Aesthetic creation • by N. Zangwill

Analysis 69 (2):399-401 (2009)
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Definitions of art tend to take the phenomenon at face value, with philosophers aspiring to accommodate their theories to the artistic facts no matter how bizarre. The result, as for instance in the work of Dickie, is a definition of art neutral on the questions whether any of it is any good, and why anyone would bother to produce it. Zangwill bucks this trend by insisting that the method of definition-and-counterexample that drives much of the field is out of date, and by contending that any good theory of art should explain why making and appreciating it is worth our while. The result is an account of art that foregrounds aesthetic value while striving to show why art production and appreciation are rational activities.Zangwill sees the tradition he wishes to rebut as guided by the method of ‘extensional adequacy’, that is, ‘ … a theory of art that classifies as art all or most of the things we intuitively call “art”, and that excludes all or most of the things that we intuitively do not call “art” ’. This is jarring, since that tradition aims for intensional adequacy, as shown by the fact that a critic of a given theory is allowed to proffer hypothetical rather than just actual cases in aid of that critique. Zangwill's error does not, however, undermine the gravamen of his challenge, which is this. Insofar as we are after a theory of art rather than a description of the …



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Mitchell Green
University of Connecticut

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