Source from: The Free Dictonary
1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
Source from: Stanford
The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been debated.
Contemporary definitions are of two main sorts. One distinctively modern, conventionalist, sort of definition focuses on art's institutional features, emphasizing the way art changes over time, modern works that appear to break radically with all traditional art, and the relational properties of artworks that depend on works' relations to art history, art genres, etc. The less conventionalist sort of contemporary definition makes use of a broader, more traditional concept of aesthetic properties that includes more than art-relational ones, and focuses on art's pan-cultural and trans-historical characteristics.
- 1. Constraints on Definitions of Art
- 2. Traditional Definitions
- 3. Skepticism about Definitions
- 4. Contemporary Definitions
- 5. Conclusion
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Any definition of art has to square with the following uncontroversial facts: (i) entities (artifacts or performances) intentionally endowed by their makers with a significant degree of aesthetic interest, often surpassing that of most everyday objects, exist in virtually every known human culture; (ii) such entities, and traditions devoted to them, might exist in other possible worlds; (iii) such entities sometimes have non-aesthetic — ceremonial or religious or propagandistic — functions, and sometimes do not; (iv) traditionally, artworks are intentionally endowed by their makers with properties, usually perceptual, having a significant degree of aesthetic interest, often surpassing that of most everyday objects; (v) art, so understood, has a complicated history: new genres and art-forms develop, standards of taste evolve, understandings of aesthetic properties and aesthetic experience change; (vi) there are institutions in some but not all cultures which involve a focus on artifacts and performances having a high degree of aesthetic interest and lacking any practical, ceremonial, or religious use; (vii) such institutions sometimes classify entities apparently lacking aesthetic interest with entities having a high degree of aesthetic interest.
Evidently, some of these facts are culture-specific, and others are more universal.
There are also two more general constraints on definitions of art. First, given that accepting that something is inexplicable is generally a philosophical last resort, and granting the importance of extensional adequacy, list-like or enumerative definitions are if possible to be avoided. Enumerative definitions, lacking principles that explain why what is on the list is on the list, don't, notoriously, apply to definienda that evolve, and provide no clue to the next or general case (Tarski's definition of truth, for example, is standardly criticized as unenlightening because it rests on a list-like definition of primitive denotation). (Devitt, 2001; Davidson, 2005).) Second, given that most classes outside of mathematics are vague, and that the existence of borderline cases is characteristic of vague classes, definitions that take the class of artworks to have borderline cases are preferable to definitions that don't. (Davies 1991 and 2006, Stecker 2005)
Whether any definition of art does account for these facts and satisfy these constraints, or could account for these facts and satisfy these constraints, are key questions for the philosophy of art.
Traditional definitions, at least as commonly portrayed in contemporary discussions of the definition of art, take artworks to be characterized by a single type of property. The standard candidates are representational properties, expressive properties, and formal properties. So there are representational or mimetic definitions, expressive definitions, and formalist definitions, which hold that artworks are characterized by their possession of, respectively, representational, expressive, and formal properties. It is not difficult to find fault with these simple definitions. For example, possessing representational, expressive, and formal properties cannot be sufficient conditions, since, obviously, instructional manuals are representations, but not typically artworks, human faces and gestures have expressive properties without being works of art, and both natural objects and artifacts produced for the homeliest utilitarian purposes have formal properties but are not artworks.
But the ease of these dismissals serves as a reminder of the fact that traditional definitions of art are not self-contained. Each traditional definition stands in (different) close and complicated relationships to its system's other complexly interwoven parts — epistemology, ontology, value theory, philosophy of mind, etc. For this reason, it is both difficult and somewhat misleading to extract them and consider them in isolation. Two examples of historically influential definitions of art offered by great philosophers will suffice to illustrate. First, Plato holds in the Republic and elsewhere that the arts are representational, or mimetic (sometimes translated “imitative”). Artworks are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, ordinary physical objects, which in turn are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, what is most real, the non-physical Forms. Grasped perceptually, artworks present only an appearance of an appearance of what is really real. Consequently, artistic experience cannot yield knowledge. Nor do the makers of artworks work from knowledge. Because artworks engage an unstable, lower part of the soul, art should be subservient to moral realities, which, along with truth, are more metaphysically fundamental and hence more humanly important than beauty. Beauty is not, for Plato, the distinctive province of the arts, and in fact his conception of beauty is extremely wide and metaphysical: there is a Form of Beauty, of which we can have non-perceptual knowledge, but it is more closely related to the erotic than to the arts. (See Janaway, and the entry on Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry.) Second, although Kant has a definition of art, he is for systematic reasons far less concerned with it than with aesthetic judgment. Kant defines art as “a kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, though without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication.” (Kant, Critique of Judgment, Guyer translation, section 44)). The definition, when fully unpacked, has representational, formalist and expressivist elements. Located conceptually in a much broader discussion of aesthetic judgment and teleology, the definition is one relatively small piece of a hugely ambitious philosophical structure that attempts, famously, to account for, and work out the relationships between, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious faith. (see the entry on Kant's Aesthetics and Teleology) For treatments of influential definitions of art, inseparable from the complex philosophical systems in which they occur, see, for example, the entries on 18th Century German Aesthetics, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Dewey's Aesthetics.
Skepticism about the possibility and value of a definition of art has been an important part of the discussion in aesthetics since the 1950s on, and though its influence has subsided, uneasiness about the definitional project persists. (See section 4, below, and also Kivy, 1997, and Walton, 2007).
A common family of arguments, inspired by Wittgenstein's famous remarks about games (Wittgenstein, 1953), has it that the phenomena of art are, by their nature, too diverse to admit of the unification that a satisfactory definition strives for, or that a definition of art, were there to be such a thing, would exert a stifling influence on artistic creativity. One expression of this impulse is Weitz's Open Concept Argument: any concept is open if a case can be imagined which would call for some sort of decision on our part to extend the use of the concept to cover it, or to close the concept and invent a new one to deal with the new case; all open concepts are indefinable; and there are cases calling for a decision about whether to extend or close the concept of art. Hence art is indefinable. (Weitz, 1956) Against this it is claimed that change does not, in general, rule out the preservation of identity over time, that decisions about concept-expansion may be principled rather than capricious, and that nothing bars a definition of art from incorporating a novelty requirement.
A second sort of argument, less common today than in the heyday of a certain form of extreme Wittgensteinianism, urges that the concepts that make up the stuff of most definitions of art (expressiveness, form) are embedded in general philosophical theories which incorporate traditional metaphysics and epistemology. But since traditional metaphysics and epistemology are prime instances of language gone on conceptually confused holiday, definitions of art share in the conceptual confusions of traditional philosophy (Tilghman).
A third sort of argument, more historically inflected than the first, takes off from an influential study by the historian of philosophy Paul Kristeller, in which he argued that the modern system of the five major arts [painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, and music] which underlies all modern aesthetics … is of comparatively recent origin and did not assume definite shape before the eighteenth century, although it had many ingredients which go back to classical, mediaeval, and Renaissance thought. Since that list of five arts is somewhat arbitrary, and since even those five do not share a single common nature, but rather are united, at best, only by several overlapping features, and since the number of art forms has increased since the eighteenth century, Kristeller's work may be taken to suggest that our concept of art differs from that of the eighteenth century. As a matter of historical fact, there simply is no stable definiendum for a definition of art to capture.
A fourth sort of argument suggests that a definition of art stating individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for a thing to be an artwork, is likely to be discoverable only if cognitive science makes it plausible to think that humans categorize things in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. But, the argument continues, cognitive science actually supports the view that the structure of concepts mirrors the way humans categorize things – which is with respect to their similarity to prototypes (or exemplars), and not in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. So the quest for a definition of art that states individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions is misguided and not likely to succeed. (Dean, 2003) Against this it has been urged that psychological theories of concepts like the prototype theory and its relatives can provide at best an account of how people in fact classify things, but not an account of correct classifications of extra-psychological phenomena, and that, even if relevant, prototype theory and other psychological theories of concepts are at present too controversial to draw substantive philosophical morals from.
Philosophers influenced by the moderate Wittgensteinian strictures discussed above have offered family resemblance accounts of art, which, as they purport to be non-definitions, may be usefully considered at this point. Two species of family resemblance views will be considered: the resemblance-to-a-paradigm version, and the cluster version.
On the resemblance-to-a-paradigm version, something is, or is identifiable as, an artwork if it resembles, in the right way, certain paradigm artworks, which possess most although not necessarily all of art's typical features. (The “is identifiable” qualification is intended to make the family resemblance view something more epistemological than a definition, although it is unclear that this really avoids a commitment to constitutive claims about art's nature.) Against this view: since things do not resemble each other simpliciter, but only in at least one respect or other, the account is either far too inclusive, since everything resembles everything else in some respect or other, or, if the variety of resemblance is specified, tantamount to a definition, since resemblance in that respect will be either a necessary or sufficient condition for being an artwork. The family resemblance view raises questions, moreover, about the membership and unity of the class of paradigm artworks. If the account lacks an explanation of why some items and not others go on the list of paradigm works, it seems explanatorily deficient. But if it includes a principle that governs membership on the list, or if expertise is required to constitute the list, then the principle, or whatever properties the experts' judgments track, seem to be doing the philosophical work.
The cluster version of the family resemblance view has been defended by a number of philosophers. (Gaut 2000, Dissanayake 1990, Dutton 2006) The view typically provides a list of properties, no one of which is a necessary condition for being a work of art, but which are jointly sufficient for being a work of art, and which is such that at least one proper subset thereof is sufficient for being a work of art. Lists offered vary, but overlap considerably. Here is one: (1) possessing positive aesthetic properties; (2) being expressive of emotion; (3) being intellectually challenging; (4) being formally complex and coherent; (5) having the capacity to convey complex meanings; (6) exhibiting an individual point of view; (7) being original; (8) being an artifact or performance which is the product of a high degree of skill; (9) belonging to an established artistic form; (10) being the product of an intention to make a work of art. (Gaut, 2000) The cluster account has been criticized on several grounds. First, given its logical structure, it is in fact equivalent to a long, complicated, but finite, disjunction, which makes it difficult to see why it isn't a definition. (Davies, 2006) Second, if the list of properties is incomplete, as some cluster theorists hold, then some justification or principle would be needed for extending it. Third, the inclusion of the ninth property on the list, belonging to an established art form, seems to invite, rather than answer, the definitional question. Finally, it can be wondered whether there is a principle that unites the items on the list. Gaut construes aesthetic properties (possession of which is the first item on the list), very narrowly, but this is not essential to cluster views. Another cluster theorist, Dutton, who gives a list that overlaps very significantly with the one discussed here (it includes representational properties, expressiveness, creativity, exhibiting a high degree of skill, belonging to an established artform), remarks that aesthetic properties are omitted from his list because, he says, it is the combination of the other items on the list which, combined in the experience of the work of art, are precisely the aesthetic qualities of the work. (Dutton, 2006)
Definitions of art attempt to make sense of two different sorts of facts: art has important historically contingent cultural features, and it also, arguably, has trans-historical, trans-cultural characteristics that point in the direction of a relatively stable aesthetic core. (Theorists who regard art as an invention of eighteenth-century Europe will, of course, regard this way of putting the matter as tendentious, on the grounds that entities produced outside that culturally distinctive institution do not fall under the extension of “art” and hence are irrelevant to the art-defining project. (Shiner 2001) Whether the concept of art is precise enough to justify this much confidence about what falls under its extension claim is unclear.) Conventionalist definitions take art's cultural features to be explanatorily fundamental, and attempt to capture the phenomena —revolutionary modern art, the traditional close connection of art with the aesthetic, the possibility of autonomous art traditions, etc. — in social/historical terms. Non-conventionalist or “functionalist” definitions reverse this explanatory order, taking a concept like the aesthetic (or some allied concept like the formal, or the expressive) as basic, and aim to account for the phenomena by working that concept harder, perhaps extending it to non-perceptual properties.
Conventionalist definitions deny that art has essential connection to aesthetic properties, or to formal properties, or to expressive properties, or to any type of property taken by traditional definitions to be essential to art. Conventionalist definitions have been strongly influenced by the emergence, in the twentieth century, of artworks that seem to differ radically from all previous artworks. Avante-garde works like Marcel Duchamp's Fountain (an ordinary urinal which Duchamp exhibited at the Armory Show in Philadelphia in 1915) and other “ready-mades” – ordinary unaltered objects like snow-shovels (In Advance of the Broken Arm) and bottle-racks — conceptual works like Robert Barry's All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking - 1:36 PM; June 15, 1969, and John Cage's 4''33', have seemed to many philosophers to lack or even, somehow, repudiate, the traditional properties of art: intended aesthetic interest, artifactuality, even perceivability. Conventionalist definitions have also been strongly influenced by the work of a number of historically-minded philosophers, who have documented the rise and development of modern ideas of the fine arts, the individual arts, the work of art, and the aesthetic.(Kristeller, Shiner, Carroll, Goehr, Kivy)
Conventionalist definitions come in two varieties, institutional and historical. Institutionalist conventionalism, or institutionalism, a synchronic view, typically hold that to be a work of art is to be an artifact of a kind created, by an artist, to be presented to an artworld public (Dickie, 1984). Historical conventionalism, a diachronic view, holds that artworks necessarily stand in an art-historical relation to some set of earlier artworks.
The groundwork for institutional definitions was laid by Arthur Danto, better known to non-philosophers as the long-time influential art critic for the Nation. Danto coined the term “artworld”, by which he meant “an atmosphere of art theory.” Danto's definition has been glossed as follows: something is a work of art if and only if (i) it has a subject (ii) about which it projects some attitude or point of view (has a style) (iii) by means of rhetorical ellipsis (usually metaphorical) which ellipsis engages audience participation in filling in what is missing, and (v) where the work in question and the interpretations thereof require an art historical context. (Danto, Carroll) Clause (v) is what makes the definition institutionalist. The view has been criticized for entailing that art criticism written in a highly rhetorical style is art, lacking but requiring an independent account of what makes a context art historical, and for not applying to music.
The most prominent and influential institutionalism is that of George Dickie. Dickie's institutionalism has evolved over time. According to an early version, a work of art is an artifact upon which some person(s) acting on behalf of the artworld has conferred the status of candidate for appreciation. (Dickie, 1971) The most recent version consists of an interlocking set of five definitions: (1) An artist is a person who participates with understanding in the making of a work of art. (2) A work of art is an artifact of a kind created to be presented to an artworld public. (3) A public is a set of persons the members of which are prepared in some degree to understand an object which is presented to them. (4) The artworld is the totality of all artworld systems. (5) An artworld system is a framework for the presentation of a work of art by an artist to an artworld public. (Dickie, 1984) Both versions have been widely criticized. Philosophers have objected that art created outside any institution seems possible, although the definition rules it out, and that the artworld, like any institution, seems capable of error. It has also been urged that the definition's obvious circularity is vicious, and that, given the inter-definition of the key concepts (artwork, artworld system, artist, artworld public) it lacks any informative way of distinguishing art institutions systems from other, structurally similar, social institutions. (David Davies, 2004, p. 248-249, mentions the “commerceworld”) Early on, Dickie claimed that anyone who sees herself as a member of the artworld is a member of the artworld: if this is true, then unless there are constraints on the kinds of things the artworld can put forward as artworks or candidate artworks, any entity can be an artwork (though not all are). Finally, Matravers has helpfully distinguished strong and weak institutionalism. Strong institutionalism holds that there is some reason that is always the reason the art institution has for saying that something is a work of art. Weak institutionalism holds that, for every work of art, there is some reason or other that the institution has for saying that it is a work of art. (Matravers, 2000) Weak institutionalism, in particular, raises questions about art's unity: if nothing unifies the reasons that the artworld gives for designating entities as artworks, the unity of the class of artworks is vanishingly small.
Historical definitions hold that what characterizes artworks is standing in some specified art-historical relation to some specified earlier artworks, and disavow any commitment to a trans-historical concept of art, or the “artish.” Historical definitions come in several varieties. All of them are, or resemble, inductive definitions: they claim that certain entities belong unconditionally to the class of artworks, while others do so because they stand in the appropriate relations thereto. According to the best known version, Levinson's intentional-historical definition, an artwork is a thing that has been seriously intended for regard in any way preexisting or prior artworks are or were correctly regarded. (Levinson 1990) Historical functionalism says that an item is an artwork at time t, where t is not earlier than the time at which the item is made, if and only if it is in one of the central art forms at t and is made with the intention of fulfilling a function art has at t or it is an artifact that achieves excellence in achieving such a function. (Stecker 2005) Historical narrativism is the view that a sufficient but not necessary condition for the identification of a candidate as a work of art is the construction of a true historical narrative according to which the candidate was created by an artist in an artistic context with a recognized and live artistic motivation, and as a result of being so created, it resembles at least one acknowledged artwork. (Carroll, 1993)
The similarity of these views to institutionalism is obvious, and the criticisms offered parallel those urged against institutionalism. First, historical definitions appear to require, but lack, any informative characterization of art traditions (art functions, artistic contexts, etc.) and hence any way of informatively distinguishing them (and likewise art functions, or artistic predecessors) from non-art traditions (non-art functions, non-artistic predecessors). Correlatively, as Stephen Davies has noted, non-Western art, or alien, autonomous art of any kind appears to pose a problem for historical views: any autonomous art tradition or artworks — terrestrial, extra-terrestrial, or merely possible — causally isolated from our art tradition, is either ruled out by the definition, which seems to be a reductio, or included, which concedes the existence of a supra-historical concept of art. Historical definitions also require, but do not provide a satisfactory, informative account of the basis case – the first artworks, or ur-artworks, in the case of the intentional-historical definitions, or the first or central art-forms, in the case of historical functionalism.
As regards autonomous art traditions, it has been replied that anything we would recognize as an art tradition or an artistic practice would display aesthetic concerns, because aesthetic concerns have been central from the start, and persisted centrally for thousands of years, in the Western art tradition. Hence it is an historical, not a conceptual truth that anything we recognize as an art practice will centrally involve the aesthetic; it is just that aesthetic concerns that have always dominated our art tradition. (Levinson, 2002) The idea here is that if the reason that anything we'd take to be a Φ-tradition would have Ψ-concerns is that our Φ-tradition has focused on Ψ-concerns since its inception, then it is not essential to Φ-traditions that they have Ψ-concerns, and Φ is a purely historical concept. But this principle entails, implausibly, that every concept is purely historical. Suppose that we discovered a new civilization whose inhabitants could predict how the physical world works with great precision, on the basis of a substantial body of empirically acquired knowledge that they had accumulated over centuries. The reason we would credit them with having a scientific tradition might well be that our own scientific tradition has since its inception focused on explaining things. It does not seem to follow that science is a purely historical concept with no essential connection to explanatory aims. (Other theorists hold that it is historically necessary that art begins with the aesthetic, but deny that art's nature is to be defined in terms of its historical unfolding. (Davies, 1997)) As to the first artworks, or the central art-forms or functions, some theorists hold that an account of them can only take the form of an enumeration. Stecker takes this approach: he says that the account of what makes something a central art form at a given time is, at its core, institutional, and that the central artforms can only be listed. (Stecker, 1997, and 2005) Whether relocating the list at a different, albeit deeper, level in the definition renders the definition sufficiently perspicuous is an open question.
Functional definitions take some function(s) or intended function(s) to be definitive of artworks. Here only aesthetic definitions, which connect art essentially with the aesthetic — aesthetic judgments, experience, or properties – will be considered. Different aesthetic definitions incorporate different views of aesthetic properties and judgments. See the entry on aesthetic judgment.
As noted above, some philosophers lean heavily on a distinction between aesthetic properties and artistic properties, taking the former to be perceptually striking qualities that can be directly perceived in works, without knowledge of their origin and purpose, and the latter to be relational properties that works possess in virtue of their relations to art history, art genres, etc. It is also, of course, possible to hold a less restrictive view of aesthetic properties, on which aesthetic properties need not be perceptual; on this broader view, it is unnecessary to deny that abstracta like mathematical entities and scientific laws possess aesthetic properties.)
Monroe Beardsley's definition holds that an artwork: “either an arrangement of conditions intended to be capable of affording an experience with marked aesthetic character or (incidentally) an arrangement belonging to a class or type of arrangements that is typically intended to have this capacity.” (Beardsley, 1982, p. 299. For more on Beardsley, see SEP, Beardsley's Aesthetics)Beardsley's conception of aesthetic experience is Deweyan: aesthetic experiences are experiences that are complete, unified, intense experiences of the way things appear to us, and are, moreover, experiences which are controlled by the things experienced. (SEP Dewey's Aesthetics). Zangwill's aesthetic definition of art says that something is a work of art if and only if someone had an insight that certain aesthetic properties would be determined by certain nonaesthetic properties, and for this reason the thing was intentionally endowed with the aesthetic properties in virtue of the nonaesthetic properties as envisaged in the insight. (Zangwill, 1995)Aesthetic properties for Zangwill are those judgments that are the subject of “verdictive aesthetic judgments” (judgements of beauty and ugliness) and “substantive aesthetic judgements”, (e.g., of daintiness, elegance, delicacy, etc. ). The latter are ways of being beautiful or ugly; aesthetic in virtue of a special close relation to verdictive judgments, which are subjectively universal. Other aesthetic definitions are easily obtained, by grafting on a different account of the aesthetic. For example, one might define aesthetic properties as those having an evaluative component, whose perception involves the perception of certain formal base properties, such as shape and color. (De Clercq, 2002).
Views which combine features of institutional and aesthetic definitions also exist. Iseminger, for example, builds a definition on an account of appreciation, on which to appreciate a thing's being F is to find experiencing its being F to be valuable in itself, and an account of aesthetic communication (which it is the function of the artworld to promote). (Iseminger, 2004) Another definition that combines features of institutional and aesthetic definitions is David Davies'. Davies adopts Nelson Goodman's account of symbolic functions that are aesthetic (a symbol functions aesthetically when it is syntactically dense, semantically dense, syntactically replete, and characterized by multiple and complex reference, which he takes to clarify the conditions under which a practice of making is a practice of artistic making. (Davies 2004; Goodman 1968)
Aesthetic definitions have been criticized for being both too narrow and too broad. They are held to be too narrow because they are unable to cover influential modern works like Duchamp's ready-mades and conceptual works like Robert Barry's All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking - 1:36 PM; June 15, 1969, which appear to lack aesthetic properties. (Duchamp famously asserted that his urinal, Fountain, was selected for its lack of aesthetic features.) Aesthetic definitions are held to be too broad because beautifully designed automobiles, neatly manicured lawns, and products of commercial design are often created with the intention of being objects of aesthetic appreciation, but are not artworks. Moreover, aesthetic views have been held to have trouble making sense of bad art. (see Dickie, Art and Value, and Stephen Davies, Philosophy of Art, p. 37) Finally, more radical doubts about aesthetic definitions center on the intelligibility and usefulness of the aesthetic. Beardsley's view, for example, has been criticized by Dickie, who has also offered influential criticisms of the idea of an aesthetic attitude. (Dickie 1965, Cohen 1973, Kivy 1975)
To these criticisms several responses have been offered. First, the less restrictive conception of aesthetic properties mentioned above, on which they may be based on non-perceptual formal properties, can be deployed. On this view, conceptual works would have aesthetic features, much the same way that mathematical entities are often claimed to. (Shelley 2003, Carroll 2004) Second, a distinction may be drawn between time-sensitive properties, whose standard observation conditions include an essential reference to temporal location of the observer, and non-time-sensitive properties, which do not. Higher-order aesthetic properties like drama, humor, and irony, which account for a significant part of the appeal of Duchamp's and Cage's works, on this view, would derive from time-sensitive properties. (Zemach 1997) Third, it might be held that it is the creative act of presenting something that is in the relevant sense unfamiliar, into a new context, the artworld, which has aesthetic properties. Or, fourth, it might be held that (Zangwill's “second-order” strategy) works like ready-mades lack aesthetic functions, but are parasitic upon, because meant to be considered in the context of, works that do have aesthetic functions, and hence constitute borderline cases. Finally, perhaps heroically, it can be denied that Duchamp's Fountain is a work of art. (Beardsley1982).
As to the over-inclusiveness of aesthetic definitions, a distinction might be drawn between primary and secondary functions. Or it may be maintained that some cars, lawns, and products of industrial design are on the art/non-art borderline, and so don't constitute clear and decisive counter-examples. Or, if the claim that aesthetic theories fail to account for bad art depends on holding that some works have absolutely no aesthetic value whatsoever, as opposed to some non-zero amount, however infinitesimal, it may be wondered what justifies that assumption.
Conventionalist definitions account well for modern art, but have difficulty accounting for art's universality – especially the fact that there can be art disconnected from “our” (Western) institutions and traditions, and, conceivably, our species. Aesthetic definitions do better accounting for art's traditional, universal features, but less well, according to their critics, with revolutionary modern art; their further defense requires an account of the aesthetic which can be extended in a principled way to conceptual and other radical art. (An aesthetic definition and a conventionalist one could simply be conjoined. But that would merely raise, without answering, the difficult question of the unity or disunity of the class of artworks.) Which defect is the more serious one depends on which explananda are the more important. Arguments at this level are hard to come by, because positions are hard to motivate in ways that do not depend on prior conventionalist and functionalist sympathies. If list-like definitions are flawed because uninformative, then so are conventionalist definitions, whether institutional or historical. Of course, if the class of artworks is an arbitrary one, lacking any genuine unity, then enumerative definitions cannot be faulted for being uninformative: they do all the explaining that it is possible to do, because they capture all the unity that there is to capture. But in that case the worry articulated by one prominent aesthetician, who wrote earlier of the “bloated, unwieldy” concept of art which institutional definitions aim to capture, needs to be taken seriously, even if it turns out to be ungrounded: “It is not at all clear that these words – ‘What is art?’ – express anything like a single question, to which competing answers are given, or whether philosophers proposing answers are even engaged in the same debate…. The sheer variety of proposed definitions should give us pause. One cannot help wondering whether there is any sense in which they are attempts to … clarify the same cultural practices, or address the same issue.” (Walton, 1977, 2007)
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- Carroll, Noel, 2004, “Non-Perceptual Aesthetic Properties.” British Journal of Aesthetics, 44: 413-423.
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- Plato, 1997, Complete Works, Cooper, John M. (ed.), Indianapolis: Hackett.
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Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, photography, sculpture, and paintings. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.
The definition and evaluation of art has become especially problematic since the early 20th century. Richard Wollheim distinguishes three approaches: the Realist, whereby aesthetic quality is an absolute value independent of any human view; the Objectivist, whereby it is also an absolute value, but is dependent on general human experience; and the Relativist position, whereby it is not an absolute value, but depends on, and varies with, the human experience of different humans. An object may be characterized by the intentions, or lack thereof, of its creator, regardless of its apparent purpose. A cup, which ostensibly can be used as a container, may be considered art if intended solely as an ornament, while a painting may be deemed craft if mass-produced.
Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science". Generally, art is made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions.
The nature of art has been described by Richard Wollheim as "one of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human culture". It has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas, a means for exploring and appreciating formal elements for their own sake, and as mimesis or representation. Leo Tolstoy identified art as a use of indirect means to communicate from one person to another. Benedetto Croce and R.G. Collingwood advanced the idealist view that art expresses emotions, and that the work of art therefore essentially exists in the mind of the creator. The theory of art as form has its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and was developed in the early twentieth century by Roger Fry and Clive Bell. Art as mimesis or representation has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle. More recently, thinkers influenced by Martin Heidegger have interpreted art as the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation.
theduderinok — April 19, 2010 —
Speech by Fred Ross. transcript: http://www.artrenewal.org
True Art Revival Part 1 of 2
True Art Revival Part 2 of 2
The Promise of Art: Terence Mckenna
The Following is taken from the Kybalion
"The infinite mind of The ALL, is the womb of universes."
"While it is true that the ALL is in all, it is equally true that the ALL is within ALL."
"..And, in the degree that Man realizes the existence of the Indwelling Spirit immanent within his being, so will he rise in the spiritual scale of life. This is what spiritual development means-the recognition, realization, and manifestation of the Spirit within us. Try to remember this last definition-that of spiritual development. It contains the Truth of True Religion."
"As above, So Below."
The Kybalion: The Mental construct of the Universe, Consciousness, Light, and Quantum Physics