I read John Armstrong's article at City Journal titled "What Is Art For?".
Armstrong completely misses the point of art. His evaluation is astonishing in its aesthetic and spiritual misapprehending.
"The overarching aim is psychological improvement."
Balderdash and zebra feathers.
He says that art is for therapy. He says that art is for intellectual and moral guidance. He doesn't seem to understand that art is an eruption of the strange into the quotidian. It's not to make us feel better or be better. It's to make us aesthetically haunted and spiritually odder. It's about existential disorientation.
Armstrong appears to be willfully, even militantly blind to how a work of art is an experience of time turned into the unsettling. A work of art is there to possess us, overwhelm us, make us partly mad. The exact opposite of Armstrong's medicinal criteria of interpretation.
Consider great works of art, from Rembrandt to Corot, from Monet to Van Gogh, from Kandinsky to Yves Tanguy. Do you discover in those works the psychologically edifying? Or do you rather find yourself confronted with the aesthetically mysterious and the spiritually peculiar?
The artist's compulsions and unusual visions are transferred to the viewer's consciousness. We become not better or healed people. We become part of a wondrous Uncanny. We enter into time and space turned into the resonance of a deep and subtle labyrinth, into the allurement of the puzzling and undecipherable. Yes, even Corot's paintings are implicit portals into the aesthetic dæmonic -- realms in which pastoral or urban beauty are complexified with an insinuating spiritual otherness.
Art is because art. It's a corrupter of conventional expectations. It's a palpable form of amnesia, a displacement and temporary forgetting of self. It's far beyond any instrumental categories. It's more like anti-therapy than any kind of psychological enhancement.
John Armstrong probably got paid actual money to write his article.