In 1891, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) left his wife and five children and sailed for Tahiti, where he hoped
to immerse myself in virgin nature, to see no one but savages, live their life, with no other thought in mind but to render, the way a child would, the concepts formed in my brain and to do this with the aid of nothing but the primitive means of art, the only means that are good and true (letter quoted in Eisenman, 1997, p 77).
His decision to desert his family and follow his art has been considered by philosophers as a case study in ethics. Was his hope of artistic success adequate justification for his behavior? As luck would have it, Gauguin did become a famous artist, albeit posthumously. Can this retrospectively vindicate his flight to Tahiti? These issues are complex – both in the abstract and in terms of Gauguin’s actual life.
/ Tags: Benrnard Williams
, Marquesa Islands
, Moral Luck
, Noa Noa
, Puvis de Chavannes
, Sexual Tourism
, Thomas Nagel
, Van Gogh
Point of view is an essential concept in both philosophy and art. In philosophy, point of view highlights the problem of conscious experience. To understand the consciousness of another individual we must be able to experience that individual’s point of view. This may be partially possible among individuals of the same species and culture. Yet, as Thomas Nagel (1974) points out, this becomes next to impossible when the individuals use different perceptual processes. Bats determine where things are in space by perceiving the echoes of their own ultrasonic sounds. We can track the sounds as they are emitted and received; we can record the response of the bat’s neurons to these sounds; yet we will never really understand what it is like to be a bat.