Art and Scholasticism by Jacques Maritain

Chapter III

Making and Doing

The intelligence is a faculty perfectly one in its being, but it works in entirely different ways according as it knows for the sake of knowledge or knows for the sake of action.

The speculative intellect will have its perfect and infinitely superabundant joy only in the intuitive vision of the Divine Essence; it is through it that man will then possess beatitude: gaudium de Veritate. It is very rarely exercised in absolute liberty on this earth, save in the Man of Wisdom, theologian or metaphysician, or in the pure scientist. In the great majority of cases reason works in the practical order, and for the diverse ends of human actions.

But the practical order itself is divided into two entirely distinct spheres, which the ancients called the sphere of Doing (agibile, prakton) and the sphere of Making (factibile, poiêton).

Doing, in the restricted sense in which the Schoolmen understood this word, consists in the free use, precisely as free, of our faculties, or in the exercise of our free will considered not with regard to the things themselves or to the works which we produce, but merely with regard to the use which we make of our freedom.

This use depends on our specifically human appetite, on our Will, which of itself does not tend to the true, but solely and jealously to the good of man -- for that alone exists for appetite which fulfills desire or love and which increases the being of the subject, or which is to the subject as the subject is to itself. This use is good if it is in conformity with the law of human acts, and with the true end of the whole of human life; and if it is good, the man acting is himself good -- purely and simply good.

Thus Doing is ordered to the common end of the whole of human life, and it concerns the proper perfection of the human being. The sphere of Doing is the sphere of Morality, or of the human good as such. Prudence, the virtue of the practical intellect which rules Doing, stands entirely in the human sphere. Queen of the moral virtues, noble and born to command, because it measures our acts with regard to an ultimate end which is God Himself sovereignly loved, Prudence nevertheless retains a taste of misery, because it has for its matter the multitude of needs and circumstances and traffickings in which human anxiety flounders about, and because it imbues with humanity all that it touches.

In contradistinction to Doing, the Schoolmen defined Making as productive action, considered not with regard to the use which we therein make of our freedom, but merely with regard to the thing produced or with regard to the work taken in itself.

This action is what it ought to be, it is good in its own sphere, if it is in conformity with the rules and with the proper end of the work to be produced; and the result to which it tends if it is good, is that this work be good in itself. Thus Making is ordered to this or that particular end, taken in itself and self-sufficing, not to the common end of human life; and it relates to the good or to the proper perfection, not of the man making, but of the work produced.

The sphere of Making is the sphere of Art, in the most universal sense of this word.

Art, which rules Making and not Doing, stands therefore outside the human sphere; it has an end, rules, values, which are not those of man, but those of the work to be produced. This work is everything for Art; there is for Art but one law -- the exigencies and the good of the work.

Hence the tyrannical and absorbing power of Art, and also its astonishing power of soothing; it delivers one from the human; it establishes the artifex --- artist or artisan --- in a world apart, closed, limited, absolute, in which he puts the energy and intelligence of his manhood at the service of a thing which he makes. This is true of all art; the ennui of living and willing, ceases at the door of every workshop.

But if art is not human in the end that it pursues, it is human, essentially human, in its mode of operating. It's a work of man that has to be made; it must have on it the mark of man: animal rationale.

The work of art has been thought before being made, it has been kneaded and prepared, formed, brooded over, ripened in a mind before passing into matter. And in matter it will always retain the color and savor of the spirit. Its formal element, what constitutes it in its species and makes it what it is, is its being ruled by the intellect.[4] If this formal element diminishes ever so little, to the same extent the reality of art vanishes. The work to be made is only the matter of art, its form is undeviating reason. Recta ratio factibilium: let us say, in order to try to translate this Aristotelian and Scholastic definition, that art is the undeviating determination of works to be made.[5]

Chapter IV Art an Intellectual Virtue