assessment.
Human beings realize information and evaluation within and simultaneously with each other. Let’s take an example. For example, let the perceived object be a book. Perception matches the concept in the mind and the result is knowledge: This is a book. But the process does not stop there, it continues. If the question about the nature of the book is answered with the knowledge, “This book is a holy book,” then for a person who has the concept of holiness in his inner world, the book takes on a different quality. An ordinary and ordinary book is replaced by an authoritative source to be respected. We need to underline this point here: In the inner world of human beings, the spheres of knowledge and emotion are inseparable. These are intertwined at every moment, showing an intricate structure that follows each other and continues its activity and life.
Since our subject is art, let us bring up again the impact of the fundamental set of values on the individual’s relationship with the work of art. A set of core values shapes the mental and emotional structure of the individual and gives it an identity. The mental and emotional structure that has acquired such an identity has certain priorities, preferences, acceptances, rejections, interests or indifference. Since the basic set of values is non-contradictory, the above-mentioned forms of behavior such as preference and rejection also emerge in a non-contradictory integrity; in short, they constitute a system. Aesthetic behavior, which is active in the emotional dimension of human beings and holds space, is also shaped according to this system. Therefore, it too has priorities, preferences, rejections, interests or indifference.
An individual equipped with a set of fundamental values first perceives an art object or phenomenon. Immediately afterwards, however, it evaluates it according to aesthetic criteria shaped according to a set of fundamental values, and as a result of this evaluation, it attributes a value to the object. Beautiful, ugly or uninteresting… Let’s imagine two individuals with different basic values. Their aesthetic criteria and consequent aesthetic evaluations will be different. The same art object or phenomenon may be valued as beautiful by one person, while another may call it ugly or remain indifferent to it.
To put it briefly, the relationship of an art object or phenomenon with every aesthetic subject or individual is not the same. This relationship or aesthetic attitude changes according to the basic set of values that the aesthetic subject possesses. Sometimes the aesthetic attitude ends before it starts, sometimes it lasts a lifetime. In some cases, even after the death of the aesthetic subject, this relationship is kept alive by those who witnessed it, and continues its life as a social heritage.
This text is taken from Prof. Dr. Sadettin Ökten’s book titled There is Actually an Art / Art on the Individual and Society.
Our soul cannot be confined within the narrow and cramped confines of the rational world; it seeks a harbor of refuge. Art is one of those harbors, whether we realize it or not.
For example, remembering the play of light at sunset, watching the Süleymaniye Mosque from the opposite shore of the Golden Horn, listening to Chopin’s tunes in a park as the season turns to autumn, humming a folk song during a busy day, or drinking coffee in a café that preserves its historical identity are all experiences of art. Therefore, art has a place in all our lives. So what is art?
In this book, Sadettin Ökten, while presenting his thoughts and experiences on art, also evaluates two different artistic adventures by comparing the art of Islamic civilization and the art of the modernist West with examples.