Discussion Sections: .0101 F10 Tydings 1108
.0102 F11, Tydings 1102
.0103 F1, Tydings 1114
Teaching Assistant: Giovanni Valente Office: Skinner 1108C Office hours: T 3-5 and by appointment Tel. 405-5701 Email. email@example.com
This course has the following aims: (1) To survey and critically examine some important theoretical perspectives on art from Plato to the present. (2) To frame general questions about the nature, function, value and limits of the arts, and to initiate reasoned answers to them. (3) To clarify some notions crucial to thinking about art intelligently, notions such as work of art, form, content, expression, representation, style, medium, interpretation, realism, creativity, aesthetic experience, and aesthetic value. (4) To identify distinctive features of the arts, especially the visual arts, in the 20th century, and to assess their impact on attempts to theorize about art. (5) Lastly and most importantly, to provide students with the intellectual background and analytic skills to refine their own philosophical ideas about the arts.
Nigel Warburton, The Art Question, 2003
Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art, 2005 (Note: this book will arrive about Feb. 15)
Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley, The Philosophy of Art, 1995.
Occasional supplementary readings will be posted on the course website.
Course Website. www.philosophy.umd.edu/Faculty/jhbrown
This website will contain lecture outlines, course information, and a folder of student questions and comments, together with the lecturer's response to them. The procedure for students submitting their ideas will be to email the message to the address at the top of this page. The lecturer will then post it on the website together with his response. The website exchanges are a part of the course material for everyone to read, and postings count toward the participation component of the final grade.
Participation in discussion sections and on the course website: 20%
Midterm test 30%. Two essays on topics chosen from four or more pre-announced topics. Students may bring a 50-word outline for each but no other materials. Outline to be handed in with the test. Longer outlines count against the grade.
Final exam: 40% Three essays with the same arrangement as for the midterm test.
Quizzes: 10% Two unannounced quizzes on the previous week's reading material.
Schedule of Readings
Week of Jan. 23: Warburton, Introduction and Ch., pp. 1-35.
Jan. 30: Neill-Ridley, pp. 99-110 (Bell).
Feb. 6: Warburton, Ch. 2, pp.36-62; Neill-Ridley, pp. 506-522 (Tolstoy).
13: Neill-Ridley, pp.117-153 (Collingwood)
20: Davies, Ch. 1, pp. 1-22; Neill-Ridley, pp. 25-45 (Nietzsche).
27: Davies, Ch. 6, pp. 135-164.
Mar. 6: Neill-Ridley, pp. 75-81(Gadamer).
13: Review and Midterm Test (March 16)
20: Spring Break
27:Warburton, Ch. 3, 64-85; Davies, Ch.2,
Apr.3: Warburton, Ch. 4; Neill-Ridley, pp. 202-212 (Danto)
10: Neill-Ridley, pp. 223-239 (Levinson)
17: Warburton, Ch. 5; Davies, Ch. 4, pp. 81-106.
24: Davies, Ch. 7, pp. 167-195; Neill-Ridley, pp. 415-431.
May 1: Davies, Ch.8, pp. 199-229.
May 13: Final examination 8-10 a.m.
Academic Honor Policy
This will be posted on the course website.
Grades on participation
Participation in lectures is expected when the lecturer opens the class to discussion. It is also welcome whenever a brief comment or piece of information can be slipped into the presentation of material.
Participation in the discussion section is of course mandatory. Attendance is not enough. It is vital to come well-prepared by having read and thought about the assigned reading. Students are graded as to how pertinent and well-framed their questions and arguments are, what their contributions show about their grasp of the material and how helpful these are to the ongoing discussion. Inevitably some will participate more than others, but all should strive to make themselves heard over the course of the semester. But equally, no one should try to dominate the discussions.
Participation on the website is also important, first, because it preserves a record of the student's contribution and second, because it allows for more careful formulation of ideas. Each student should send at least one message to that site (via email to the lecturer) in each half of the course.
Grades on written work
Grades for written work are determined by a number of criteria: accuracy with regard to the theories and arguments of the philosophers, relevance of the material to the question, strength of the arguments used by the student in critically assessing the philosophers' views, clarity and coherence of the writing sentence by sentence, and the organization of the piece as a whole. The exam topics are announced before the exam in order to give you time to prepared well-written and carefully considered essays.
PHIL 230.01 PHILOSOPHY OF THE ARTS Spring 2006
1. Philosophy as wonder about "ultimate" questions
Classic speculative subjects: God, Immortality, Reality vs. Appearance, Causation, Free Will vs. Determinism, Personal Identity
2. Philosophy as generality and impracticality
Contrast with empirical science's stress on data and experiment
Contrast with all applied disciplines (technologies)
Contrast with history's stress on actual events and motives
3. Philosophy as analysis of concepts
Special concern for problematic concepts (e.g., the ones in 1 above)
Special concern for highly general concepts (e.g., knowledge, justice, art)
Contrast between dictionary definitions and philosophic definitions
Deeper analysis, fuller explanations, exploration of difficulties
Systematic search for counter-examples to plausible definitions
4. Philosophy as argumentation or logic
Negative arguments: refutation of superficial ideas
Positive arguments: marshaling of reasons in favor of a position
Confirmatory arguments: refutation of objections to a position
5. Philosophy as a world unto itself
Purely intellectual activity
Concerned with pure possibility (logically possible worlds)
Endless debates, perpetually open questions
Delight in the play of intellect
6. Philosophy in the service of other disciplines
Liberating other thinkers from conceptual uncertainties
Debunking fallacious reasoning
Arbitrating conceptual disputes
Pointing out connections and contrasts with other fields
7. Major divisions within philosophy
Beauty, sublimity, and other value properties
What sort of properties are they? (Objective? subjective?)
How many different sorts of beauty (sublimity, etc.) are there?
How do these get embodied? (by aesthetic properties)
How known (if knowable at all)?
How well embodied in concrete reality?
What sort(s) of value do we get from them?
9. Philosophy of art
Distinguishing art from non-art (fixing boundaries).
Determining what sort of concept our art concept is.
Determining whether art can be defined at all.
Devising as adequate a definition as possible.
Determining the ontology of a given art or art-work
Types (musical pieces, poems, idea art)
Imaginary objects/events vs. public ones?
Explaining what is distinctive about artistic creativity
Artistic imagination vs. scientific, moral, practical
Artistic skill vs. other sorts of skill in making or doing
Explaining what is distinctively valuable about art
Enjoyment of art
Understanding of art
Understanding by way of art
Lecture 2: Clive Bell, Significant Form, Aesthetic Emotion, and Art
I. Warburton's discussion
Exposition of Bell's theory, plus background (9-18)
Examples, good and bad
Relations to other theories (metaphysical hypothesis)
Bell's view regarding forgeries vs. creatively different copies
Point about the normal creative process: artist's AE guides her in producing SF
Consequence re. the universality of true art
Application of Bell's theory to Cézanne
Reflection on what led Bell to adopt this theory
Interpretation and criticism of the theory (19-35)
a. Philosophical background: Bell's presuppositions (Moore's moral philosophy)
Aesthetic emotion like moral intuition: not dependent on a deduction of goodness from objectively observable properties (or even from beliefs about supernatural properties)
Moore's view of states of consciousness as the most valuable things in life is dubious.
b. Bell's application of Moore's view (art has supreme moral worth) is unconvincing.
c. Bell's (classical) assumption about definitions is dubious.
d. Bell's selection of paradigm cases of art "begs the question"of art vs. craft
e. Bell's definitions (as they are presented in Art) are circular.
Can the vicious circularity be broken?
f. Bell's theory offers no practical way to resolve disputes about whether X is art.
g. Bell's theory is elitist in a certain respect (even if democratic in other respects)
h. Bell's admiration of Cezanne and other of his paradigms is questionable
esp. with regard to representation. (Lawrence vs. Bell)
i. Bell's theory highly implausible for portraiture.
j. Possible rejoinder for Bell: representation does have a limited artistic function.
k. Rejoinder to j. (Berger vs. Bell): Bell's "mystification" is perverse; importance of context to value. Bell assumes an "innocent eye."
l. Bell's view is not likely to survive rational arbitration (reflective equilibrium).
m. Bell's theory is even less plausible now, due to the increasing tendency of visual art not to rely (so much) on appearance for artistic value.
n. Final judgment: Bell's theory is indefensible as presently stated.
o. Concluding reflection: defining art is perhaps not possible, even though the term "art" is perfectly meaningful.
II. Critique of Warburton and Bell
The method to be used in interpreting Bell's theory
Formulating Bell's major principles on the basis of his actual statements
Integrating these with Bell's application of his principles to works of art
Completing Bell's theory consistently with both of the above
Supplying parts of the picture that Bell leaves blank
Searching for ways to extend his theory so as to meet objections
Rejecting those parts of his conception of art that fail to survive criticism
Reconceiving ideas that have some truth in them so as to free them from fault.
Bell's theory: clarifications
1. Art is significant form
i.e. Genuine art = works created so as to have significant form
A purely artistic interest is interest in significant form and that alone
Other interests are usually irrelevant and at worst fatal impediments to purely artistic appreciation and understanding, as well as to artistic creation.
Much "art" fails to possess significant form, serving other interests than that of art proper. For instance, interest in subject matter, expression of ordinary human emotion, symbolic meaning, or sensuously pleasing colors, textures, etc. Illustration, story-telling, entertainment serve these interests. (see Collingwood for elaboration)
Craft objects sometimes have significant form and are consequently art, even if not given credit for being so.
2. How does Bell's use of significant form fit into normal usage?
"Significant X" varies in meaning with the type of X (gain/loss, change, look, difference/ similarity, achievement/failure, etc.)
Bell clearly means artistically significant form
vs. economically, politically, mathematically significant form
He furthermore means artistically good form (form that fulfills the purpose of art).
"Significant" is like "vital, " "important,""essential."
Therefore, "significant" doesn't define the art-making formal qualities; it declares their importance.
Note also that Bell's usage is entirely consistent an art work's form being significant in other ways as well. For example:
expressive of a culture or period (expressively significant)
depicting a subject matter (depictively significant)
symbolizing a religious or philosophic idea (symbolically significant)
3. Significant form is possessed by certain combinations of line, color,
and spatial relations
(volume, shape, spacing, etc.) in visual art, both graphic and sculptural, abstract and figurative.
Significant form does not require sophisticated expertise to produce.
4. Significant form causes (positive) aesthetic emotion in sensitive viewers
Other form-qualities may produce other positive emotions
Other form-qualities cannot satisfy sensitive viewers who are looking for SF
5. (Positive) Aesthetic emotion is (at its best) enthralling, rapturous
"Austere and thrilling raptures"
(Negative) Aesthetic emotion is unpleasant and at its worst disgusting.
(to be continued)
Lecture 3: Bell on Significant Form, concluded
5. The different levels of response to significant form ("rightness"
of proportions, balance of forms within a composition, and so forth)
a. Middling, everyday rightness experience. Form awkward, not cockeyed. OK. As in the following good and not so good examples:
b. Subtle, difficult, and unexpectedly right examples: Cézanne's still life paintings on the course website under "Digital Technology in the Service of Aesthetic Analysis and Theory." The unobviousness of the rightness makes the response more intense
6. Comparison of aesthetic to non-aesthetic pleasure and displeasure:
what sort of ecstasy?
In terms of simple intensity
In terms of "fineness" or "purity" or "ethereality" (otherworldliness)
7. Edward Bullough on "psychical distance" (See Neill-Ridley
Referential distance (from objective danger, hence from common emotions)
Affective involvement (with the look and feel of the ambience)
8. How to convey to another person one's sense of the rightness of form
Many tips in Frank Sibley, "Aesthetic Concepts," Neill-Ridley 311-331, but note especially 326-331). Find ways to describe the aesthetic effects, compare notes, try to see what the other person sees. Try to see more exactly as well as completely. Take your time.
Ostension: standing in front of the work, point out the relevant features. Where possible do the same with similar works that lack the rightness of form.
9. Can Bell's significant form be found in other media and types of art?
Music? Certainly. An especially good case. Mysterious too.
10. Does significant form constitute the only merit of art?
Or the most essential merit?
Or the highest merit?
11. Can we explain significant form without recourse to metaphysics
Pattern recognition capacities of our perceptual systems
Specializations due to cultural emphases
Free (aesthetic) hyperdevelopment of the above
12. The consequences of all of the above for the question of defining art.
Bell's own references to art in the popular, undiscriminating sense
Bell's own references to the continuity between true and degraded art
The presence of some low degree of aesthetic form in that wider class
The presence of other factors than significant form in even the purest art
The ultimately lower importance of definition than ranking the relevant objects
"Art" as a strongly normative term, tantamount to "true art"
Bell's main purpose is to steer us to the highest art, not to define.
Thus Bell's definition will not do, treated as a definition of art at large, not even for art as it was up to his own time.
Addendum in the lecture
Criteria of good classification of a social practice, e.g. art
1. Significant similarity of the objects/activities
2. Significant agreement among people as to that similarity
3. Significant distinctness of that class from others
How well does Bell's proposed classification of art satisfy 1-3? (drawing from
1. The similarity is heavily loaded toward high quality
"Art"more like "winner" than "qualified entrant"
2. The similarity is admittedly hard to gain agreement about
3. The similarity is admittedly mingled with other similarities extending to other classes.
Hence, Bell's proposal does not satisfy the criteria very well.
Lecture 4: Tolstoy on Art
1. Tolstoy's accusations against prior theories of art
a. Against theories of art as activity that produces beauty
How to define "beauty"? Beauty = absolute perfection
No generally accepted objective definition of absolute perfection exists
Exact imitation of nature
Total suitability to the purpose
Unity in variety (correspondence of parts, harmony of elements)
Subjective definition = what gives us "disinterested" pleasure
(pleasure of taste)
Disinterested = not exciting desire [e.g., for possession or "use"]
But no universal laws of taste are discoverable
b. Against the traditional canon of high art
In practice, "art" is limited to a "canon" of works
approved by the upper classes
The criterion of art = sufficient similarity to those canonical works
This procedure leads to theoretical incoherence.
No subjective or class-based definition can explain the meaning and importance
of an activity
E.g., Eating (nourishment)
c. Counterfeit of art
Huge prevalence of counterfeits of art in high civilizations (works without real feeling)
Substitution of technical virtuosity, imitations, special effects, interest (e.g. in realism or history), excitement, sensuous pleasure, beauty, elegance, complicated symbolism, etc., for transmitted feeling.
Perversion of taste, of moral consciousness, and of culture
2. Tolstoy's positive view of art
a. Art's essential function: intentionally to transmit human feeling
Facilitate recognizing others' emotions (as from behavioral signs)
Facilitate empathizing with others' emotions (becoming "infected")
Intention + actual feeling + audience uptake
b. Effects essential to art
Joyous spiritual union with the artist and others similarly "infected"
Liberation from isolation and alienation
Sense of self-expression
c. Criteria of excellence in art
(i) Intensity of the infection dependent on:
Individuality of the feeling
Clearness of the transmission
Strength of the artist's feeling and inner need to express it: sincerity
(ii) Content of the feeling transmitted
Conformity to the most advanced religious perception of the time
Greek: beauty, strength, courage, [wisdom]
Jewish: devotion and submission to God
Christian: commitment to universal brotherhood through love of God
(i) explicitly religious feeling
(ii) universally accessible feeling
Attacks on this religious criterion are founded on ideology, not truth
d. Christian art: modern examples good and bad (on various grounds)
Explicitly religious art
Higher form: positive Christian feelings (love of God and man)
Lower form: negative Christian feelings (indignation, horror at violations of love)
Religious subject-matter generally does not qualify: too exclusive, no real feeling.
Secular universal art, upper class examples: works by Cervantes, Molière,
But these don't compare well with ancient examples
Beethoven, Shakespeare et al are bad because not universally accessible
Ornament as a special case: transmitted admiration at/delight in lines and colors (significant form?).
Lower form: negative Christian feelings (indignation, horror at violations
Religious subject-matter generally does not qualify: too exclusive, no real feeling.
Modern examples of upper class secular universal art: Don Quixote, Molière,
But these don't compare well with ancient examples
Beethoven, Shakespeare et al are bad because not universally accessible
Ornament as a special case: transmitted admiration at/delight in lines and colors (significant form?).
Addendum: Tolstoy on Baudelaire and Mallarmé (from What is Art, Ch. 10)
1. "Baudelaire...maintained the thesis in his verses, and yet more
strikingly in the prose of his Petits Poèmes en Prose, the meanings of
which have to be guessed like a rebus and remain for the most part undiscovered."
"...the collection [The Flowers of Evil) contains verses less comprehensible than these, but not one poem which is plain and can be understood without a certain effort an effort seldom rewarded, for the feelings are evil and very base ones. And these feelings are always, and purposely, expressed by him with eccentricity and lack of clearness. This premeditated obscurity is especially noticeable in his prose, where the author could speak plainly if he wanted to.
"Take, for instance, the first piece from his Petits Poèmes en Prose:
Whom dost thou love best? say, enigmatical man thy father, thy mother,
thy sister, or thy brother?
I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother.'
There you use an expression the meaning of which till now remains unknown to me.'
I know not in what latitude it is situated.'
I would gladly love her, goddess and immortal.'
I hate it, as you hate God.'
Then what do you love, extraordinary stranger?
I love the clouds...the clouds that pass...there...the marvelous clouds!'
As an example of Baudelaire's "unintelligible" images and figures
of speech, the following poem from Les Fleurs du Mal will do:
I adore thee as much as the vaults of night,
O vessel of grief, taciturnity great,
And I love thee the more because of thy flight.
It seemeth, my night's beautifier, that you
Still heap up those leagues yes! ironically heap!--
That divide from my arms the immensity blue.
I advance to attack, I climb to assault,
Like a choir of young worms at a corpse in the vault;
Thy coldness, oh cruel, implacable beast!
Yet heightens thy beauty, on which my eyes feast!
2. Mallarmé is cited for his poetry and his declarations. An
example of the latter: I think there should be nothing [in poetry] but
allusions. The contemplation of objects, the flying image of reveries evoked
by them, make the song. The Parnassians [traditional poets] state the thing
completely, and show it, and thereby lack mystery; they deprive the mind of
that delicious joy of imagining that it creates.' ...the enjoyment of
the poem...consists in guessing [the object] little by little: to suggest it,
that is the dream.' There should always be an enigma in poetry...'
Here is an example of a prose poem by Mallarmé cited by Tolstoy for
having no meaning whatever':
The Future Phenomenon
A pale sky, above the world that is ending through decrepitude, about perhaps
to pass away with the clouds: shreds of worn-out purple of the sunsets wash
off their colour in a river sleeping on the horizon, submerged with rays and
water. The trees are weary, and beneath their whitened foliage (whitened by
the dust of time rather than of the roads) rises the canvas house of Showman
of Things Past.' Many a lamp awaits the gloaming and brightens the faces of
a miserable crowd vanquished by the everlasting sickness and sin of ages, of
men by the sides of their puny accomplices pregnant with the miserable fruit
through which the world will perish. In the anxious silence of all the eyes
there supplicating the sun, which sinks under the water with the desperation
of a cry, this is the plain announcement: No signboard regales you with
the spectacle that is inside, for there is no painter now capable of giving
even a sad shadow of it. I bring, living (and preserved by sovereign science
through the years), a Woman of other days. Some kind of folly, naïve and
original, an ecstasy of gold, I know not what! by her called her hair, clings
with the grace of drapery round a face brightened by the blood-red nudity of
her lips. In place of vain clothing, she has a body; and her eyes, resembling
precious stones! are not worth that look which comes from her happy flesh: breasts
raised as if full of eternal milk, the points towards the sky; the smooth legs,
that keep the salt of the first sea.' Remembering their poor spouses, bald,
morbid, and full of horrors, the husbands, press forward: the women too, from
curiosity, gloomily wish to see.
When all shall have contemplated the noble creature, vestige of some epoch already damned, they will look at each other, some indifferently, for they will not have had the strength to understand, but others broken-hearted and with eye-lids wet with tears of resignation, while the poets of those times, feeling their dim eyes rekindled, will make their way towards their lamp, their brain for an instant drunk with confused glory, haunted by Rhythm and forgetful that they exist at an epoch which has survived beauty.
Lecturer's comment on Baudelaire's No. XXIV
It's true that we have become used to strange, barely intelligible poetry. It's not impossible, after all, that such poetry can be written and appreciated, up to a point. If we can have deliberately nonsensical poetry, we can have deliberately obscure poetry. We can have Anguish Languish and any number of verbal amusements. The question for Tolstoy and for us, after all, is whether a given type, or a given poem, is important enough to be worth taking seriously. If a poet strains against the limits of intelligibility, there has to be some compensating good that she achieves some serious good.
Is Baudelaire as hard to understand as Tolstoy makes out? Well, is that vessel the person the poet loves, or the dome of heaven at night? "O vessel" and the direct address implies it's the beloved. But to think of a person as a vessel awakens all sorts of absurd ideas, especially when this one is flying and then, unaccountably, a blue immensity the last brings us back to the vault of the night sky. All that, and the awkwardness of heaping up leagues (and what's ironic about the heaping?) adds up to a real problem. In the second stanza the choir of young worms at a corpse attacking the lover's coldness/beauty is, on the face of it, ridiculous. Can we find true poetic merit in this? If so, it will be because we can find real connections between the worms at a corpse and a lover's campaign to overcome ths resistance of the object of his desire. Can we? And if we find some good clear connections, will they be to states of mind that are free from real perversities -- that is, self-destructive or self-crippling (i.,e., neurotic) syndromes? If that's what emerges from deep interpretation of the poem, can we blame Tolstoy for being put off by it?
Lecture 5: Collingwood and Art as Expression
I. Brief history of the expression theory
II. Warburton's exposition of the theory pp. 37-57
a. Art as essentially historical (time, place and artist)
b. Art improperly so-called: Craft vs. Art (Technical theory of Art)
execution: materials > planned result
c. Art need not involve craft (precise foreknowledge, planning,
d. Art never is merely craft (vs. William Morris et al)
e. The true status of craft in art (skill, planning, execution)
f. The true character of artistic intention
Never precise/complete as to final outcome
Particularized during creation
Aiming at expression of authentic personal emotion
g. The artistic outcome: creative/imaginative expression of emotion
Embodiment of feeling in a medium
h. The viewer's (optimal) experience of genuine art
Self-discovery via the artist's expression
Enhanced awareness of the (viewer's) world
[semi-artistic achievement of the viewer]
i. Art improperly so-called: "Magic" art
Arousal of emotion
Channeling emotion into social roles
j. Art improperly so-called: Entertainment art
Arousal of emotion
Catharsis (harmless discharge)
k. Perils of (inappropriate) magic and entertainment: corruption
Hedonistic absorption in fictions: boredom/passivity in relation to reality
l. Prevalence of magic and entertainment even in celebrated works
(to be continued)
Lecture 6: Collingwood, continued
II. Warburton's exposition, concluded
m. The real work of art as an imaginative experience
Public object as merely a means of conveying or recreating the experience
Mental existence is sufficient for full existence of the work
Mental existence is necessary for full existence of the work
Imaginative supplementation of the physical data (sensory, ideational)
III. Warburton's criticism, pp. 57-62
a. Collingwood's definition is too broad
Psychiatric self-discoveries of real feeling not art
But are these imaginative expressions? [Answer not given.]
Viewer's imaginative experience of authentic art need not itself be a work of art.
[Why couldn't it be a derivative work of art?]
b. Collingwood's definition is too narrow
All religious art is excluded unless personally expressive
c. Collingwood offers no practical decision procedure
Inaccessibility of data for deciding whether W is genuine art
[Difference between craft and art on this point]
[Recall Criterion 2 in Addendum to Lecture 3]
IV. Critical review and assessment of Collingwood and Warburton
a. Questions about Collingwood's distinction between craft and art (Neill-Ridley 122-6, 145-153)
(i) Collingwood's idea of craft processes: further observations
Does the means-end model apply to design, e.g. architectural, mechanical planning?
Does the model apply to magic and entertainment "arts" in poetry, music, dance considered as compositions?
(ii) Does the use of creative imagination convert craft into something
more (even into art)?
Creative solutions, inventions, etc. in engineering, in warfare, in animal training
(iii) What would Collingwood count as word-craft? Sound-craft?
Composing palindromes, cross-word puzzles?
Composing instructions, reports?
Axiomatizing geometrical/mathematical systems?
Composing a fugue, a limerick, a sonnet according to rules?
b. Collingwood's answers, assessed
i. Planning, e.g., a bridge, is creating (a plan), not a craft process. (146-7)
Conveying the plan in words, drawings, models is a craft process.
Executing the plan is fabricating the bridge, another craft process
ii. Presumed extension of this to planned events, e.g., surgical procedures
Executing plans for an event is performing according to the plan a craft process
Therefore, creating a design, or composing a tune, is not in itself a craft
There are, however, such distinctions as:
iii. Designs for crafts vs. designs for non-crafts (e.g. art)
iv. Creative designs vs. uncreative ones
v. Designs that are authentically expressive vs. pseudo-artistic ones.
Comment. Many planned non-art practices seem not to be craftlike: skilled performances requiring great adaptability, spontaneous invention, intuitive judgment: chess, competitive sports, animal training, debating. These are better called skilled practices than crafts. When practiced superbly they are often called arts. Collingwood's theory would be improved by acknowledging this as a category wider than craft, of which craft is only one part (this better fits the Greek idea of techne than craft alone does).
c. Collingwood's ontology: art works as imaginative experiences
Bridges and surgical procedures do not exist/occur unless executed.
Tunes and poems exist when fully conceived, even without being conveyed or performed
Intellectual creations (theories, analyses, arguments, game plans) likewise
Note that this does not distinguish genuine from pseudo-art.
Comment. (1) Almost all art can be experienced in this way only by way
of a physical embodiment, due to its complexity. Composition necessarily makes
heavy use of the emerging physical object or music or dance. Complete envisagement
requires the completed physical painting, score, performance, etc. Collingwood
partly acknowledges this.
(2) Pseudo-art does not differ from art in this respect.
d. Collingwood's ultimate criterion of art properly so-called
Pseudo-art differs from genuine art in:
i. the kind of creative process: not authentically self-expressive, typically makes heavy use of stereotypes.
ii. the intended use of the creation (for entertainment, magic, instruction, etc.)
Genuine art sometimes serves those non-art purposes but is authentically self-expressive.
Comment. I agree with Collingwood (and Tolstoy) that sincerity and self-understanding are main factors in serious art. The aspiration to satisfy Collingwood's criterion is built into our notion of artistic greatness. But I have to agree with Warburton that it is not wise to require it for the category of art at large.
Lecture 7: Friedrich Nietzsche on tragedy and artistic creativity
Apollonian vs. Dionysian tendencies in Greek culture
How disclosed in Greek culture? In art rather than in commentary or theory.
The Greek gods,
Legend and literature (epic, lyric, and dramatic poetry)
Painting, sculpture, architecture
The "physiological" basis of the distinction
Apollonian joyous dreams and daydreams (wish-fulfilling fantasy)
Prophetic (far-seeing), restorative, sense of clarity and coherence
God of the arts (technai), preeminently sculpture (clear, solid, impassive, serene)
Dionysian ecstatic release from rationality, separate individuality
Wine, narcotics, leveling social distinctions, moral and intellectual distinctions
Humanity reclaimed by nature;
Sense of super-rationalistic (mystical) insight
Dionysian festivals and Greek tragedy (according to Nietzsche)
Shared response of audience barriers broken down, despair forgotten
Satyr choruses representing unchanging primal energy and wisdom
The Dionysian insight into the deeper reality deeper than the everyday and scientific
The stage action seen under the Dionysian influence, as a dream vision rather than reality
The god felt to be present in or behind the (Apollonian) vision
The vision hides the terrors of life
Sophocles' Oedipus an embodiment his agony mystically brings blessings
Until Euripides, the god Dionysus is the masked protagonist
The radical change introduced by Euripides' anti-Dionysianism, and the
end of tragedy
The god banished. The audience itself as protagonist.
Psychology, morality, and rationality (philosophy) in place of religion
Socratic spirit triumphant (Socrates replaces Dionysus behind the mask)
Euripides own recantation and suicide
Socrates' new naturalistic, rationalistic culture: could there be a
truly Socratic artistry?
Plato's service to his master: critique of poetry
Plato's invention of a mixed art: the Platonic dialogue
Socrates' own late uncertainties about his rationalism
Nietzsche's endorsement of art deriving from a "strong" pessimism that comes from superabundant energy
The only thing useful in Nietzsche's "Attempt at Self-Criticism" is the paragraph about pessimism: "Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual predilection for the hard, gruesome, evil, problematic aspect of existence, prompted by well-being, by overflowing health, by the fullness of existence?..." Nietzsche thinks the answer is yes, and in the rest of his work does all he can to develop exactly such a position. By inference, the best sort of art would represent that view of life, which stands in sharp contrast to Tolstoy's view.
Appendix: about Dionysus (from the Oxford Classical Dictionary, articles on Dionysus, Dionysia, Greek tragedy, Orphic literature, Semele, Persephone, festivals, etc.. )
Main myth. Conceived by Zeus upon Semele, whom Hera (Zeus' wife) tricked into asking Zeus to show himself fully. The sight killed her, but Zeus removed the fetus from her womb and planted it in his thigh to come to term. Another myth: Zeus conceived Dionysus upon his daughter, Persephone. Zeus' wife, Hera, in anger ordered the Titans (the pre-Olympian gods displaced by Zeus) to kill the child, which they did, then cooked and ate him. Zeus in retaliation killed the Titans with a thunderbolt. From the ashes sprang humans, inheriting wickedness from the Titans. From Dionysus' heart Zeus restored the god and Semele.
Dionysus's domains. (i) wine, and the drunkenness and violence that it typically causes; (ii) ritual madness or ecstasy; (iii) theatrical fiction, impersonation, and masks; (iv) death and the afterlife. Dionysus figures prominently in Orphic mystery cults that prepare devotees for the afterlife.
Dionysus' appearances are highly diversified: "riding felines, sailing the sea, and even wearing wings." He "adopts a persona based on illusion, transformation, and the simultaneous presence of opposite traits. Both most terrible and most sweet to mortals' in Attic tragedy..., he was called Eater of Raw Flesh'... as well as Mild'... in actual cult." Not surprisingly, his myths and rituals "subvert the normal identities of his followers."
Dionysus' festivals. In Attica seven festivals were chiefly or partly festivals of Dionysus. Five of these featured performances of tragedy, comedy, satyr plays, and choral works (dithyrambs) in honor of the god. There were also ritual processions and sacrifices, a banquet and sometimes contests (especially in the Panathenea every four years). "In all festivals [Dionysiac or other] the roles and often even dress of the participants maintained traditional divisions of citizen status, gender, age, and office; and thus a festival could provide cohesion to the group but simultaneously reassert traditional social orders. But, on the other hand, a few festivals, the Cronia in Athens...and the Hybristica in Argos... provided a temporary reversal of the social order, with slaves acting as masters or women as men."
Bacchants. Bands of female devotees of Dionysus, bacchants (after Bachios, the god's cult name) went into the mountains every two years (but not in Attica) to practice rituals involving ecstatic behavior, supposedly led by the god himself. Some cities hired professional maenads for the purpose. These celebrants did not, however, tear wild animals apart and eat them raw. These acts appear only in myth, in vase paintings, and in Euripides' tragedy, Bacchae.
In the world of theater, Greek comedy "reenacts the periods of ritual licence associated with many Dionysiac festivals, [while] tragedy dramatizes the negative, destructive traits of the god and his myths." The god appears disguised in Euripides' Bacchae and Aristophanes' comedy, The Frogs." "The tragedians set individual characters, entire plays, and indeed the tragic genre as a whole in a distinct Dionysiac ambience."
Note on the so-called "death" of Greek tragedy
Composition and performance of new tragedies in Greek cities continued for centuries after Euripides, although none of them survived intact, which is not altogether surprising since only a small minority of the 5th Century B.C. total, including prize winners, did. The triad of great 5th Century tragedians, however, was revered as the greatest classic playwrights, as Shakespeare is for us. But other playwrights also were included on later lists (canons) of the best writers of tragedy and other genres. It is not clear whether Nietzsche was aware of the vitality of this long-lived theatrical tradition.
Lecture 8: Davies on Art’s Origins
1. Art as a product of evolution
Art in the wide sense as an integral part of the socializing process that makes human society in general and civilization in particular possible, and thereby helps preserve the species.
a. art and sexual selection
b. art and human satisfaction motivating people to value life (individually and communally)
Genetic endowment gives art-making capacities which:
- contribute directly to reproductive success
- are a by-product of the direct contributors
Are there any uniquely art-making capacities?
Objection: Art outruns any evolutionary advantage.
Compare games and art
2. Art as a recent cultural invention
Arts versus crafts (à la Collingwood)
- art-contemplation an end in itself
- originality, creativity, rule-transcendence
- centrality of aesthetic qualities
Arts dependent on an “artworld” consisting of:
Craft-transcending institutions (training, evaluating, criticizing, chronicling, marketing, collecting, preserving, etc.)
Concept of art; theories of art; debate about art
Ancient attitudes toward the “arts”
Techne and artisanship
Lack of unity within the group of “arts”
Low emphasis on creativity and authenticity; prevalence of imitation
Social standing, education
Patronage and payment scales
The emergence of the “modern system of the arts”
16-17th C. innovations: artistic celebrities, art history, art academies
17th-18th C. academies: theory, criticism, salon exhibits, art market, museums
Theorists of Les beaux-arts: arts of beauty, imagination, genius, etc.
Philosophies of art, beauty, sublimity (sense of beauty, taste)
Artistic innovations: the Avant-garde, recognition of primitive or tribal art, design, etc.
“Art,” “artist,” “artistic” used principally for the arts of beauty, sublimity, picturesqueness.
Later, “art” often used of the visual arts, except architecture.
“Art” becomes a flexible, problematic, contested, term with too many usages.
3. A new formulation of the dispute: Which notion of art is most fundamental?
What are the best options?
Wider concept of “universal” art.
Narrower notion of “artworld” art
The multiple threads of connection relating these two.
4. Special topics
a. The museum: positive or negative views re. art.
Art and original context
Art for museums vs. art for other venues
Advantages and disadvantages
How does the museum affect the conception of art?
Need there be any incompatibility in principle?
b. Tourist art: is it authentic?
Assumption that the older, pre-touristic, art is the most authentic.
Does this assumption imply a double standard?
And does it conceal an error about the older culture? (Shiner’s question)
c. Popular, folk, and mass art: how does it relate to high (fine) art?
Can it be genuinely creative?
Can it be genuinely expressive?
Can it be skillful and have an individual style?
Can it have serious, mature, thought-provoking content?
What features if any that are characteristic of fine art may it not have?
d. Ancient and non-Western art
Extreme cases, e.g., cave paintings, where the cultural context is unrecoverable
Is it acceptable (is it “arrogant”) to apply our concept of art to them?
Does their “magical” function preclude their falling into our category?
Davies: a reliable indicator of art need not be a necessary condition
Admitting lack of certainty is consistent with reasonable belief
Lecture 9: Davies (Chapter 6) on Emotion and Expression
1. Basic functions of emotions
Directing a person’s cognition and action relevantly
Alerting others to a person’s needs, desires, and plans
Creating social solidarity or separation
2. Basic characteristics and types of emotions
a. Physiological aspects
b. Perceptual aspects
The material object of an emotion
The apparent (“intentional”) object of an emotion
c. Cognitive aspects
d. Behavioral aspects
Facial and other bodily behaviors
Voluntary and involuntary behaviors
3. Normal and exceptional or problematic emotions
Unfocused anxiety or calm (moods)
Phobias or other irrational emotions
Primitive and higher level (more cognitive) emotions
Automatic and reflective emotions
Feelings, moods, and emotions
4. Universal expressions and variable ones
5. Discovering others’ emotions
Coordinating the perceptual information
Placing physiological and behavioral clues in context
Receiving avowals of emotion and emotionally relevant beliefs and attitudes
Imagining how we would feel (simulating)
6. Emotions in art
a. Depicted emotions in the work
Fictional characters in a fictional world
Clues borrowed from life, adjusted to the fictional context
Ascriptions of emotions to characters by a narrator within the fictional world
Varieties of clarity/obscurity, normality/eccentricity, plausibility/implausibility
b. Emotions expressed by the work
By the actual author? If not, then by whom or what?
By an “omniscient” narrator not part of the fictional world?
By an “implied” or hypothetical author?
By the expressiveness of the work itself?
c. Expression and expressiveness of music and abstract art
Art without depiction, narration, description, declaration, or exhortation. How can music or abstract art do it?
Does the expressiveness vary individually, from personal associations?
Even when the listeners are well backgrounded and attentive?
Even when they don’t demand too specific an emotional content?
The Mendelssohn problem: is musical expression endlessly specific?
The alternative: broad category character of musical expressiveness.
Specificity of musical expression vs. specificity of musical means
Broad agreement, obtainable at the broad category level, serves as a basis for composers and artists.
d. Theories of expressiveness
i. Association theories: associations with emotively charged words and events
But the associations don’t connect well with particular emotions
Associations are based on a deeper, intrinsic affective character
ii. Intentional self-expression theories (e.g., Collingwood’s) and their difficulties
iii. Emotivism/Arousal theory (actual or appropriate emotion)
But isn’t the relation exactly the reverse: expressiveness prior to arousal?
iv. Persona theory (Levinson, Robinson): listeners imagine an emotional story fitting the musical pattern.
But is there enough consistency of stories to explain broad category agreement?
v. Intrinsic expressiveness theory (Davies)
Is musical “sadness” a metaphorical description?
No, “sad-sounding” is used literally of music.
“Sad” is a secondary use: grounded in the usual behavioral or other aspects of sadness: postures, movements, etc.
Physiological patterning of emotions
Patterns of emotive utterance and vocalization
Is this account rich enough to explain the complex expressiveness of music?
Perhaps it is if conjoined with what the composer implies about the basic expressiveness.
Lecture 10: Davies on the emotional response of the audience
1. Responding to fictions
a. The problem: If emotions normally depend on beliefs which are inappropriate in the case of fictions, why should we feel the emotions when we follow fictions?
b. Easily dismissed explanations
i. Displacement: we feel for real persons like those in the fiction
But this seems empirically false. We focus on the fictional character, not on real ones.
ii. Momentary belief: momentarily we really believe in the fiction
This also seems false. We do not try to intervene even when we could.
iii. Suspension of disbelief
This seems inadequate: why should emotions then arise?
iv. Reflex reaction: emotional responses hard-wired or conditioned (nonrational)
Fictional responses are too knowing and conscious to be reflexive.
v. Irrational reaction: emotion despite disbelief
But how can a emotion be irrational if it indicates rational comprehension of the fiction?
c. Three major theories
i. Make-belief and make-desire are sufficient to elicit a real emotion (Carroll)
ii. Emotions in response to fictional worlds are only fictional or quasi-emotions (Walton)
Physiological and experiential aspects much the same
Imagined rather than vividly experienced
Disconnected from action
Muted and transitory
iii. Real emotions toward actual situations in a fictional world (Neill)
Frightened (e.g.) for the characters
Witnessed from outside the fictional world (contrast interactive games)
Real world analogues
No consistent difference in strength or persistence compared with real world cases
None of the above (c.i-iii) explain the emotional response to horror films (actual fear for oneself)
Different theories may suit different cases.
2. Responding to tragedies
Why do we enjoy fictions that if real would cause distress, disappointment, horror, etc.?
a. Hume’s theory: artistic qualities, e.g., eloquence, transform what would otherwise be unpleasant
b. Gaut’s theory: tragic events not unenjoyable to witness when they have no consequences
c. Masochism: we enjoy our own suffering
But in fact non-masochistic readers/viewers experience real distress or discomfort (and appropriately so) from many tragic fictions even though they have no consequences
d. Compensation theory: artistic qualities are enjoyable enough to outweigh the distress.
e. Larger good theory: negatives are essential to deeper positive goods.
Catharsis: purging accumulated negative emotions (Aristotle)
Satisfaction taken in our own negative emotions: moral reassurance (Feagin)
Adversive goods (Davies, Nietzsche and others)
Art and life (“problem of evil”)
Satisfaction wider than pleasure
3. Responding to the expressiveness of instrumental music and abstract art
Why feel sad when the work is sad given that no actual or fictional person is referred to?
Why does our response mirror the expressiveness of the work (unlike the case of fiction)?
a. Kivy’s theory: listeners recognize but do not mirror the expressiveness of the music.
But why do so many listeners believe they do?
b. Expression theory: listeners empathize with the composer or performer (or artist)
Do listeners have to suppose composer or performer feels that way?
c. Fictional expression theory: listeners empathize with a hypothetical person (persona)
Do listeners actually think of such a person?
d. Simple arousal theory: listeners saddened (e.g.) by the work, not sad about it.
But why are we aroused that specific way when the work only has the feeling-tone?
e. Intrinsic expressiveness theory: recognizing the work’s expressiveness we catch the infection.
Explains the non-cognitive and non-referential character of the response + its mirroring the work
Is the emotional response to instrumental music and abstract art too sophisticated to fit e? No, the basic emotional response to these forms of art does not presuppose awareness of any semantic or symbolic content, unlike the case of fiction.
Addendum: Comments on the theories of expressiveness (note that this pertains to instrumental music and abstract art, not to art in general, and the five theories are NOT the theories that are in view in the topic 3; those appear in lecture 9, section 6b; however, the theories below help explain the formal expressiveness of the work itself apart from its content, so to that extent they are relevant to the idea of the expressiveness of the work, which is one of the four theories in topic 3.)
1. Association theories. Suppose a person has heard at music of a certain kind at funerals, where the prevailing emotional tone is somber and tender, somber grieving and tender sympathy. Then the person is apt to associate funerals with such music. Can this explain why such music will seem somber and tender to the person? Likewise, suppose a person has heard music of a certain kind at Irish dances, where the mood of the company is festive. Can that association explain why the music seems expressive of joy and lightheartedness? If this were the case we should be able to imagine that the associations would be quite the reverse if Irish jigs had been played at funerals and tenderly somber organ music at dance parties. Now read what Davies says on page 147. Doesn’t that refute the association theory?
2. Expression theory. As Davies says, writing a piece of music or painting an abstract painting is not the most direct way of expressing one’s emotion, to put it mildly. And certainly no music or painting has ever tracked the course of a living emotion as it took place. Thus these “abstract” art forms can never take the place of the common ways of expressing emotions. Yet as Davies says, an abstract painting or a piece of music can be made to mirror in a general way a person’s emotion. The composition or painting has to be guided by remembering the emotion or by the emotion arising from time to time. And it can’t express the emotion’s perceptual or cognitive aspects, hence can’t distinguish between the anguish of sorrow and the anguish of guilt. But it can to some extent suit the emotion, which comes down to resembling its physiological and behavioral aspects. That sort of resemblance is intrinsic to the music.
3. Emotivism/Arousal theory. This theory has going for it the fact that music and abstract art are capable of influencing moods and have often been used to arouse them. But there are limits. No one’s emotions are entirely at the mercy of expressive music or painting, and their expressiveness doesn’t require them to be. A more plausible theory will say that expressive music and art may make it possible (or easy or pleasant) for us to feel along with them. Its expressiveness requires only that we be able to recognize the emotion.
4. Persona theory. This is the theory that abstract music by making believe that the music represents the inner feeling of an imaginary person (the persona). Davies objects that what people make believe may vary a lot in its specific emotional content, which would lead to contradictory judgments of its expressiveness. Other critics have pointed out that the theory is hard to square with the fact that music contains features to which no precise, coherent emotional counterpart can be found: repeats of whole sections and a dizzying variety of rhythmic and melodic phrases that seem not to add up to a coherent course of emotion.
5. Intrinsic expressiveness theory. The key thing here is not the question whether calling music or abstract painting sad is a metaphor or a secondary use of the term “sad.” Rather it is the idea that the music in various ways resembles aspects of the emotional state: the rhythms and harmonic tensions and resolutions resembling physiological and behavioral patterns. Lines, shapes and colors can also resemble aspects of emotions. This allows the theory to say that expressiveness is in the work itself, independently of any imagined persona, real person, association, or arousal of emotion in the listener. However, I suggest that the separation is not absolute. Whatever resemblances there may be, we would not experience works that have them as expressive if those resemblances did not tend to awaken imaginings, arouse similar feelings, and trigger associations in the audience, and if they did not often lead composers and painters to try to express their emotions by exploiting the resemblances.
Midterm Test Topics
The midterm test, to be given Thursday, March 16, will consist of two 25-minute essays on topics that you select from the following list. Choose one topic from 1-2, and one from 3-4. Obviously you are well advised to prepare your essays in advance, since organization of the relevant material will be crucial to a good outcome, especially since the time for composing the essay in class is short. To help you remember what you had planned, an outline not to exceed 50 words for each of the essays may be brought into the exam. (Longer outlines will count against you.). Turn the outlines in with the test booklet.
In preparing for the test, keep alert for relevant items in the class discussion file. One already exists regarding topic #2 (as of 3/13/06). Another relevant item concerning #3 appears above, in this file. Scroll up.
1. Assuming that art is a universal feature of human culture, discuss the problem of distinguishing it from other cultural enterprises, particularly the many forms of skilled practices, entertainments, and rituals. What sets it apart, especially from those skilled practices where beauty or other some aesthetic value is among the goals of the practice or entertainment or ritual?
2. Many conservatives about what is and is not art advance arguments against the usual practice of including works from ancient or non-European cultures, or from popular culture, within the domain of art. Give their reasons and the answers that Davies, for instance, provides in defence of the more usual view. You may indicate your own opinion of the controversy if you wish.
3. It is easy to see how art can represent expressions of emotion by fictive characters. It is harder to explain how a work itself can either be an expression of emotion or be expressive of an emotion. Discuss three of the theories of expression Davies presents, including the idea that the expressiveness of a work is intrinsic to it rather than dependent on an actual or imagined person who expresses her emotion by way of the work.
4. On the face of it there is a problem explaining how it is that people respond emotionally to fictions that they know not to be true. Explain the problem and several of the theories Davies presents of what goes on in this sort of case. Include at least one theory that you think fits your experience. Where Davies argues against a theory, give his reasons.
Lecture 11: The Definition Question (1)
Warburton on definition: Ch.3, Family Resemblances and Davies, Ch. 2, pp. 26-35
1. The traditional search for an “essence” of art (what “art” means)
A general definition of “art”– i.e. a statement of necessary and sufficient conditions
Bell, Collingwood, Tolstoy et al.
Clear examples of general essentialist definitions (Davies: uncle, monotreme)
2. Wittgenstein’s alternative: family resemblance concepts
Apparent example: game
Typical but not universal features: amusement, rules, make-believe (play), competition, limited costs and rewards, skill-testing, element of chance, etc.
Strictly necessary conditions are too general to be determinative: e.g. activity
Any game must possess a number of typical features.
Paradigm examples possess most typical features.
3. Morris Weitz’s attack on the definability of art
Essential impossibility of “closing” the concept of art.
Unpredictable condition-violating forms are always possible.
Examples from the past: found objects (driftwood), readymades, conceptual art works.
Decisions (by experts) required, not insight into essences.
Stultifying effect of trying to close the concept.
Suppression of artistic creativity.
4. Warburton’s critique of Weitz
Creativity not suppressed by closing the concepts of sub-genres of art.
(New sub-genres can always be invented as long as “art” is open.)
Less restrictive closed definitions of “art” may may be possible.
(Don’t judge the possibility of definition by past examples.)
Can Weitz explain who exactly decides and on what grounds?
What resemblances are relevant to art?
How are the resemblances to be evaluated (weighted)?
How did the category of art get established in the first place?
5. Weitz’s explanation of art theory
Disguised recommendation or reminder of art-relevant features.
6. Mandelbaum’s defense of essentialism regarding art
Family resemblances depend on biogenetic connectedness of family members.
Similarly non-exhibited features may apply in the case of art.
Such non-exhibited features may provide the makings of an essentialist definition of art.
7. Possibility of a disjunctive (essentialist/nonessentialist?) definition of art (Davies)
Possesses of a significant number of art-relevant properties OR
Possesses of art-relevant properties to a significant degree OR
Is created with the intention to confer achieve the above OR
Falls within an established artwork category.
Gaut’s cluster theory of art-relevant properties (Davies, 33)
Possible disjunctive conditions of these.
Is such a ccomplex, disjunctive account essentialist or not?
Is the list capricious (purely/radically stipulative), or principled?
Lecture 12: The Definition Question (2)
1. More on Games
a. Typical features (see Lecture 11)
b. Disqualifying features (the negations of these are necessary conditions)
Serious injury or death a necessary result (a criterion) of losing
Absence of any standard of success
Absence of any training that would improve success
Presence of a serious purpose (scientific, artistic, or life-supporting) as a constitutive criterion of good performance
Thus games do not include “free” activities like walking, swimming, tumbling purely for pleasure. These are athletic recreations but not games. Much playing is not playing a game.
c. Sports. These include team and solitary athletic activities, competitive and noncompetitive, where there are standards of performance. Free exercise (working out) even if self-disciplined, is not a sport, though one can imagine it to be one.
d. Basic training for a sport is sport-related but not in itself a sport. A practice game is a form of the sport that it rehearses. Pick-up games are informal versions of the sport.
e. Gambling is separable into a non-monetary and a monetary aspect. The non-monetary aspect is the game, the monetary is simply a bet. Picking the winning horse is the game, winning or losing money is a financial transaction.
f. Any form of play can be turned into a game by adopting standards of success and failure of such a sort that training improves the chances of success.
2. Compare the concept of work (types of work) with that of games
Professions (generally requiring extensive education in a branch of science or liberal arts)
Law, medicine, scholarship, research, teaching, finance, administration
Callings (Esp. religion, public service (esp. not-for-profit), poetry, art)
Employments (for profit)
Trades (for profit; type of business management; also includes manual crafts)
Industries (esp. manufacture of products)
Crafts (trades or occupations requiring manual skill)
Contrast: Avocations, recreations, amusements, diversions, exercises
Note the “mass” sense of “work”
Activity involving exertion that is in itself unwelcome, with the aim of producing or accomplishing something.
Labor (toil, drudgery)
Contrast: play, fun, relaxation
One can work hard at a hobby or recreation (e.g., sex) or game or regime (diet) that does not necessarily require work.
3. The concept of art along the lines of the concept of game and type of work
a. Gaut’s art-relevant properties: If W is a typical work of art it
Possesses aesthetic, expressive, formal, representational properties
Communicates complex meanings
Requires creative imagination
Yields pleasure when contemplated
Invites cognitive and emotional involvement
Is intended to possess, convey, require, yield and elicit the above.
b. Paradigm, commonplace and marginal cases of art + fuzziness at the borderline
c. Basic art-training and some advanced training not included in art proper
Various art-related activities also are not included: framing, displaying, photographing, explaining (interpreting), pricing, etc.
d. Contrast: illustration, decor, fashion, machine design
e. The role of quality in art: paradigm art works arouse wonder, admiration, and delight
Skill, e.g. in pictorial representation
Wit, insight, vision, perspective
Is it plausible to ignore quality in the definition of art? “Artistry” seems to imply quality.
f. The role of media in art
g. The role of history in art: Stages of development of artistic cultures:
Initial, e.g., paleolithic to aboriginal
Early, e.g., archaic
Advanced, e.g. 5th Century Greek,
Mature, e.g., Hellenistic, Renaissance
Late: 20th century western and eastern forms influenced by the west.
Note that these are only examples, and the full story is highly complex, varies with the medium, etc.
Hallmarks of development:
Skill/training in producing earlier types
Breadth of the artistic repertoire (of subjects, genres, media)
Effort to include as many art-relevant properties as possible in each work
Self-consciousness about artistic values
High respect for artistic individuality
Lecture 13: The Definition Question (3)
Warburton Ch. 4: Institutional Contexts
1. The Institutional theory: a “procedural” theory: George Dickie’s first theory
Traditionally the institutional aspects of art were taken for granted rather than thought of as helping to make works art.
With radically new works the institutional aspect comes to the fore.
Objects become art by how they are introduced to the artworld.
W is a work of art = (1) W is an artifact and (2) the status of candidate for art-like appreciation is conferred upon W by a representative of the artworld acting on its behalf.
W need not be a good work of art; it may be mediocre or bad.
W need not have any intrinsic art-like properties.
Note that Dickie’s theory gives a necessary and sufficient condition of a procedural sort. It closes the concept of art in that way without restricting the artifacts’ intrinsic properties.
2. George Dickie’s new institutional definition of art.
W is a work of art = W is an artifact of a kind to be presented to an artworld public.
Explanations (based on Neill-Ridley 213-1-223):
(a) The artifact may be a found object + a use: e.g., a-piece-of-driftwood-used-as-an-artistic-medium.
(b) The kind is the primary kind of artifact for that domain.
(c) Its being primary depends upon complex, shared understandings among members of the artworld concerning the making and experiencing of the artifacts.
(d) The artifacts are interpreted according to numerous artworld conventions.
(e) The artworld consists of persons filling various roles: artist, public, critic, teacher, director, curator, conductor, conserver, etc.
(f) Each artworld role involves distinctive sorts of awareness, skill, sensitivity, understanding, etc.
Note that this definition also closes the concept.
3. Warburton’s criticisms of Dickie’s new theory
(Note that most of Warburton’s discussion deals with the early, now renounced, theory.) a. Dickie’s theory is circular: even if not viciously so, it is uninformative.
b. Allowing objects+uses to be ‘artifacts’ lets in far too many non-artworks.
c. Outsider productions are wrongly excluded.
4. Jerrold Levinson’s intentional-historical theory
W is an artwork = W has been seriously intended for regard-as-a-work-of-art, i.e. regard in any way pre-existing artworks are or were correctly regarded.
a. Serious vs. passing (capricious, whimsical, satirical, etc.) intentions
b. Specific vs. unspecific intentions
c. Art-conscious vs. art-unconscious intentions
d. Artworks are objects over which artists exercise control (proprietorial condition)
5. Warburton’s criticisms of Levinson’s definition
a. Too wide: potentially allows in any object whatever, controlled or not.
b. Ur-art problem remains unsolved.
c. Too wide: includes passport photos
6. How fair is Warburton to Levinson and Dickie?
Lecture 14: The Definition Question (4)
Davies’ contribution to the discussion
1. First principle (p. 35)
Need for “plasticity and complexity” since art historically has been variable and volatile.
2. Aesthetic functionalism. Sample version.
W is an artwork = W was created with the intention to generate aesthetic qualities capable of producing aesthetic experience of significant magnitude under appropriate conditions.
Note: no necessary reference to past art
Independent defs needed of aesthetic qualities and aesthetic experience.
But do all artworks satisfy this condition?
Davies p. 38: “A great deal of art is without aesthetic or other merit, though there was no failure in the execution of the artist’s intentions, no lack on the part of the audience, and no other intervention to prevent the aesthetic results or uptake that the aesthetic functionalist regards as crucial within art.”
[Is that right? Perhaps there are more sorts of aesthetic experience than Davies imagines.]
3. Dickie’s new institutional theory
Basic idea: art results from decisions that can be made only within an artworld (see lecture 13 on Dickie’s explanations)
Davies new challenges/criticisms (other than Warburton’s):
Can the theory explain the first art?
Is the artworld a set of institutions or just a set of practices?
Does a work have to be created within an artworld, even today, in order to be an artwork? [Does this theory really explain how a work without aesthetic value can be art?]
4. Historical theories
Carney: stylistic similarity...
Carroll: true and coherent narrative...
Levinson (see lecture 13)
Explaining how not everything that is now art could have been art long ago.
Doubtfully capable of explaining entirely unprecedented types of work
Feminist objections not (perhaps) met.
5. Hybrid theories: e.g., disjunctive definitions
Can this explain non-Western artworlds?
[Why can’t a properly developed hybrid theory explain any conceivable artworld?]
6. Non-western artistic traditions: is there a problem?
How different are informal artworlds or practices from formal ones?
[Isn’t the problem the lack of a sufficiently developed analysis of artworlds and practices?]
7. Selected issues from Davies’ last section (“Taking Stock”)
(Most significant idea: “a rich account of art’s functions [and of an artworld] will be needed”)
Kennick’s warehouse test: how significant is this?
Works that are possible only at a stage in a developing tradition
Works that take no cognizance whatever of the artworld.
Works that have absolutely no aesthetic qualities
The role of value of art in the definition of art
The credentials of art experts
8. Placing art of different grades in the larger social context.
Similarities between the concept of art and many other cultural categories
Enterprise categories: science, athletics, business, banking, medicine
Artifact categories: chair, sofa, bed, knife
How sharply or simply delimited are these categories?
Lecture 15: Danto, “The Artworld”
Art as imitation or mimesis [better: art as representational – e.g., pictorial, sculptural, narrative, descriptive, expressive, since the ordinary sense of “imitation” does not apply.]
Socrates: art is representational, so it merely does what a mirror does, which is trivial.
Hamlet: the purpose of artistic representation is to give self-knowledge, which is not trivial.
(1) since mirror-images would be art if art = representation, art must not = representation.
(2) the source of Socrates’ error is that at his time (and in fact until 1900), art was thought to be a form of mimesis, i.e., imitation (IT).
(3) Socratic method assumes that theorists know pre-theoretically what is/is not is art.
(4) Socratic theorists in fact were not clear about what is/is not art.
(5) after 1900 IT was replaced by RT
IT explains many facets of visual art at least before 1900, especially when strengthened by assumptions about ineptitude, perversity, madness.
The shift from IT to RT was a conceptual revolution, comparable to radical theory shifts in science (e.g., from Newtonian to relativistic physics).
RT: a work of art is not an illusion of reality (IT) but a “new reality” different from ordinary realities (but no less real than the latter)
Examples of art that prompted the shift to RT because they could not easily be explained by IT:
paintings by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Roualt, the Fauves
Lichtenstein’s comic strip paintings
Jasper Johns’ numeral paintings
Rauschenberg’s or Oldenburg’s bed
[Danto trades illicitly on the common meaning of “imitation” in discussing some of these cases. ]
[“Reality theory” is as problematic a label as “Imitation Theory.”]
Section 2: [Danto’s fancy footwork]
Paradoxes of “is” in the case of artworks help explain the role of theory in making a thing a work of art.
Puzzles of personal identity: body and mind
Objects that are also sculptures: the physical bed that is Rauschenberg’s Bed
The is of artistic identification
Not the is of identification
Not the is of predication
Not the is of existence
[Rather, the is of “stands for/represents/exhibits”]
Danto’s example: blank white canvases with horizontal black line
[Note the errors in the printing on p. 207]
Danto claims multiple ambiguities: ways of reading the design pictorially.
[But could any pictorial tradition actually accept such readings?]
[Still, radical ambiguities are not needed for the basic point about pictorial representation.]
The basic point is that convention plays a role in disambiguating pictures.
[Note that the pictures in question don’t have to be artworks.]
But all artworks must have “stands for” properties above and beyond their physical properties.
[But so do many other sorts of artifacts, so that’s not at all distinctive to art objects.]
Danto’s real point: what is distinctive about radical artworks is that some or all of the “stands for” properties are art-theoretic [ I would add, cryptically art-theoretic].
E.g., this black paint is just black paint = this black paint stands for the final stage in a process of surrendering past artistic theories.
3. Warhol’s Brillo Box as exemplifying this idea.
Can real things be used to represent a larger subject? Yes. Hypothetical examples:
Crushed Brillo Box: protest against mechanization...
Uncrushed Brillo Box: bold declaration...
[Samples are used to represent their type all the time. The theme expressed by Brillo Box is more suggestive of art, although still not by any means exclusive to art.]
Real objects used as the material of art. [Is this so new or radical? Consider home decorating or landscape gardening.]
[Aren’t other, more normal, art-relevant properties also possessed and celebrated by Brillo Box? And isn’t that part of what makes it art?]
4. Radically art-theoretic art has just as many art-relevant properties as traditional art.
Danto’s tour de force [sophistry, in my opinion]:
Positive and negative property pairs are universally applicable within a given genre.
Negative members of these pairs are just as real/specific as the positive ones.
Therefore, blank or uniformly monchromatic canvases are as complex as The Last Supper.
Lecture 16: Doing justice to Levinson’s historicist theory of art
1. The problem of Ur-art
a. Retracing the evolution of art would reveal the ur-arts and the ways in which ur-works were regarded. E.g.
Painting and sculpting: As depicting creatures of great importance
As expressing the animals’ power, beauty and spirit
Story-telling: As narrating fascinating, exciting, moving trains of events
As describing notable persons, situations, scenes.
As speaking or singing in a pleasing, expressive, dramatic way.
b. Levinson: These particular ways of regarding don’t enter the definition of art. They only need exist as the precedents of later ways of art-regarding.
c. Possible objection: but what of ways of regarding that existed in ur-art but are now disqualified from being appropriate ways of artistic regard?
E.g. as magical charms or as a mode of access to spirits.
That was continued in later magico-religious practices but we do not regard them as art.
d. Answer to the objection: only ways of regarding ur-arts that we judge art-relevant count.
If we put magico-religious ways of regarding things in a different cultural category than art, then they are not relevant to ur-art.
e. Worry: this answer seems to make the definition circular. If this is right, then ultimately we need to have functionally defined U-arts to provide the starting point for the historical process.
2. The problem of radically unprecedented revolutionary art. (P. 233)
a. Levinson’s two proposals:
i. Primary intention is the standard one, but a secondary intention is to induce a new way of regarding when the standard ways all fail – or fail to satisfy.
ii. Broaden definition to allow a consciously art-contrarian intention.
(Recall Danto’s negative properties.)
b. Objection: how do we determine which art-contrary intention is sufficient to make the work art? Would blowing oneself up count? If so, why would it?
c. Brown’s suggestion: in all actual cases the intention includes traditional generic art-making properties in unaccustomed forms.
3. The place of history in a definition of art
a. In the beginning: art-relevant intentions are limited to aesthetic functionality (widely conceived) and such functionality is typically of secondary importance in the social role of the objects or performances.
Therefore, works poor in aesthetic functionality (relative to the average) are not artworks.
Also, no works are disqualified because too weakly creative relative to past art.
b. In developed art cultures: only intentions to achieve notable aesthetic functionality in richly endowed media count as art-relevant. Works are increasingly divided into art and sub-art. Intentions to achieve notable creativity are increasingly important in art proper. Ur-art forms are typically excluded, treated as sub-artistic.
c. In late art cultures (like ours): intentions to achieve aesthetic functionality in poorly or narrowly endowed media and genres become typical; the intention to be creative in hard-to-appreciate art forms counts heavily (e.g., ones involving art-theoretic content). Many intentions typical of earlier art are relegated to the category of popular and commercial art even though the works produced are richly aesthetically functional. But no previously accepted art work ever drops out of the category of art. Ur-art forms are retrospectively rehabilitated. Some earlier popular art forms are also taken into the category of art proper.
Result: the efficacy of an intention in making a work art depends in part upon the context in which it occurs.
Second quiz Answer Sheet
1. Show how Gaut’s list of art-relevant properties and relations might figure in a definition of art that leaves room for variation and creativity?
Answer. Gaut includes such things as being aesthetically (expressively, etc.) functional, communicating complex meanings, causing aesthetic pleasure, and so forth. These can figure in a disjunctive definition that doesn’t require all works to have them all, only enough to make the work art. Causing aesthetic pleasure isn’t enough since lots of decorative objects aren’t art. Complex meanings aren’t enough since scientific theories do that. Since the properties are general, the definition needn’t close possibilities for endlessly new specific forms of art.
(Of course many other ideas are also relevant: paradigm vs. marginal cases, for instance.)
2. How does Levinson propose to include radically revolutionary works in his historicist definition of art? (Explain one of the two ways.)
Answer. (First way) Levinson says a consciously revolutionary (unprecedented) artwork can be governed by two intentions. First, the primary intention is to present a work for being regarded in some pre-existing artwork manner, say as a formally challenging and expressive design. Second, the secondary intention may be that viewers find the work so unrewarding when viewed that way that they search for another, better way which dawns on them as they keep on looking at the object. This second way of regarding the work thereby becomes a new way of regarding things as art, recognized by viewers and made use of by artists.
(Second way) Levinson’s second suggestion is that radically revolutionary art can be defined by broadening the sort of intention that is essential to art. The new intention, applicable to revolutionary art, is to produce things to be regarded in a way that stands in conscious opposition to past ways of regarding things as art. This deliberate antagonism preserves the art-linkage. Thus completely abstract painting and sculpture, which at one point was revolutionary, was intended to be regarded as deliberately emptied of representational content. It was presented as art-without-representational content.
3. What implied controls does Dickie’s new institutional theory of art place on what the artworld counts as a work of art?
Answer. Dickie’s new institutional theory emphasizes the complex, shared understandings that must hold among members of an artworld, the conventions that are maintained, for instance concerning the meaning of works, the roles that are played by members, and the sorts of skills and sensitivities that are required to play these roles. As a result, only some artifacts will be of a kind to be presented to an artworld (Dickie’s core definition). This keeps the new definition from being so arbitrary about what can count as art, which was a big problem with Dickie’s first institutional theory.
4. What is the main point Danto is making in his discussion of the artistic character of “new reality” theory works like Duchamp’s Fountain or Warhol’s Brillo Box?
Answer. Danto’s main point is that what is distinctive about radical artworks is that some or all of the “stands for” properties are cryptically art-theoretic. That is, the works refer to themselves as testing the limits of art, or as going beyond any past theory of art. So a found object, say a Brillo carton, could be presented as an expressive sculpture by calling it Uncrushed Brillo Box.
It isn’t just an uncrushed Brillo Box, it is (perhaps) “a bold affirmation of the plastic authenticity of industrial [products].” This doesn’t make ordinary Brillo cartons have this content. They aren’t bold affirmations of any such thing. Only the carton selected and displayed in an artworld context can do that.
5. According to the lecturer, what features of a late stage of an artistic culture are relevant to the radical sorts of art that create problems for defining art?
Answer. In late art cultures high priority is given to intentions to achieve aesthetic functionality in poorly or narrowly endowed media and genres, and to creativity in forms that are hard to appreciate without extensive acquaintance with the history of art (especially recent history). Access to world art is widespread and comprehensive through museums and publications. Commentary on artworks is extensive. Familiar and easy to like forms are accorded lower respect and are associated with popular and commercial art. Earlier paradigms are given a place of honor even if new ones like them are not. The earliest, most primitive forms are for the first time appreciated as full-fledged art. Some previously popular art forms are upgraded. Eccentric or psychotic forms (outsider art) are given a niche. Controversy about what is and what is not art is incessant. All this stimulates radical innovations.
Lecture 17: Varieties of Art
What sort(s) of things are art works?
1. Davies: a work must be a (potentially) stable public object or event which is authorized (ontological contextualism)
As opposed to what?
A mental-perceptual envisagement (Collingwood’s ontological idealism)
A (completed) process of artistic action (Currie)
A preparatory sketch, test print, film rush, etc.
Enduring physical object
unique (painting, carved sculpture)
multiple (print, cast sculpture, text of poem/novel, score/text of music/dance/drama,
print of film/photograph
Poetry reading/art performance (e.g. Josef Bueys’ Coyote)
2. Alternative view: art works are formal patterns (ontological Platonism)
Abstract types rather than concrete tokens
Musical work: sonic sequence
Literary work: word sequence
Painting: pigment pattern
Existence issue. [Could be put in terms of embodiment-possibilities.]
Davies’ view: works can be destroyed even when access to the type is preserved.
Discovery vs. creation
Davies’ view: creation permits free choice, discovery does not. [Does that prove the point?]
3. Rejoinder by ontological Platonism
“Singular” works are not essentially singular but (potentially) multiple.
Davies view: No, singular art works are historically unique.
Davies’ reason: some kinds of works involve physical processes essentially; others involve relations to contextual factors in a historical artworld.
[Do these considerations prove the point? Perhaps it depends on how far the Platonist is willing to go.]
4. Multiply instanced artworks
Historically specific types
Novels, movies, musical compositions, plays, dance compositions...
Ambiguously fixed/variable multiples
Degrees of completion/realization required for different sorts of multiples
Varieties of presentation: exhibition, printing, performance, playback
5. Varieties of material (in a broad sense of the term)
Artifacts as material (in collages, combines, appropriations)
Different genre sources (of adaptations – film, opera, musical, ballet, tone poem)
Same genre sources (of transcriptions, arrangements, translations, remakes)
6. Varieties of musical ontology
Improvisations (not works according to Davies)
Exemplar founded works
Strict repetition vs. interpretation-permissive works
Live vs. studio performance works
7. Continuing identity questions about works
The constant identity view (Davies)
The evolving identity view (Margolis)
Identity vs. significance
Identity vs. value, reputation
Identity vs. recognition of character
Ambiguous identity of some works
Changing identity vs. changing interpretations
Principle of ontological parsimony (Occam’s razor)
8. Additional points: “Applications and Connections”
a. Jazz – when is it a composition?
Answer: only when it is intended for repeated performance
Is a recording of a jazz performance the same piece as the performance? Or a simulation?
One is hearing all and only the sequence of notes.
One is even hearing the very same sonic event.
Yet normally the experience differs – is the experience of the recording deficient?
[Ideally we know the improv is improvised, the recording is a recording. Then we can have the same ‘open’ expectation in both cases.]
b. Composed music, live and recorded: are they the same? Or is the recording a simulation?
Unedited recordings vs. edited ones
c. Pop recordings with collage effects:
Virtual performance vs. beyond even virtual performances.
e. Filmed plays vs. film adaptations
f. Colorization of films: new works or versions of the original?
Films vs. presentations of films
g. Translations of written/spoken/sung works
h. Clones: could they become fully equivalent to originals?
Lecture 18: Warburton’s final position assessed
Questions about Warburton’s challenges
1. Can a definition that covers all and only works of art, past and future, be informative or interesting?
Warburton: “there is probably no...relational feature, or at least not one that will be particularly informative or interesting to us.” (122)
2. What exactly is the basis of this?
Warburton: “various groups have made certain decisions about what is to count as a relevant resemblance between a new object and paradigm cases of art”
“... arbitrarily...[from] vested interests...”
3. Should a definition aim to “explain to us what it is about [each and every] work which justifies anyone calling it art”? (Warburton’s suggestion for present and past art)
4. Is a value-laden account of art “risky” if one begins from the working assumption that all works accepted by the artworld are properly counted as art? Is “art” like “justice” in this respect?
5. Is asking how art works can “repay specific sorts of close attention” distinct from explaining what is or has been or will be or should be accepted as art?
- the question asked of particular art works
- the question asked of artworks in general
6. Is Warburton right that “theorising about art’s definition is best restricted to particular cases and that in these cases it is often an indirect say of investigating how best we should approach individual works.”?
JB’s position on these questions
1. A definition that plausibly covers all and only works of art will turn out to be a comprehensive theory of art, which will be highly informative and interesting to those who have an intellectual interest in art.
2. There is no reason to believe that the proposals that are taken up by the artworld-at-large are arbitrary or capricious, as opposed to being based on genuinely art-relevant considerations. But it is vital to recognize the difference between different stations in the domain of art – some are central, others are peripheral, some are uncontroversial and others are problematic.
3. No definition goes into detail about particular works, only about types. But a definition should lay out the sorts of art-relevant considerations. This should help one figure out, given some help, what justifies calling a given work art. However, one cannot expect to have an intimate understanding about all forms of art, even if one is armed with a true and comprehensive theory of art.
4. “Art” implies only a minimum of value. “Justice” implies a much higher level. Thus there can be bad art whereas there cannot be bad (unjust) justice. So the comparison is flawed. Speaking of a functioning social system would be more relevant. Any such system will have elements or aspects of justice even if it is still quite defective. Nazi social policy certainly had many aspects of justice. Our social policy is more just but also has many grave defects. A theory of justice aims to enable one to distinguish between more and less just social systems. A theory of art aims at enabling one to distinguish between better and worse works of art, including the entry-level minimum. A theory of justice will also distinguish a functioning social system from a chaotic each-against-all “state of nature.”
5. Any adequate definition of art will give a lot of information about what sorts of payoffs artworks have, but it will have to cover the waterfront as to general types. It cannot focus narrowly on certain types only, as Bell’s and Collingwood’s theories do.
6. What is “best” refers necessarily to aims and abilities. Warburton says we have limited time to devote to the question. Doubtless that’s true for most persons. But the same is true for research into hydrogen fusion as an energy source. Like other tough, technical questions, the definition issue is properly delegated to specialists. All the interested public has to do is to assess the competing claims when and if well-developed theories are produced. So far only the merest sketches have been given, in my view.
Lecture 19: Pictorial Representation
1. Different senses (or sorts) of “representation” widely construed
Acting in place of
All of the above involve reference to an individual, type, property, etc.
2. Pictorial representation
Mimesis (illusion) theories
Aspect perception theories (seeing as)
Twofold perception theories (seeing in)
Davies: none of the above can explain all our experience of pictorial depictions or explain how representation works.
3. Resemblance and difference
Perceptual and cognitive resources used in recognizing subjects in life and in pictures
Centrality of resemblances
Pictorial deviations from resemblance to the subject
Wiry outlines, thick outlines, splotchy dabs, noticeable brushstrokes
Hatching for shadows
Caricatures, e.g. stick figures, two-J face
Non-perspectival projection systems
4. How conventional are pictorial systems?
Radical conventionalism (Nelson Goodman)
Biological naturalism+cultural inflection and supplementation
Strengths and limitations of different systems
5. The role of style in making art art
Davies: No particular style (e.g., realism, impressionism) is a mark of art vs. non-art.
Concern with style is arguably the key difference: foregrounding style, making style an issue.
What is a style? The generic meaning of the term:
Style = way of depicting, decorating, expressing, composing
To have a style = to depict, etc., in a particular way
Personal, group and period styles
Narrowly and widely defined styles
Style and content (broadly conceived)
Rich theories of style
Danto, Robinson, Collingwood (?): having a style vs. imitating a style
Authenticity, self-expression, fidelity to cultural character
Alternative theory of artistic style
Creative, insightful, subtle, deep, intelligently imaginative, edgy, challenging
as opposed to
Stereotypical, superficial, shallow, slick, artificial, gimmicky, prettifying
Francis Bacon (Warburton, 45-7)
Roy Lichtenstein (shown in class)
Allan Ramsey (Warburton, 28)
Van Gogh (Davies, opposite p. 117)
Stylistic properties as visual metaphors
Bacon, Three studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, c. 1944
a. these are among many of Bacon's images of half-animalic-half-human creatures with grotesque features in states of helplessness, terror, agony, and anger. Statements by the artist, by others in his circle, and members of the contemporary artworld testify to the intended expressiveness and the conditions in the world that prompted it. Besides Bacon’s own personal history (homosexuality, a traumatic relation with his father, a sense of being despised by society), a number of references are intended:
b. the catastrophic political scene: the truly nightmarish havoc of World War II, which capped the recent string of violent struggles: the Irish uprising, the Boer War, World War I, etc.
c. the crucifixion as a dominant cultural symbol of human suffering, esp. the Isenheim altar by the 16th c. German artist, Grünewald. The crucifixion, he said, was ‘a magnificent armature on which you can hang all sorts of feelings and sensations.’
d. the portrayal of doom in the tragedies of Aeschylus, provoked by horrendous suffering in his own time; in particular, the vision of the Furies, demonic avenging spirits.
e. the despairing vision of western civilization in T.S. Eliot’s poetry (The Wasteland, Sweeney Agonistes); and the picture of human cruelty in much of the poetry coming out of WWI.
Bacon’s figurative style belongs within the general domain of surrealist images. His images have great force, not just of expression but of bold, incisive draughtsmanship.
Lecture 20: Representation in photographs compared with representation in drawings or paintings
1. Simple or automated photographs vs. handmade images: the role of intention and belief
Photo-intention reduced to selection
Or can one make a photograph of Caesar or Tarzan by means of a title?
Different paths of inference from image to world
2. Walton’s theory of photographic transparency: an ontological difference.
Seeing subjects indirectly vs. seeing representations of subjects
Variously clear/confusing, sharp/fuzzy, partial/complete seeing of subjects
Need to learn how to see things in photographs is no objection
Continuity argument for transparency of photographs
3. An alternative theory of photographic images’ ontology
Photographs as traces, therefore representations
Hard questions about the dividing line between seeing X and seeing an X-representation
(Davies leaves the question unresolved)
4. Davies’ criticism of Walton’s theory
“Realistic” handmade pictures are transparent in the same way as photographs
Causal relation + reliable information are common to both
Portraits as a paradigm case
Explanation of the twin brother painting/photograph case (matching vs. representing).
(But this is a lesser transparency than Walton's sort.)
5. Scruton’s challenge to the possibility of (high-grade) photographic art
(Note: Walton also takes art photographs to be art.)
The argument against photographs being art (or at least artistically inferior)
Photos are limited to whatever information/expressiveness the subject itself conveys
Absence (or poverty) of art-grade photographic style
Absence (or poverty) of content unique to the work itself: e.g. self-referential content
6. Davies counterargument
Sorts of photographic control over the ultimate photographic product (even without montage or digital minipulation)
Sorts of aesthetic and thematic effects achievable
Varieties of photographic style achievable
Analogy with movies
[Analogy of found objects]
7. An ontological puzzle concerning the movies
Do the images on the movie screen actually move?
Illusory movements of various sorts
Discontinuously visible continuous phenomena: light-beams, shadows
Cinema a benign illusion, a constructive make-believe
Lecture 21 Davies on the value of art
1. Skeptics about the value of art
Plato on the dangers of art
[Plato on the merits of the right sort of art]
[Other critics of art]
2. Controversy about whether the value of art is intrinsic or extrinsic
What exactly does intrinsic mean in the case of art?
Davies’ proposal: the value of a work is intrinsic if realizable only through disinterested contemplation of the work
Davies’ example of (extreme) intrinsic value theory: Formalism
Davies’ example of (extreme) extrinsic value theory: Tolstoy
[Is this fair to Tolstoy? Does he entirely dismiss intrinsic value? JB thinks not.]
Uncontroversial cases of extrinsic value: monetary value, political/religious value
3. The intrinsic+extrinsic value theory
Davies: The intrinsic value of art lies in its being a source of artistic pleasure.
Artistic pleasure = pleasure taken in the work’s artistic properties
Artistic properties = perceptible+metaphoric+semantic+contextual properties (see
Davies pp. 201, 71)
More on Tolstoy [Davies mistakes Tolstoy’s view.]
[Davies wrongly thinks only a purely descriptive definition of art can allow for bad art.]
Artistic value is derived from the functionality or art.
Two views of primary/secondary functionality of works of art
a.. Primary functionality of art is exclusively aesthetic; moral, religious or other functionality is artistically irrelevant.
b. Primary functionality of art can be non-aesthetic ( moral, religious, etc.); where it is, aesthetic functionality can be merely incidental or else contribute to the primary function.
Davies’ view: the full artistic value of W is the sum of its intrinsic value (artistic pleasure) and its extrinsic value (psychological, social, moral, religious – Collingwood’s “magic”).
JB’s question: Mustn’t we take into account whether the magic in question is good?
4. Is artistic value subject to universal rules (laws of taste)?
Rules traditionally understood as technical prescriptions for overall artistic goodness
Implausibility of such rules given the actual variables:
Complexity and variety of artistic properties (good and bad)
Dependency of these properties on base properties
- in the artwork
- in humans
- in cultural contexts
Ideal artistic respondent theory (proposed by JB)
A given artistic property is defined in terms of power to produce a given human response under ideal conditions
Artistic good defined in terms of power to produce satisfaction under ideal conditions
5. Is artistic value subject to intersubjectively universal standards within particular parameters?
Relation of value to cultural “conditioning” (training, life styles)
Discrimination-enhancing sorts of cultural training and life styles
Discrimination-inhibiting sorts of cultural training and life styles
“Experts” vs. others in the artworld-at-large
Practical limits to full consensus among the best qualified judges
Reasonable procedures for minimizing error in artistic judgment
6. Fitting art into one’s life
Personal preferences vs. artistic judgments
Enjoyment of the less than stellar art
Coherence of one’s life need not depend on artistic refinement
Middle way: Specialized middle-level expertise
Overall understanding of art
General respect for those with other specializations
Interest in expanding one’s appreciation of forms of art
Integrating artistic enjoyment and insight into the rest of one’s life
Higher ways: Specialized high-level expertise (creative or appreciative)
Drive to understand many artistic cultures
Particularized respect for other specializations
Premium placed on artistic quality in one’s life
Premium placed on novel forms of artistic creativity
Welcome given to artistic challenges
Fashioning a life where art plays a central role
PHIL 230 Lecture 22: Value of art (2)
1. Davies on the purpose of evaluation of artworks
Gap between judgment and personal preference in general
Multiplicity of impersonally good forms of art
Artistically best vs. best for me (given my circumstances, interests, stage of life)
A personal “repertoire” of good-enough art
Practical function of experts in people’s lives
2. Variety of extrinsic (Davies, 213ff.: educative) values of art in facilitating the following.
Cultivation of aesthetic powers: discrimination, interpretation, judgment.
Perceptual, imaginative, and intellectual powers
Applicable to art and to non-art
Cultivation of moral powers, theoretical and practical
Cultivation of intellectual powers
Role of interaction with others in this (with critics, historians, e.g.)
Role of encounters with diverse art forms (as in the higher ways in Lecture 21.6)
Cultivation as an on-going inquiry into artistic (or more widely, human) goodness
Cultivation of excellences in oneself
Indispensability of art for excellence in society
All of the above is entirely distinct from the grossly extrinsic: fame, fortune, power, status.
3. The case of structural immorality in a work of art
Distinct from merely depicted immorality
Special case of light genres that tolerate imperfect morality
Action movies, westerns, crime dramas
Limited realism of suffering from immorality in these
Cp. Jokes at others’ expense.
[But aren’t these indicative of a mild pathology?]
Pervasiveness of less-than-perfect morality in art with moral content
Keeping faults in perspective
PHIL 230 Final Exam
Write on #1 and on ONE other, TWO questions in all. In each case be as thorough as possible within the available time. You may bring an outline of 100 words or less for #1, and 75 words or less for the one you choose from ## 2-4. This allowance indicates the value attached to the two parts of the exam.
1. The Definition of Art. Discuss the specific issues that create uncertainty as to whether a useful and informative definition of art can be formulated. Keep in mind the variety of definitions that are available. At all costs avoid oversimplifying the subject.
2. The ontology of artworks. There are those who think that all artworks are essentially abstract patterns of external features and intentions rather than wholly singular particulars. Others (Davies, for example) adopt a contextualist theory of artworks. Explain the issues and arguments here, and consider whether the abstract pattern (Platonist) theory fits some art forms better than it does others.
3. Photographs and handmade pictures. Explain as fully as you can the issues and arguments concerning the alleged “transparency” of photographs, including the issue of whether transparency is a point of distinction separating photographs from handmade pictures. Do you agree with Davies that some handmade pictures are also transparent? Would transparency prevent photographs from displaying an individual style or expressing a vision of life? Why, or why not?
4. The Value of Art. Part of art’s value lies in the aesthetic or artistic pleasure or satisfaction it produces. But almost all thinkers believe that artistic value derives in significant part from a work’s satisfying other goals. Discuss these other, “extrinsic,” goals, and how they relate to the intrinsically aesthetic goals. Consider the effect on the overall artistic value of works when those other goals are not met or when they are not genuinely good. For example, to what extent if at all does the artistic value of a work suffer from its promoting false beliefs or immoral attitudes?
Reminders of the basic content of the final exam topics (not meant to keep you from adding other relevant points)
(In replying to questions in the discussion file, relevant clarifications are made. Don’t forget to review that material when you prepare your essays.)
1. In discussing #1, be brief about traditional definitions (Bell, Collingwood, Tolstoy). Spend most of your time on definitions that cover all forms of art, beginning with the functional type, built on a list of art-relevant properties (Gaut’s) and making use of a disjunctive definitional form. Explain why skeptics think this approach won’t work, and proceed to a discussion of Dickie’s new institutional theory and Levinson’s intentional-historical definition. Discuss the difficulties these theories encounter and how their proponents try to surmount them. Finally, consider Warburton’s closing assessment of the definition question and the lecturer’s response to that. As you plan your essay, review the lecture outlines 11-18 for relevant material. There’s a lot of it. You can’t cover everything but you should cover quite a bit.
2. Explain (a) the grounds ontological Platonists give for believing that all art works are repeatable patterns rather than concrete public objects/events, and (b) the consequences of this view regarding the identity of art works and the discovery/creation issue. Then set forth the counter-arguments of an ontological contextualist such as Davies. Make clear how he explains the things the Platonists cite in favor of their position. In your discussion take note of the variety of types of art and how this variety leads thinkers to different ontological views – be specific about this variety. Also make clear what are the paradigmatic Platonic abstractions – the ones that everyone agrees are discoveries rather than creations – and why a contextualist thinks they differ from art works. Do you find yourself drawn to one ontological position rather than the other? Do you think all artworks have the same ontology? Explain your reasons.
3. Track Walton’s argument as it proceeds down the slippery slope to his conclusion that photographs are transparent – and of course explain just what this transparency amounts to, how it differs from the non-transparency of typical handmade pictures. Then consider carefully the alternative view that no photograph can be fully transparent, and furthermore, that under certain conditions a handmade picture may be as (or as nearly) transparent as a photograph. Discussing this may require you to look again at what transparency entails and where exactly the line should be drawn between transparency and non-transparency (between presentation and representation). Finally turn to Scruton’s claim that photographs can’t be artworks because they merely present a reality, which on the surface seems to be supported by the view that they are transparent. Does it really follow that if photographs are transparent they have to be styleless? What resources do photographers have for achieving an individual style? How does it compare with the resources available to painters and sculptors? Be as detailed as possible on this vital question (more important for philosophy of art than the ontological question).
4. Explain what is meant by saying the value of an artwork is intrinsic. Give Davies’ account of this, explaining the meaning of his terms (esp. contextual properties). On this basis, what values are extrinsic, and why exactly are they extrinsic? Following Davies’ idea that artistic value is functional, consider the two views of what functions are artistic: the formalists’ view that only intrinsic functions are, and Davies’ view that extrinsic ones can also be validly artistic. Spell out Davies’ reasons. Where the primary function of the work is extrinsic, what is the role of the intrinsic functionality? Explain using examples. Does it matter to the overall artistic value of a work that the extrinsic function be a genuinely good one? When Davies discusses morality and artistic value, what defense does he give of the view that immorality sometimes matters and sometimes does not? Do you agree? Explain your reasons.