I argue that the experiences of everyday life are replete with aesthetic character, though this fact has been largely neglected within contemporary aesthetics. As against Dewey's account of aesthetic experience, I suggest that the fact that many everyday experiences are simple, lacking in unity or closure, and characterized by limited or fragmented awareness does not disqualify them from aesthetic consideration. Aesthetic attention to the domain of everyday experience may provide for lives of greater satisfaction and contribute to our ability to (...) pursue moral aims. (shrink)
Open Access: This article argues for an aesthetic approach to resisting oppression based on judgments of bodily unattractiveness. Philosophical theories have often suggested that appropriate aesthetic judgments should converge on sets of objects consensually found to be beautiful or ugly. The convergence of judgments about human bodies, however, is a significant source of injustice, because people judged to be unattractive pay substantial social and economic penalties in domains such as education, employment and criminal justice. The injustice is compounded by the (...) interaction between standards of attractiveness and gender, race, disability, and gender identity. -/- I argue that we should actively work to reduce our participation in standard aesthetic practices that involve attractiveness judgments. This does not mean refusing engagement with the embodiment of others; ignoring someone’s embodiment is often a way of dehumanizing them. Instead, I advocate a form of practice, aesthetic exploration, that involves seeking out positive experiences of the unique aesthetic affordances of all bodies, regardless of whether they are attractive in the standard sense. I argue that there are good ethical reasons to cultivate aesthetic exploration, and that it is psychologically plausible that doing so would help to alleviate the social injustice attending judgments of attractiveness. (shrink)
Though feminists are correct to note that conventional standards of sexiness are oppressive, we argue that feminism should reclaim sexiness rather than reject it. We argue for an aesthetic and ethical practice of working to shift from conventional attributions of sexiness to respectful attributions, in which embodied sexual subjects are appreciated in their full individual magnificence. We argue that undertaking this practice is an ethical obligation, since it contributes to the full recognition of others’ humanity. We discuss the relationship of (...) ethical to aesthetic considerations and argue that the respectful notion of sexiness is a genuinely aesthetic one, even though it does not involve assessment in relation to standards. (shrink)
The body is a rich object for aesthetic inquiry. We aesthetically assess both our own bodies and those of others, and our felt bodily experiences have aesthetic qualities. The body features centrally in aesthetic experiences of visual art, theatre, dance and sports. It is also deeply intertwined with one's identity and sense of self. Artistic and media representations shape how we see and engage with bodies, with consequences both personal and political. This volume contains sixteen original essays by contributors in (...) philosophy, sociology, dance, disability theory, critical race studies, feminist theory, medicine, and law. They explore bodily beauty, sexual attractiveness, the role of images in power relations, the distinct aesthetics of disabled bodies, the construction of national identity, the creation of compassion through bodily presence, the role of bodily style in moral comportment, and the somatic aesthetics of racialized police violence. -/- Contents: Maria del Guadalupe Davidson, "Black Silhouettes on White Walls: Kara Walker’s Magic Lantern"; A. W. Eaton, "Taste in Bodies and Fat Oppression"; C. Winter Han, "From 'Little Brown Brothers' to 'Queer Asian Wives': Constructing the Asian Male Body"; Deborah L. Rhode, "Appearance as a Feminist Issue"; Shirley Anne Tate, "A Tale of Two Olympians—Beauty, 'Race,' Nation"; Glenn Parsons, "The Merrickites"; Stephen Davies, "And Everything Nice"; Tobin Siebers, "In/Visible: Disability on the Stage"; Jill Sigman, "Live, Body-Based Performance: An Account from the Field"; Barbara Gail Montero, "Aesthetic Effortlessness"; Peg Brand Weiser and Edward B. Weiser, "Misleading Aesthetic Norms of Beauty: Perceptual Sexism in Elite Women's Sports"; Yuriko Saito, "Body Aesthetics and the Cultivation of Moral Virtues"; George Yancy, "White Embodied Gazing, the Black Body as Disgust, and the Aesthetics of Un-Suturing"; Richard Shusterman, "Somaesthetics and the Fine Art of Eating"; Ann J. Cahill, "Sexual Desire, Inequality, and the Possibility of Transformation"; Sheila Lintott and Sherri Irvin, "Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects: A Feminist Reclamation of Sexiness" -/- . (shrink)
On several current views, including those of Matthew Kieran, Gary Iseminger, Jerrold Levinson, and Noël Carroll, aesthetic appreciation or experience involves second-order awareness of one’s own mental processes. But what if it turns out that we don’t have introspective access to the processes by which our aesthetic responses are produced? I summarize several problems for introspective accounts that emerge from the psychological literature: aesthetic responses are affected by irrelevant conditions; they fail to be affected by relevant conditions; we are ignorant (...) of their causes and thus confabulate in explaining them; our attempts to offer explanations change our preferences; and the preferences we form after explanation are lower in quality. I suggest that by distinguishing introspective awareness of mental processes from introspective awareness of mental states, we can safeguard a worthwhile concept of aesthetic experience. In addition, we should recognize that theoretical, rather than introspective, understanding of our mental processes may play a valuable role in aesthetic appreciation. (shrink)
Virtually everyone who has advanced an ontology of art has accepted a constraint to the effect that claims about ontology should cohere with the sort of appreciative claims made about artworks within a mature and reflective version of critical practice. I argue that such a constraint, which I agree is appropriate, rules out a one-size-fits-all ontology of contemporary visual art (and thus of visual art in general). Mature critical practice with respect to contemporary art accords artists a significant degree of (...) stipulative authority regarding the features and boundaries of their works. This results in ontological variation among visual artworks. Any claim to the effect that all works belong to the same ontological category will thus come out false or uninformative. Interesting, substantive claims about ontological status can be made only in relation to specific works; that is, we must consider the ontological status of each contemporary artwork individually. The only general ontological claim that can be made about visual artworks (and also about artworks in other forms) is that they belong to the sort of thing that artists create. But this is not a substantive ontological claim. (shrink)
I argue that there can be appropriate aesthetic experiences even of basic somatic experiences like itches and scratches. I show, in relation to accounts of aesthetic experience offered by Carroll and Stecker, that experiences of itches and scratches can be aesthetic; I show that itches can be objects of attention in the way that normative accounts of the aesthetic often require; and I show, in relation to accounts of the aesthetic appreciation of nature offered by Carlson and Carroll, that aesthetic (...) experience of itches and scratches can be appropriate. I argue that attention to the domain of somatic experience is worthwhile, in that it offers the prospects of significant aesthetic satisfaction, and I suggest that even attention to unpleasant experiences like itches and pains may be aesthetically rewarding. (shrink)
As aesthetic beings, we are receptive to and engaged with the sensuous phenomena of life while also knowing that we are targets of others’ awareness: we are both aesthetic agents and aesthetic objects. Our psychological health, our standing within our communities, and our overall wellbeing can be profoundly affected by our aesthetic surroundings and by whether and how we receive aesthetic recognition from others. Being aware of and responsive to how others aesthetically experience us shapes our sense of self and (...) our ability to function in a world with others who are also both agents and objects. When our embodied selves and our cultural products are valued, and when we have rich opportunities for aesthetic experience and for the exercise of aesthetic agency, the aesthetic can foster and sustain wellbeing and help to make our lives worthwhile. But when we are subjected to aesthetic blight, restriction of our aesthetic agency, and aesthetic devaluing of our embodied selves and our communities’ cultural products, the aesthetic can do great harm. This essay explores the notions of aesthetic objects and aesthetic agents, their relations with each other, and the unique affordances of persons’ status as simultaneously aesthetic objects and aesthetic agents. It examines the prospects for bodily aesthetic experience to promote wellbeing and, at the end, considers how the aesthetic might play a role in establishing forms of mutual vulnerability and recognition to combat oppressive social hierarchies. (shrink)
I argue that contemporary artists fix the features of their works not only through their actions of making and presenting objects, but also through auxiliary activities such as corresponding with curators and institutions. I refer to such fixing of features as the artist’s sanction: artists sanction features of their work through publicly accessible actions and communications, such as making a physical object with particular features, corresponding with curators and producing artist statements. I show, through an extended example, that in order (...) to grasp the nature of contemporary artworks, and thus be in a position to interpret them, we must attend to the features the artist has sanctioned. However, this does not amount to saying that the artist’s intention fixes the features of the work. While related to intentions, sanctions are not identical to them; and, indeed, the features the artist has sanctioned may conflict, in some cases, with those she intended. I distinguish my view from actual and hypothetical intentionalism and show that considering the artist’s sanction does not force us to accept any particular interpretation of the work. I also show that, while it has special relevance to our understanding of contemporary artworks, the notion of the sanction is in fact relevant to traditional Western art as well. (shrink)
Appropriation art has often been thought to support the view that authorship in art is an outmoded or misguided notion. Through a thought experiment comparing appropriation art to a unique case of artistic forgery, I examine and reject a number of candidates for the distinction that makes artists the authors of their work while forgers are not. The crucial difference is seen to lie in the fact that artists bear ultimate responsibility for whatever objectives they choose to pursue through their (...) work, whereas the forger's central objectives are determined by the nature of the activity of forgery. Appropriation artists, by revealing that no aspect of the objectives an artist pursues are in fact built in to the concept of art, demonstrate artists' responsibility for all aspects of their objectives and, hence, of their products. This responsibility is constitutive of authorship and accounts for the interpretability of artworks. Far from undermining the concept of authorship in art, then, the appropriation artists in fact reaffirm and strengthen it. (shrink)
This article discusses the relationship (or lack thereof) between authors’ intentions and the meaning of literary works. It considers the advantages and disadvantages of Extreme and Modest Actual Intentionalism, Conventionalism, and two versions of Hypothetical Intentionalism, and discusses the role that one’s theoretical commitments about the robustness of linguistic conventions and the publicity of literary works should play in determining which view one accepts.
This paper has three objectives. First, I argue that apprehending an installation artwork is similar to apprehending an artwork for performance: in each case, audiences must recognize a relationship between the performance or display one encounters and the parameters expressed in the underlying work. Second, I consider whether realizations are also artworks in their own right. I argue that, in both installation art and performance, a particular realization is sometimes an artwork in its own right (even as it realizes another (...) work). I offer criteria for determining when this is the case. Application of the criteria yields the verdict that performances are sometimes artworks in their own right, while displays of installation artworks rarely are. This difference, though, is merely contingent on the conventions of the respective art forms. Third, I address ontological concerns about entities that are both abstract and temporal, as many artworks are on my analysis. (shrink)
Several years ago, the poet & critic Joan Houlihan offered a scathing and hilarious indictment of a lot of postmodern poetry for using words in a way that treats them as meaningless (or, perhaps, renders them meaningless). She suggested that word choice in such poems doesn’t really matter, and that the poet could just as well have substituted in other words without any change in meaning or aesthetic qualities. I argue that she’s wrong about this. I offer an account of (...) how interpretation and meaning function in poems that use words in highly non-standard ways. In such poems, there are associations and implicatures that one can reasonably expect a suitably backgrounded reader to grasp, rescuing interpretation from being a purely subjective and arbitrary activity. (shrink)
Many contemporary artworks include active matter along with rules for conservation that are designed to either facilitate or prevent that matter’s degradation or decay. I discuss the mechanisms through which actual or potential states of material decay contribute to the work’s expressive import. Nelson Goodman and Catherine Elgin introduce the concepts of literal and metaphorical exemplification, which are critical to expression: a work literally exemplifies a property when it both possesses and highlights that property, and it metaphorically exemplifies a property (...) when the properties it literally exemplifies bring that property powerfully to mind. I argue that the literal exemplification of actual or potential states of decay enhances a work’s expressive power by stimulating our bodily and emotional responses to the physical potential of the work’s active matter. Conservation practices, by affecting the properties the work literally and metaphorically exemplifies, are key to the expressive power of works that employ states of degradation and decay. The argument is illustrated through discussion of works by Zoe Leonard, Marc Quinn, and Kara Walker that literally exemplify actually or potentially decaying materials, as contrasted with works by Ai Weiwei and Sam Taylor-Johnson that represent rather than exemplify decaying materials. (shrink)
Prominent philosophical accounts of artistic forgery have neglected a central aspect of the aesthetic harm it perpetrates. To be properly understood, forgery must be seen in the context of our ongoing attempts to augment our aesthetic understanding in conditions of uncertainty. The bootstrapping necessary under these conditions requires a highly refined comprehension of historical context. By creating artificial associations among aesthetically relevant qualities and misrepresenting historical relationships, undetected forgeries stunt or distort aesthetic understanding. The effect of this may be quite (...) pervasive, and removing known forgeries from museum walls will be insufficient to eradicate it. Continued attention to forgeries, once exposed, can in fact serve us by increasing our understanding of how aesthetic understanding is formed and by helping us to repair the damage they have inflicted. (shrink)
The culturally pervasive tendency to identify aspects of the body as aesthetically imperfect harms individuals and scaffolds injustice related to disability, race, gender, LGBTQ+ identities, and fatness. But abandoning the notion of imperfection may not respect people’s reasonable understandings of their own bodies. I examine the prospects for a practice of aesthetic assessment grounded in a notion of the body’s function. I argue that functional aesthetic assessment, to be respectful, requires understanding the body’s functions as complex, malleable, and determined by (...) the projects and interests of the person whose body it is. Aesthetically relevant functions, on this account, are determined neither by the body’s status as organism nor by cultural assumptions about how bodies should function or be used. (shrink)
In the museum context, curators and conservators often play a role in shaping the nature of contemporary artworks. Before, during and after the acquisition of an art object, curators and conservators engage in dialogue with the artist about how the object should be exhibited and conserved. As a part of this dialogue, the artist may express specifications for the display and conservation of the object, thereby fixing characteristics of the artwork that were previously left open. This process can make a (...) significant difference to the visual appearance of the work, the nature of the audience's experience, and how the work should be interpreted. I present several case studies in which the nature of the artwork has been shaped by such dialogues, and discuss principles for resolving cases in which there is a conflict between instructions specified by the artist and those adopted by the museum. (shrink)
We discuss how analysis of contemporary artworks has shaped philosophical theories about the concept of art, the ontology of art, and artistic media. The rapid expansion, during the contemporary period, of the kinds of things that can count as artworks has prompted a shift toward procedural definitions, which focus on how artworks are selected, and away from definitions that focus exclusively on artworks’ features or effects. Some contemporary artworks challenge the traditional art–ontological dichotomy between physical particulars and repeatable entities whose (...) occurrences are physical particulars. And nontraditional techniques and materials employed in contemporary art violate the boundaries of conventional media, prompting a rethinking of what artistic medium might be. (shrink)
Repeatable artworks, such as novels and musical works, have often been construed as universals whose instances are particular printings or performances. In Art and Art-Attempts, Christy Mag Uidhir offers a nominalist account of repeatable artworks, eschewing talk of universals. Mag Uidhir argues that all artworks are concrete, and artworks that we regard as repeatable are simply unified by a relevant similarity relation: we use the name Beloved to refer to two concrete printed novels because they are relevantly similar to each (...) other and to certain other printings that are the product of Toni Morrison’s art-attempt. I discuss two potential difficulties for Mag Uidhir’s notion of relevant similarity: a difficulty related to appropriation, and a difficulty related to the fact that musical performances are often the product of distinct art-attempts by the composer and by the performer. I suggest that both difficulties could be addressed by enriching the notion of relevant similarity by appeal to the artist’s specification of which similarities are essential for two works to count as relevantly similar. (shrink)
This reference essay surveys recent work in the emerging sub-discipline of everyday aesthetics, which builds on the work of John Dewey to resist sharp distinctions between art and non-art domains and argue that aesthetic concepts are properly applied to ordinary domains of experience.
I clarify the arguments of my paper “Scratching an Itch” in response to a discussion piece by Brian Soucek. I also offer a new argument that objectivity is possible for aesthetic judgments about private phenomena such as somatic experiences.
An extensive literature about pictorial representation discusses what is involved when a two-dimensional image represents some specific object or type of object. A smaller literature addresses parallel issues in sculptural representation. But little has been said about the role played by the sculptural material itself in determining the meanings of the sculptural work. Appealing to Nelson Goodman and Catherine Elgin’s discussions of literal and metaphorical exemplification, I argue that the material of which a sculpture is constituted plays key roles in (...) what is represented and how it is represented, in part because we have bodily and emotional responses to the real possibilities the sculptural material creates for us. I discuss examples of contemporary artworks by Melvin Edwards, Kara Walker, Willie Cole, Marc Quinn, Ai Weiwei, Janine Antoni, El Anatsui, Zoe Leonard, and others. (shrink)
I discuss two interrelated ways in which disgust functions in motherhood. First, relaxation of the mother’s sense of disgust allows her to nurture her child more effectively. Second, others’ responses of disgust are used to enforce social norms regarding the “good” mother. If the mother acquiesces, she must continually monitor and tidy her child, which may interfere with the child’s exploration of the world. If she does not, she is subject to ongoing signs that she is flawed or failing as (...) a mother. (shrink)
This essay examines the difficulties faced by the claim that artworks are simple physical objects (or, in the case of non-visual art forms, simple structures of another sort) and examines alternative proposals regarding their ontological nature.
This paper argues for several claims about the moral relevance of the aesthetic: that attention to aesthetic values may promote moral motivation; that aesthetic values should be regarded as constraining moral demands; and that the pursuit of aesthetic satisfactions may itself have positive moral value. These arguments suggest that moral thinking should be aesthetically informed to a much greater degree than has been typical. The aesthetic is a central dimension of a good life, and a life’s being good for the (...) person living it has considerable moral weight, both in itself and because of the positive consequences for others that stem from it. Moral thinking that neglects aesthetic considerations, then, is likely to result in theories that are deficient not only from an aesthetic but from a moral point of view. (shrink)
The body is relevant for aesthetics from two perspectives. We experience and assess bodies aesthetically from the outside; and we have aesthetic experiences of and through our bodies from the inside. In experiences of one’s own body, these perspectives often intersect in interesting ways. From both perspectives, the body is a site where aesthetic and ethical considerations are deeply intertwined. This article includes discussion of Beauty and the Body, Aesthetic Body Practices, Body Aesthetics and Gender Construction, Somatic Dimensions of Aesthetic (...) Experience, and The Body in Contemporary Art. (shrink)
In this essay, we describe practices developed by the philosophy department at the University of Oklahoma to promote fair and inclusive recruitment, application review, and hiring for faculty positions.
The ontology of visual artworks might be thought comparable to the ontology of other sorts of artifacts: a work of painting seems to be materially constituted by a particular canvas with paint on it, just as a spoon is constituted by a particular piece of metal. But recent developments have complicated the situation, requiring a new account of the ontology of contemporary art. These developments also shed light on the ontology of works from earlier historical eras. This article discusses Artworks (...) as Events, Artworks as Abstract Entities, and Artworks and Norms. (shrink)
In 2012, choreographer and dancer Jill Sigman of jill sigman/thinkdance and visual artist Janine Antoni collaborated to produce Wedge, a live performance at the Albright-Knox Gallery. In this essay, I describe the collaboration and the resulting work and examine the benefits and challenges of the collaboration. The discussion touches on broader issues pertaining to collaboration, co-authorship, artists' intentions, and interpretation.
Bence Nanay, in Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception, and Murray Smith, in Film, Art, and the Third Culture, have given us a pair of rich and interesting works about the relationships between aesthetics and the sciences of mind. Nanay’s work focuses on perception and attention, while Smith’s addresses the relations among experiential, psychological, and neuroscientific understandings of a wide range of aesthetically relevant phenomena, particularly as they occur in film. These books make a valuable contribution to a project that remains (...) fledgling: that of taking seriously the relevance of the sciences to our conceptions and explanations of experiential phenomena in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. I will focus on a specific issue from each of these works. Nanay offers an account of aesthetic experience that ties it closely to the concepts of focused and distributed attention that are invoked in the sciences of perception. While I agree with Nanay that attention should play a central role in accounts of aesthetic experience, I raise questions about his specific account of the relationship. With Smith, we zoom out to a broader issue, that of the mutual explanatory relationships among phenomenological, functional/cognitive, and neurophysiological observations in our aesthetic theorizing. Smith makes a strong claim that all three of these levels are essential and irreducible, and none is subsidiary to the others. I argue that given the current state of the science, we should not regard neurophysiological observations as being on a par with observations at the other two levels. I also raise some doubts about the prospect of neurophysiological data making an independent contribution to aesthetic theorizing, even once the science is far more advanced. (shrink)
This reference essay addresses how sculpture may be defined, the nature of sculptural representation and content, the distinctive forms of tactile and bodily experience to which sculpture can give rise, and the ontology of sculpture. It addresses both sculptures whose form is largely fixed and contemporary sculptural practices incorporating found objects and variable presentation.
In his book Art and Knowledge, James O. Young suggests that avant-garde and contemporary art, because it tends to eschew the resources of illustrative representation, lacks cognitive value. Because he regards cognitive value as a necessary condition for a high degree of aesthetic value, he concludes that contemporary works tend to have little aesthetic value and thus do not deserve to be regarded as valuable artworks (or, in many cases, as artworks at all). In this paper, I mount a defense (...) of contemporary art against Young’s criticisms. I examine particular artworks to show that the use of exemplification in many contemporary works is sufficient to allow them to make the kind of cognitive contribution Young requires. And I show that even a work that uses virtually none of the resources of illustrative representation makes available an experience that is a valuable source of knowledge. There is, thus, nothing about contemporary art that prevents it from having, or makes it especially unlikely to have, cognitive value. (shrink)
According to Arthur Danto, it is illegitimate to seek a neutral, or pre-interpretative, description of an artwork, since such descriptions necessarily fail to respect the artwork as such. Instead, we must begin by interpreting, so as to constitute the work : interpretation is what distinguishes artworks from mere physical objects. In this paper, I argue that, while Danto is right to distance artworks from mere things, this can be done without suggesting that artworks are constituted by interpretation. Moreover, Danto’s view (...) leaves us unable to account for the fact that interpretations are constrained to be responsive to the work’s features. I demonstrate that, by appealing to conventions of description that are specific to art, it is possible to offer a neutral description that respects the work as an artwork. This view accords with our common sense understanding of the relation between description and interpretation, and avoids the unfortunate consequences of Danto’s theory. // Selon Arthur Danto, il est illégitime de chercher une description « neutre » ou préinterprétative d’une oeuvre d’art, parce qu’une telle description ne peut respecter l’oeuvre d’art en tant que telle. Nous ne pouvons aborder une oeuvre sans l’interpréter, puisque l’interprétation constitue l’oeuvre d’art et distingue celle-ci d’un simple objet physique. Dans cet article je soutiens que, bien que Danto ait raison de vouloir distinguer les oeuvres d’art des simples choses, on peut effectuer cette distinction sans conclure que les oeuvres d’art sont constituées par l’interprétation. Je soutiens en outre que le point de vue de Danto ne nous permet pas de tenir compte du fait que les interprétations doivent respecter les caractéristiques de l’oeuvre. Je montre qu’en faisant appel aux conventions de description spécifiques à l’art, on peut proposer une description neutre qui respecte l’oeuvre d’art en tant qu’oeuvre. Mon point de vue est conforme à la relation généralement admise entre la description et l’interprétation des oeuvres d’art, et évite les conséquences négatives de la théorie de Danto. (shrink)
A symposium on Bence Nanay, Aesthetics as Philosophy of Art and Murray Smith, Film, Art, and the Third Culture. Commentaries on the two books by two critics, followed by responses by the two book authors.
This paper addresses two questions about audience misunderstandings of contemporary art. First, what is the institution’s responsibility to prevent predictable misunderstandings about the nature of a contemporary artwork, and how should this responsibility be balanced against other considerations? Second, can an institution ever be justified in intentionally mounting an inauthentic display of an artwork, given that such displays are likely to mislead? I will argue that while the institution has a defeasible responsibility to mount authentic displays, this is not always (...) sufficient to avoid misunderstanding; the institution will sometimes need to supply auxiliary information. And even where competing considerations require mounting an inauthentic display, thoughtful museum practice can promote the audience’s ability to grasp the work. The argument will be developed with consideration of artworks by El Anatsui, Lygia Clark, and Glenn Ligon. (shrink)
The relationship of the author’s intention to the meaning of a literary work has been a persistently controversial topic in aesthetics. Anti-intentionalists Wimsatt and Beardsley, in the 1946 paper that launched the debate, accused critics who fueled their interpretative activity by poring over the author’s private diaries and life story of committing the ‘fallacy’ of equating the work’s meaning, properly determined by context and linguistic convention, with the meaning intended by the author. Hirsch responded that context and convention are not (...) sufficient to determine a unique meaning for a text; to avoid radical ambiguity we must appeal to the author’s intention, which actualizes one of the candidate meanings. Subsequent writers have defended refined versions of these views, and a variety of positions on the spectrum between them, in a debate that remains central to philosophical aesthetics. This Teaching and Learning Guide lists key readings and suggests how they might be incorporated within a syllabus. It also offers focus questions related to the readings. See also the companion article, Sherri Irvin, “Authors, Intentions and Literary Meaning.” Philosophy Compass 1 (2006), 114-128. (shrink)
Christy Mag Uidhir’s Art and Art-Attempts begins from two deceptively simple observations: artworks are the product of intentions, and intentions are the kinds of things that can fail to be realized successfully. Drawing on these observations, he argues that most contemporary theories of art must be rejected because they are not substantively intention-dependent: that is, they do not account for the fact that an attempt to make an artwork can fail. From his view that artworks must be the product of (...) art-attempts that are subject to failure, Mag Uidhir derives implications for many domains in the philosophy of art. He argues that artworks cannot be abstract objects, since abstract objects cannot participate in causal relations and thus can’t be the product of art attempts: one can’t coherently intend or attempt to create something that exists eternally. Things that we think of as repeatable artworks, then, can’t be abstract types: instead, Mag Uidhir proposes, every artwork is concrete, but some are tied together by a relation of relevant similarity. In this symposium, Mag Uidhir replies to three critics, David Davies, Sherri Irvin and Keith Lehrer. All three critics examine the relevant similarity relation that Mag Uidhir proposes to account for artworks that we treat as repeatable, while also considering a variety of other issues. (shrink)
Contemporary art can seem chaotic: it may be made of toilet paper, candies you can eat, or meat that is thrown out after each exhibition. Some works fill a room with obsessively fabricated objects, while others purport to include only concepts, thoughts, or language. Immaterial argues that, despite these unruly appearances, making rules is a key part of what many contemporary artists do when they make their works, and these rules can explain disparate developments in installation art, conceptual art, time-based (...) media art, and participatory art. -/- Sherri Irvin shows how rules are now an artistic medium: they are part of the work's structure and shape what it expresses. Rules are meaningful in themselves and help to activate the meanings of non-art materials and found objects, so audiences need to know about the rules to get the most out of their art experiences. Loss of information about the rules, like loss of a chunk of marble, can seriously damage the work, and preserving rules as well as objects is reshaping how museums maintain their collections. Where rules collide with real-world circumstances, they may be broken maliciously, mistakenly, or for good reasons, threatening the work's meanings and sometimes its very existence. -/- Should we celebrate the prominence of rules in contemporary art? Irvin argues that, while rules aren't always used well, they can be used to create distinctive meanings and provide powerful immersive experiences not achievable through any other means. (shrink)
Is an artwork simply identical to some physical object? While clearly not viable for art forms like literature and music, the view that artworks are physical objects is appealing for the singular visual arts , since it accords with our intuitions about the nature of visual artworks. A traditional challenge to the view holds that physical objects cannot possess representational properties, and thus visual artworks, most of which do have such properties, cannot be identical to physical objects. -/- In chapter (...) 1 I consider four formulations of this challenge and show that each is readily defeated once we recognize the confusion that underlies it. Arthur Danto has suggested that artworks cannot be physical objects, since two objects with the same physical features might correspond to very different artworks. Danto holds that only interpretation can account for the differences between the works, and thus that artworks are constituted by Interpretation. In chapter 2 I argue that Danto is wrong to claim that viewers' intepretations constitute artworks. To make sense of the fact that interpretation is subject to norms of adequacy, we must hold that the artwork is the object, not the product, of interpretation. A consequence is that a stage of epistemic labor, namely apprehension of the artwork, is required prior to interpretation. In chapter 3, I discuss the process of apprehension and advance a positive view according to which the nature of the artwork Is established by the artist's sanction. The artist creates sanctions through her publicly accessible actions and communications, such as the act of making a physical object with particular features, the presentation of an artist statement to accompany the object, correspondence with curators, and so forth. -/- Through the presentation of a variety of real and hypothetical examples of contemporary artworks, I argue that only the artist's sanction can account for the nature and characteristics of particular works. Moreover, the notion of the artist's sanction is applicable to both contemporary and historical artworks, and helps to bridge the apparent gap between them. (shrink)
A sustained challenge to the view that artworks are physical objects relates to the alleged inability of physical objects to possess representational properties, which some artworks clearly do possess. I argue that the challenge is subject to confusions about representational properties and aesthetic experience. I show that a challenge to artwork-object identity put forward by Danto is vulnerable to a similar criticism. I conclude by noting that the identity of artworks and physical objects is consistent with the insight that attending (...) exclusively to the object’s individual physical properties may prevent us from grasping the nature of the work. // Contre l’opinion voulant que les œuvres d’art soient des objets physiques, d’aucuns font régulièrement valoir la présumée incapacité des objets physiques à possedér des propriétés représentationnelles, propriétés que certaines œuvres d’art possèdent a l’evidence. Je fais valoir que cette remise en question est sujette à des confusions à propos des propriétés représentationnelles et de l’experience esthétique. Je montre que de même, la remise en question par Danto de l’identité œuvre d’art-objet prête le flanc à une critique similaire. Je conclus pour finir que l’identité entre œuvres d’art et objets physiques est compatible avec l’intuition voulant que prêter attention exclusivement aux propriétés physiques d’un certain objet peut nous empêcher de saisir la nature de l’œuvre. (shrink)
What makes a photograph an artwork, as opposed to a mere document? I defend a cluster account such that aesthetic value, aptness to interpretation, the artist’s intention and institutional uptake may contribute to the arthood of a body of photographs, with no single condition being necessary. With regard to Lawler’s works, I suggest that Lawler’s intention that they be art plays a definitive role because of the works’ resemblance to non-art photography. For some of her photographs, however, it appears that (...) such an intention is absent; and if this is correct, then, given their other features, those photographs are not artworks. (shrink)
According to a widely shared intuition, normal adult humans require greater moral concern than normal, adult animals in at least some circumstances. Even the most steadfast defenders of animals' moral status attempt to accommodate this intuition, often by holding that humans' higher-level capacities (intellect, linguistic ability, and so on) give rise to a greater number of interests, and thus the likelihood of greater satisfaction, thereby making their lives more valuable. However, the moves from capacities to interests, and from interests to (...) the likelihood of satisfaction, have up to now gone unexamined and undefended. I argue that context plays a morally significant role both in the formation of an individual's capacities, and in the determination of the individual's interests and potential for satisfaction based on those capacities. Claims about an individual's capacities and interests are typically presented as unconditional; but on closer examination, they are revealed to be contingent on tacit assumptions about context. Until we develop an understanding of how to account for the role of context within our moral theories, attempts to defend special moral concern for human beings based on their superior capacities are less firmly grounded than is commonly thought. (shrink)
I consider James Hamilton’s discussion of what I term the complete autonomy thesis, according to which no theatrical performance is a performance of some other work. While agreeing with Hamilton that theatrical performances are often artworks in their own right and that theatrical performance is not a derivative or subsidiary art form, I argue that the complete autonomy thesis overshoots the evidence. Some theatrical performances are autonomous, but many belong to an established tradition of close adherence to the texts of (...) dramatic literature. In such cases, we should say both that the performance itself is an artwork and that it is a performance of some literary work. I suggest that this way of understanding things promotes appreciation of both performances themselves and the dramatic works of literature that are employed in their creation. (shrink)