Robert Lawrence Kuhn, The Kuhn Foundation

Art Brings Us Closer to Truth

What if religions listened to the world’s greatest thinkers exploring humanity’s deepest questions? Created, written, and hosted by Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, and directed by Peter Getzels, the Closer to Truth (CTT) television program is the definitive series on Cosmos, Consciousness, Meaning, a global journey in search of the vital ideas of existence. 


Grant Title
Closer to Truth Programming on Aesthetic Cognitivism: Production, Post-Production, Broadcasts, Web Distribution
Legal Organization
The Kuhn Foundation
Project Dates
Start Date: 18 March 2019
End Date: 17 March 2020
Grant Amount
Area of Focus
Art Seeking Understanding

Cosmos, Consciousness, Meaning

CTT takes viewers on an intriguing global journey into cutting-edge labs, magnificent libraries, hidden gardens, and revered sanctuaries in order to explore humanity’s deepest questions.

How vast is our universe? How did it begin? Is it fine-tuned for life? Could our universe be a fake? What is the far future of our universe? Are there multiple universes? What is time? What is the relationship between science and religion?

What is consciousness, our inner awareness? Why is it so mysterious? What is the mind-body problem? Can brain explain mind? What is the self? Do we have free will? How does personal identity persist through time?

Is there purpose in the cosmos? What causes religious belief? What is God? What are alternative concepts of God? Can God be proven or disproven? What are God’s traits? Did God create evil? What’s the New Atheism?

Art Seeking Understanding

With this grant, CTT will explore the genesis of Art Seeking Understanding (ASU). ASU is a Templeton Religion Trust program strategy concerned with improving the methods of inquiry into the existence and nature of what Sir John Templeton called spiritual realities. ASU begins with Aesthetic Cognitivism, a theory about the value of the arts that approaches them not simply (or not even) as sources of delight, amusement, pleasure, or emotional catharsis, but, instead, as sources of understanding.

As Nelson Goodman put it in Ways of Worldmaking (1978), “the arts must be taken no less seriously than the sciences as modes of discovery, creation, and enlargement of knowledge in the broadest sense of advancement of understanding.” 

But is there an empirically demonstrable connection between art and understanding vis à vis what Sir John referred to as spiritual reality and/or spiritual information in particular? And if so, what distinctive cognitive value does engagement with the arts (production and/or consumption) generate? Under what conditions and in what ways does participation in artistic activities encourage or stimulate spiritual understanding, insight, or growth (meaning- or sense-making)? Relatedly, if art has primarily to do with understanding, then what of beauty? Is it an unrelated aim, or one (in some cases) essential to understanding? And is essential, then what advantages, if any, does beautiful art have over non-beautiful (e.g. conceptual) art with reference to understanding?

CTT filmed at two planning meetings, the first in Nassau, The Bahamas (March 2019), and the second in Grand Rapids, MI (April 2019). Using this footage, CTT produced a full series of ten ASU episodes for PBS stations, and also posted approximately 150 ASU interviews as web videos.

See the ASU interviews here>>

In the future, CTT hopes to film additional ASU interviews, producing and broadcasting additional episodes on PBS, and, eventually, producing and broadcasting a longitudinal documentary on the first round of the ASU program strategy (2019–25).


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