James McGuiggan
University of Southampton
Collingwood’s aim in The Principles of Art is “to answer the question: What is art?” (p. 1) The answer Collingwood offers to that question, that art is the expression of emotion, has become notorious for its implausibility. I consider one objection against this theory, namely that it is unclear what is rendered art by this definition: for it sometimes appears to define art too broadly, containing all utterances and gestures; but at other times to define art too narrowly, excluding much of what we intuitively consider art. I argue that this objection is mistaken, because it is founded upon a misunderstanding of the sort of project in which Collingwood is engaged. I propose a new reading, via his philosophical methodology, under which ‘art’ is differentially rather than binarily realisable. According to this new reading, art is something found in every human experience or activity, but to a greater or lesser extent. I close by suggesting one reason why Collingwood’s project under this reading is more philosophically interesting than it is under the standard reading, namely that it can give a better account of borderline cases of art.
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