The Definition of Art

I came up with this definition of art 2 years ago while attending a freshman neuropsych class. I do not see any flaws in it, nor has anyone posed any credible evidence against it, so I am going to assume that it is objectively correct. If you would like to talk to me about it, I’m open to discussion.


V.S. Ramachandran defines “qualia” as the essence of thought. Here is his example of explaining qualia:

So what I would argue is, when I poke you with a needle- that’s a very important question- when I poke myself with a needle, if I look at myself with an autocerebroscope 500 years from now, and I plot the diagram and I see all of these things are going on, but my god it leaves something out, namely the internal subjective experience.  Or if you’re a Martian, looking at my brain, and lets say you don’t have any qualia.  Well forget about Martians, lets say you’re Roger Bingham and you were born colorblind, you don’t have any color qualia.  But you are intelligent and you learn physics and you know different wavelengths, and you know other creatures like me, like Rama, other human beings, do have the pigments in the eye, and do have color neurons firing away and you show me this diagram and say look, Rama, I know everything about color vision, all of his pathways are firing away.  And I say, Roger, you’re missing something, and that’s the crucial subjective experience of green when my green neurons fire, but not red.  Subjective experience of red when my red neurons fire, which is ineffable, I cannot communicate it to you, communicate this feeling to you. So that’s the qualia problem.

So I was wondering how one would communicate this subjective experience and I thought, well that’s what art is for, right?

And then it hit me. That’s what art IS. The communication of qualia.

When I previously worked on the definition of art, I had been thinking that art was some reducible statement that you could imbue a medium with. But that doesn’t work when you compare it with certain art. Ask a musician what a particular song “means” and they often won’t be able to tell you. And yet their music is still art. Why?

It’s because music is something crafted inside the musician’s brain that he externalized through a medium. He may make a guitar sound just as he imagined or simply find a certain random configuration of sound pleasing. Either way, there is a qualia process going on in the artist’s brain that they want to share with an audience, be it the rest of the world or a future self.

Now that we understand art on a more objective level than previously, we should be able to talk about it in a definitive way.


  1. llamacorns reblogged this from tintadepulpo
  2. systemofaclown reblogged this from the-netocrat and added:
    Genius. The author is absolutely right.
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