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A Radical Openness to Persuasion

Though the artist has beliefs, like other people, he realizes that a salient characteristic of art is a radical openness to persuasion. Even those beliefs he’s surest of, the artist puts under pressure to see if they will stand. He may have a pretty clear idea where his experiment will lead, as Dostoevsky did when he sent Raskolnikov on his unholy mission; but in so far as he’s a true artist, he does not force the results. He knows to the depths of his soul that when an artist creates in the service of wrong beliefs—that is, out of wrong opinions he mistakes for knowledge—or when he creates in the service of doctrines that may or may not be true but cannot be tested—for instance, doctrinaire Marxism or belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead—the effect of his work, admirable or otherwise, is not the effect of true art but of something else: pedagogy, propaganda, or religion.

—John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

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