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The Argument

1-3 The' question posed: What is Art? Scepticism

whether a general answer may be given: such
scepticism itself to be sceptically considered.

4 The physical-object hypothesis, Le. the hypothe-

sis that works of art are physical objects, intro-

5-8 Over a certain range of the arts, e.g. literature,

music, the physical-object hypothesis obviously
untenable: for, there is not here any physical
object with which the work of art could prima
facie be identified. Áowever the untenability of
the hypothesis over these ar~s said to raise no
serious problems for aesthetics. The promise
that we shall later return to these arts. (The
promise redeemed in sections ~5-7.)

/'9-10 .} The physical-object hypothesis now considered

over those arts, e.g. painting, sculpture, where
there is a physical object with which the work
of art could prima facie be identified.Two diffi-
culties for the hypothesis to be considered.

~-I4 The diffkulty presented by Representation or

C~ ' representational properties. A discussion of rep-
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A.rt and its Objects lU

An Essay
1 resentation, resemblance and seeing-as, and the those which dispute the exha,}lstiveness of the
'1 suggestion made that resemblance might be distinction between immediately and mediately'
",. understood in terms of seeing-as rather than perceptible properties, and those Which insist
1 vice.versa; the intröduction of intention into any
" that works of art possess properties other' than
, such analysis. the immediately perceptible,
15-19 The difficulty'presented by Expression or ex- 2~-3m 1 The first set, of objections to the' Presentational
pressi},'leproperties. Two cJude .causal views of theory @onsidered:.Difficulties for the exhaustive
exp~ession rejected" Natural ex,pre~sion and 'cor- distinction between immediatelyand mediately
respondences' , perceptible pnwerties are presented by meaning-
,~ 'u " I!J
* properties and expression-properties: Sound and
-,' ,i!' fl',
~ .Meanin~ 1', ",ih poetry and ,the so-called imusi@ of
,poetry': the representation 'bf movemen1}:the rep-
20 The~physical-object hypothesis"to be strengthened ..
'.resentation of space ('tactile values'). The Gom-
by a consideratiqn. of alternative
'Ii"" hypotheses
.,. brich argument con@erni'ng expression. (In the
e.bdut the work of art: specificaIly, over those course of tl}is discussion the notiop of Icqnicity
areas of art where the. physical-object hypothesis~ bldefly'introduced~) '"
II,gains a foothold (cf. 9-10)",
'1 ii, .

,11:'f) "Thesecond set of objec,tionsto the present~tional

21 The Ideal theory, Le. the theory'thiit works of
art are ment al ~ntiiies,.,and the, P;esentational
~.. theory considered. Difficulties presented by pro- "

. pertiesl1\th~tin'dubitá'bly are not immediately per-

theory, Le. the theory that ::jyVorksof art., have ceptible;, but areJnhe,rent to art.Genres and the
onlyimmediately percepti1?le' properties, intro- 'radical óf presentation': the spectator's expec-
tations and the artist's intentions: the concept of
art as sornething that the spectator must bring
22-3 The Ideal theory considereg. Two' objectións
with him. Thf discussion broken off for a paren-
raised: that the theory would make art private, thesis.
and that it disregards the medium. (The bd.
coleur problem, or the problem ofart's diversity *
or arbitrariness introduced.)
35-7 The pro mise to consider those arts where the
24 The Ideal theory and the Presentational theory work of art clearly cannot be identified with a
contrasted. Objections to the Presentational
physical object now redeemed. Types and tokens,
theory to be considered under' two - headings:
, and the claim made that types may possess
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Art and its Objects ! An Essay
physical properties. Accordingly the arts where vidu al works of art: the analogy with language
the physical-object hypothesis evidently does not properly understood does not require that we
hold are less problematic for aesthetics. should be able to identify either of these apart
fromart and its objects. The so-called 'heresy
38-9 Interpretation. Critical interpretation and inter- '
of paraphrase'.
pretation through performance. Interpretation
said to be ineliminable. The cóntrast between 50 Art and phantasy contrasted: the fundamental
description and interpretation not to be narrowly error in the Ideal theorY'restated in the light of
taken. sections 46-9. '

51-3 The concept of art as a form of life now con-
sidered from the standpoint of the spectator.
40 The con cept of art reconsidered, and the claim Understanding works of art: Iconicity reintro-,
that works of art intrinsically falI under this duced, and 'the conditions óf expression in art
concept. The suggestion, to~ which this claim once more examined.
gives rise, that the question, What is art?, may
~ be st be answered by considering the aesthetic 54 The work of art as a self-subsistent object: this
attitude. ~ r conception qualified. The 'invitation in art' and
'the transcendental'.
41-4 The aesthetic attitude, and distortions of it. Art ..
and nature falsely assimilated. The connexion 55\ A third point of view on the conception of art
~ between seeing soniething as a work of art and as a form of lire suggested. Art and how it is
that thing's having been made as a work of art. learnt. No more than a suggestion thrown aut.
The amorphousness of the concept 'art', and the
pervasiveness of art itself. 56 The analogy so far pursued (sections 45-55) has
been between art and language, not 'between art
and code: two contrasts contrasted. Style and re-
45 Art as 'a form of life'" and the analogy between
art and language introduced. 57-8 Twó limitations to the analogy of art and langu-
age. The fact that some works of art are in a
46-9 The concept of arJ; as a form of life considered (natural) language, and the lack of anything in
from the standpoint of the artist. The artistic, art parallel to ungrammaticality or incoher-
intention, and the intentions attributed to indi- ence.
14 15

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Art andits Objects

59 The last point suggests a consideration of the

traditional demand of, unity in a work of art.
Uni ty considered, and three objections to any
.strict or formaI explication of the notion. '

60-63 Consideration of unity leads in tum to a con-

sideration of art as an essentiallyl!istorical phen-
omenon. Art's historicity examiried. The social
determination of art. The bricoleur problem
finally reconsider~d. .

64 Aesthetics: and how it might divide into the

.seemingly subsiantive' and the seemingly trivial.
C' The importance of the seemingly. trivial in
aesthetics for art itself: the perennial and ,in-
eradicable self-consciousness of art.

65 An omission recorded.
Art and its Objects
.(irt andits Objects
59 The last point suggests a consideration' of the
i /11
traditional demand of. unity in a work of art.
Unity considered, and three objections to any
strict or formal explication of the notion. I
'What is art?' 'Art is the sum or totality of works of art.'
60-63 Consideration of unity leads in turn to a con- ,
sideration of art as an essentially l1istorical phen- 'Whatjs a work of art?' 'A work of art is a poem, a paint-
omenon. Art's historicity examined. The social 'mg, a piece of music, a sculpture, a novel. . ..' 'What is
determination of art. The bricoleur problem a poem? a painting? Cj,piece of music? a sculpture? a
finally reconsidered. .
nove!?' . .;' 'A poem is . . ., a painting is . . ., a piece of
music is ...;a sculpture is . . .' a novel is . . .' .

Aesthetics: and how it might divide into the I . ~twould be natural to assume that, if only we could fill
seemingly substantive and the seemingly trivial. in the gaps in the last line of this dialogue, we sh~)Uld
hav~ an answer to one of the mqst elusive of the tradi-
t The importance of the seemingly trivial in
aesthetics for art itself: the perennial and in- ti,onalproblems of human culture: the nature of art.
eradicable self-consciousness of art. The assumption here is, of course, that the dialogue, as
we .have' it above, is consbquential. This is something
65 An' omission recorded. that,for t~e present, I shall continue to assume.
It might, however, be objected that, even if we could
succeed in filling in the gaps on which ,this dialogue ends,
we should still not have an answer to the traditional
question, at any rate as this has been traditionally in-
tended. For that question has always been a demand for a
unitary answer, an answer of the form 'Art is ...';
whereas the best we could now hope for is a plurality
of answers, as many indeed as the arts or media that we
initially distinguish. And if it is now countered that we
.could always get a unitary answer out of what we would
then have, by putting together I l!!:t~cular
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Art and its Objects An Essay
into one big disjunctiQn, this misses the point. For the is. But though this procedure might have much to rec-
traditional demand was certainly, if not always expli- O)1lmend it on grounds of thoroughness (later we may
citly, intended to exclude anything by way of an answer have to question this), it is barely practical. For it is un-
that had this degree of complexity: precisely the uSe of 'likely that we could ever complete the initial or pre-
the word 'unitary' is to show that what is not wanted paratory part of the task. ,
is anything of the forl!l 'Art is (whatever a poem is), or I shall, therefore, concede this much at least,
(whatever a painting is), or. . . : ]!>rocedurally, that is, to the objections of the traditiop-
But why should it be asswped, as it now appears to alist: that I shall start with what I have called the over-
be, that, if we think of Art as being essentially explicable ME>.Instead of waiting for the particular answers and"
in terms of different kinds of work of art or different seeing what they have in common, I shall try to
arts, we must abandon hope of anything except a highly aNticipate them and project the area over which'they are
complex conception of, Art? For are we not overlooking Jikefy to coincide. And if this is now objected to' on
the possibility that the various particular answers, grol1nds that it reverses the proper order of inquiry, in
answers to the questions What is a poem?, a painting?, that we shall be invited to consider and pronounce upon
etc., may, when they come, turn out to have something hypotheses before~examining the evidence upon which
or even a great deal in common, in that the things they they are supposedly based, my argument would be that
define pr describe (i.e. works of art in their kinds) have . we a11do have in effect, already inside us, the requisite
many shared properties.' For if this were so, then we ev-iElence.Requisite, that is, for the purpose, for the com-
would not have to resort to, at any rate we would not ,paifatively limited purpose, to hand: we all do have such
be confined to, mere disjunction. In what would be the experience of poetry, painting, music, ete. that, if we
area of overlap, we would 'have a base for a traditional cannot (as I ~m sure we cannot) say on the basis of it
type of answer: even if it later emerged that we could not what these things are, we can at least recognize when we
move forward from this base, in that beyond a certain are Being told that they are something which in point of
point the different arts remained intractably particular. fact they are not. The claim has been made that human
For what this would show is that the traditional demand experience is adequate for the falsification, but never for
could not be satisfied in its totality, not that it was wrong the confirmation, of a hypothesis. Without committing
ever to make it.
myself either way on this as a general philosophical
thesis, I think that it is true enough in this area, and it is
Upon the asymmetry that it asserts that the procedure I
A procedure now suggests itself: and that is that what we propose to follow is based. .
should do is to try and first set out the various particular This procedure will bring us into contact at many
definitions or descriptions - what a poem is, what a paint- points with certain traditional theories of art. But it is
ing is, etc. - and then, with them before us, see wheth"er worth reiterating that it is no part of my present inten-
they have anything in common and, if they have, what it tion either to produce such a theory myself or to consider
.18 19
AJ;t and its ODject; An Essay

existing theorie~ as such. There is animportapt difference erher arts - most notably painting and sculpture - the
between asking what Art is, and asking what (if any- argument is that, though there are physical objects of a
thing) is common fo the different kinds of worJ<.of art or staildard and acceptable kind that could be, indeed gen-
aifferent arts:,{ev~p.if the second questipn (my question)~is €ra:lly are",identified"as works of art, such identifications
asked primarily as a prelude to, or as prefatory of, the are wrong. I"
first. j)1e first';partof this challenge is, as we shall see, by far
the, harder to meet. However it is, fortunately, not it, but
4 th€ secop.d part of the challenge, that potential1.YLJ,iaises
Let us begin with,"~he hypothes~s that works" of [art are stith difficulties for aestM~ties.
p'hysical opjects. J shall call this for the sake of brevity 6
the 'physical-object hypothesis'. S\lch a hypothesis is a
natural starting point: if only for the reaSon that it is j:hat ~here is a physical object that can be identified as
plausible to assume thatthings are physical objects unless W1'ys~esi'orDer Rosenkayalier is not a view that Gan long
they obviously aren't. Certain things very ~obviously.; SLurv:iv~ the, derqand that we should pick out or point to
aren't physical objects. Now though it, maY:ij!not be fhat qpject.There is, ~Ofcourse, the ~opy of Ulysses that is
@bvious tliat'works of art are physical objects, they don't om."~Jmy table be'fore me now,.. there is t'Q.e
performance of
seemntc?belong.among these other things. They don't, that Der Rosenkavalier that I will~go~ to tonightf and both
is, immediately group themselves along with thoughts, or these two things" may (with some liltitude, it' is truei' in
periods ,of history, ornnumbers, or mirages. Furthermore; tbe ~~se pf the performance) be regarded as physical ob-
and more substantively, this hypothesis acdqrds., with jects. Furthermore, a <;ommon way of referring to these
many traditional conceptions Q.fArt and its objects and obj~ectsis by saying things lik~ 'Ulysses is on my table',
w:hat they are. 'I sh"UIsee Rosenkavalier tonight': from which it would
be tempting (but erroneous) to conclude that Ulysses
5 just is my copy of it, Rosenkavalier just is tonight's
Never~heless the hypothesis that all works of art are perfgrmance. ' , '

phY'sical objects c~n be challenged. For our purposes it Tempting, but erroneous; and there are a number of
will be useful, and instructive, to divide this challenge very succinct ways of bringing out the error involved.
into two parts: the division conveniently corresponding' For instance" it would follow that if I lost my copy of
to a division within'the arts themselves. For in the case of Ulysses, Ulysses would become a lost work. Again, it
certain arts the argument is that there is no physical would follow that if the critics disliked tonight's per-
object that can with any plausibility be identified as the foz;mance of Rosenkavalier" then they dislike Rosen-
work of art: there is no object existing in s,pace and time kavalier. Clearly neither of these inferences is
(as physical objects must) that can be picked out and acceptable.
thought of as a piece of music pr a novel. In the case of W~ have here two locutions or ways of describing the
20 21

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. ," ,."- "- '!"""'"""
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Art and its Objects An Essay
facts: one in terms of works of art, the other in terms of aam.ires Ulysses does not necessarily admire the manu-
copies, performances, etc. of works of art. Just because scppt. Nor is the critic; who has seen or handled the
there are contexts in which these two locutions are inter- In4nuscript in a privileged position as such when it comes
changeable, this does not mean. that there are fio con- to judgement on the novel. we have come to
texts, moreover no contexts of a substantive kind, in an opjection directly parallel to that which seemed fatal
which they are not interchangeable. There very evidently to i~entifying Ulysses with my copy of it - it would be
are such contexts, and the physical-object hypothesis 'Ppssible for the manuscript to be lost and Ulysses to sur-
would seem to overlook them to its utter detriment. vive. None of this can be admitted by the' person who
tm.p.ks that Ulysses and the manuscript are one and the
7 'sarniething. . .

But, it might now be. maintained, of course it is absurd to "0 this last objection someone might retort that there
identify Ulysses with my copy of'1t or Der Rosenkaypliei an~ cases (e.g.,' Love's Labour Won, Kleist's Robert Guis-
with tonight's performance, but nothing follows from cq!;cl,)'
where the manuscript is lost and the work is lost,
this of a general character about the wrongness of ident- and moreover the work is lost because the manuscript is
ifying works of art with physical objects. For what was lost. Of course there is no real ,argument here, since
wrong in these two cases was the actual physical object notiiing more is claimed than that there are some cases
that was picked out and with which the identification like this. Nevertheless the retort is worth pursuing, for
was then made. The validity of the physical-object hy- the significance of such cases is precisely the opposite of
pothesis, like that of" any other hypothesis, is quite thatintended. Instead"of reinforcing, they actua.lly dimin-
unaffected by the consequences of misapplying it. ish the status of the manuscript. For if we now ask, When
For instance, it is obviously wrong to say that Ulysses is the work lost when the manuscript is lost?, the answer
is my copy of it. Nevertheless, there is a physical object, is, Wh.en and only when the manuscript is unique: but
of precisely the same order of being as my copy, though then this would be true for any copy of the work were it
significantly not called a 'copy', with which such an unique. .

identification would be quite correct. This object is the Moreover, it is significaI).tthat in the case of Rosen-
author's manuscript: that, in other words, which Joyce kavalier it is not even possible to 'construct an argument
wrote when he wrote Ulysses. . corresponding to the one about Ulysses. To identify an
On the intimate connexion, which undoubtedly does opera or any other piece of music with the composer's
exist, between a novel or a poem on the one hand and the holograph, which looks the corresponding thing to do, is
author's manuscript on the other, I shall have something implausible because (for instance), whereas an opera can
to add later. But the connexion does not justify us in be heard, a holograph cannot be. In consequence it is
asserting that one just is the other. Indeed, to do so seems . common at this stage of the argument, when music is
open to objections not all that dissimilar from those we considered, to introduce a new notion, that of the ideal
have just been considering. The critic, for instance, who perfo~mance, and then to identify the piece of music ,.
22 23

- ....
mr" ~M_-
Art and its Objects
with this. There are many difficulties here: in the present
context it is enoughto point outth,at this st~pGouldnot
conceivably satisfy the purpose for which i~Fwas in~
tended; thatis, that of saving thei!physical-object~~ypoth-
esis. F.or ap ideal performaI1ce bnnot be, even.'in the
,." ~--,- I -

say that thesethingsevenexist?

. ,

An Essay
th@teis not even a manuscript: in sense can we now

:gut perhaps a more ser~ous,certainly a more interest-

iRg~objection is that in this suggestion what is totally
UI1€xplainedis why the various copies of Ulysses are all

attenuated sense in-which we haye extended the term to saialto be copies of Ulysfiesand nothing else, why all the
ordinary perfgrmances, a physieal object. . }?erformancespf [)er' Rosenkavalier are rec~oned per-
,,~ :\f. formances of that one opera. For the ordinary~ ex-
8. " pla'Maqon of \Ii! how ~e cqme to group copies or
A fiq,al and desperate expedient to save the physical- pert@rmances as.being of-this book or of that opera is by
object hypothesis is to suggest that ~llthose .wor~; ef:J.rt ryf~renGe to something else, something other. than them-
which cannot plausibly be identified wIth physicalsefves, ta IThwhichthey stand in some special relation.
objects are identical with ciasses of such obtects. A nove~, ~Exactly what this other thing' is, or w'hat~is>the sp~cial
of which there are copies, is not my or your, copy~qpt IS r~a1ii@nin which they stand to it is, oftcourse, something
the class of all it'S copies. An opera, of which there are we yet totally unable to say.) But the effect, indeed
peFiformances, is not .tonigpt's' er last njght's, per- "pJi€Qiselythe point, of the present suggestion is to elimin-
farmance, nor even the iqeal performa~ce, but is'l':h~cla:s at-&th~ possibility of "any such reference: if a novel Qr
of all its performan<iIes. (Of course, stflctly speakmgii thIS opera, its copies or its performances, then we
suggestion does~'t save.the all: s!nce~~class cannQt, for purpq~es of identification, refer from the
of physical objects isn;t necessanly, mdeed IS most un- hitter to the former.
likely to be, a physical object itself. But it saves some- The possibility th,at remainsf is that the various' pa~~
thing like the spirit of the hypothesis.) it' ticulaT.objects,the copiesor performances,are grouped
However,it is not difficult to think of objections to t~is as they are, not by reference to some other thing to
suggestion. Ordinarily we conceive of a novelist as wnt- wh.ich theyare related, but in virtue ofsome relation that
ing a novel, or a~composer aS,finishing an opera. But both h.olds between them: more specifically, in virtue of're-
these ideas imply some mome-gt in time at which the semblance.
work is complete. Now suppose (which is not unlikely) But, in the first place, all copies of Ulysses, and cer-
that the copies of a novel or the performances of an tainly all performances of Der Rosenkavalier, are not
opera go on being produced for an indefinite period: then, perfect matches: And if it is now said that the differences
on the present suggestion, there is no such moment~ let do not matter, either because the various copies or per-
alone one in their creator's lifetime. So we cannot say formances resemble each other in all relevant respects, or
that Ulysses was writt~n by Joyce, or that Strauss com- because they resemble each other more than they re-
posed Der Rosenkavalier.Or, again, there is the probl~m semble the c<?piesor performances of any other novel or
of the unperformed symphony, or the poem of WhICh opera, neither answer is adequate. The first answer begs
24 25
Art and its Objects An Essay
the issue, in that to talk of relevant respects presupposes allows that there are (some) physical objects that could
that we know how, say, copies of Ulysses are grouped conceivably be identified as works of ar,t,but insists that
together: the second answer evades the issue, in that it would be quite erroneous to make the identification.
though it may tell us why we do not, say, reckon any of (To some, such a course of action may seem
the performances of Der Rosenkavalier as performances superfluous. For enough has been said to disprove the
of Arabella, it gives us no indication why we do not set physical-object hypothesis. That is true; but the argument
some of them up separately, as performances of some that is to come has its intrinsic interest, and for that
third opera. . reason is worth developing. Tl1osefor whom the interest
Secondly, it seems strange to refer to the resemblance . of all philosophical argument is essentially polemical,
between the copies of Ulysses or the performances of and. who have been convinced by the preceding argu-
Rosenkavalier as though this were a brute fact: a fact, ment:;may choose to think of that which is to follow as
moreover, which could be used to explain why they were bearing upon a revised or weakened version of the physi-
copies or performances of what they are. It would be cal-objecthypothesis: namely, that some works of art are
more natural to think of this so-called 'fact' as something physical objects.)
that itself stood in need of explanation: and, moreover, as
finding its explanation in just that which it is here in-
voked to explain. In 9ther words, to say that certain In the Pitti there is a canvas (No. 24.5)85 cm x 64 cm: in
copies or performances are of Ulysses or Rosenkavalier the Museo NazionC}.le,Florerice, there is a piece of marble
because they resemble one another seems precisely to re- 209 cm high. It is with these physical objects that those
verse the natural order of thought: the resemblance, we who claim that the Donna Velata and the St George are
would think, follows from, or is to be understood in physical objects would naturally identify them.
terms of, the fact that they are of the same novel or This identification can be disputed in (roughly) one or
opera. other of two ways. It can be argued that the work of art
9 has properties which are incompatible with certain prop-
erties that the physical object has; alternatively it can be
However, those who are ready to concede that some argued that the work of art has properties which po
kinds of work of art are not physical objects will yet physical object could have: in neither case could 'the
insist that others are. Ulysses and Der Rosenkavalier may work of art be the physical object.
not be physical objects, but the Donna Velata and Dona- An argument of the first kind would run: We say of the
tello's St Georgemost certainly are. St Georgethat it moves with life (Vasari).Yet the block of
I have already suggested (section 5) that the challenge marble is inanimate. Therefore the St George cannot be
to the physical-object hypothesis can be divided into two that block of marble. An argument of the second kind
parts. It will be clear that I am now about to embark on Wouldrun: We say of the Donna Velata that it is exalted
the second part of the challenge: namely, that which and dignified (W6Ifflin).Yet a piece of canVasin the Pitti
26 27
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Art and its Objects . An Essay
cannot conceivably have these qualities. Ther~forethe ~ a",;;ery restricted sense: since, even when he is most
Donna Velata cannot be that piece of canvas. " ,
~sid:uou:s:iin using the vocabulaJ:'Y of geometry to de-
These two arguments, I suggest, are not ,rpef,fly in- SGFi~€compositional devices, Jt is sigl1ificant hoW' he
stances of these two ways of arguing, they are charac-. iq~~~fies~;the shap~s or' fo~ms whose ar~angements he
teristic instances. For the argument that there is an analyses. He does so invariably by reference beck to the
i~ incompatibility of. property between works of art and chara~ters or happenings that they depict. When, as in
physical objects characteristically concentrateS ,on the 1?'h€.'RaphaeIdescriptions, his aim is ,to bring out th!1dra~'
representational properties of wor~!, of art. The argu- maticl'content of a painting, he keeps extrem~ly close to
ment that works of art have properties that:\iphysical itsx@pnisentational aspect. What in such circumstances
objects could not have characteristiqaily cpncent;ratespn d@ we find him mentipning? The movement" of the
the expressive properties of works of art. The:t~;rms'rep- yCH1:t;hs:thefallen Heliodorus, with vengeance br<:;aking
resentational' and 'expressive' are used h~.rein a very
ov@rhini: the women and the'childreri hupdled together:
wide fashion, which, it is hoped;i"willbecome clear,as t~e ihe G1lambering\pair of boys on the left who balance the
discussion proceeds. pE()sQ"ateHeliodoruson the right, and who"'lead the eyes
bacj,{ward to the centre where the High Priest is,pray;ing.
Now a'hthese"particular elements, which seem the natu-
Let us begin with the argument about representatipnal ra~l~ite1nsoK discourse in the description .of a represen-
properties. An initial difficulty here is to se~exactly how tational painting<=-or better, perhaps, of a painting)n its
the argument is supposed to fiton'to the facts~!oij'or,as'we representational function -provide no obvious point of
have seen from the St Georgeexample, its tactic is to take app1ication for the argument under. consideration. For
some representational property that we ascribe toa work tlJ,er~wqyld have to be, correspondipg to each of these
of art and then point out that there is some property~that elements, .,aphysical object such that we could then ask
the relevant physical object possesses!!andthat is incom- of it whether it 'possessed some property that is incom-
., patible with it~ e.g. 'being instinct with life' and 'being' pa~ible With the representational property we have as-
inanimate'. But if we consider how, in point of fact, we cribed to the element.
do talk or think of works of representational art, we see But, it will be objected, I have not given the situation
that by and large what we ascribe representational prop- in 'fulL For even in the description of the Expulsjon of
erties to are elements or ~its of the picture: it is only Heliodorus, there are nonparticular or over-all represen-
peripherally that we make such an attribution to the ~ational attributions. W6lfflin, for instance, speaks of 'a
work itself, to the work, that is, as a whole. greiu void' in the middle of the composition.
Let us take, for instance, the justly famous descriptions This is true. But it looks as though the argument re-
given by W6lfflin of Raphael's Stanze in Classk Art: in quires more than this. It requires not just that there
particular, that of the Expulsjon-of Heliodorus.Wolfflin is should exist such attributions but that they should be
generally thought of as a formalist critic. But if heis,it is central to the notion
\ of representation: that, for instance,
28 29
\ f -~
;;r ",..
-~~. ,- '~.' ". .....

Art and its Objects 1 An Essay

it should be through them that we learn wnat it is for
something to be a representation of something else. I
want to argue that, on the contrary, they are p~ripheral. Reference was made in the last section to the wide range
First, in a weaker sense, in that they have no pr,jority over of representational attributions that we make, and it is
the more particular or specific attributions. The very gen- iQ1portant to appreciate quite how wide it is. It certainly
eral attributions come out of a very large range of attri- e~tends well beyond the domain of purely figurative art,
butions, and it certainly does not look as though w.e aNd takes in such things as geometrical drawings or cer-
could understand them without understanding the other tainforms of architectural ornament. And I now suggest
judgements in the range. It is hard to see, for instance, ~bat if we look at the opposite end of this range to that
how a man could 'read' the void in the middle of ~aph- o€c~pied by, e.g. Raphael's Stanze, we may see our pre-
ael's fresco if he was not at the same time able to make S(mtlproblem in a fresh light.
out the spatial relations that hold between Heliodorus I~,is said that Hans Hofmann, the doyen of New York
and the youths who advance to scourge him, or between pa~~ing, used to ask his pupils, on joining his studio, to
the Pope and the scene that he surveys in calm de- put a."black mark on a white canvas, and then observe
tachment. Secondly,
. a stronger argument
I could be moun- how the black was on the white. It is clear that what
ted - though it would be' too elaborate to do so here - to HO,fJ::J,ilann's
pupils were asked to observe was not the fact
show that the representational attribution that we make that some black paint was physically on a white canvas.
in respect of the picture as a whole is dependent upon, or So I shall change the example somewhat to bring this out
can be analysed in terms of, the specific attributions. The beuer, and assume that the young painters were asked to
clearest way of exhibiting this would be to take ~mpler put a blue mark on a white canvas and then observe how
over-all attributions than W6Ifflin's: for instance, that a the plue \yas behind (as it was) the white. The sense in
picture has depth, or that it has great movement, or that which 'on' was used in the original example and 'behind'
it l1as a diagonal recession: and then show how these can in the revised example give us in an elementary form the
be funy elucidated by reference to the spatial relations notion of what it is to see something as a representation,
that hold between e.g. a tree in the foreground and ,the or for something to have representational properties. Ac-
horizon, or the body of the saint and the crowd of angels cordingly, if we are going to accept the argument that
through whom he ascends to heaven. A more dramatic works of art cannot be physical objects because they
way of exhibiting this would be to point out that we have representational properties, it looks as though we
could not produce a sheet of blank paper and say that it are committed to regarding the invitation to see the blue
was a representation of Empty Space. Though, of course, behind the white as something in the nature of an incite-
what we could do is to produce such a sheet and entitle it hlent to deny the physicality of the canvas. (This is im-
'Empty Space', and there could be a point to this title. precise: but the preceding section will have shown us
how difficult it is to apply the argument we are con-
sidering with anything like precision.)
30 31

Art and its Objects . An Essay

If it can be shown that it is quite wrong to treat the , suggesting that the former notion could be elucidated in
invitation in this way, that, on the contrary, there is no terms of the latter. In this section I want to justify this
incompatibility between seeing one mark on the canvas association. But first, a word about the two terms be-
as behind another and also iJ;lsisting thqt both the marks tweeRwhich the association holds.
and the canvas. on which they lie are physical objects~ 'Representation;, I have made clear, I am using in an
then the present objection to the physical-object hypoth- extended sense: so that, for instance, the figure that
esis fails. To establish this point would, however, require occurs, in an ordinary textbook of geometry, at the head
an elaborate argument. It might, though, be possible to of Theorem XI of Euclid could be described as a
avoid the need for such an argument by showing just configuration of intersecting lines, but it could also be
how widespread or pervasive is the kind of seeing (let us thought of as a representation of a triangle. By contrast, I
call it 'representational seeing'), to which Hofmann's use the pprase 'seeing as' narrowly: uniquely, in the con-
pupils were invited. In fact, 'it would be little exagger- text of representation, In other words, I want to exclude Iii
ation to say that such seeing is co-extensive with our from discussion here such miscellaneous cases as when
seeing of any physical object whose surface exhibits a~y we see the moon as no bigger than a sixpence, or the
substantial degree of differentiation. Once we allow this Queen of Hearts as the Queen of Diamonds, or (like the
fact, it then surely seems absurd to insist that represen- young Schiller) the Apollo Belvedere as belonging to the
tational seeing, and the judgements to which it. charac- same style as the Lflocoon-of Rhodes.:even though these
teristically gives rise, implicitly presuppose a denial of cases are, I am sure, and could on analysis ,be shQwn to
the physicality both of the representation itself and that .be,continuous with those I wish to consider. .

on which It lies. . With these points clear,1J now return to the elucidation
In a famous passage in the Trattato Leonardo advises of representation in terms-of seeing-as. I can foresee two
the aspirant painter to 'quicken the spirit of invention' by objections: one, roughly, to the effect that this eluci-
looking at walls stained with damp or at stones of uneven dation is more complex than it-need be, the other to the
colour, and find in them divine landscapes and battle effect that it is an oversimplification of the matter.
scenes and strange figures in violent action. This passage It might be argued that if, say, we are shown a rep-
has many applications both for the psychology and for resentation of Napoleon, of course we will see it as Nap-
the philosophy of art. Here I qU,oteit for the testimony it oleon. But it would be oblique to inv0ke this second fact,
provides to the pervasivenes~ of representational which is really only a contingent consequence of the first
seeing. . fact, as an explanation of it: particularly when there is a
more direot explanation to hand. For the fundamental
13 explanation of why one thing is a representation of some-
In the preceding sections I have very closely associated thing else lies in the simple fact of resemblance: a picture
the notion of representation with that of seeing-as, or, as I or drawing is a representation of Napoleon because it
have called it, 'representational seeing': to}he point of resembles Napoleon - and it is for this reason too that we

32 33
- --. ~ -.- !!\III

Art and its Objects

An Essay
come to see it as Napoleon (if, that is, we do) and not, as
ing is to represent Napoleon,' that the draughtsman
the' argument of this essay would have it, vice versa. shguld intend it to be of Napoleon: furthermore, if he
But'this more direct account of what it is for one thing intends it to be of Napoleon, this suffices for It to be of
to repr~sent, or be of, another thing will not do: at any Napoleon.
rate, as soon as we move beyond the simplest cases, like
Now, the notion of intention has most obvjously an
the diagrams in a geometry book. For the concept of re- important part to play in any complete analysis of rep-
semblance is notoriously elliptical, or, at any rate, con- resentation: and if I have so far omitted it, this is because
text-dependent: and it is hard to see how the resemblance Ii,Jiave not been aiming" at a complete analysis - nor,
that holds between a painting or a drawing and that. I
iRCi1€ed" at one fuller than m¥" immediate purposes re-
,which it is of would be apparent, or could even be q\!ll!l"e.If it 'were maintained that intention was a necess-
pointed out, to someone who was totally ignorant of the arYior even a sufficient, condition of representation, I do
institution or practice of representatiol'1. ,net!know that Lwould object. This admission, however,
Sometimes, it is true, we eX,claim of a drawing, 'But
dees not make the radical difference it might initially
how exactly like A!' But this is not the counterexample se€),ntb. More specifically, I would argue that it does not
to my argument that it might at first seem to be. For if we dispossess the notion of seeing-as from the position that I
try to expand the 't4is', of which in such cases we pre- hariVeassignedto it in the analysis of representation.
dicate the resemblance, we are likely to find ourselves I't is indeed only on one, and a quite erroneous, con-
much closer to 'This person is exactly like A', than to cel?cion of what an inteI)tion is that the in,troduction of it
'This configuration is exactly like A'. In other words, the intot!he analysis of representation could be thought to be
attribution of resemblance occurs inside, and therefore
radical in its iIYIplications. Aq:ording to this conception,
cannot be used to explain, the language, of representation. aFl iDttention is, or is identified with, a thought accom-
This point receives further confirmation from the fact paFlying (or immediately preceding) an action and to the
that, tho~gh the relation of resemblance is ordinarily effect that 'I am now doing (O[ am about to do) such and
held to be symmetrical, we can say apropos of a drawing, such. . . .': where, moreover, there is no restraint placed
'This is like Napoleon', but we cannot say, except in a Upon the kind of intention that the agent may attribute
special setting, 'Napoleon is exactly like this drawing' or to himself, by what in point of fact he is doing. What the
'Napoleon resembles this drawing': which seems to throw actually doing in no way curbs what he may say
some light on how the 'this' in the first sentence is to be he is doin,g. It is not hard to see that, if we accept such a
conception of intention, what we are disposed to see the
A second objection might run that my account of rep- drawing as, or how we see the drawing, becomes totally
resentation, so far from being overelaborate, is in fact irrelevant to what the drawing is a representation of. For
sparser than the matter requires. For I omit one vital el- if the intention is irrespective of what the man is doing, it
ement: namely, the intention on the part of the person must a fortiori be irrespective of how we see what he has
who makes the representation. It is necessary, if a draw- done when he has finished. .
34 35
-Art and its Objects An Essay
But though the correspondence between intention and I I hope jt is clear that I have said nothing'to cast doubt
action need not be exact (a man may intend to do some- I on th€1fact that what counts as a representation of what,
thing other than what he does), we cannot plausibly or how we represent things, is a culturally determined
allow a relation of total fortuitousness to hold between' matter.
them. If, for instance, a man drew a hexagon and simul-
taneously thought to himself, 'lam going ro:draw Nap-
oleon', we might maintain that this thought showed I have (it will be observed) presented the problem about
something about him but it clearly would show nothing I representational properties and the prima facie difficulty
about what he intended'to draw there and then. The gen- ~ they present for the physical-objeat hypothe'sis as though'
eral question of what makes an accompanying thqught this was a problem that arose, fIt any rate in the first
an intention is very eomplex: but in the area that con- instance, only in conn,exion with certain representational
cerns us, that of representation, it would certainly seem properties. There are, that is, cases where we attribute a
that whether a thought q.oesexpress the iqtentionyehind r,epresentational property to a work. of art anp this
that act of, say, drawing which it accompanies is not clearly conflicts with some other property or properties
independent of what the result of the action, in this case that the corresponding physical object possesses. So, for
the drawing itself, can be see!) as. And this supposition is instance, we say that a still-life has""depth,but.the canvas
further confirmed by the fact that we~couldnot imagine is flat; that
III a fresto has a void in the middle, but the wall
a man forming any intention at all to represent some- I on which it is painted is intact. And it"isonly where such
thing, unless he could also anticipate how the drawing a conflict occurs tha!, as I presented it, a problem 0ccurs.
would look. If this is correct, then obviously the intro- It was for this reason that I amended the Hofmann case
duction of the notion of intention into an analysis of to tihat of a master who asked his students to put (blue)
representation, which had so far been carried out paint on the (white) canvas in such a wa¥ that they saw
uniquely by reference to seeing-as,will not subvert the the blue (= colour of the paint) behind the white (=
analysis; since intention is itself intimately connected colour of the canvas). For though, of course, conflicts
with seeing~as.The intention" we might say, looks for- could arise if one pursued the original Hofmann case any
ward to the representational seeing. , distance (e.g. if someone asked, How far is the black in
I have stated, and argued against, two objections to my front of the white?), in the ~mended .case the conflict
view that there is an intrinsic. relation between represen- arises immediately.
tation and seeing-as. But I have said nothing in favour of In presenting the problem thus, I coincided, I think,
the view. I believe, however, that once the objections With the way it is generally conceived. In other words,
have been met, the obvious appeal of my view will assert representational properties are not regarded as being in
itself: the appeal resting, I ,suppose, upon some rather general problematic. However, when we turn from the
banal but undeniable fact such that a representation of ~roblem of representational properties to that of express-
something is a visual sign, or reminder, of it. IVeproperties and how they bear on the identification of
36 37
Art and its Objects An Essay
. works of art with physical objects, the situation some. cause they have been produced in a certain state of mind
what changes. For the problem seems to be not, How can or feeling on the part of the artist: and to this the rider is
a work of art qua physical object of this or that kind often attached, that it is this mental or emotional con-
express this or that emotion? but; How can a work of art dition that they express. But if we take the view' first of
qua physical object express emotion? . all with the rider attached, its falsehood is apparent. For
(Of course, there is a problem, which .has"indeed been it is a common happening that a' painter or sculptor
much discussed recently, and which we shall deal with . modifies or even rejects a work of his because he finds
later [sections 28-31J, about how a particular work of art thatJ it fails to correspond to what he experienced at the
can express a particular emotion. But that problem, it is time. If, however, we drop the rider, the view now seems
important to see, is not our present problem. It has arbitrary or perhaps incomplete. For there seems to be no
.nothing to do with the identity of physical objects and reason why a work should be expressive simply because
works of art; it arises whatever view we take on that it was 'produced in some heightened condition if it is also
issue.) admitted that the work and the condition need not have
If I am right in asserting the difference between the. the same character. (It would be like trying to explain
ways in which representational and expressive properties why a man who has measles is ill by citing the fact that
prove problematic - and I have no desire to be insistent he was in contact with someone else who was also ill
here - the explanation may well lie in the fact that, when that other person was not ill with measles or any-
though there is nothing other than a physical object that thing Telated to measles.) It must be understood that I am
has representational properties, there is something other not criticizing the view because it allows an artist to
than a physical, or at any rate a purely physical, object express in his work a condition other than that which he
that has expressive properties: namely, a human body was in at the time: my case is rather that the view does
and its parts, in particular the face and certain limbs. So wrong both to allow this fact and to insist that the ex-
now we wonder, How can anything other than this be pressiveness of the work can be accounted for exclus-
expressive? More specifically, How can anything purely ively in terms of the artist's condition.
physical be expressive? However, what is probably the more fundamental
objection to this view, and is the point that has been
15 emphasized by many recent philosophers, is that the
We might begin by considering two false views of how work's expressiveness now becomes a purely external
works of art acquire their expressiveness: not simply SO feature of it. It is no longer something that we can or
as to put them behind us, but because each is in its way a might observe, it is something that we infer from what
pointer to the truth. Neither view requires us to suppose We observe: it has been detached from the object as it
that works of art are anything other than physical manifests itself to us, and placed in its history, so that it
objects. now belongs more to the biography of the artist than to
The first view is that works of art are 'expressive be- criticism of the work. And this seems wrong. For the
38 .39
~"",..-"", ~"N__'~"," ,-'~"-, "-'/'
II!; R

Art and its Objects, An Essay

qualities of gravity, sweetness, fear, that yve iQvok~ in preVious one, is"that it removes what we ordinarily think
describing works of art seem essential to .our under- of.'as ODeof the essential characteristics of the work of
standing of them; and if they are, they cannot be extrin- ~t from among its manifest propertiy's, locating it this
sic to the works themselves. They cannot be, that is~mere tiI}1€:rilotin its past but in its hidden or dispositional en-
attributes of the experiences or activities of Masaccio, of
dowment.And if ,it is now argued that .this is a very,
Raphael; of Grunewald - they inhere~rather in the Bran- pertinent difference, in that the latter is, inprinoiple at
cacd frescoes, in the Granduca Madonna, in the Isenheim
" I
least, susceptible to our personal verification in a 'Yay in
Altarpiece. , \ ill
which t.neformer ,never could b~, this misses the Roint~
The second
-I", view, is that works of art are:iexpressive
Certa~Ff1Yi!l'we can actualiz~ the disppsition, by bringing.,it
beca,use' they produce or are ably' tq producfa certain aJ:i<ttiilJ'
that the work pr6dhce,~ in us the' condition it is
state of mind or-.feeling in the spectator:<more,O' in silp),?osed to express: and there is clearly no cor-

the case 'of this view it ~s difficult tq imagine the rider

;resp0nding way in wJ1ich we can aotualize the P<1st.But
ever' detached);' it is this mental Qr ~,mo~ional condition though thi,s,is so',\,his still does not make'the di,sposition
that they express. This view is open, to objections that I
itself""" and it is, wdth this, after all, that~ihework'sex-
closely parallel those we p.avejust f:onsidered. : press,iwenessis equated ~any the more a property that we
For, iv. the first place, it",seems clear!y~Jal~e. Before can dbserve~ ',Vi'

workse¥en of the most ~xtrewe ,!=!llotionalintensitx, like

Bernini's 5t Teresa or the black paintings of ~oyat h is
possible to remain more, or less un~xcited to i~heeqlOtion
And ye.t there seems to be something to both these vJews:
that it would pe agreed they express. Indeed, there are as an examination 6f somel1ypothetical case~, might
many tl~~ories that make it a qist~p.guishing or defining bring out.
featu~e of art that it should be viewed with detachmynt, For let us imagine that we are P,fesented witl} ~ physi-
th9t there shoulp, be a distancing on the part of the spec- cal ~bject - we shaU not for the moment assume that it
tator betwe~n what the work expresses and what he ex- either is or is sVppos~d to be a work of art - and the claim
periences: although it is worth noting, in passing, that is made on its behalf, in a way that commands our
those theorists who have been m6stcertain that works of serious attention, that it is expressive of a certain
art do not arouse emotion, have also been uncertain, in
emotion: say, grief. We then learn that it had been pro-
some cases confused, as to how this comes about: some-
duced quite casually, as a diversion or as a part of a game:
times attributing it to the artist, sometimes to the spec- and we must further suppose that it arouses neither in us
tator; sometime~, that is, saying that the artist refrains or in anyone else anything more than mild pleasure. Can
from giving the work the necessary causal power, some- We, in the light of these facts, accept the claim? It is
times saying that the spectator holds himself back from conceivable that we might; having certain special
reacting to this power. ,
reasons. '

However, the main objection to this view, as to the But now let)ls imagine~ that the claim is made on
40 41
Art and its Objects An Essay
behalf not of a single or isolated object, but of a whole procl1:lctiveof, that emotion, but that a class of objects
class of objects of which our original example would be a ~'annot express grief unless most of them, or some of
fair specimen, and it turns out that what was true of it is th~m, or a fair Jample of them, satisfy these conditions -
. true of all of them both as to how they were produced unless we can explain why we discriminate in this
and as to what they produce in us. Surely it is impossible way.
to imagine any circumstances in which we would allow At this point what we might do is to turn back and
this claim. . look at the special reasons, as I called them, which we
But what are we to conclude from this? Are we to say mtght have for allowing an individual object to be ex-
that the two views are true in general way, and that 1?xessiNeof grief though it did not satisfy the conditions
error arises only when we think of the~ as applying in that hold generally. There seem to be roughly two lines
each and every case? The argument appears to point in of thought which if followed might allow us to concede
this direction, but at the same time it seems an. un- expressiveness. We might think, 'Though the person who
satisfactory state in which to leave the matter. (Certain made this object didn't feel grief when he made it, yet
contemporary moral philosophers, it is true, seem to find , this is the sort of .thing I would make if I felt grief. . . .'
a parallel situation in their own area perfectly congenial, Aliternatively we might think, 'Though I don't feel grief
when they say that an individual action can be right even when, I look at this here and now, yet r am sure that in
though it does not satisfy the utilitarian c!iterion, pro- otl1er circumstances I would. . . .' Now, if I am right in
vided that that sort of action, or that that action in gen- thinking that these are the relevant considerations, we
eral, satisfies the criterion: the utilitarian criterion, in can 'begin to see some reason for our discriminatioJ) be-
other words, applies on the whole, though not in each tween the particular and the general case. For there is an
and every case.) . . evident difficulty in seeing how these considerations
The difficulty heie is this: Suppose we relax the necess- could apply to a whole class of objects: given, that is, that
ary condition in the particular case because it is satisfied the class is reasonably large. For our confidence that a
in general, with what right do we continue to regard the certain kind of object was what we would produce if we
condition that is satisfied in general as necessary? Ordi-
experienced grief would be shaken by the fact ~hat not
narily the argument for regarding a condition as necess- one (or very few) had actually been produced in grief:
ary is. that there could not be, or at any rate is not, equally, our confidence that in other circumstances we
anything of the requisite kind that does not satisfy it. But should feel grief in looking at them could hardly survive
this argument is not open to us here. Accordingly, at the i the fact that no one (or scarcely anyone) ever had. The ....
lowest, we must be prepared to give some account' of special reasons no longer operating, the necessary con-
how the exceptions arise: or, alternatively, why we are so ditions reassert themselves.
insistent on the condition in ge~eral. TO' return to the
example: it seems unacceptable to say that a single object
can express grief though it was not produced in, nor is it
42 43
"__M"-,-, ,~. .. ...~,- --~'=""--'
Art and its Objects fit
An Essay

I? aq;'Qrd~nce with the demands of re,a,.lity"asin memory or

contemplation, "or sometimes in more pathological
However, the foregoing argument must nQt be tak,~n ways. "
as simply reinstating the twp views about the nature of ., it is,dear
l1N0W i~ that much of the crudity - andfor tha~,
expression which were introduced and" criticized in"sec- matter of the vulnerability - of the/two original views of
tion 15. That would be a misinterpretation: though one ~pr~sslon came from overlooking or ignoring these two
which the a,.rgument as it has been presented might be factbrs. ,So, for instance, the claim that ceI;tain music is
thought to invite. " ell sa<l;'because 9f what the composer felt'i~is'~sometimes
It is true that b,otli - ,that is! botb. the new argument e<'l.ualted
- by its proponents,as1wellas by its'tritics2'with
and the'old
. .
- make reference to thesame criteria of
the Iqlaim. that at the time ,the composer was~suffering
the psychic
state on the one hand of the frQ]Jt a bOllt"of gloom. Or; again, to sa)'" that a certain
artist, on t~e other hand of the spectator. ~uMhe use they stattiie is terrifying bedmse of the emotions it arouses in .
make ofthese,.criteria is very,pifferent in,the two cases. In
th,e spe~tators is someti~es interpreted as meaning~that
the one c~se the criteria are asserted categqri~ally, in the som~0ne who looks at it will take frighLrIn other words,
other :t best hypotheticaJly. Originally it was clai~~d to e~tablish that the composer was not on the verge of
ILthatworks of art were expressive of a certainsta,te if and tear~ DEthat the average spectator exhibits no desire to
only if they had been produc~d in, and w~re capable of. rUll'awaY'J';,isthought. to .be enough to refute this whole
a:t;;ousingto, thai'state. Now this claim ha?1been dropped, conception of "expression. But 'there are'feelings that a
and the link"that is postulated between, dn tl).ebne,hand,
manlfr.:!.sof which he is 'ngt conscious, and th.,ere"areways
the, work and, on the other hand, the psychic state of of being in touch with those which he has. other than
either artist or spectator holds only via a supposition: experi~ncing them in a primary sense: and a more real-
'If I were in that state. . .', 'If I were in other circum-
istic statement of the two original views should not
stances. . . .'
require more than that the state expressed by the work of
There are, however, two ways in which the gap Q,e- .art is among those states, conscious or unconscious, to
tween the old and the new version of the matter can be
which the, artist and the spectator stand in some pos-
narrowed, even if it cannot (indeed it cannot) be closed. sessive relation.
. -
The first is by the introduction of unconscious feelings. Sucl). a restatement would not merely add to the
The second is by a more generous' conception of the
realism of these new views: it would also bring them ap-
different relations in which a person can stand to the preciably closer to the new account which we have sub-
conscious feelings that, he has. For it is a fact of human stituted for them. For as long as ~e confine ourselves to
nature, which must be taken into account in any philo-
conscious feelings or feelings which we experience p1."i-
sophical analysis of the mind, that, even when feelings Inarily, there is obviously a substantial gap between the
enter into consciousness, they can be comparatively split sUPposition that something or other is what we would
off or dissociated: the dissociation sometimes occurring in have felt if we had made a certain object, and the as-
- ..

Art and its Objects An Essay

sertion that this is what the person who made it felt: and, torted by, these views. But, whereas the two views seem
again, between the supposition that we would feel. in quite contingently connected, and have no clear point of
such and such a way before a certain object in other union, once we understand what .these notions are we-
circumstances, and the assertion that this is what we can see how and why they interact. Through them we
really feel before it. But enlarge the conception of hl,lman can gain a better insight into the concept of expression as
feelings., extend it so as to take in the whole range of a whole.
psychic states, and the situation considerably changes. In the first place, and perhaps most primitively, we
There is still, of course, a gap, but the gap has so shrunk think of a work of art as expressive in the sense in which
that it is sometimes thought to be no wider than can be a gesture or a cry would be expressive: that is to say, we
crossed by the l~ap from evidence to conclusion. In other conceive of coming so directly and immediately out
words, a speculation about what I would have felt in of some particular emotional or mental state that it bears
someone else's situation or in other circumstances can, in unmistakable marks of that state upon it. In this sense
favoured conditions, be warrant enough for an assertion the word remains very close to its etymology: ex-
about what that person really feels or about our own prim ere, to squeeze out or press out. An expression is a
hidden emotions. . secretion of an inner state. I shall 'refer to this as 'natural
expression'. Alongside this. notion is another, which we
apply when we think of an object as expressive of a
The question, however, mightnow be raised, Suppose the certain condition because, when we are in that condition,
two criteria, which hitherto have been taken so closely it seems to us to match, or correspond with, what we
together, should diverge: for they might: how could we experience inwardly: and perhaps when the condition
settle the issue? And the difficulty here is not just that passes, the object is also good for reminding us of it in
there is no simple answer to the question, but that it looks some special poignant way, or for reviving it for us. For
as though any answer given to it would be arbitrary. an object t~ be expressive in this sense, there is no re-
Does this, therefore, mean that the two criteria are quite quirement that it should originate in the condition that it
independent, and that the whole concept of expression, expresses" nor indeed is there any stipulation about its
if, that is, it is constituted as I have suggested, is a con- genesis: for these purposes it is simply a piece of the en-
tingent conjunction of two elemep.ts, which could as vironment which we appropriate on account of the way
easily fall apart as together? it seems to reiterate something in us. Expression in this
I shall argue that the concept of expression, at any rate sense I shall (following a famous nineteenth-century
as this applies to the. arts, is indeed complex, in that it lies usage) call 'correspondence'.
at the intersection of two constituent notions of ex- We may now link this with the preceding discussion
pression. We can gain some guidance as to these notions by saying that the preoccupation with what the artist
from the two views of expression we have been con- felt, or might have felt, reflects a concern with the work
sidering, for they are bqth reflected in, though also dis- of art as a piece of natural expression: whereas the pre-
46 47
.. - '...,,'- _. ~
.._~... ~- h',' ~


... .0' ,...",.

Art and its Objects. An Essay

occupation with wha! the spectator feels, or might feel, corporeaJly: that is, we tend to credit if with "ilparticular
reflects a concern with the work of art as an example of lookwhich bears a marked analogy,to some look that the
correspQndence. D' ~ human body wears and that is constantly conjoined with
But though these two notions are logically distinct, in anjrmer state. '
practice they are bound to interact: indeed, it is arguable
that it goes beyond the limit of legitimate abstraction to J!~
imagine one without the other. We can see this by con- to,~lle question, Cali a work of art be a physical object if
, sidering the'notion of appropriateness, or fi~tingriess, con- it is a,l,~o~xpressive?, it now looks as though we can, on
ceived as a re1ation holding between exp{,ession arid the basis of the preceding account of expression/'give ~p'
expressed. We might think that such a relat>!on"has a affirmative, answer. For that account was elaborated with
place only in connexion with cogesR,ondences. For in the ,speci&cally in mind those arts ~,pere it is most plausible
case of 'natural expression, the link betwe~n inner and to think~of a work of art as a physIcal object. But it may,
outer is surely too powerful or ~oo intimate to allow its seem that with bot~ the two notions'of expression that~I
mediation. It is not because tears seem like grief that we have tried'la'formulate, there remains"'an unexamined or
regard them" as an expression of 'grief: nor does, a man problematic residue. the two cases theprobleni is
when he resorts to tears do so because they IDa,tch his m1achthe same.
,"" "iIIf

.. '

c0ndition. So we might~think. But in reality"at"any level It Qlay be stated like this: Gran!ed that in each'case the
above the most primitive, natpral expression will always process. ~',have described' is perfectly comprehensible,~
be coloured or influenced by some sense of what is appro- how do we come at the end of it to attribute'" a human
priate; there will bea feedback from judgement, how eyer emotion to an object? In both cases the object has certain
inchoate or unconscious this may be, to gesture or excla-
characteristics. In one case these characteristics mirror,
mation. AgaIn, when we turn to correspondence, it might in the other case they are caused by, certain inner states
seem that here we are guided entirely by appropriateness of ours. Why, on the basis of this, do the riaml~s of the
or the fit: that is to say, we appeal uniquely to the 'ap- inner states get transposed to the objects? "
pearances or characteristics of objects, which hold for us,
The difficulty with this objection might be put by
in some quite unanalysed way, an emotional significance. sayin$ that it treats a philosophical reconstruction of a
We do not (we might think) check these reactions against part of our language as though it were a historical ac-
observed correlations. But once again this is a COunt.Fodt is not at all clear that, in the cases where we
simplification. Apart from a few primitive" cases, no attribute emotions to objects in the ways that I have tried
physiognomic perception will be independent of what is
to describe, we have any other way of talking about the
for us the supreme example of the relationship between
objects themselves. There is not necessarily a prior de-
inner and outer: that iS1 the human body as the ex-
~criptionin non-emotive terms, on which we super-
pression of the psyche. When we endow a natural object
~l11posethe emotive description. Or, to put the same point
or an artifact with expressive meaning, we tend to see it In nonlinguistic ,terms, it is not always the case that
-, , ,
~ !!""'I!!I'III

Art and its"Objects An Essay

things that we see as expressive, we can or could see in Gableto them: more specifically. Are they universals, of
any other way. In such cases what we need is not a which there are instances?, or classes, of which there are
justification, but an explanation, of our language. That I members?, are they particulars? Roughly speaking, the
hope to have given. first question might be regarded as metaphysical, the
sec:cmdas logical and, confusingly enough, both can be
, put'in the form of a question about what kind of thing a
We have now completed our discussion of the physical- work of art is.
object hypothesis, and this would be a good moment at Applying this distinction to the preceding discussion,
which to pause and review the situation. we can now see that the method of falsifying the hypoth~
The hypothesis, taken literally, has been~learly esis that all works of art are physical objects has been to
shown to be false: in that there are arts where it is impos- establish that there are some works of art that are not
sible to find physical objects that are even candidates for objeC1is(or particulars) at all: whereas the further part of
being identified with works of art (sections 6-8). How- the case which' depends upon establishing that those
ever, as far as those other arts are concerned' where such works of art which are objects are nevertheless not physi-
physical objects can be found, the arguments again~t the cal has not been made good. If my original assertion is to
identification - namely, those based on the fact 'that be vin.dicated, I am now required to show that what is of
works of art have properties not predicable of physical moment in aesthetics is the physicality of works of art
objects - seemed less cogent (sections 9-19). I have now raVher than their p~rticularity, '

to justify the assertion that I made at the very beginning

of the discussion (section 5) that it was only in so far as it I
related to these latter arts that the challenge to this hypo- If a work of art is held to be a particular but not physical,
thesis had any fundamental significance for aesthetics. the next step is to posit a further object, over and above
The general issue raised, whether works oT art, are the relevant physical object; and this object is then re-
physical objects, seems to compress two questions: the garded as the work of art. Nonphysical itself, this object
difference between which can be brought out by accent- nevertheless stands in a very special relation to the ph~i-
ing first one, then the other, constituent word in the cal object that (as we might say) would have been the
operative phrase. Are works 6f art physical objects? Are work of art if works of art had been or could be, physi-
works of art physical objects? The first question would be cal. Of the nature of this obje'ct, there' are, broadly speak-
a question about the stuff or constitution of works of art, ing, two different theoretical accounts. '

what in the broades~ sense they are made of: more According to one kind of theory the work of art is non-
specifically~ Are they mental? or physical? are they con- physical in that it is something mental or even ethereal:
structs of the mind? The second question would be a ques- its location is in the mind or some other spiritual field, at
tion about the category to which works of art belong, any rate in a region uninhabited by physical bodies:
about the criteria bf identity and individuation appli- hence we do not have direct sensible access to it, though,
50 51
,- An I;:ssay
Art and its Objects

presumably we are able to infer it or intuit it or imagin- . the artist, and which involvesarticulatioh,organization,
atively re-create it from the object in the world that is its and unification:.thirdly, that the intuition so developed
trace or embodiment. According to the other kind of may be externalized in a public form, in which case we
theory, <thework of art differs from physical objects, not have the artifact which is often but wrongly taken to be
in the sense that it is imperceptible, but b~cause it has the work of art, but equally it need not be.
only sensible properties: it has no properties (for instance, The origin of this theory, which we should understand
dispositional or historical) that are not open to direct or before embarking upon criticism, lies in taking seriously
immediate' observation. Whether on this account we are the question, .is distinctive - or perhaps better,
to regard wqrks'of art as.public or private depends upon What is distinctively 'art' - in a work of art?, and giving
what view we take of the nature of sensory fields, which it an answer that has both a positive and a negative
is now their location. aspect.
In denying that works of art are physical objects, the In his Encyclopaedia Britannica artic:le on 'Aesthetics',
first kind of theory withdraws them altogether from ex- Croce asks -{isto consider, as an example 'of both familiar
perience, whereas the second kind pins thew to it ines- and high art, the description given by Virgil of ,Aeneas's
capably and at all points. I shall speak of the first as meeting with Andromache by the waters of the r.i.ver
making out of works of art 'ideal' objects, ahd~ of the' Simois(Aeneid, III, lines 294 ff.).,Thepoetry 4ere,.he sug-
second as ma,klng out of them 'phenomenal' or 'presen- gests,cannot consist in any of the details that the passage
tational' objects. I haVepow to establish that both the- I contains- the woes and shame of Andromache, the over-
ories, the Ideal and the Presentational, involve coming of misfortune, the many sad aft~rmaths of war::::
fundamental distortions in their account of what art is. and defeat - for these things Gould equally occur in
works of history. or criticism, and therefore must be in
22 themselves 'n,onpoetic': what we must do is to look
Let us'begin with the Ideal theory. It is usual nowadays to beyond tihem to that which makes poetry out of them,
think of this as the' Croce-Collingwood theory, and to and so we are led of necessity to a human experience.
consider it in the extended form that it has been given by And what is true ot"poetry is true of all the other arts. In
these two philosophers, who, moreover, differ only in order to reach the distinctively aesthetic, we must ignore
points of detail or emphasis. I shall follow this pr~ctice, the surface elements, which can equally be found in non-
though (as elsewhere) recasting the original arguments artistic or practical contexts, and go straight to the mind,
where the requirements of this essay necessitate. which organizes them. Having in this way identified the
The Ideal theory can be stated in three propositions. Workof art with an inner process, can we say anything
First, that the work of art consists in an inner state or l11oreabout this process? .
condition of the artist, called an intuition or an ex- It is at this point that the negative aspect of the theory
pression: secondly, that this state is not immediate or takes over. What the artist characteristically !ioes is best
given, but is the product of a process, which is peculiar to understood by contrast with - and is perhaps Co1-
52 53
'_N- -,_... ""~.. --- !I!!I!!I!Ii!!II

.~. .' ,.

Art and its Objects An Essay

lingwood more than Croce - what the craftsman charac- haviI}g foreknowledge of what he intends to produce;
teristically does. Since what is characteristic of the an<},this is impossible.
craftsman is the making of an artifact, or 'fabrication', The trouble with this argument - like the more general
we can be certain that the artist's form of making, or epistemological argument, of which it can be regarded as
'creation', is not this kind of thing at all. a ~ecial instance, i.e., that present knowledge of future
The contrast between art and craft, which is central to haPI?enings tout court is impossible - is that it acquires
. Principles of Art, would appear to rest plaJsibility just because we don't know what degree of
upon three distinctive characteristics of craft. First, ~very specificity is supposed to be attributed to what is said to
i< craft involves the notion. of a means and ah end, each be i~J?ossible. If a very high degree of '~pecificity is in-
. distinctly conceived, the end being definitive of the par- tend@@,the argument is obviously cogent. Jhe artist
ticular craft, and the means whatever is employed to c01.i"ldn@t know to the minutest detail what he will do.
reach that end; secondly, every craft involves the dis- However, if we lower the degree of specificity, the artist
tinction between planning and execution,. where plan- surely can have foreknowledge. It is, for instance, neither
ning consists in foreknowledge of the desired result and false (nor derogatory to say that, there were many oc-
calculation as to how best to achieve this, and the ex- " casions-on which Verdi knew that he was going to com-
ecution is the carrying out of this plan; finally, every pose an opera, or Bonnard to make a picture of his model.
craft presupposes a material upon which it is exercised And, after all, the craftsman's foreknowledge will often
and which it thereby transforms into something different. be no fu~ler.
None of these characteristics, the theory argues, pertains That every craft has its raw material and art doesn't-
to art. the third criterion of the distinction - is argued for by art does not have an end is established, it might showipg that there is no uniform sense in which we can
seem, rather speciously by rebutting those theories which attribute to the arts a material upon which the artist
propose for art some obviously extrinsic aim like the works. There is nothing out of which the poet can be said
arousing of emotion, or the stimulation of the intellect, or to make his poem in the sense in which the sculptor can
the encouragement of some practical activity: for these be said (though falsely, according to the theory) to make
aims give rise to amusement, magic, propaganda, ete. But, his sculpture out of stone or steel. .
it might be urged, why should not the end of Art be, say, I now wish to turn to criticism of the Ideal theory. For
just the production of an expressive object? To this one it must be understood that nothing that has so far been
reply would be that this would not be, in the appropriate produced has had the character of an argument against
sense, a case of means and end, since the two would not thet4eory. At most we have had arguments against argu~
be conceived separately. Another and more damaging l1lentshistorically advanced in support of it.
reply would be that this would involve an assimilation of
art to craft in its second characteristic. The artist is noW
thought of as working to ~ preconceived
, plan, or as
54 55

t Art and its Objects An Essay

before it is externalized without this having any negative
23 implications for the medium. A poem or an aria could
There are two arguments t~,at are widely' advanced exist:in the <.'Irtist'shead before it is written down:a,nd
against the Ideal theory. although difficulties may exist in the case of a novel or an
The first is that by making the work of art something opera, we can conceive adjustments of memdetail in the
inner or mental, the link between artist and audience has theqry that vyould accommodate them. Bu~does this pre-
been severed. There is now no object to which,both can serve .,the theory, even in this area? For, if the occurrence
have access, for no one put the artist can ever know what of certain experiences (say, the saying of words ro one-
he has produced. self) justifies us in postulating the existence of a certain
, Agalhst this it might be retorted that this extreme scep- poem", this is not to say tha( the poem i~,those experi-
tical or solipsi?tic conclusion would follow only if it was ences. AJairer (though certainly not a clear) way of put-
maintained that works of art could never be externalized: ting the matter would be to say th<it it is the objeGt of
w;her~as all th,e Ideal theory asserts .isthat they need not those experiences. And the object of an experience ne~d
be. A parallel exists in the way in 'Yhich we can know not be anything 'inner or mental.J ,
wh~t," a manc is thinking, even though hjs thoughts are Anyhow these,cases should not preoccupy us. For (to
something pfivate, for he might disclose his thoughts to ret,-\rn to the starting point of this whole,l,discussion) it is
. }Is.This retort, it m~ght b,efelt, while avoiding scepticism, not 'Yorks of art of these kinds that provide crucial tests
still leaves us too close to it for comfort. Even Col- for the Ideal theory. What that theory has primarily to
lingwood, for instance, who was anxious to avoid the account for are those works of art which are particuJars.
sceptical consequences of his theory, hag to concede that The q,:uestiontherefore arises, If we are asked'to Jhink of,
on it the spectator can have only an 'empirical' or. 'rela- say, paintings and sculptures as intuitions existing in the,
tive' assurance about the artist's imaginative experience, artist's mind, which are only contingently externalized,
which, of course, just is, for Collingwood, the work of is this compatible with the fact that such works are
art. This seems-quite at variance with our ordinary - and intrinsically in a medium?
equally, as I hope to show, with our reflective - yiews An attempt has been made to defend the theory at thi~
about the public character of art. stage by appeal to a distinction between the 'physical
The second argument is that the Ideal theory totally medium' and the 'conceived medium': the physical
ignores the significance of the medium: it is a charac- medium being the stuff in the world, the conceived
teristic fact about works of art that they are in a medium, medium being the thought of this in the mind. The de-
whereas the entit;ies posited by the Ideal theory are free fence now consists in saying that the whole process of
or unmediated. A first reaction to this argument might be inner elaboration, on which the theory lays such weight
to say that it is an exaggeration. At the lowest we need to and which Croce explicitly identifies with expression
make a distinction within the arts. In literature and music (l'identita di intuizione ed espressione), goes on in a
we can surely suppose a work of art to be complete medium in that it goes on in the ~onceived medium. So,
56 ) 57

Art and its Objects . An Essay

for instance, when Leonardo scandalized the prior of S. inner process is in a conceived medium, this seems to
Maria delle Grazie by standing for days on end in front of challenge the alleged primacy of the mental experience
the wall he was to paint, without touching it with his over the physical artifact, on which the Ideal theory is so
brush - an incident Croce quotes as evidence of this insistent. For now the experience seems to derive its con-
tent from the nature of the artifact: it is because the arti-
'inner' process of expression - we may suppose that the
thoughts that occupied his mind were of painted surface, fact is of such and such a material that the image is in
were perhaps images of ever-developing articulation of such and such a conceived medium. The problem why
what he was to set down. Thus a work of art was created certain -apparently arbitrarily identified stuffs or pro-
that was both in an artist's mind and in a medium. cessesshould be the vehicles of art - what I shall call the
However, two difficulties' still arise. The first concerns bricoleur problem, from the striking comparison made
the nature of mental images. For it is hard to believe that by Levi-Strauss of human culture to a bricoleur or handi-
mental images could be so artjculated as in all respects to man, who improvises only partly useful objects out of
anticipate the physical pictures to be realized on wall or old junk - is a very real one: but the answer to it cannot
canvas. For this would involve not merely foreseeing, but be that these are just the stuffs or processes that artists
also solving, all the problems that will arise, either neces- happen to think about or conceive in the mind. It is more
sarily or accidentally, in the working of the medium: and plau~ible to believe that the painter thinks in images of
not merely is this implausible, but it is even arguable paint or the sculptor in images of metal just because
that the accreditation of certain material processes as the these, independently, are the media of art: his thinking
media of art is bound up with their inherent unpre- presupposes that certain activities in the external world
dictability: it is just because these materials present such as charging canvas with paint or welding have
difficulties that can be dealt with only in the actual work- already become the accredited processes of art. In other.
words, there could not be Croce an 'intuitions' unless.
ing of them that they are so suitable as expressive pro-
cesses. Again - to borrow an argument from the there were, first, physical works of art.
philosophy of mind - is it even so clear what meaning we 24
are to attach to the supposition that. the image totally
However, of the two theories that set out to account for
anticipates the picture? For unless the picture is one of
minimal articulation, in which case we could have an works of art on the assumption that they cannot be
image of the whole of it simultaneously, we will have to physical objects, it is the Presentational theory that is '

attribute to the image properties beyond those of which more likely to be found acceptable nowadays: if only
we are aware. But this, except in marginal cases, is objec- because the account it gives is less recondite.
tionable: for by what right do we determine what these Of the Ideal theory it might be said that its particular
extra properties are? (Sartre has made this point by talk- character derives from the way 'it concentrates exclus-
ing of the image's 'essential poverty'.) . ively upon one aspect of the aesthetic situation: the
A second difficulty is this: that if we do allow that the process, that is, of artistic qeation. The Presentational

58 59
- - - --
An Essay
Art and its Objects
sion of art. I shall deal with the first kind of objection in
theory feeds on no less one-sided a diet: in its case, it is the sections 25-30, and the second kind in sections 32-4.
situation of the spectator, or perhaps more specifically
Contemporary theory of knowledge is full of argu-
that of the critic, that comes to dominate the account it
. I
ments against the distinction enshrined in traditional em-
provides of what a work of art is. It might seem a taut-
piricism between that which is, and that which is not,
ology that all that the spectator of a work of art has to
given in perception, and it would be inappropriate to re-
rely upon (qua spectator, that is) is the evidence of his
hearse these general arguments here. I shall, therefore,
eyes or ears, but it goes beyond this to assert that this is confine my examination of the distinction to two large
all that the critic can, or qua critic should, rely upon, and
this further assertion is justified by an appeal to the
classes of property, both of which we have already had
to consider on the assumption that they are intrinsic to
. 'autonomy of criticism'. The idea is that, as soon as we works of art, and which seem to offer a peculiarly high
invoke evidence about the biography or the personality
of the artist or the prevailing culture or the stylistic situ-
. degreeof resistanceto the distinction:I refer to meaning,
ation, then we have deviated from what is given in the
or semantic, properties, and expressive properties. If both
work of art and have adulterated criticism with history, these sets of properties really are intractably inde-
terminate as to this distinction, then it would follow that
psy~hology, sociology, etc. (To trace the two theories in the Presentational theory, which presupposes the dis-
this way to preoccupations with differing aspects of the
aesthetic situation is not, of course, to say that either
tinction, must be inadequate.
theory gives a correct account of that particular aspect 25
with which it is preoccupied, n9r for that matter
is it to concede that the two preoccupations can be Let us begin with meaning-properties.
In the Alciphron (Fourth Dialogue) Berkeley argues
adequately pursued in isolation or abstraction one from
that when we listen to a man speaking, the immediate
the other.)
'objects of sense are certain sounds, from which we infer
. The theory before us is that a work of art possesses
what he means. The claim might be put by saying that
those properties, and only those, which we can directly I what we immediately hear are noises, not words, where
perceive or which are immediately given. As .such the
words are something intrinsically meaningful. If we con-
theory seems to invite criticism on two levels. In the first
join this claim to the Presentational theory, we arrive at
place (it may be' argued), the distinction upon which it the view that a poem is essentially concatenated noises:
rests - namely"that between pr.operties that we immedi-
and this indeed is the vi~w (and the argument) that, im-
ately perceive and those which are mediately perceived
or inferred - is not one that can be a clear - or, in plicit in a great deal of Symbolist aesthetics, has found its
some areas, even in an approximate fashion. Secondly, most explicit formulation in the Abbe Bremond's doc-
t. where the distinction can be made, it is wrong to deny to trine of poesie pure. Without considering whether this is
or is not an acceptable account of or programme for
the ~or~ of art everything except what is immediately poetry, I want to examine one presupposition of. it:
perceptible: what ensues is a diminished
, or depleted ver-

---- -
Art and its Objects T - An Essay

which is that we can (not, that we do, or, that we should) sound is that we often admire poetry for its aural proper-
listen to words as pure sound. . ties. This is true. But when we come to investigate such
There is one obvious argument in support of thIS: Im- cases, they ar~ quite evidently unable to sustain the kind
agine that we have a poem read out to us in a language of interpretation that the argument would put on them.
we don't understand. In that case we mus~listen to it as What we find is a range of cases: at one end, where the
pure sound: if, for instance, we admire the ?oem, :ve (so-called) aural properties of rhythm etc. are actually
must admire it for its sound alone, for there IS nothmg identified by reference to the sense of the poetry, as in
else open to us to admire it for. If we can listen to a poem Wyatt's sonnet 'I abide, and abide, and better abide'; at
in an unknown language like that, we can presumably the' other end, where the aural properties can be
listen to a poem in any language in the same way. .
identified purely phonetically but they presuppose for
But the argument lacks force. For there are many ways their effect (at the lowest) a noninterference by, or a
in which we can react to utterances we don't understand degree of collusion from, the sense, as in Poe's famous
which would not be poss'iblefor us if we did understand line: .
them: for instance, we could sit utterly unangered Andthe silken,sad,uncertain rustlingof eac;hpurple curtain
through a string of wounding abuse in a language we
didn't know. If it is now retorted that we could do the or in much of Swinburne. It is an unwarranted extra-
same even if we knew the language, provided that we polation beyond this second kind of case to the hypo-
didn't draw on this knowledge, this seemSto beg the qu~s- thetical case where the aural properties of the poem can
tion: for it is very unclear what is meant by listening to a be assessed in"a way that is quite indifferent as to the
language we know without drawing on our ~nowledge sense.
except listening to it as pure sound. So there ISno argu-
ment, only assertion. ' I Of course, there is a certain amount of poetry where the
A supplementary consideration is this: if we could words are concatenated in accordance not with their
hear an utterance that we' understood as mere sound, I sense but purely with their sound. Some of Shakespeare's
then, on the proviso tJ;1atwe can reproduce it at all, we songs are examples of this. some Rimbaud, some Smart,
surely should be' able to reproduce it by mimicry: that is, most nonsense poetry or doggerel. But it does not follow'
without reference to the sense, but aiming simply to from the fact that the 'lyrical initiative' (the phrase is
match the original noises. Such a possibility would seem I Coleridge's) is sustained in this way, that we listen to the
to be involved in the concept of hearing something as a poetry and ignore the sense. On the contrary: it would
sound. But to achieve such mimicry with a word we seem that in such cases just the fact that the sense has
understand seems not merely factually impossible, but. been sacrificed,. or becomes fragmented, is something of
absurd. . . . . which we need to be aware, if we are to appreciate the
Another kind of argument tha~ mIght be mvoked III ! poem. Nonsense poetry is not the most accessible part of

supp:~ of the view that we can lISten to poetry as pure cguage's literatnre.
Art and its Objects \ An Essay
ful of traditional aesthetic doctrines i.e. the Shaftes-
bury-Lessing theory o{ 'the limits 9f poetry and

If we turn to tIie visual arts, the analogue to the meaning painting' (to q'lOte the subtitle of the Laocoon). Lessing's
or semantic properties is the representational properties. argument is, briefly, that painting, whose means, i.e.
The general question, whether these are directly per- figures and colours, co-exist in space, has as its proper
ceptible, is beyond the scope of this essay. Certainly subject bodies: whereas poetry, whose means, i.e. sounds,
many philosophers have denied that they are: from succeed. one another in time, has as its proper subject
which it would follow, in conjunction with the thesis aCtions. .
that works of art are presentational, that, say, paintings Now let us examine the issue itself. Imagine that we
in so far as they pertain to art represent nothing and their are looking at Delacroix's Combat du Giaour et du Pacha.
aesthetic content consisKexclusively in flat coloured.sur- What do we directly see? There is one obvious argument
faces and their juxtapositions. Indeed, this is hqw a great iv favour of saying that we don't (directly) perceive the
deal of 'formalist' aesthetics is arrived at: and if in the movement of the two horsemen, and that is, that what
actual criticism of such formalists we often encounter we are looking at, i.e., a canvas on which the two horse-
references to solid shapes, e.g. cubes, cylinders, spheres, men are represented, is not itself in movement. (This1n
as part of the painting's content, this seems to be incon- fact is Lessing's own argument.) But the principle on
sistency, since thelonly way in which volumes can inhere which thi~ argument is based is obviously unacceptable:
in; a two-dimensional painting is through representation. namely, that of determining the properties that we im-
On the other hand, Schopenhauer, who also held that mediately see by reference to ~he properties possessed by
works of art are essentially perceptual, argued that we the objectJhat we see. For the point of introducing direct
look ~at a picture, e.g. Annibale Carracci's Genius of perception was just so as to be able to contrast the two
Fame, legitimately, or as we should, when we see in it a sets of properties: we 'directly perceive', for instance, a
beautiful winged youth. surrounded by beautiful boys, bent stick when we look through water at a stick that in
but illegitimately, i.e. we 'forsake the perception', when point of fact is straight.
we look for its allegorical or merely 'nominal' Another and equally obvious argument, though the
significance. So for him, presumably, representational other way round, i.e. in favour of saving that we do (di-
properties were directly perceptible. . rectly) perceive the movement of the horsemen, is that
In this section, I shall confine myself to a part of the the horsemen are in movement. But this argument is
problem: namely, whether represented movement is di- mutatis mutandis open to the same objection as the pre-
rectly perceptible, or whether movement can be de- ceding on<=};for here we determine the properties that we
picted. This limited issue has, however,. as well as its directly perceive by reference to the properties not of
intrinsic, a great historical, interest. For it was a negative What we are looking at but of what we are looking at a
answer given to it that, combined with something like a representation of. And this seems, if anything, to com-
presentational theory, generated' one of the most power- pound the error.

64 I 65
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Art and its Objects An Essay

But does if compound the error? To .think that it does painted, as itself of two horsemen in posed attitudes.
seems to rest on an argument like this: When we say 'I see This is not to say that no representations of things or
people in movement are neutral between their being or
the representation of two hbrsemen in movement', this
their not being in movement: many cases of this
can be analysed into '1 see the representation of. two kind could be cited from the hieratic forms of art. It is,
horsemen in a certain position, and this position is one
that can be assumed by horsemen in movement.' If we though, to say that not all such representations are of this
kind. To cite an extreme example: What sort of object
accept this analysis, it is obviously more plausible to ap-
could there be such that we could imagine Velasquez's
propriate, as the properties that we see, the properties of stroboscopic representation of the spinning wheel in Las
the static representation rather than the properties of the
Hilanderasas a representation of it in repose?
moving horsemen: for there is no reference to the moving
horsemen in that part of the conjunct which is about I have argued that we do wrong to pick on either the
what we see~ .
representation itself or the thing represented as providing
us with the sure criterion of what properties we directly
But why do we think that this conjunctive analysis of
'We see the representation of two horsemen in move- perceive. But this has not led us to postulate as that cri-
ment' is correct? And the answer presumably must be, terion some mental image or picture, which is then called
because our seeing the representation of horsemen that the direct object of perception: as traditional theory gen-
we do and the represented horsemen's being in movement erally does. If there is such a thing as a criterion of what
we directly perceive, it rather looks as though it is to be
are independent facts: in other words, the representation
that we see could be of, for instance, two horsemen care- found in what we would naturally say in response to an
outer picture. But if this is so, then there seems little hope
fully posed as if in movement. The representation is, as it
were, neutral as to what if anything the horsemen are that we can, without circularity, define or identify the
properties of a picture by reference to what we directly
doing. perceive. > .
This. might simply mean that Delacroix could have
painted his.picture from a scale model of two horsemen, 27
which would, of course, have been static, rather than
from two moving horsemen. But if he had, this would not Before turning to the second of the two large sets of prop-
have sufficed to make his picture a representation of a erties that I talked of in section 24 as constituting a
serious challenge to.the distinction upon which the Pres-
posed group. For we might have been quite unable to see
entational theory rests, i.e. expressive properties, I should
the picture in this way: just as, for instance, we do not
see Gainsborough:s late landsc,apes as. representations like to digress and in this section consider a rather special
of the broken stones, pieces of looking glass and dried set of properties which are also problematic for the
herbs from which he painted.them -
and for that matter theory. For it would be hard to deny that these properties
pertain to works of visual art: even if quite exaggerated
just as Delacroix himself could not have seen the scale claims have sometimes been made on their behalf. At the
model from which (on the present supposition) he
66 67

Art and its Objects An Essay

same time it would not be easy to fit these properties into' evancies apart) addressed, not just in the first instance but
the dichotomy of given or inferred, which the theory exclusively, to the sense of sight?, the answer is once
demands: though, again, the attempt has certainly been again by appeal to association. This time, indeed, the
made. Their connexion with representation makes it ap- appeal is twice over. ,In so far as representation of space
propriate to discuss them here. The properties I refer to or the third dimension is secured, this is because the paint-
are best introduced by means of that highly versatile ing or sculpture produces in us certain visual sensations,
phrase, 'tactile values'. which, by putting us in mind of those other visual sen-
The central or hard core use of this phrase (to get it sations which we would receive in presence from the
over first) occurs inside a very general theory about objects represented, further put us in mind of the cor-
visual art. This theory, which is widely associated with related tactile sensations. The power that a visual
the name of Berenson, though it has a longer history, work of art possesses to produce in us visual sensations
takes as its starting point a philosophical thesis. The having this double set of associations to them is called
thesis is the Berkleian theory of vision. According to its 'tactile values': and it is to tactile values exclusively
this theory, which attributes to each of the human senses that the capacity of the visual arts to represent space
or perceptual modalities its own accusatives, sight takes is ascribed. (We can now see what the irrelevancies
for its 'proper objects' coloured or textured patches dis- I mentioned above are. They include any reference to
tributed in two dimensions: up-and-down, and across. the fact that paintings and sculpture are also tangible I
From this it follows that we cannot directly see 'outness' objects: -for this fact is quite irrelevant, according to I
or three-dimensionality. Three-dimensionality is some- the theory, tQ the fact that they can represent tangible
thing that we learn of through touch, which has for its objects.)
proper objects things distributed in space. And if we ordi- It is not, however, with this strong use to which the
narily think that we can see things at a distance, not just notion of tactile values can be put that I am primarily
in the sense that we can see things that are at a distance, concerned: though the use with which I am concerned is
but also in that we can see that things are at a distance, most successfully introduced via it. I will have already
this is to be attributed to the constant correlations that said enough to indicate why I find anything like the pre-
hold between certain visual sensations and certain tactile ceding theory untenable. I am concerned with the
sensations. In virtue of these correlations we are able weaker or more local sense of the notion attached to it
straight~way to infer from the visual sensations that we primarily by Wolfflin: in which only certain works of
receive to the associated tactile sensations that we are visual art are correctly spoken of, or their efficacy as
about to receive, or that we would receive if (say) we representations analysed, in terms of tactile values. In
moved or stretched out a hand. - Classic Art, and again in the Principles of Art History,
And if we now ask, How is it that in the visual or Wolfflin attempted a very general division of visual
'architectonic' arts we have an awareness of three-di- works of art into two kinds or styles. The division he
mensionality, although paintings and sculptures are (irre!- effected according to the way in which space is represen,"
68 69

Art and its Objects An Essay

ted. No particular philosophical theory is presupposed kind of perception that falls on the indirect ra~her than
the direct side.
concerning our awareness of space: and, indeed, it now
turns out to be a characteristic only of works of art in However, if we think of the perception of space
one of the .two great styles that space is represented by through tactile values as indirect, then this overlooks
another difference. It overlooks what makes us think of
suggesting how things would seem to the sense of touch.
This is a feature uniquely associated with the linear style: this as a form of perception'at all. Just as to think of such
whereas inside the painterly style this is rejected and spa- perception as immediate assimilates it to the kind of per-
tial representation is secured solely by appeal to the eye ception that we have inconnexion with the more paint-
and visual sensation. erly modes of representation, so to call it indirect makes
We might want to go beyond WOlfflin,well beyond it impossible for us to distinguish it from cases where
him, in the distinctions we would make in the ways in space is in no way represented but is indicated in some
which the third dimension can be represented. Never- schematic or nonschematic fashion. The essential feature
theless, there certainly seems to be a:place somewhere or of the mode of representation we are considering is that
other for the phenomenon that in the extreme account is, it leads us by means of the manipulation of tactile cues to
for theoretical reasons, made universal: namely, the in- see space. The terminology of direct or indirect per-
vocation of tactile sensations. We might say, standing in ception gives us no way of doing justice to both these
front of a Giotto or a Signorelli or a Btaque,Atelier aspects of the situation: that is, to the fact that the cues
are tactile, and to the fact that on the basis of them we
(though not in front of, say, the mosaics in S. Apollinare
Nuovo, or a Tintoretto, or a Gainsl;>orough), that we can see something.
or could feel our way into the space. And the question . The difficulty is reflected in the peculiarly unhelpful
arises, Is this kind of perception of space direct or in- phrase that is sometimes invoked, in this or analogous
direct? I contexts, to characterize the sort of perception we have
Reflection will show that it cannot be assigned, with- \ in looking at works of art that represent space in this
out detriment, to either of these two categories. To call it way. We have, we are told, 'ideated sensations'. This
direct perception would be .precisely to overlook the phrase seems to be no more than a tribute to the attempt
difference that has made us think of it as a special kind or to condense into one two notions that have initially been
type of perception in the first instance: the difference, determined as mutually incompatible, that is, direct and
that is, between the way of representing space to which it indirect perception. Everything points to the fact that
characteristically pertains, and the other way or ways of what is wrong is the initial determination.
doing so which might be thought of as more straight- Wittgenstein, in the Blue Book, takes the case of the.
forwardly visual in appeal. For if there is a way of rep- man, the water diviner, who tells us that, when he holds a
certain rod, he feels that the water is five feet under the
resenting space which makes no reference to sensations
of touch, actual or recollected, then surely any way ground. If we are sceptical, we precipitate the response,
which involves the mediation of touch must give rise to a 'Do you know all the feelings that there are? How do you

70 71

Art and its Objects f An Essay

kpow that there isn't such a feeling?' Wittgenstein's ac- which can occur outside as well as inside art, e.g. colours,
count of what the diviner might say, equally of what notes, have an intrinsic link with inner states, which they
should satisfy us, may not be altogether convincing, nor are thereby able both to express and to invoke: it is
coherent with some of his later teaching; but it is obvi- through the incorporation of these elements that works
ously right in essentials. The man must explain the gram- of art gain or have assigned to them this or that emotive
mar of the phrase. And explaining the grammar of the significance. Such an account,oGombrich argues, is vul-
phrase doesn't consist in simply breaking the phrase nerable because it overlooks the fact, to which a lot of art
down into its constituents and explaining each in turn. testifies, that one and the same element or complex of
Wittgenstein's example brings out this latter point very elements can have a quite different significance in
well: for we already know the meaning of 'feel' and different contexts. 'What strikes us as a dissonance in
'water five feet under the ground'. We must understand Haydn,' 'Gombrich writes, 'might pass unnoticed in a
how the phrase is us~d: how it latches on to other experi- post-Wagnerian context and even the fortissimo of a
ences and the ways in which we describe them. One thing string quartet may have fewer decibels than the pian-
that can prevent us from coming to understand this is issimo of a large symphony orche.stra.' Again, Gombrich
any a priori theory as to what we can~'and what we cites Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie which, he
cannot (directly) feel or perceive. says, in the context of Mondrian's art is certainly express-
ive of 'gay abandon': but would have a quite different
emotional impact on us if we learnt that it was by a
I am now ready to turn to expressive properties. In sec- painter with a propensity to involuted or animated
tions 15-19 I argued that there is no absurdity in attri- forms,e.g.Severini. .
buting expressiveness as such to physical objects. The What these examples show, Gombrich argues, is that a
question I want to consider here is whether we can attri- particular element has a significance for us only if it is
bute specific expressive properties to physical objects regarded as a selection out of a specifiable set of alterna-
solely on the basis of what is given. Of recent years a tives. Blue as such has no significance: blue-rather-than-
powerful and subtle argument has been brought forward black has: and so hasblue-rather-than-red though a
to show that we cannot. This argument I shall call the different one. In the light of this, the notion of 'context'
IQGombrich argument: though the actual argumentation I can be made more specific. In order for us to see a work
shall produce will be a reconstructed, and here and there as expressive, we must know the set of alternatives
a simplified, version of what is to be found in Art and within which the artist is working, or what we might call
Illusion and in the collection of essays entitled Medi- his 'repertoire': for it is only by knowing from what
tations on a Hobby Horse. point in the repertoire the work emerges that we can
. The starting point of this argument is an attack on an ascribe to it a particular significance. It is this fact that is
alternative account of expression in terms of 'natural res- totally ignored in the theory of natural resonance.
onance'. According to this account, certain ele:ments, The scope of this argument might be misconstrued. For
72 73
~ .....
An Essay
Art and its Objects
we can assign one expressive value and to the other a
it might be taken simply as an observation about how a
contrary or 'opposite' value: and the crucial point is that
spectator can acquire a certain skill, i.e. that of express- both the ordering relation that determines the series, e.g.
ively understanding a painting; so that if he doesn't ac-
'darker than' in the case of colours, 'higher than' in the
quire this skill, the artist goes misunderstood. But this is case of musical notes (to give naIve examples), and the'
to take too narr~w a view ofoGombrich'sthesis: for what
correlation of the two ends of the series with specific
in effect he is doing is to lay down the conditions for
inner states, are natural rather than conventional
expression itself. An artist expresses himself if, and only matters. It is , because a move towards one end of the
if, his placing one element rather than another on the
canvas is a selection out of a set of alternatives: and this is series rather. than the other is, or is likely to be, un-
ambiguous that, once we know what alternatives were
possible only if he has a repertoire within which he oper-
open to the artist, we can immediately understand the
ates. Knowledge of the repertoire is a presupposition of
si'gnificance.of his choice between them.
the spectator's capacity. to understand what the artist is
expressing~but the existence of the repertoire i.s a pre- 29 .
supposition of the artist's capacity to expr~ss himself at
all. There is t~e question, which belongs presumably to psy-
We may now ask: Granted that the spectator cannot chology or so-called experimental aesthetic~, whether in
understand the expressive significance of a work of art point of fact it is correct to regard the elements that com-
until he has knowledge of the artist's repertoire, why is it prise'the constituents of art as falling into ordered series
that, as soon as he does have knowledge of the artist's in respect of their expressive value. The question, how-
ever, which belongs to the philosophy of art is why some-
repertoire, he is able to come to an expressive under-
one with a theory of expression should have a special
standing? To go back to the simplest example: If we need
further knowledge before we can understand a particular interest in maintaining that this is so.
If it is correct, as t have argued in section 18, that our
placing of blue on the canvas, e.g. knowledge that it is a
case of blue-rather-than-black, alternatively of blue- disposition to consider inanimate' objects as expressive
rather-than-red, why do we not need further knowledge has its roots in certain.natural tendencies, i.e. that of pro-
before we can understand blue-rather-than-black, alterna- ducing objects to alleviate, and that of finding objects to
match, our inner states, it is nevertheless evident that by
tively blue-rather-than-red? And the answer is that,
the time we come to our attitude towards the objects of
though it is a matter of decision or convention what is
art, we have moved far beyond the level of mere spon-
the specificrange of elements that the artist appropriates
as his repertoire and out of which on any given occasion taneity. To put it at its lowest: what is in origin natural is
he makes his selection, underlying this there is a basis in now reinforced by convention. Evidencefor this exists in
nature to the communication of emotion. For the el- the fact that if someone is versed or experienced in art,
ements that the artist appropriates are a subset of an or- no upper limit can be set to his capacity to understand
dered series of elements, such that to one end of the series expressively fresh works of art, even if both the works
Art and its Objects An Essay

themselves and what they express fall outside his experi- would go some way to preserving it. It would not, that is,
ence. For what we might have expected is that his ca- preserve it in the strong sense, i.e. that from a simple
pacity to understand works of art would stop short at observation of the work of art we could invariably know
those correlations of objects and inner states with which what It expressed: but it would preserve it in a weak
he has a direct acquaintance. In point of fact the situation sense, i.e. that once we knew what the work of art ex-
that obtains is close to that in language where, as it has pressed, we could see that it did so. Since-G~mbrichhas
been put (Chomsky), it is a central fact, to which any already maintained that some collateral information is
satisfactory linguistic theory must be adequate, that 'a essential for expressive understanding, he obviously does
mature speaker can produce a new sentence of his not require works of art to be iconic in the strong sense.
language on the appropriate occasion, and other speakers Moreover, there is a general argument against main-
can understand it immediately, though it is equally new taining that they are: namely, that the element of inven-
to them.' The implication would seem to be that there is, tiveness that we believe to be intrinsic to art would be in
at least, a semantic aspect or component to the expressive jeopardy. A work of art would threaten to be little more
function of art. than an assemblage or compilation of pre-existent
Nevertheless, there seems to be a difference.For even if items.
a 'mature spectator of art' is in principle capable of an 30
expressive understanding of any new work of art, just as
the mature speaker can understand any new sentence in Let us now return to the- Gombrich argument itself. The
his language, still the understanding in the two cases argument is obviously very powerful; nevertheless, there
would differ. For we see or experience the emotion in the are certain significant difficulties to it, which largely con-
work of art, we do not 'read it off'.. In other words, if cern the idea of the repertoire and how the repertoire is
we press the parallel of expressive with semantic proper- determined for any given artist.
ties, we shall find ourselves thinking that art stands to As a starting point it might be suggested that we should
what it expresses rather in the way that a black-and-- identify the repertoire with the range of the artist's
white diagram with the names of the colours written actual works. But this is unacceptable: because, except in
in stands to a coloured picture: whereas the relation is one limiting case, it gives us the wrong answer, and, even
more like that of a coloured reproduction to a coloured when it gives us the right answer, it does so for the wrong
A technical way of making this point is to say that the. The limiting case is where the artist in the course of his
symbols of art are always (to use a phrase that originates work expresses the full range of inner states conceivable
with Peirce) 'iconic'. for him: where, to put it another way, there is nothing
That works of art have this kind of translucence is a that he could have expressed that he didn't. In all other
. plausible tenet, and it should be apparent how a belief in cases there will be parts of the repertoire that were not
a natural expressive ordering of the constituents of art employed, i.e. the parts that he would have employed if

76 77

Art and its Objects, An Essay

'he had expressed those states which he, didn't, and the to the artist's situation. In other words, we'do wrong to
question then arises how we are to reconstruct these try to determine the repertoire by reference to how the
parts. And the answer must ultimately come to this: that spectator would determine it. For what the spectator
we ask ourselves how the artist would have expressed does is at best to reconstruct what the artist has initially
those states which he never expressed. In other words, we done.
credit him with certain hypothetical works. But on -the But do we have greater success in arriving at the re-
'Gombrich argument this becomes impossible. For it is pertoire by considering it from the artist's point of view?
obvious that; before we can even set about doing this, we There is once again a limiting case. And this is where the
must first know what state~ the artist did express, i.e. in artist explicitly sets up a range of alternatives within
his actual works, but this, Gombrich, argues, we cannot which he works: or where the constraints of nature or
do until we know the repertoire as a whole. So we can society prescribe precisely what he may do. Such cases
never start. will be very rare. Otherwise, we simply have the artist~at
To put the matter another way: Confronted with the work. And if it is now asserted that we can observe the
'1)c£uvreof a given artist, how are we to decide, on the artist ,implicitly choosing between alternatives, the. ques-
Gombrich argument, whether this is the work of an artist tion arises, How can we distinguish between the" trivial
who within a narrow repertoire expressed a wide range case, where. the artist does one thing, e.g. A, and not
of inner states, or of one who within a much broader another, e.g. B (where this just follows from A and B
repertoire expressed a narrow! range of states? Internal being distinct), and the case that is of interest to us, where
evidence is indifferent as to the two hypotheses: and it is the artist does A in preference to,B? One suggestion might
unclear what external evidence the argument allows us be that we are entitled to say the latter where it is clear
to invoke. . that, if the artist had done B, it would have expressed
I have said that, even in the limiting case where the something different for him. But on the Gombrich argu-
identification of repertoire with the range of 'actual ment this is something we can say only after we have
works gives us the right answer, it does so for the wrong determined the repertoire: hence -vyecannot use it -in
reason. What I had in mind is this: that it isn't the fact 'order to determine the repertoire.
that such and such a range of works is everything that
the artist in fact produced that makes this range his re- 3I
pertoire. For otherwise the identification of repertoire The preceding objection may seem very, abstract: which
with actual range would be correct in all cases. It is indeed it is. But this is only a reflection of the extremely
rather that the range as we have it coincides with every- abstract character of the argument itself, from which
thing he could have produced. But how (and ~ere the indeed it gains a great deal of its' plausibility. For what it
question comes up again) do we establish what he could, leaves out of account, or introduces only in an unre-
and what he could not, have produced? cognizable form, is the phenomenon of style and the cor-
One suggestion is that we should, at this stage, go back responding problem of style formation.
78 79

Art and its Objects An Essay

For the notion of style cannot be unreservedly equated pressed within it, that we do not have to go outside the
with that of the repertoire. For what we think of as a work itself and examine related cases in order to gauge
its expressive significance. A style -could be self-ex-
style has a kind of inner coherence that a mere repertoire
lacks. This is well brought out in a supposition that, as we planatory.
have seen,.Gombrich asks us to consider in the course of Wolfflin, in the introduction to the Principles of Art
History, sets out to characterize what he calls 'the double
expounding his argument. Let us suppose, he writes, that
Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie had been painted root of style'. 'What in point of fact he does is to sep-
arate out two levels on which style can occur: perhaps
by Severini. . . . But if this appeal is not to be taken in
such a way that the names 'Mondrian' and 'Severini' even two senses of the word 'styl~'. On the one hand,
function as mere dummies or variables, it is hard to know there are the many particular styles, the styles of indi-
viduals or nations, which vary according to temperament
how to interpret it. For the only way in which the hypo-
thetical situation would be conceivable, would be if we .
or character and are primarily expressive. On the other
hand, there is style in some more general sense, in which
imagined that for a phase Severini adopted the style of
Mondrian as apasticheur.Now such an eventuality would a style approximates to a language. In the first sense, Ter-
occasion an increase in the range of Severini's repertoire borch and Bernini (tbe examples are Wolfflin's) have their
but without any corresponding increase in the range of own very differing styles, being very different kinds of
his style. The same phenomenon occurs less schematic- artist; in the second sense, they share a style. Each style in
the first sense corresponds to, or reflects, a preselection of
ally in the case of an artist in whose work we notice a
sharp break of style (e.g. Guercino). These cases show us what is to be expressed or communicated. By contrast a
that what we should really be interested in is style, not style in the second sense is a medium within which
'everything can be said'. (We may for our purpose dis-
There are two further differences between a style and a regard WOlfflin's insistence that a style in this latter
repertoire, both of which are relevant to the issue of ex- sense, of which for him the supreme, perhaps the sole,
instances are the linear and the painterly, exhibits a dis-
pressive understanding. The first is that a style may have
been formed in order to express a limited range of tinctive 'mode of vision' or incorporates specific 'cat-
emotions, and in such cases it is virtually impossible for egories of beholding': phrases which the Principles does
us to imagine the expression of a state which falls outside little to illuminate.) Now, the point I have been making
this range being accomplished within the style. The sup- about th~ Gombrich argument might be put by saying
position of an optimistic painting by Watteau, or a that it recognizes style only in the second of Wolfflin's
monumental sculpture by. Luca della Robbia, or a tor- ~senses,in which it is something akin to language. Where
Gombrich, of course, differs from Wolfflin is in the var-
tured or tempestuous group by Clodion, all verge upon
absurdity. Secondly - and this is a closely connected iety of such styles that he thinks to exist: there being for
point - a style may have such an intimate connexion or him roughly as many styles in this sense as there are for
correspondence with the states that are typically ex- WOlfflin styles in his first sense.

80 81

Art and its Objects An Essay

Another way of making the same point would be to of a literary work involves the location of it in the cor-
say that for Gombrich a style is roughly equivalent to a rect genre: the recognition of it, that is, as drama, epic, or
method of projection in cartography. We can make a lyric. It has been no less characteristic of 'modern' criti-
map of any region of the world according'to any pro- cism that it completely rejects such categorization of
jection: although some methods of projection may be art. The concession is made that the various labels might
more suitable for one region than another. The difference have a utility in, say, librarians hip or literary history: but
simply is that the region, alternatively the map, will look they have nothing to tell us about the aesthetic aspect
quite different, depending on which projection is actu- of a work of art. They are (to use a phrase that has
ally employed. , . variedimplications)a postedori. .
We now need to consider as a whole the argument of A typical argument to this effect occurs in Croce.
the last three sections. Its effect has undoubtedly been to Croce links the thesis that works of art can be classified
disturb some of the detail of Gombrich's account of ex- into genres with the (to him) no less objectionable thesis
pressive understanding. Nevertheless, the considerations that works of art can be translated. For the two theses
that he raises leave little doubt about the important part share the presupposition that works of art divide into
that collateral information does play iri our aesthetic form and content: the content being that which, in trans-
transactions. Accordingly, they show the implausibility lation, gets carried over into the foreign language or, in
of the very restricted view of a work of art that is central the traditional rhetoric, is realized inside the relevant
to the Presentational theory. genre. But this presupposition is wrong because works of
art have an inherent unity or uniqueness. Croce concedes
32 that there could be a purely practical or non aesthetic
The reference to the notion of 'style' could serve to intro- role for the traditional taxonomy. Employed however as
duce the second set of arguments against the Presen- an instrument of'analysis or criticism, it utterly distorts
tational theory. For 'style' would seem to be a concept the nature of art.
that cannot be applied to a work of art solely on the basis Croce's argument is certainly open to criticism intern-
of what is presented and yet is also essential to a proper ally. For it seems to be based on the assumption that, if
understanding or appreciation of the work. l\nd the same we classify a work as in one genre, we are implicitly
can be said of the various particular stylistic concepts, saying that it might or could have been in another genre:
e.g. 'gothic', 'mannerist', 'neo-romantic'. hence we implicitly divide it into form (which is alter-
However, in this section I want to consider not these able) and content (which is constant). But the only reason
concepts but another .group whose claim not to be based for thinking that there is this implication to what we say
upon presentation is even clearer, but whose centrality to is some general philosophical thesis to the effect that if
art has been, and still is, disputed in a most interesting We say a is I, we must be able to imagme what It would
controversy. From Aristotle onwards it has been a tenet be like for a not to be I but to be, say, 9. where 9 is a con-
of the traditional rhetoric that the proper understanding trary of I. But thistthesis, which has some plausibiliiy,
82 83

Art and its Objects An Essay

is false over a range (and an interesting range) of cases, confronted with two pages in which the lines are printed
i.e. where we cannot identify a except by reference (ex- so that they do not run to the end. One (ParadiseLost) is
plicit or implicit) to f. And it might well be thilt we could to be read as an epic: the other (Berenice)is to be read as
not identify ParadiseLost except as an epic or Hamlet a play: The difference lies, we can now say, in the radical
except as a drama. Indeed Croce's own parallel with the of presentation.
translatability thesis should have alerted him to the It is important to realize that the differences of which
weakness of his argument. For Carducci's Alla Stazione this argument takes account are those which should be
may be untranslatable; none the less it is in Italian, construed as essential differences. For instance, we could
which, if Croce's argument is contraposed, should be imagine in an English class Paradise Lost being read
false. Accordingly, what there is of weight in Croce's 'round the form': on a higher level we could imagine an
critique of genres, and what indeed has weighed heavily epic being presented on the stage in such a way that
with many modern theorists, lies not in the formal argu- different actors read or sang'the cited words of the
ment, but rather in his insistence, unspecific and am- characters and a narrator narrated the text, as in Mon-
biguous though this sometimes seems, on what is referred teverdi's\ Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. But
to as the uniqueness of any work of art. these readings would be accidental, if not actually inimi-
(Another argument against genre-criticism, of which a cal, to the nature of the work. On the other hand, that the
certain amount has been heard in recent theory, is that it text of Hamlet should be presented on a stage, that
distorts not so much our proper understanding of a work different actors should recite different sections of it, that
of art as our proper evaluation of it. But the assumption the recitation should be more or less consecutive from
that underlies this variant is no less erroneous than that beginning to end, that certain effects should accompany
which underlies Croce's. For the assumption is that, if the recitation so as to enhance verisimilitude - these are
we classify something as an opera, this determines the not accidental: a reading of the text that was done in
criteria by which we must evaluate it: for our evaluation ignorance of, or indifference to, them would be not so
, of it will consist in showing the extent to which it much incomplete as mistaken.
satisfies the criteria of being an opera: in other words, to Nevertheless - and here we come to the crux of the
say that something is a good opera is to say that it is to a argument - there is nothing in the text that indicates such
very high degree an opera. The assumption has only to be a distinction unambiguously: nor could there be. There
spelt out for its absurdity to be realized.) . ~re, of course, certain accepted typographical con-
Recently an argument of extreme ingenuity has been ventions that distinguish printed plays from printed
brought forward by Northrop Frye to controvert this poems. But, as readers of literature, we have to know
whole contention. Central to this argument is the notion how to interpret these conventions: we must not be like
of the 'radical of presentation': which means, roughly, the child who, in learning his part, learns the stage di-
how the words in a given text are to be taken. Starting rections as well. And such an interpretation is always in
the problem at its lowest, we might imagine ourselves terms of certain aesthetic conventions which the reading
84 85
Art and its Objects An Essay
presupposes. 'The genre', Frye puts it, 'is determined A difficulty with the present suggestion is to see pre-
by the conditions established between the poet and his cisely its scope: what does it, and what can it not, accom-
public.' . modate to the theory? Can it, for instance, take care of
Once we have admitted these distinctions, Fry~ argues, the many cases of what might generally be called 'expect-
we cannot stop here. For continuous with the distinction ancy' which seem inherent to our aesthetic under-
between poetry where the poet is concealed from his standing: cases, that is, where certain anticipations are
audience (drama) and poetry where he is not, there is a aroused by one part of a work of, say, musioor archi-
further distinqion within the latter category between the tecture, to be satisfied, alternatively to be frustrated, by
case where the poet addresses his audience (epic) and the another? An example, for instance, would be the prac-
case where he is overheard (lyric). Whether in fact this is tice, cited by W6lffIin in Renaissance and Baroque" as
a'legitimate continuation of the argument, and how far, typical of early Baroque (Mannerist) palace architecture,
if it is, it re-establishes the traditional categories are @fcontrasting a fa<;:adeor a vestibule with the interior
matters that I do not need to pursue. I have not stated the courtyard: as, for instance, in the Palazzo Farnese. Or
argument against, therefore I shall not consider the argu- again- and this example is more contentious, since the
ment for, genre-criticism in so far as this relates to the time order is reversed - it has been argued that we hear
adequacy of the traditional' classification. It would be the flute solo at the begimling of L'Apres-Midi d'un
enough if it could be established that some such Faurie differently from what we would were it the open-
classification is intrinsic to literary understanding: and ing music of a sonata for unaccompanied flute: the pre-
certainly the 'radical of presentation' strongly ~uggests sence of the .orchestra .makes itself felt.
that it is. Roughly the point <).twhich the Presentational theory
would seem to prove recalcitrant is where that which we
33 'import' into our perception of a work of art cannot be
It might now be suggested that considerations like the treated as a concept that we apply to the work on the
foregoing can be reconciled within the Presentational basis of its characteristics, but [jis ineliminably prop-
theory by treatirig the critical or rhetorical contepts that ositional: wh~re, that is, it consists in a piece of infor-
are essential to our understanding of art as part of the mation that cannot be derived from (though, of course, it
conceptual framework, or (in psychological terminology) may be confirmed by) the manifest properties of the
,the mental set, with which we are required to approach work. In an essay entitled 'The History of Art as a Hu-
art. Some philosophers of art who have argued for manistic Discipline', Erwin Panofsky has presented a
a theory very like the Presentational theory (Kant, powerful argument to show that there are cases where
Fiedler) have, it is true, stipulated that we should free 'our understanding of a work of (visual) art and its stylis-
ourselves from all concepts when we approach art: tic peculiarities depends upon reconstructing the artistic
but it is hard to attach, much sense to such an extreme I 'intentions' that went to its making, and to do this
demand. I a depends in turn upon identifying the 'artistic problems'
86 87

Art and its Objects An Essay

to which it is a solution. The identification of an artistic problem and the work of art, that the latter is a solution
. problem seems'definitely propositional.
to the former already presupposes familiarity with art. It
On the face of it, Panofsky's contention seems irre- may be self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4: but not to someone
futable, at any rate over a certain range of art. Take, for ignorant of what addition is. "

instance, the much-imitated Gibbs fa<;:adeof St Martin-in- Moreover, it is worth pointing out that there is an anal-
the-Fields. In order to understand not merely its profound ogue inside the Panofsky contention to the restriction
influence, but also it in itself, we need to see it as a sol- that his critics would place upon the kind of knowledge
ution to a problem which had for fifty years exercised imported. For if it is necessary to import specious forms
English architects: how to combine a temple fa<;:adeor of knowledge, this would, on the Panofsky tontention,
portico with the traditional English demand for a west . count as an adverse factor in our appreciation of, or our
tower. If we omit this context, much in the design is judgement upon, the work of art. We might reconstruct
bound to seem wilful or bizarre. ." the dialogue roughly as follows: Beardsley would say:
To settle this, or the many analogous issues,.that arise Since this evidence is so esoteric, we can't take it into
on Panofsky's contention would require detailed incur- account in judging the work; whereas Panofsky would
sions into art-historical material. Here it may suffice to say: Since the evidence we have to take into account is so
point out a tactic characteristically adopted by those esoteric, we cannot judge the work fayourably. The
who ostensibly reject the contention. In each case what difference is not so great.
they argue is that either the work of art is defective since Sometimes the attempt is made to reconcile the adver-
it needs to be elucidated externally, or else the problem to saries in this argument by pointing out that they are em-
which it is a solution or the intention which inspired it is ploying different senses of 'problem' or 'intention': the
something which is fully manifest in the work taken as a artist's problem versus the problem of the work, or the
presentational object. We find this argument in e.g. artist's ulterior intention versus his immediate intention.
Wind, and Monroe Beardsley. But of the counter- But I doubt if such an analysis will get to the coreof the
argument so framed it is pertinent to ask, Manifest to difficulty: since, only the shortest distance below the sur-
whom? And the answer must be, To someone reasonably face, these different 'senses' of the same word are inter-
well versed in art. In other words, the original argument related.
is not really rejected. The counterargument merely re-
stricts the kind of information that may be 'imported':
the information must not exceed that which an amateur It would certainly seem as though there is one element
of the arts would naturally. bring with him. If such a that we must bring to our perception of a work of art,
person cannot reconstruct the problem to which the which is quite incompatible with the Presentational
given work of art is a solution, then, but only then, theory: and that is the recognition that it is a work of art.
knowledge that the problem is of such and such a nature At first it might be thought that this could be accommo-
is irrelevant. Furthermore, the capacity to see, given the dated to the theory, along the lines I indicated at the
88 89
- AnEssay
Art and its Objects
beginning of the last section. We might, that is, regard have seen)can out of desperation be thought to be works
the concept 'art' as part of the conceptual framework of art in cases where there are no physical objects that
with which we are required to approach art. But this will can plausibly be thought of in this way, are tokens. In
not do, except on the most literal level. 'Art' certainly is a other words, Ulysses and Der Rosenkavalier are types,
concept,"but (as this essay implicitly shows) it is a con- my copy of Ulysses and tonight's performance of Rosen-
cept of such complexity that it is hard to see how it could kavalier are tokens of those types. The question now
be fitted into an argument designed with merely descrip- arises, What is a type?
tive or rhetorical concepts in mind. The question is very difficult, and unfortunately, to
treat it with the care and attention to detail that it de-
35 serves is beyond the scope of this essay.
. Before, however, pursuing this last point, theconsequen- We might begin by contrasting a type with other sorts
ces of which will occupy us more or less for the rest of of thing that it is not. Most obviously we could contrast a
this essay, I want to break off the present discussion type with a particular:this I shall take as done. Then we
(which began with section 20) and go back and take up
could contrast it with other various kinds of non-
an undischarged commitment: which is that of con- particulars: with a class (of which we say that it has
sidering the consequences of rejecting the hypothesis that members), and a universal (of which we say that it has
works of art are physical objects, in so far as those arts instances). An example of a class would be the class of
are concerned where there is no physical object with red things: an example of a universal would be redness:
which the work of art could be plausibly identified. This and examples of a type would be the word 'red' and the
will, of course, be in pursuance of my general aim - Red Flag - where this latter phrase is taken to mean not
which has also directed the preceding discussion -- of es- this or that piece of material, kept in a chest or taken out
tablishing that the rejection of the hypothesis has serious , and flown at a masthead, but the flag of revolution, raised
consequences for the philosophy of art only in so far as for the first time in 18'30 and that which many would
those arts are concerned where there is such an object. willingly follow to their death. .
I have already stated (sections 5, 20) that, once it is Let us introduce as a blanket expression for types,
conceded that certain works of art are not physical classes., universals, the term generic entity, and, as a
objects, the subsequent problem that arises, which can be blanket expression for those things which fall under
put by asking, What sort of thing are they?, is essentially them, the term elerr;ent.Now:we can say that the various
a logical problem. It is that of determining the criteria of generic entities can be distinguished according to the dif-
identity and individuation appropriate to, say, a piece of ferent ways or relationships in which they stand to their
music or a novel. I shall characterize the status of such elements. These relationships can be arranged on a scale
things by saying that they are (to employ a term intro- of intimacy or intrinsicality. At one end of the scale we
duced by Peirce) types. Correlative to the term 'type' is . find classes,where the relationship is at its most external
the term 'token'. T~ose physical objects which (as we I or extrinsic: for a class is merely made of, or constituted
9° 91

,-'" --~,-, ,-,-,~

Art and its Objects An Essay

by, its members which are extensionally conjoined to where it occurs it will be a purely contingel,lt or for-
form it. The class of red things is simply a construct out tuitous affair, i.e. there will be no transmitted properties.
of all those things which are (timelessly) red. In the,case In the cases of both universals and types, there will be'
of universals the relation is more intimate: in that a uni-
shared properties. Red things may be said to be exhilar-
versal is present in all its instances. Redness is in all red ating, and so also redness. Every red flag is rectangular.
things. With types we find the ,relationship between the and so is the Red Flag itself. Moreover, many, if not all, of
generic entity and its elements at its most intimate: for
not merely is the type present in all its tokens like the
the shared properties will be transmitted. .
Let us now confine our attention to transmitted proper-
universal in all its instances, but for'much of the time we ties because it is only they which are relevant to the
think and talk of the type as though it Were itself a kind difference in relationship between, on the one hand, uni-
of token, though a peculiarly important or pre-eminent versals and types a~d, on the other hand, their elements.
one. In many ways we treat the Red Flag as though it Now there would seem to be two differences inrespect of
were a red flag (d. 'We'll keep the Red Flag flying transmitted properties which distinguish universals from
high'). types. In the f}rst place, there is likely to be a far larger
These varying relations in which the different generic range of transmitted properties in the case of types than
entities stand to their elements are also reflected (if, that there is with universals. The second difference is this: that
is, this is another fact) in the degree to which both the- in the case of universals no property that an instance of a
generic entities and their elements can satisfy the same certain universal has necessarily, i.e. that it has in virtue
predicates. Here we need to make a distinction between of being an instance of that universal, can be transmitted
sharing properties and properties being transmitted. I to the universal. In the case of types, on the other hand,
shall say that when A and B are both f, f is shared by A all and only those properties that" a token of a certain
and B. I shall further say that when A is f because B is f, type has necessarily,. i.e. that it has in virtue of being a
or B is' f because A is f, f is transmitted between A and B. token of that type, will be transmitted to the type.
(I shall ignore the sens~ or direction of the transmission, Examples would be:~edness, as we have seen, may be
i.e. I shall not trouble, even where it is possible, to dis- exhilarating, and, if it is, it is so for the same reason that
criminate between the two sorts of situation I have men- its instances are, i.e. the property is transmitted. But
tioned as instances of transmission.) redness cannot be red or coloured, which its instances are
First, we must obviously exclude from consideration necessarily. On the other hand, the Union Jack is
properties that can pertain only to tokens (e.g. properties coloured and rectangular, properties which all its tokens
of location in space and time) and equally those which have necessarily: but even if all its tokens happened to be
pertain only to types (e.g. 'was invented by'). When we made of linen, this would not mean that the Union Jack
have done this, the situation looks roughly as follows: itself was made of linen.
Classes can share properties with their members (e.g. the To this somewhat negative account of a type - con-
class of big things is big), but this is very rare: moreover, centrated largely on what a type is not - we now need to
92 93
Art and its Objects An ~Essay

append something of a more positive kind, which would 5ne can see a natural extension of the original charac-
terization to cover cases where the invention is more
say what it is for v;arious particulars to be gathered
together as tokens of the same type. For it will be ap- Classificatory than constructive in nature, e.g. the Red
preciated that there corresponds to every universal and
to every type a class: to redness the class of red things,~to 36 ~
the Red Flag the class of Fed flags. But the converse is not
true. The question therefore arises, What are the charac- It will be clear that the preceding ch;1racterization of a
teris&: circumstances in which we postulate a type? The type and its tokens offers us a framew9rk within which'
question, we must appreciate, is' entirely conceptual: we can (at any rate'roughly) understand the logical status
a question about the structure of our language. OFthings like operas, ballets, poems, etchings, ete.: that is
A very important set of circumstances in which we to say; account for ,their principles of identity and indi-
postulate types - perhaps a central set, in the sense#that it vi<iluation.To show exactly where these various kinds of
Ifiay be possible to explain the remaining circumstances t(;mingslie within this framework would involve a great
by reference to them - is where we can correlate a class deal of detailed analysis, more than can be attempted
of particulars with a piec~,of human invention: these par- here, and probably of little intrinsic interest. I shall touch
ticulars may then be regarded as tokens of a certain t>ype. very briefly upon two general sets of problems, both of
This characterization is vague, and deliberately so: for it w~ich concern the feasibility of the project. In this sec-
is intended to comprehend a considerable spectrum of tion I shall deal with the question of how the type is,.
cases. At one end we have the case' where' a particular is identified or (what is much the same thing) how the
, produced, and i~ then copied: at the other end, we have tokens of a given type are generated. In the next section I
the case where a set of instructions is drawn up which, if shall deal with the question of what properties we are
followed, give rise to an indefinite number of particulars. entitled to ascribe to a type. These two sets of questions
An example of the former would be the Brigitte Bardot are not entirely dis,tinct: as we can see from tHe fact that
looks: an example of the latter would'be the Minuet. there is a third set of questions intermediate between the
Intervening cases are' constituted by the production of a other two, concerning how we determine whether two
particular which was made in order t~ be copied, e.g. the particulars are or are not tokens of the same type. These
Boeing 707, or the construction of a mould or matrix latter questions, which arise for instance sharply in con-
which generates further particulars, e.g. the Penny Black. nexion with translation, I shall pass over. I mention them
There are many ways of arranging the cases - according, solely to place those which I shall deal with in per-
say, to the degree of human intention that enters into the spective.
proliferation of the type, or according to the degree of First, then, as to how the type is identified. In the case
match that exists between the original piece of invention of any work of art that it is plausible to think of as a
and the tokens that flow from it. But there are certain type, there is what I have called a piece of hu~an inven-
resemblances between all the cases: and with ingenuity tion: and these pieces of invention fall along the whole

94 95
'~',w._. - --, ,- ,~-,

Art and its Objects An Essay

spectrum of cases as I characterized it. At one end of the
scale, there is the case of a poem, which comes into being 37
when certain words are set down on paper or perhaps, elf is, we have seen, a feature of types and their tokens,
earlier still, when they are said over in the poet's head (d. not merely that they may share properties, but that when
the Cros:~-Collingwood theory). At the other end of the they do, these properties may be transmitted. The ques-
scale is an opera which comes into being when a certain tion we have now to ask is whether a limit can be set
set of instructions, Le. the score, is written down, in ac- ~po:q the properties that may be transmitted: more
cordance with which performances can be produced. As specifically, since it is the type that is the work of art and
an intervening case we might note a film, of which therefore that with which we are expressly concerned,
different copies are made: or an etching or engraving, whether there are any properties - always of course ex-
where different sheets are pulled from the same matrix, duding those properties ;which can be predicated only of
Le. the plate. ' particulars - that belong to tokens and cannot be said
There is little difficulty in all this, so long as we bear in Jpsofacto to belong to their types.,
mind from the beginning the variety of ways in which It might be thought that we have an answer, or at least ..
the different types can be identified, or (to put it another a partial answer, to this question in the suggestion
way) in which the tokens can be generated from the in- already made, that the properties transmitted between
itial piece of invention. It is if we begin with too limited a token and type are only those which the tokens possess
range of examples that distortions 'Can occur. For in- R~cessarily. But a moment's reflection will show that any
stance, it might be argued that, if the tokens of a certain aNswer along these lines is bound to be trivial. For there is
poem are the many different inscriptions that occur in n@w<).yof determining the prQperties that a token of a
books reproducing the word ,order of 'the poet's manu- given type has necessarily, independently of determining
script, then 'strictly speaking' the tokens of an opera the properties of that type: accordingly, we cannot use
must be the various pieces of sheet music or printed the former in order to ascertain the latter. We cannot
scores that reproduce the marks on the composer's hol- hope to discover what the properties,of the Red Flag are
ograph. Alternatively, if we insist' that it is the per- DYfinding out what prbperties the various red flags have
formances of the opera that are the tokens, then, it is necessarily: for how can we come to know that, e.g. this
argued, it must be the many readings or 'voicings' of the .red flag is necessarily red, prior to knowing that the Red
poem that are its tokens. Flag itself is red?
Such arguments might seem to be unduly barren or There are, however, three observations that can be
pedantic, if it were not that they revealed something made here on the basis of our most general intuitions. The
about the divergent media of art: moreover, if they did first is that there are no properties or sets of properties
not bear upon the issues to be discussed in the next sec- that cannot pass from token to type. With the usual re-
tion. servations, there is nothing that can be predicated.. of a
performance of a piece of music that could not also be
96 97

Art and its ObjectS An 'Essay

predicated of that piece of music itself. This point is vital. factors that might disg:uise from us the fact that every
Fbr it is this that ensUres what I have called the harm- gerformance,of a work of art involves\ or is, an interpret-
lessness of denying the physical-object hypothesis in the (ition. One, such factor would be antiquarianism. We
domain of those arts where the denial consists in,saying could - certainly if the evidence 'Yere available - imagine
that works of art are not physical objects. ,For though a Richard III produced just as Burbage played it, or Das
they may not be objects but -types",this does not prevent Klagende Lied performed just as Mahlerconducted it. But
them from having physical properties. Theli,e is. nothing though it would be possible to bring about in this way a
that prevents us, from saying that Donne's Satires are replica of Burbage's playing or Mahler's conductin~, we
harsh on the<ear, or that Burer's engraving of St'Anthony should none the less have interpretatioqs of Ric;:hardIN
Qas;fl very differentiated texture, or that the conclusion and Das Klagende~Lied, for this is what Burbage's playing
of '€eleste Aida' is pianissimo. 11' a>ndMahler's conducting were, ,though acimittedly the
The second observation is that,~thotigh any single prop- first. Secondly, it wO\lld pe wrong,to thinkof the elem~nt
"erty'rp.ay be",p~ tbk,en to type, it does not of interpretation - assurfl'ing..that"this is pow conceded to
,follow that!all will be: or to 'put ~t another"'way.; a token be present in the case' of.;~ll perfqrmances - as showing. "
will have some of its properties necessarily, but it;'Vneed something defective. Susanne Langer, for instance, has
nbt have all of them ne.cessarily. 'the full significance of characterized ,the situation in the performing arts by
this point will emerge later.",r, 11 41 I!f saying that e.g. the piece of music;;the' composer writes is
~ Thirdly,; in the case of some arts it is necessary thatlillot 'an incomplete work': 'the performance', she says, 'is the
all properties should be.transmitted from token toHype: completion of a musi,cal work'. But this suggests that the
though it remains true that for any single property it point to which the' composer carries the work is one
might be transmitted. The reference here is, of course, to which he could, or even should, have gone beyond. To see
the performing arts - to operas; 'plays, sympHonies, "how radical a reconstruction this involves of the ways in
ballet. It follows from what was said above that anything which we conceive the performing arts, we need to envis-
I'that can be predicated of a performance of a piece of age what would be involved-if it were to be even possible
music can also be predicated of the piece of music itself: to el~minate interpretation. For instance, one requirement
to this we must now add that not every property that can woul~ be that we should have for each performing art
be predicated of the former ipso facto belongs to the what might be called; in some very strong sense, a univer-
latter. This point is generally covered by saying tliat in sal notation: such that we could designate in it every
such cases there is essent;ially an element of interpret- characteristic that now originates at the point of per-
ation, where for these purposes interpretation may be formanc:e. C'an we imagine across the full range of the
regarded as the production of a token that has properties arts what such a notation would be like? With such
in excess of those of the,type. a notation there would no longer be any executant arts:
'Essentially' is a word that needs to be taken very the whole of the execution would have been antici-
seriously here. For, in the first place, there are certain pated in the notation. What assurance' can we have th~t
98 !!9
Art and its Objects An Essay
the reduction of these arts to mere mechanical skills with certain arts, critical interpretation pertains to all:
would not in turn have crucial repercussions upon' more specifically a critical interpretation can be placed
the way in which we regard or assess the performing upon any given performative interpretation - 'so the
arts? point of the parallelism vanishes, in that the performing
arts still remain in a peculiar or discrepant situation.
.38 Now I do not want to deny that any performance of a
However, if we no longer regard it as a defect in certain piece of music or a play can give rise to a critical in-
arts that they require interpretation, it might still seem terpretation; the question, however, is, When this
unsatisfactory that there should be this discrepancy happens, is this on th~ same level as a performative in-
within the arts: that, for instance, the composer or the terpretation? I want to maintain that we can fruitfully
dramatist should be denied the kind of control over his regard it as being so. For in so far as we remain concerned
work that the poet or the painter enjoys. with the play or the piece of music, what we are doing is
In part, there just is a discrepancy within the arts. And in the nature of suggestingor arguing for alternative per-
this discrepancy is grounded in very simple facts of very formances, which would have presented the original
high generality, which anyhow lie outside art: such as work differently: we are not suggesting or arguing for
that words are different from pigments, or that it is alternative ways in which the actual performance might
human beings we employ to act and human beings are be taken. Our interpretation is on the occasion of a per-
not all exactly alike. If this is the source of dissat- formance, not about it. The situation is, of course, com-
isfaction, the only remedy would be to limit art very plicated to a degree that cannot be unravelled here by the
strictly to a set of processes or stuffs that were absolutely fact that acting and playing music are also arts, and in
homogeneous in kind. criticizing individual performances we are' sometimes
In part, however, the dissatisfaction comes from exag- conversant about those arts: which is why I qualified my
gerating the discrepancy, and from overlooking the fact remark by saying 'in so far as we remain concerned with
that in the nonperforming arts there is a range of ways in the play or piece of music' .
which the spectator or audience can take the work of art. The second and more serious objection to the parallel-
It is, I suggest, no coincidence that this activity, of taking ism between the.two kinds of interpretation is that they
the poem or painting or novel in one way rather than differ as to necessity. For whereas a tragedy or a string
another, is also called 'interpretation'. For the effect in quartet have to be interpreted, a poem or a painting need
the two cases is the same, in that the control of the artist not be. At any given mome:pt it may be necessary to
over his work is relaxed. interpret them, but that will be only because of the his-
Against this parallelism between the two kinds of in- torical incompleteness of our comprehension of the
terpretation, two objections can be raised. The first is that work. Once we have really grasped,it, further interpret-
the two kinds of interpretation differ in order or level. ation will no longer be call~d for. In other words, critical
For whereas performative interpretation occurs' only interpretation ultimately eliminates itself: whereas a
100 101

Art and its Objects All' Essay


piece .of music.or a play cannot be perrormed once and i~ that in art there is a characteristic ambiguity, or
for all. perhaps better plasticity; introduced into the ~oles of ac-
On this last argument I wish to make two preliminary tivity and passivity: the artist is active, but so also is the
observations: First, the argument must not draw any sup- spectator, and the spectator's activity consists in in-
port (as the formulation her.e'would seem to) from the terpretation. 'A creator', Valery puts it, 'is one who
makes othe~s create.' .
indubitable but irrelevant fact that a performance is a
transient not an enduring phenomenon. The relevant fact Secondly - and this point too has received some recog-
is not that a piece of ;music or a play'must always be nition-thevalue of art is liot exhausted bywhat the artist,
Of'even by what the artist and the spectator, gain from it:
performed anew but that it can always be perform~d
afresh, i.e. that every new performance can involve ~ it is not contained by the transaction between them.
new interpretation. The que~tion then is, Is there not in 'Yhe work of art itself has a residual value. In certain
the case of the nonperforming arts the same permanent 'subjectivist' views - as e.g. in the critical theory of I. A.
possibility of new interpreta,tiqn??econdly, the argu- Richards - the value of art is made to seem contingent:
ment seems to be ambiguous betw,~entwo formulations, eontingent, that is, upon there b<?ingfound no better or
which are not clearl);..,tl~ough in fact they may be, more effective way in which certain experiences assessed
equivalent: the ostensibly stronger one, that in the case to be valuable can be aroused in, or transmitted between,
of a poem or painting all interpretations can ultimately the"minds of the artist and his audience. Now it is difficult
be eliminated; and the ostensibly weaker one, that in to see how such fa conclusion can be avoided if the work
these cases all interpretations save'one can ultimately be of art is held to be inherently exhaustible in interpret- .
eliminated. . ation. In section 29 the view was considered that works
Against the eliminability of interpretation, the only de- of art are translucent; the view we are now asked to
cisive argument is one drawn from our actual experience consider would seem to suggest that they are transparent,
of art. There are, however, supplementary consider- and as such ultimately expendable or 'throw-away'. It is
ations, the full force of whieh can be assessed only as against such a view that Valery argued that we should
this essay progresses, which relate to the value of art. 'regard works of art as constituting 'a. new and impen-
Allusions to both can be found in a brilliant and sugges- etrable element' which is interposed between the artist
tive work, Valery's 'Reflexionssur I'Art'. and the spectator. The ineliminability of interpretation
In the first place the value of art, as has been tradition- he characterizes, provocatively, as 'the creative mis-
ally recognized, does not ex;ist exclusively, or even understanding' .
primarily, for the artist. It is shared equally between the
artist and his audience. One view of how this sharing is
effected, which is prevalent but implausible. is that the
artist makes something of value, which he then hands on The word 'interpretation' has very definite associations.
to the audience, which is thereby enriched. Another view For the interpretative situation is one we in general con-
102 103
,~. _.,~""

Art and its Objects An Essay

ceive somewhat as follows: There are certain facts of the disordered trains of thought; in this way a hitherto extra-
case; thes~ facts can be conclusively established by refer- ,Jieous or nonaesthetic feature of the text becomes part of
ence to evidence; there are also certain constructions that the play, where the play is the work of art. Secondly, we
can be placed upon these facts, these constructions, ~mightconsider the tree brushwork that frequently enters
which are what we call 'interpretations', are not into the backgrounds of Titian or Velasquez. To the eyes
uniquely de.termined by the facts, nor is there any other ef contemporaries, these liberties, when not actually
way in which they can be conclusively established; in- offensive - and we have the hostile comments of Vasari
terpretations are, therefore, assessed by reference to prag- en Titian, even df Diderot on Chardin - might have had,
matic considerations, or to considerations of theory, at best, a representational justification. Even to Reynolds
intuition, judgement, taste, plausibility etc.; the dis- the merit of Gainsborough's 'handling' was that it intro-
tinction between fact and interpretation is com- duced 'a kind of magic' into his painting, ,in that all the
paratively clear-cut. 'odd scratChes and marks', which were individually ob-
In the domain of the arts this picture has to be servable close to, suddenly at a certain distance fell into
considerably revised: notably, in two respects, both of place and assumed form. But since the turn that painting
which are very important for the proper understanding has increasingly taken since, say, Manet, these passages
of art. would now have a further, and more intimately aes-
In the first place, in the case of a work of art what the tht.etic,significance for us, in their simultaneous assertion
facts are is not something that can legitimately be demar- C!}f the sensibility of the artist and the materiality of the
cated. The point here is not just that disputes can always painting. A third example is provided by Freud's analysis
arise on the margin as to whether something is or is not a of Leonardo's Vir9in and Child with St Anne. For even if
fact about a given work of art. The position is more rad- on empirical grounds we reject the detail of this,
ical. It is that whole ranges of fact, previously unnoticed it leads us to take account of new sets of facts, e.g. the
or dismissed as irrelevant, can suddenly be seen to pertain physiognomic similarities between two figures in a pic-
to the work of art. These transformations can occur in a tlH~ (in this case, the Virgin and St Anne), which it would
variety of ways as a result of changes in criti~ism, or as be impossible for any modern spectator to exclude from
the result of changes in the practice of art, qr as a result ills consideration of the representation. A simpler in-
of changes in the general Intellectual environment: as the stance of this last type is provided by the role played in .
following examples show. the structure of Othello by Iago's homosexuality: some-
. As a first example, we might cite the grammaticality of thing which we may well believe it was not open to earl-
Shakespeare's sentences, which has over history been re- ier generations to perceive.
garded as a matter primarily of philological interest. This general point puts - us in a particularly good
Recently, however, critics have suggested that the position from which to see what is really wrong with
syntactical incoherence of certain speeches, in e.g. Mac- both the Ideal and the Presentational theories of art. For
beth, may be of significance as expressive of deep and both theories rest upon the assumption, shared by many
104 1°5

Arfand its Objects An Essay

dominantly callous? Why does Hamlet delay? Is ijamlet's
philosophers of art, that we can draw a boundary around emotion in excess of the facts? etc.
the properties (or kinds of property)! that belong to a
work of art. Each theory, it will be observed, posits as the By dividing the issues in this way Weit~ invites absurd-
work of art an object more impoverished than the ity. For, in the first place, it must be clear that certain
nonreflective account postulates, and it then proceeds to things are facts of Hamlet even though they are not in the
"justify this on the grounds that the pFoperties excluded text: for instanccl(to take a trivial example) that Hamlet
(e.g. physical, intentional) are not of aesthetic was once a child. Equally, it is clear that certain so-called
significance. We shall, in section 52, uncoyer further con- ~facts' are challengeable even though a passage in the text
siderations that suggest that any attempt to anticipate or can be cited in support of them: for instance, Ernest
jlones's interpretation is not clearly invalidated, as Weitz
prejuqge the range of aesthetically significant properties
is misguided. seems to think, by the fact that Hamlet declares his love
The second re~pect in. which the ordinary picture of for,,]hisfather and there is no counterassertion in the text.
interpretation and what it involves has to be' modified (Cf., the insistence that "the Duke in My Last Duchess
within aesthetics is that it is not true in this area that 'never stoops' because he says he never stoops: whereas,
interpretation is totally ,free"of, in the sense of not: deter- of course, it is Browning's point that, in saying so, he
mined by, fact. To put the",matter another way, a dear does.)
. Most significantly, however, Weitz is wrong to.put the
separation cannot be made of fact and interpretation. For
of many of the facts of art, it is required that they are question why Hamlet delays' on a different level from
interpreteg.'in a certain way. This follows:from the fact that of whether he delays: which Weitz does, simply be-
that art is an intentional activity. This point too has often cause Shakesp~are's text answers one and not the other.
been overlooked by philosophers of art. t .
For it would surely be a defect in Hamlet if one could
Instructive in this respect is a recent book by Morris claim ,(as Eliot in effect did) that Shakespeare, in showing
Weitz, Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism. us that Hamlet delays, did not show us why he did. In
Weitz contends that 'much criticism is at fault because it Hamlet we do not simply have a random set of facts
about Hamlet.
ignores the crucial distinctions between description, ex-
planation (or interpretation), and evaluation. It is only 40
the first of these distinctions' that concerns us here. For
Weitz, description is whatever can be established Let us now return to the point that despite (or perhaps
uniquely by reference to the text: explanation is what we because of) its importance I felt obliged to leave hanging,
invoke in order to, understand the text. In Hamlet criti- six sections back: namely, ~hat it is intrinsic to our atti-

cism descriptive issues would be, Is Hamlet ,mad? Does
Hamlet vacillate? Does Hamlet love his father? Did
tude to works of art that we should regard them as works
of art, or, to use another terminology, that we should
bring them under the concept 'art'. To some philosophers
ij Hamlet say '0, that this too too sullied flesh would melt'?

etc. Explanatory issues. would be, Is Hamlet pre- this point has seemed of such importance that the sugges-

,I 106 107
II'~. .

An E:;say I'
Art and its Objects I

tion has been,made that instead of trying to elucidate the functions that '£'s' necessarily have: and that in turn
notions of 'art' or 'work of art' as though this were the would be'obtained from an understanding of the concept
central problem of aesthetics, we should rather define ;j' as it occurs outside the phrase 'regarding something as
both these notions in terms of our disposition to an f'. So it would be the' occurrence of 'f' tout court that
regard things as works of art, and then make the eluci- w6uld be primary. The point is worth making, because
dation of this disposition the'topic of our efforts. In other ~Gme philosophers, perhaps implausibly; have tried to
words, a work of art is now (by definition) an object that define art functionally, e.g. as an instrument to arouse
we are disposed to regard as a,work of art. certain emotions, or to playa certain social role. It must,
Put like this, the suggestion is obviously open to the .1;10wever,be made quite clear that, even if we do reject
charge of circularity: for the deiiniendum reappears in the view that 'art' is a functional concept, we are not
the deiiniens, moreover in a way which does not allow of committed to the far more implausible though widely
elimination. held view that 'all art is quite useless' - where, that is to
But perhaps we are wrong to take the suggestion quite say, this it taken quite literally as asserting that no work
so literally: that is to say, as offering us a formal of art has a function. The view is quite implausible be-
definition of 'work of art'. The idea may be more like cause obviously many works of art, e.g. temples, frescoes,
this: that the primary occurrence of the expression 'work ,pins, the Cellini salt-cellar, the railway station at Flor-
of art' is in the phrase 'to regard x as a work of art'; that ~nce, have a function. What we are committed to is
if we wish to understand the expression~ we must first spmething quite different, and very much less awkward:
understand it there; and that, when it occurs elsewhere or and that is that no work of art has a function as such, I.e.
on its own, it has to be understood by reference back to ¥I'virtue of being a work of art.
the original phrase in which it gains its meaning and from However, the difficulties in the way of ma~ing the aes-
which it then, as it were for idiomatic reasons, gets de- d:.J.eticattitude, i.e. regarding something as a work of art,
tached. constitutive of the notions
of art and work of art, are not
If we regard this interpretation of the suggestion as the ~xclusively formal. Another set of difficulties concerns
most acceptable, there is still one'consequence of accept- the aesthetic attitude itself, and what we are to under-
ing it that needs to be pointed out: And that is that we stand by treating something as a work of art: a problem
would have to renounce the view that art is a functional on which we can find, in the treatment of it by phil-
concept. By a functional concept is meant a concept like t!>sophers, a systematic ambiguity. This ambiguity can
'knife', where this means (say) 'a domestic object for cut- perhaps best be brought out by means of an interesting
ting', or 'soldier"where this means (if it ever does) 'a man distinction that Wittgenstein makes.
for fighting'. For if 'f' is a functional concept, then to
'regard something as an f' could not be a primary occur- I
rence of 'f'. For how we treated something when we re- In the Brown Book Wittgenstein notes an ambiguity in
garded it as an 'f' would have to be dependent on the the usage of words such as 'particular' and 'peculiar'.
108 109
"'-,'- -"'~'~"',,-,

Art and its Objects It An Essay

Let us begin; as he does, with the word 'peculiar'. Talk- uncop1monness or odgity that 'pesuliar' ""does.But jt has
ing about apiece of soap (Wittgenstein's example) I thelsame functionbfemphasizing or concentrating upon
might say that it",ha'S[apeculiar smell; and then add some- some object Qr some feature of an obje@t. Wittgenstein
thing like 'It is the kind we used as children': alterna- contrasts two. usages of 'The particular wayin which A
tively I might "say 'This soap has a peculiar smell', €nters a room. . .' by pointing out that when asked 'What
emphasizing the word, or 'It reaily has a most peculiar way?' we might say/I'He sticks his head into the room
smell'. :In the first 'case, the word is used,,1to introduce the first' "alternatively we might
" just say 'The way.he.,

description thatfo1l6ws it, and indeed," when we have the In the 'second case, Wittgenstein suggestsfth,at 'He has a
description, is altogether"replaceable. In the second case, particular way. . .' might have "to be translated as q,;m
however, the "Y°rd is more or less equivalent-to 'out of ¥contemplating his movement'. :Ii'"
the ordil1ary~, 'un~ommon', 'striking': there is no descrip- ,
'Wittgenstein tJ1ipks thatl~t. is characteristic "of philo-
tion here whose place it takes, and indeed it is important I ~sophical;probkms tocbhfuse these two usages; 'There are
to see that iI1l1Jsuchcases we aren't de~cribiI1g anything-at ma11ytroubles', he writed: '\yhich,arise'iin this way, that a
alt we are'femphas.izing or drawing attention to whatever EWg~dhas 'a"transitive and an intransitive use, andthat~we
it is, without saying, Rerhaps without being in a position regartl th~ latter as"a particular case of the former, ex-
to say, what it is. This linguistiC fah""whic}1'lit requires f)laining a wordr when' if is used intransitively 1f~ a
some insightifo discern, can be further"t:oncealed from us reflexive" cons'truction.' He suggests that a number of
'r', ':

by a "locution we might "employ in these cases. Having €lifficultles in the~philosophy 6ft mind are susceptible to
said fhat tI1~soap has "apeculiar smell in the s.econd sense, I)uch an;analysis. \~ 11:'

and then asked 'Wha,t smelI'?' we might say somethil1g We might now state the ambiguity referred,to in the
lfl<.e'The smell it has', or 'This smell', holding,it up to the f)revious se(;;tion by saying that philosophers of'aft'wno,
other's nose: and thereby think that we have done sbme- make "reference to the aesthetic attitude are sys-
thing to describe it. But, of course, we haven't. Witt- tematitzally ambiguous as to whether they intend a par-
gensteintcalls the first usage ,of hhese words 'transitive'; tiCular attitude in the transitive or the intransitive sense.
the second usage, 'intransitive': and, the locution that 0n the whole, it would look as though, despite the many
might lead us falsely to assimilate the second usage to the theories which try to give a positive characterization of
first he calls a 're;Nexiveconstruction' . the aesthetic' attitude, the attitu<te can be conceived of as
In the case of the word 'particular', there is a similar a particular attitude only in the intransitive sense: for
ambiguity of usage. The word can be used in place of a every characterization of it in terms of sQme further de-
description, which we could substitute for it, sometimes scription or set of descriptions seems to generate counter-
only after a period of further thought or reflection. And examples~, '

the word can 1.>eused with no promise of such a descrip- But there is room here for misunderstanding. For it
tion being forthcoming. 'Particular' used intransitively might be thought that this is the same as saying that
does not, it is true, carry wi~h it the same suggestion of really there is no such thing as the aesthetic attitude; or, ,

Art and its Objects An Essay

more mildly, that there is nothing distinctive of the aes- smoothness of the water, the strange solitude and re-
thetic attitude. But to interpre.t~the argument this way - . moteness from the world. It would be a parody of this
which is as co~mon among those who accept as those ~ind of approach, but involving no real unfairness, to
who reject it - is to miss its point. The point is not that k()mpare it to an attempt to explicate our understanding
there is nothing distinctive of the aesthetic attitude, but of language by reference to the experiences we might
rather that there need not be any comprehensive way of . have in listening to a parrot 'talking' .
referring to what is distinctive of it other than as the For the central case, whIch mustbe our starting point,
aesthetic attitude. In other words, we should regard is where what we regarded as a work of art has in point of
Wittgenstein's argument as against what he takes to be a fact also been produced as a work of art. In this way
pervasive error in our thinking: that of identifying one there is a matching or correspondence between the con-
phenomenon with another phenomenon more specific €ept in the mind of the spectator al1d the concept in the
than it, or that of seeing everything as.a diminished ver- Piflindof the artist. Indeed, it might be maintained that an
sion of itself. It cannot be s~rprising that Art, which nat- error has already crept into my exposition when two
urally provokes envy and hostility, should be perennially sections back I talked of the aesthetic attitude in terms of
subject to s.,uchmisrepresentation. 'bringing objects under the concept "art" '; for this sug-
gests that we impose a concept upon an object, where the
42 other object itself is quite innocent of, or resists, that
A serious distortion is introduced into many accounts; c@ncept. The aesthetic attitude might be thought to have
of the aesthetic attitude by taking as central to it'"cases ~een made to look, quite misleadingly, a matter of de-
whic~ are really peripheral or secondary; that is, cases cision on our part.
where what we regard as a work of art is, in point of fact, This, of course, is not to deny that we can regard
a piece of uncontrived nature. Kant, for instance, asks us' objects that have not been made as works of art, or for
to consider a rose that we contemplate as beautiful. Or that matter pieces of nature that have not been made at
there is the more elaborate ca,se invoked by Edward Bull- all, as though they had been: we can treat them as works
ough in his essay on 'psychical distance' (which is for or art. For once the aesthetic attitude has been established
him 'a fundamental principle' of the 'aesthetic con- Qn the basis of objects produced under the concept of art,
sciousness'), where he contrasts different attitudes to a we can then extend it beyond this base: in much the same
fog at sea: the various practical attitudes, of passengers or way as, having established the concept of person on the
sailors, ranging from annoyance through anxiety to basis of human beings, we may then, in fables or chil-
terror, ,and then the aesthetic attitude~ in whieh we ab- dren's stories, come to apply it to animals or even to trees
stract ourselves from all active concerns' and simply con- and rocks, and talk of them as though they could think or
centrate upon 'the features "objectively" constituting the feel. Such an extension in the case of art can occur tem-
phenomenon' - the veil that has the opaqueness of milk, porarily: as, for instance, in Valery's famous reflection, on
the weird carrying-power ~fthe air, the curious creamy the sea shell. Or it can occur permanently - as, for in-
112 113
"" -,,-,.. ~ r-

Art and its Qbjects" An Essay

stctnce, in the event, which h1s ;"such' far-reaching
effects on the whole q~ modern art, when, around 43
the turn of this centuJ11}',in response t~ an, aesthetic In the last section I talked of an. error involved in'the way
impulse, th~re wasy,a wholesale transfer of primitive in which both Kant "md Bullough introduce the aesthetic
artefacts from ethnographicalcollec'tions, yvhere they had
hi'therto been housed, to museums of fine art, where, attitude. I did not, however, want to suggest that this wa~~
merely an error: a straightforward mistake, that and llO
it [wasm now ~thought;J they were I more appropriately more. For in selectingttheir examples"as they did, these
located. ,W -
pllilosophers were implicitly making a point. This point
We Can now see better the irrrol), made by Kant and might be made explicitly'by saying that art is grdunded
Bullough in the way iheYirintroduce the aesthetic; atti- iIi'life. Not only the feelings that art is,about, but also the
~tude. For;if the"aesthetic,attitude can be ext~nded,~rinthe ,feelings that we have ab~utart" hav~ their origins ouf""
m IIowayI have suggested, °'Yer objects to whiQ:,hit does.,not sidei~or <ihtecedent to, the institutions of art. If this is so,
II! pri~arily apply, then there 'witl pe a large number of then the analogy that I have attempted to construct be-
objects ~pwards which it is posSible td adppt both an Cles- tween, on the ori'e hand the way in which Kant and Bul~
thetic and (to use the ordinary blankett'hm for 'nori- lough l,introduce the aesthetic attitude and, on the other
aesthetic') a practical attitude: indeed,\I\itiSic~stomary to ~and, what would obviously be an absurd way of intro-
say that allobjects can be seen in"bqth these modes. So it du~ing nonaesthetic or practical attitudes, must be mis-
might be thought.iJ.thata good method of explicating what i'guided.~or just because it would indeed be absurd to try
it is to adopt an a~?tH'etk aUitude" towards <!-ni"b'bject to explicate the feeling of conce~n by refere:gce to wHat
iI would be to take anbbject towards which"we can adopt one might feel in watching the misfortunes of a heroine
either attitude and then proceed'to contrast the ,two atti- on the stage. it by no means fol1ows that it would be
htudes as they bear upon this object. And so it would be: absurd 'to try to explica'te the aesthetic attitu& by refer-
provided, of course, that,.in such cases, we had a p'rimar~y ence to our contemplation of a rose or a fog at sea. What
~ instance of the aesthetic attitude: and this is what Kant
my analogy overlooked is the essential asymmetry be-
and Bullough do not give us. Imagine the situation in tWeen art and life. So, for instance, whereas we coul'd feel
reverse: that we want to explicate what it is to adopt a concern for a real human being without ever having been
practical as opposed to an aestlTetic attitude -towards affected by the depiction of misfortune iJ;l a play, the
something. It would surely be absurd to try to ,demon- reverse is inconceivable. Equally, we could not have a
strate what it is to show~ say, concern, by concentrating feeling for the beauties of art unless we had been cor-
on the action of the yokel who rushed up on to the stage responding moved in front of nature. This is what
to save the life of Desdemona. .
justifies Kant's and Bullough's examples, and makes my
criticism of them ineffective - the argument would
run. -
There is no one who has more assiduously asserted the
Art and its Objects An Essay

dependence of art <.lndour appreciation of art upon life as ~arly form of life in which such demands upon language
we experience it than John Dewey. 'A primary task' ~ere, as yet, not felt; to which it is hard to give sense.
Dewey writes (and the passage is typical) The erroneous interpretation of the assertion that art is
is imposed upon one who undertakes to write upon the dependent upon life is more difficult to bring out. It
would be to the effect that the institution of art con-
philosophy of the fine arts. This task is to restore continuity
. between the refined and the intensified forms of experience tributes nothing to human experience, in that it merely'
that are works. of art and the everyday events, doings and appropriates, or annexes to itself, feelings, thoughts, atti-
sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute . tudes, that are already in existence. Thus the disap-
experience. '"'" pearance of art from the world would make no-
We can find similar assertions in many writings on the substantive difference to the wealth of human life: There
theory of art: the primacy of life over art is an idea would be no more than. a formal or superficial impover-
widely attested to. The difficulty, however, is to under- ishment: for we could concoct out of what was left an
stand or interpret the idea in such a way as to fall neither equivalent for all that we )lad hitherto derived from
~into triviality nor into error. art.
It would, for instance, be trivial to assert that, in the The error involved in this way of interpreting the de-
history both of the species and of the individual, experi- pendence of art upon life might be brought out by saying
ence of life precedes experience of art. Nor indeed can we ~hat it assumes that the"value or significance of a social'
imagine what it would be like for things to be otherwise. phenomenon can be exhaustively accounted for in, terms
Vico, for instance, held that the earliest form of language of its bare constituents, as though the. manner in which
was poetry, from which the discursive form of speech is they were combined was of no relevance. To borrow the
an evolution: and a well-known theorist of our own day terminology of traditional empiricism, it is true that art is
has suggested that there might have been a primitive not (or the concept of art cannot be derived from) a
language of images that preceded the ordinary language simple impression. But this does not establish the
of words. Conceived of as more than allegories, such superfluity of art, unless we make the further assumption
speculations rapidly lose coherence. The major difficulty (which is, it must be admitted, not all that alien to this
is to see how these so-called languages could fulfil the style of philosophy) that it is only simple impressions
basic deman~J.sof social life without in point of fact ap- that count.
proximating to language as we have and use it. Two it is clear, for instance, that, when we look at a paint-
demands, which we might take as representative of ing or listen to a piece of music, our perception rests upon
others, are those of communication upon practical issues, projection and responsiveness to form, processes which
and of inner thought or thinking to oneself. How could we may believe to be in operation from the beginnings of
these demands be satisfied in the language postulated by consciousness. It has been said, with reason, that the crux
Vico or Sir Herbert Read? Alternatively, it may be that or core of art may be recognized in some effect as simple
these speculations require us to believe that there was an as the completely satisfying progression from a cobbled
n6 117

Art and its Objects An Essay

, street to the smooth base of a building that grows up- The argument of these two sections might be illus-
ward from it. Here, then, we have the dependence of trated historically by saying that, when the Impression-
art on life. But, whereas in ordinary life, or in everyday ists tried to teach us to look at paintings ~s though we
perception, such projections may go unchecked, or they were looking at nature - a painting for Monet was une
need be controlled only by practical considerations, in fenetre ouverte sur Ja !1ature - this was because they
art there is a further constraining influence of greater themselves ,had first looked at nature in a way they had
authority, in the person of the artist who has made or learnt from looking at paintings.
moulded the work of art according to his own inner
demands. It is the imprint of these demands upon the 44
work that we must respect, if we are to retain the aes.- But, of course,.it must not be assumed that, by linking the
thetic attitude. The artist has built an arena, within notion of regardIng 1iomething as a work of art to that of
which we are free, but whose boundaries we must not producing something as a work of art, as was done a
overstep. , section back, any problem in aesthetic theory has been
IIi a brilliant rhetorical passage in What is Art?, Tol- magic1ally resolved. For the latter notion has - at any
stoy takes issue ¥{ith the pretensions o~the Wagnerites. rate, there ,is no reason to think otherwise - as many
He depicts the crowd pouring uncomprehendingly out of difficulties as the former. Anthropologists and historjans
the darkened theatre, where they have just witnessed the of culture, for instance, encounter these difficulties fre-
third evening of the Ring; ,'Oh yes certainly! What quently. The hope, however, would be tha~ by putting
poetry! Marvellous! Especially the birds', he makes them the two notions together, which is where they belong, it'~i
exclaim - for to Tolstoy one of the perversions or soph- 'may prove possible to illuminate the difficulties of the i'
istications of Wagner's art, one of the surest signs of his one by reference to those attendant on the other.
lack of inspiration or strong feeling, is his 'imitativeness' Mpre'comprehensive than the question, asked about
as Tolstoy calls it. But to talk of imitativeness here is a particular object, whether it was in fact produced as a
to miss just the point I have been making. For when, work of art, is the ql;lestion, asked more generally about a
we listen to the bird songs in Wagner, even'in Messiaen, society, whether objects could be produced in it as works
we are not simply reduplicat~ng the experiences that we of art, i.e. whether the society possessed the concept of
might have in the woods or fields. In the aesthetic situ- art. The question is often raised about primitive societies.
ation it is no mere contingency, as it is in nature, that we It has been argued by Tatarkiewicz and Collingwood that
hear what we do. This does not mean, however, that the Greeks did not possess such a concept: Paul Kristeller
what is peculiar to art is a new feeling, or a new mode of has further postdated the time prior to which no concept
perception or a new kind of awareness; it is rather a new recognizably identical with ours existed, and has argued
conjunction of elements already in existence. The per- that 'art' as we employ it is an invention of the sev-
ception,is familiar, the sense of constraint is familiar: it is enteenth century. Such arguments, in so far as they do
t4e aI?algam or compound that is introduced by art. not confuse the conceptual issue with the merely lexi-
118 '

Art and its Objects An Essay

cographical or verbal issue, serve to bring out the vast loud, are about things, that our speech and thought are
number of interrelated criteria that we appeal to in talk- 'of' the world. According to the second view, language in
ing of art. It is not, therefore, surprising that in this essay itself is a set of inert marks: in order to acquire a refer-
the question must remain unresolved. ence to things, what is needed are certain characteristic
Another way of bringing out the ramified character of experiences on the part of the potential language-users,
the concept of art is to take seriously for a moment notably the experiences of meaning and (to a lesser
Hegel's speculation that art might disappear from our degree) of understanding: it is in virtue of these experi-
world. To entertain this speculation, we have to suppose ences that what we utter, aloud or to ourselves, is about
the successive disappearance of phenomena as diverse as the world. There are obviously considerable differences
artistic reputations, collecting, certain decisions about between these two views. In a way they are dia~
the environment, art history, museums, etc.: the project is metrically opposite, in that one regards language as
immense, and is further complicated by the fact that not totally adherent for its distinctive character' on certain
all these phenomena can be identified independently.of 'experiences, the other regards it as altogether complete
each other. Many aspects of social existence would have prior to them. Nevertheless, the two views also have
to be unravelled to an extent that exceeds our imagin- something in common. For both presuppose that these
ative powers. In order to understand this situation, I shall experiences exist, and cim be identified, quite separately
invoke another phrase from general philosophy. from language; that is, both from language as a whole,
45 and also from that piece of language which directly
refers to them. (Thislast distinction is useful, out it would
In the mature expression of Wittgenstein's philosophy, be wrong to press it too hard.) The characte~ization of
the phrase 'form of life' (Lebensform) makes a frequent !language'(alternatively, of this or that sublanguage) as 'a
appearance. Art is, in Wittgenstein's sense, a form of form of life' is intended to dispute the separation on
life. either level.
The phrase appears as descriptiv(f or invocatory of the The characterization of art too as a form of' life has
total context within which alone language can exist: the certain parallel implications.
complex of habits, experiences, skills, with which
language interlocks in that it could not be operated with- 46
out them and, equally, they cannot be identified without The first implication would be that we should not think
reference to it. In particular Wittgenstein set himself that there is something which we call the artistic impulse
against two false views of language. According to the or intention, and which can be identified quite inde-
first view, language consists essentially in names: names pendently of and prior to the institutions of art.
are connected unambiguously with objects, whjch they An attempt is sometimes made. to explain artistic 'cre-
denote: and it is in virtue of this denoting relation that ativity (and, therefore, ultimately art itself) in terms
the words that we utter, whether to ourselves or out
of an artistic instinct, conceived, presumably, on the
120 121
.." ,, . ." ....,' ",. '.~,

AJj"\tand its Objects An Essay

analogy of the se~ual instinct or hunger. But i.fwe pursue h@cessity for '"the obsessional, 'meaningful': for on oge
the analogy, it fails us. For there is no way in whi@h we l€vel at ."any rate, t~t obse~sional wants to do "what he
can ascribe manifestations to this artistic instinct until does, and in 'consequence the analysis of his obsession
there ,me already established in society <;ertain practices ,consists,in tras:ingthis, wish to ,another an"dearlier wish,
recognized as artistic: the sexual instinct, on the,9ther df which it is a symptom. It was just to distinguish art
hand,~ manifests itself in certain activities, whether or nqt. rfrom this kind of case that -Freud classed it as sub-
society recognizes them as sexual - indeed, in many limation, where 'sublimation' means ,the dischargewof
"a, cases, sgciety actively denies their true character. 1;0 put @nuergyin socially acceptable channels.
the matter the other way round: If the sexual instincts Of course, this, is not to deny that art is connected,.with
are ingulged; then certain sexual activities follow; we ~Jjlstinctualmovements, or that it could exist away from '"
cannot, however, regard the arts as though we were ob- their 'vicissitude,s. Jhere are, indeed, certain psychic'!
serving in them the consequenq~s that follow whe,J1the .fortes, such as the reparative drive or the desire to est~b-
artistie instinc~ is indulgeck,Either way round the point is tlish whole objects, without which the general fOfl;p.sthat II
the same: in the case of sexuality, the connexion between ali;t"takes, as well as its value, would be barely com-.
the instinct and its satis.faction in the world is immediate, ,prehensible. In much the same way, religious belief
iii the 6ase of art it i~ medfated by a practice or instk would be barely ;'comprehensible witl1oJlt an' under-
tU'tion. (If it is not always true tHat the sexual instinct standing of early attitudes to' ~parents: but it would
manifests if~flf ,9.irectly, at least the me'aiation is through miss the distinctive character of 'such beliefs to analyse
privately determined thoughts or,phantasies, not through tJ!!,~mwithout Tem:ainder~,in the case of each individual
a pyblic institution: the parallel il,l the sexual sphere"to .i~to th~, personal motivation" that, leads' Him to embrace
t,~lking of an, artistic instinctwduld be to po~tulat~ a them. . '
'matrimonial' instinct.)]}' ", 'The error against which this section has peen directed
Nor does the more fashionable kind of analogy be" is that of thinking, that there is an artistic impulse that
tween the artistic instinct and disordered mental func- can be identified in,dependently of the institutions of. art.
tioning, e.g. an obsession, fare anybetter.<For, once again, It does not. follow that th€re is no such thing as an artistic
there is an immediate connexion be~een the obsession impulse. On the contrary, there is, where this means the
'and the compulsive behaviour in which it is discharged, impulse to produce something as a work of art: an im-
to which we find no parallel in art. There may, of course, pulse which, as we have seen, constitutes, on the artist's
be an obsessional element in much artistic activity, but side, the match to the aesthetic attitude, where this
the choice by the artist of certain activities, which in means the attitude of seeing something as a work of art.
point of fact happen to be artistic activities, need not be Indeed, reference to this impulse is necessary in order to
obsessional. To put it in a way that may seem para- escape from an error implicit in the very first section of
doxical, the kind of activity in which the artist engages this essay: that of seeing art as an unordered set of dis-
need not be for him, as the compulsive behaviour is of joined activities or products. For what gives art its unity ,
122 123
Art and its Objects An Essay

is that the objects that centrally belong to it have been has many applications, not the least of which relates to
produced under the concept of art. the present problem of the social determination of art
forms or art vehicles. Secondly, it is unnecessarily dra-
47 matic to speak here of 'domination': even if we do think
After considering the first implication of the idea of art as that the accreditation of art forms is arbitrary. For we
a 'form of life', I shall for this section digress, and con- might go back for a moment to the example by reference
sider briefly, in the light of what has just been said, the to which I introduced the notion of arbitrariness: I did so
problem which I have called (section 23) the bricoleur by reference to language. Now, do we think that the'
problem. For this has acquired a fresh significance. For, if native speaker of a language is 'dominated' in what he
it is true that artistic creativity can occur only in so far as says by his predecessors and his contemporaries, in
certain processes or stuffs are already accredited as the whose mouths his language has evolved to become what
vehicles of art, then it becomes important to know how it now is?
and why these accreditations ar,emade. More specifically, We may now take up the first question and ask, Is it in
are these accreditations entirely arbitrary: in the sense, fact arbitrary that certain processes and stuffs, and not
for instance, in which it is arbitrary that, out of the others, have been accredited as the vehicles of art? It is
stock of articulated sounds, some and not others, have obvious that we can make any single artistic process, e.g.
been appropriated by the various natural languages as placing pigment on canvas, seem arbitrary by stripping
their phonetic representations? Furthermore, if they are away from it, in our minds, anything'that gives it any
arbitrary, does this mean that the artist is dominated by air of familiarity or naturalness. But all ,that this shows is
whoever is responsible for the accreditations - let us for that, when we raise questions about the arbitrariness or
the moment identify him with the spectator - and that otherwise of a certain process, we need to specify the
the picture we have of the artist as a free agent is er- context in relation to which they are asked. If we indi-
roneous? cate - as we did just now in asking about painting - a
I shall begin with the second question: I shall concede quite topen', or zero-, context, the accreditation will
that there is a way in which the spectator is supreme over dearly seem arbitrary. But it does not follow from this
the artist: and I shall then try to take away the air of that it will seem al{bitrary for all contexts or even for a
paradox that attaches to this truth. In the first place, we large range of contexts.
are wrong to contrast the artist and the spectator as Perbaps we can see this more clearly by going back,
though we were dealing here with different classes of on<::eagain, to the phoneticproblem.If we take a natural
people. For in reality what we have are two different language in the abstract, it is obviously ar,bitrary that
roles, which can be filled by the same person. Inde~d, it certain articulated sounds, not others, were chosen to be
seems a necessary fact that, though not all spectators are its phonemes: where this means little more than that
also artists, all artists are spectators. We have already there are others that could have been chosen. If we fill in
touched upon this truth in considering expression, but it the historical background, including the development of

124 125
" ,<> ',,'. -" .-.-.

J\rt and its Objects An Essay

language, the arbitrariness diminishes. If~we complete the 'between two senses of 'peculiar' and 'particular': there to
context and include such facts as that na~Jve speakers of make the point that if it is characteristic of works of art
one language wi~l barely be able t6 form the phon.emes of that we adopt a particular attitude towards them, i.e. the
amotRer, any suggestion of arbitrariness that a particular aesthetic, this attitude "is particul'arin the intransitive
man liv~ng in a particular society might tHink attaches to sense. The same dIstinction can be used now, this time to
the, sounds that he employs quite vanishes. In such a situ- wake a point in reference not to art in general but to
ation a!Jnan can scarcely think of his language other than i;I;ldividualworks of art; and that is that, if we say that a
as, in Hamann's phrast 'his wedded wife'. j~ work of art expresses a particular state of mind, or even
Iflthe case of art crtrivatutal cOJ;1textin which to deter- i1Ji'w:e~;'say
of it that it expresses a particular state of mind
mine the arbitrariness Of!,other.;wiseof the vehicles of with great intensity or. poignancy, once again the,word
art is provided by certain very' general principles which ;partkular'is used in its intransitive sense.
have historically'\been advanced concerni~$ theesselltial . 'And once again this use brings with it its own dallger.§

characteristics of a work of art. Examples would be: that 0fmisupderstcinding. For if what a work of"artex)Jfesses
the bbject~!must be enduring, or at least"'must sur- is only a particular state i~ an intransitive sense; or (to
,yive (not be consumed in) appreciation; 'tha{f,it must be put it another way) if the Pl1rase 'what the work of art
" apprel1endeClby the 'theoretical~ senses ofpsight and. Qear- expresses' is only a reflexive 'construction; then (it might
ing;'o-tJ;1atit must 'exhibit internal diffe"rentia.tibn, or'be seem},.works of art do not reallY express anything at~all.
capable of being ordered;.,that it must not be inherently 1£ we cannot identify the state except through the work,
valuable, etc. Each of these principles can, of, course, be tIlen we have at best pam" or highly generalized ex-
questioned, and certainly as they stand none s,eems irre- pressiqp: alternatively, we have no e~pression at alL"This
proachable. But that is not the poinf~here: fbr I have,din- ,is, for instance, how Hanslick would appear to have
traduced these principles solely to show the kind of argued, when he concluded from the fact that music
context in which alone we can ask whether it is arbitrary doesn't express de~nite feelings like piety, love, joy~ or
that a certain stuff or!j'process has become an accredited sad,ness, that it isn't an art of expression.
vehicle of art. But the\,- argument is misguided. For it must be em-
phasized that the difference between the two usages of
48 'This expresses a particular state' does not correspond to
A second implication 'of the point that art is a form of life any difference in the expressive function of the work, in
would be that we do wrong tOepostulate, of each. work of the sense either of what is expressed ()r of how it is ex-
art, a particular aesthetic intention or impulse which pressed. The difference lies simply in the way in which
both accounts for that wor,k and can be identified inde- We refer to the inner state: whether we describe it, or
pendently of it. For though there could be such a thing, w.b.ether we simply draw attention to or gesture towards
there need not be. ' it.
In section 41 I invoked a distinction ofWittgenstein!s When We say L'Embarquement pour l'ile de Cythere
126 127

Art and its Objects An Essay

or the second seoction of En Blanc et Nair, expresses a words, i.e. the view reflects on the media of art, not on art
particular feeling, and we mean this intransitively, we . itself. However, it is a'significant fact that the view has
are misunderstood if we are then asked 'What feeling?' been canvassed most heavily precisely in that area of art
Nevertheless, if someone tells us that to him the painting where its cutting-edge is sharpest: in literature. For if the
or the piece of music means nothing, there are many re- literature is in a language rich enough to exhibit syn-
sources we have at our disposaLfor trying to get him to onomy, the view would see~ to assert something about
see what is expressed. In the case of the music, we could art. I

play it in a certain way, we could compare it with other Within the so-called 'New Criticism' it has been a
music, we could appeal to the desolate circumstances of characteristic tenet that there is a:'heresy of paraphrase' . .
its composition, we could ask him to think why he It is, of course, conceded that we can try to formulate
should be blind to this specific piece: ih the case of the What a poem says. But what we produce can never be
painting, we could read to him A Prince of Court Paint- more than approximate; mo~eover, it does not lead us to'
ers, pausing, say, on the sentence 'The evening will be a the poem itself. For 'the paraphrase is not the real core of
wet one', we could show him other paintings by Wat- ]jp.eaning which constitutes the essence of the poem'
teau, we coul~ point to the fragility of the resolutions .(Cleanth Brooks). '.
in the picture. It almost looks as though in such This view would appear to have a number of different
cases we can compensate for how little we are able s@urces. One, which is of little aesthetic interest, is that
to say by how much we are abl~ to do. Art rests on the sometimes in poetry language of such simplicity or di-
fact that deep feelings pattern. themselves in a coherent II rectness is used (e.g. the Lucy poems, Romances sans
way all over our life and behaviour. Paroles) that it is hard to see where we would start if we
tried to say the same thing in other words. But not all
. 49
poetry employs such language: nor, moreover, is the em-
The appeal of the view that a work of art expresses !')loyment of such language peculiar to poetry. In conse-
nothing unless what it expresses can be put into (other) €J.uence, the heresy of paraphrase, in so far as it bases
words, can be effectively reduced by setting beside it Jtself on this consideration, is an instance of faulty gen-
another view, no less well' entrenched in the theory of eralization. Another source is that even when the poetry
art, to the effect that a work of art has no value if what it is in a kind of language that admits of paraphrase - meta-
expresses, or more generally says, can be put into (other) phor would be the supreme example here - any eluci-
words. dation of what the poem says would have to contain, in
Now, if this view had been advanced solely with refer- addition to a paraphrase of the metaphors, an account of
ence to the nonverbal arts, it would have been of dubious why these particular metaphors were used. A third
significance. Or it might have been counter{.d that the source is that often in poetry there is such a high degree
reason why a work of art not in words should not be of concentration or superimposition of content that it is
expressible in words is just that it was not originally in not reasonable to expect that we could separate out the
,~."---,-~,_.- ,,~ii ~

~ Art and its0bjects An Essay

various thoughts andl feelings (:meanings', as they are eJ]:(!]e

any means of externalizatipn. The artist is an artist
sometimes called by critiCs) that are afforded expression sOlely in virtue of his inner life: where'.'inner life', it will
in the work. be appreciated, is understood narrowly 'So~asnot to in-
It is impossible in this essay tq,pursue these last two . dude any thoughts or feelings that contain an exylicit
points, thougr they relate to very general and important r:eferenceto art. '

features of art which cannot be ignored in a full under- The analogy with language/which'the phrase 'form oi
standing of the subject. One is the importance of the life' suggests, should help us to see 'what is wrong here.
mode df prese)1tation in;"art: a phrase which naturally ~0r parallel to the conception of the artist as the man
cltange~ its application somewhat as we move from W;Rosehead' is crammed with intqitions though he may
rnerdium'to medium but includesJiVerydifferent things like kFl0V\\;6f no medium in which to externalize them, would
bru'shwork, choice of imagery~ intel'yelation of pIa! and b€ the conception of the thinker as ~ man with his head
"'6ub,7plots, etc. The other is t;,];1~condensation charac- fliJ;l~
of ideas though he possesses no language in which to
teriS'tic Of art. Both these points will be touchedJon!i:l~ter, dpress them. The second conception is evidently aDsurd.
and an:Ntempt made to weave them int01the emerging A!ildif we do ..nbt alw:ays recognize the absurdity of the
pattern of art. ' first conception too, this'is because we do not allow the
pa:r;allel.For we might rather think that the true parallel
50" to the Crocean artist is, in the domain of language, 'the
In tihe light of the preceding diseussion (sections 46-9), man who thinks to himself. But this would be wrong: for
we might now turn back to the Croce-Collingwood three reasons. 0 II

theory pf art and of the artistic process. For we are now , In the first place, the man who thi~ks to. himself has

in a,position 1:'6see Tather more sharply the error involved already acquired a medium, or language. The peculiarity
in that account. We can see it, that is, as an instance of is in the way, he employs it: that is, always internally.
DI a more general error. Secondly, it is a dist~nctive characteristic of language, to
, For the equation, central to that theory, first 'of the wl).ich there is no analogue in art (with the possible ex-
work of art with an internally elaborated image or 'in- ception of the literary arts), that it has this internal em-
tuition', and then of the artistic gift with the capacity to ployment. We can talk to ourselves, but we cannot
elaborate and refine images in this way, is just another (with the exception just noted) mak,f,works of art to our-
attempt, though perhaps a peculiarly plausible one, to selves., Thirdly, we must appreciate 'that it is an essential
conceive of art in a way that makes no allusion to a form feature of the Croce-CollingWood thesis that not only
of life. For on this theory, not only can the artist create a can the artist make' works of art to himself;, but he may
particular yvork of art without in point of fact ever exter- be in the situation in which he can only make works of
nalizing it, but his capacity in general to create works of art to himself: in other words, it is possible that he could
art, or his attainment as an artist (as we might put it), have the intuitions and there be no way in the society of
may flourish. quite independently
' of there being in ex5st- externalizing them, But there is no parallel to this in the

130 131
Art and ~ts Objects An Essay
case of thought. For if we have language which we open to others unconscious sources of pleasure which
employ internally, then we always can, physical defects hi.therto they had been denied: and' so, as Freud san-
apart, also employ it externally: though in point of fact guinely puts it, the artist wins through his phantasy what
we may never do so. There could not be a language that it the neurotiC can win only in his phantasy: honour,
was impossible for someone who knew it to speak. Ac- power, and the love of women.
cordingly, the proper analogue to the artist, conceived It will be apparent that on this account all art involves
according to the Croce-Collingwood theory, is not the renunciation: renunciation, that is, of the immediate
thinker who has a medium of thought which he uses only gratifications of phantasy. This feature is not peculiar to
to himself but the thinker who has no medium of art, though it may be peculiarly powerful in art: it is
thought, which, I have maintained, is an absurdity. . sha'fed with any activity in which there is a systematic
Freud, in several places, tried to approach the problem abandonment of the pleasure principle in favo~r of the
of the artistic personality by means of a comparison he . testing of wish and thought in reality. In the case of art
proposed between the a:r;tist and the neurotic. For both this testing oc.curs twiCe over: first, in the confrontation
the artist and the neurotic are people who, under the of the artist and his medium, and then again in the con-
pressure of certain. clamorous instincts, turn away from fn!mtation of the artist and his society. On both occasions
reality and lead a large part of their lives in the world of it is characteristic that the artist surrenders something
phantasy. But the artist differs from the neurotic in that that he cherishes in response to the stringencies of some-
he succeeds in finding 'a path back to reality'. Freud's tIring that he recognizes as external to, and hence inde-
thinking at this point is highly condensed. He would pendent of, himself. .

appear to have had a number of ideas in mind in using Now it is precisely this feature of art, art as
this phrase..But one of the ideas', perhaps the central one, renunciation - a feature which accounts in some measure ,
is that the artist refuses to remain in that hallucinated for the pathos of art, certainly of all great art, for the
condition to which the neurotic regresses, where the wish .sense of loss so precariously balanced against the riches
and the fulfilment of the wish are one. For the artist, and grande.ur of achievement -that the theory we have
unlike the neurotic, the phantasy is a starting point, not been considering totally denies. The Croce-Collingwood
the culmination, of his activity. The energies which have theory of the artist is, it might be said, a testimony to the
initially driven him away from reality, he manages to omnipotent thinking from which, in point of fact, it is
harness to the process of making, out of the material the mission of art to release us.
of his wishes, an object that can then become a source of
shared pleasure and consolation. For it is distinctive of
the work of art, in contrast, that is, to the daydream, that Hitherto in presenting art as a form of life, I have dis-
it is free of the excessively personal or the utterly alien cussed it from the artist's point of view, not the spec-
elements that at once disfigure and impoverish the life of tator's: though, of course, the two discussions overlap, as
phantasy. 'By means of his achievement the artist can do (as I have argued) the points of view themselves.
132 133
An 'Essay
Art and its Objects
Indeed, that they do is largely what warrants the phrase
$oni'ething is found in o'Jr characteristic reaq;ons to art
'form of life'. However, wi!hin the form of life there is a that corresponds to a use of a particular W0rd:this word
distinctive function that accrues to the spectator: I now is then adopted as the word for the spectator's attitude:
turn to it. but when this happens, it is the whole of the use of the
word, or its use in all contexts, that is collected: and the
For guidance we, must once again appeal to the
spectator's attitude. is then pronounced to be all those
analogy with language'. What disringuishes the hearer of
things which are covered by this word. A theory i~estab-
a language who knows it from 'bne who-doesn't is not
that he reacts fo it, whereas the other doesn't: for the }ished, and an insightlobscured. An example is provideq
other could, jusfas, say", a dog responds to his master's
by Tolstoy;s",theory of Art. Tolstoy, recognizing that
t'here is an element of €ommunication in all art, or that
~call. The difference is that,! the man who knov,vs the,in some s,ensedl,theword, communication, then
language replaces an associative link, which mig).1t or
said that art was communication, then turned his bac~ on
might not be conditioned, w~th~understan(jing. The ,man
who does not"know the language might a~sociate to the th.e original recognitiondby insisting that art was, or '~as
words - or rather noises as they vv,Jllbe for him (see sec- properly, communication'in some further sehse of the
that in which it had originally forced it~elf .'11
tion 25). In this way he might even come to know as D

much about the speaker as the man who shares a up<;mhim.

What I shall do is to retain the word 'understan,di' to
language with 'him: but the distinctive feature,is that his
characterize the spectator's ahitude, try ~not to import
coming to know about the speakeLand the speaker's re- alien associations, and see what can be said aBout what is
vealing it will be two independent events, whereas
the man who knows ,the language can't but find out characteristically involved in this kind o~. under-
what he is told. standing. M'
However, how are we to use the analogy? Are we to There 'are two points of a/general chara'eter that it will
be profi'table to bear in mind thrqughout <mysuch exam-
say bluntly that it is distinctive of,the spectator versed in
art that he understands the work of art? Or are we to use ination,J} mention them here, tho~gh 1 shall not be able to
the analogy more tentatively and say of the spectator elaborate more than afraction of what they suggest.
that he characteristically replaces mere association to the The first is this: that for it to be in any way in.order to
talk of understanding apropos of art, there must be some
work with a response that stands to art as understanding
kind of match or correspondence between the artist's ac-
does to language? \

Around the answer to this question whole theories of tivity ,and the, spectator's reaction. Enough has already
been said in connexion with interpretation to make it
art (e.g. cognitive, subjective, contemplative) have been'
constructed. Their internecine conflict, w;hich constitutes , clear that in the domain of art the match will never be
complete. The spectator will always understand more
a large part of aesthetics, is sufficiently barren as to
than the artist intended, and the artist will always have
suggest that something ,has gone wrong in their initial
formation. What appears to happen in most cases is this: intended more than any single spectator understands - to
Art and its Objects An Essay

put it paradoxically. Nor, moreover, is it clear whether signs are iconic. We might think that we now have an
the match must be with what the artist actually did on eluddation of this rather cryptic view in the idea that it '
the specific occasion of producing this particular work, is characteristic of the spectator's attitude to art that
or whether it has only to be with, say, the kind of thing lle replaces association by understanding. For, it might
that the artist does. Is the spectator's understanding to be "he argued, the difference between iconic and noniconic
directed upon the historical intention of the artist, or signs, which is generally treated as though it '<»,werea
upon something more general or idealized? And if this difference in the relations in which the signs stand to the
element of unc,ertainty seems to put the understanding of ,referent,is really a difference in the relations in which we
art in jeopardy, we should appreciate that this is not a stand to the sign: to call a sign iconic is just to say of it
situation altogether peculiar to art. It is present in mariy that it is part of a well-entrenched or familiar language.
cases where (as we say) we understand fully, or only too ifhe naturalness of a sign is a function of how natural we
well, what someone really did or said. - a(e with it. Now, to talk of replacing association by
Secondly, I suggest that, when we look round for understanding is just to talk of a greater familiarity with
examples on which to test any hypo~heses that we might the,signs we use. Therefore, if we understand a sign, we
form about the spectator's attitude, it would be instruc- can regard it as iconic, and in this'way we have an over-
tive to take cases where there is something which is a all explanation of th'e iconic character of signs in art.
work of art which is habitually not regarded as one, and It would certainly seem to be true that we distinguish
which we then at a certain moment come to see as one. the cases where we 'read off' certain information from a
Works of architecture that we pass daily in city streets ,diagram from the cases where we just see it, largely on
unthinkingly are likely to provide fruitful instances. And 'censiderations of how entrenched the medium of com-
it is significant what a very different view we are likely munication is in our life and habits. We read off the
to get of the spectator's attitude from considering these coloured picture from the black-and-white diagram, we
cases rather than those which we are conventionally in- read off the profile of the hill from the contour lines, just
vited to consider in aesthetics (see section 42), I.e. cases because these methods are so tangential to the processes
where there is something that is not a work of art, which by which we ordinarily acquire and distribute knowl-
is habitually not regarded as one, and which we then at a edge. However, we cannot conclude from this that any
certain point in time 5=°meto see as if it were one. ' sign language that we regularly operate is for us iconic.
Familiarity may be a necessary; but it is not a sufficient,
52 condition of beipg iconic otherwise we should have to
In section 29 I referred to a certain traditional view by regard any language of which we are native speakers as
saying that art in its expressive function possessed a kind eo ipso iconic.
of translucency: to put it another way, that if expressiqn If, therefore, the suggestion before us has some plaus-
is not naturai, but works through signs, as we may have ibility, this is only because, in the original argument, at
to concede it does, then at least we may insist that these least one distinction too few was made. For the im-

136 137
Art and its Objects
An Essay
plication was that the distinction between cases where see the ,sign as iconic, for the properties of the sign may
we 'read off' infofmation and cases where the'infor- themselves be recalcitrant: but it can be contributory
mation is conveyed iconically is exhaustive. But this is towards it. However, once we have seen the sign as iconic
absurd.For instance,we do not read offsomethingwhen through an increasing sensitivity to its many properties,
we read it. we then tend to disguise this by talking as though there
However, even if we cannot account for the dis- were just one very special property of the sign, that of
tinction between iconic and noniconic signs entirely in being iconic, of which we had now become aware. We
terms of a partieular relation in which we stand to the think that the sign is tied to its referent by one special
signs, i.e. our familiarity in handling them, some advan- link, whereas in point of fact there are merely many as-
tage can be obtained from looking at'it in this way if sociations.
only because it attenuates the distinction. 'Intervening (I have, it will be observed, followed the convention
cases suggest themselves, anq the peculiarity <;>fan iconic whereby an iconic sign is thought of as matching, or re-
sign is thus reduced. . sembling, or being congruent with, its referent: but why
Furthermore, even if we cannot analyse the distinction referent or ,reference, rather than. sense, is left unex-
entirely in terms of this one attitude of ours toward signs, amined - as, for reasons of space, it will be here.)
there may be another attitude of ours in terms of which I want to complete the present discussion by suggest~
the analysis can be completed: and in this way the orig- ing,that it is part of the spectator's attitude to art that he
inal character, if not the detail, of the analysis may be should' adopt thjs attitude towards the work: that he
preserved. Let us say that every (token) sign that we use should make it the object'of an ever-increasingor deepen-
has a cluster of properties. Ordinaril¥ the degree of our ing attention. Here we have th~ mediating link between
attention to these properties varies greatly over their art and the iconicity of signs. Most significantly, we have
range: with spoken words, for instance, we pay great at- here further confirmation for the view, already insisted
tention to the pitch, little to the speed. Now it may upon (section 39),'that the properties of a work of art
happen that, for some reason or other, we extend, or in- cannot be demarcated: for, as our'attention spreads over
crease the scope of, our attention either intensively or III
the object, more and more of its properties may become
extensively: we consider more properties, or the same incorporated into its aesthetic nature. It was some such
properties more carefully. Now, my suggestion is that it thought as this that we may believe Walter Pater to have
is as, and when, signs become for us in this way 'fuller' intended when he appropriated the famous phrase that
objects that we may also come to feel that they have a all art 'aspires to the condition of music' .
greater appropriateness to their referent. (As a deep ex- 53
",lanation we might want to correlate tlie seeing of a sign
.j'. as iconic with a regression to the 'concrete thinking' of Mozart-his father: Vienna, 26 September 1781.
. earliest infancy.) Of course, the adoption of this attitude . . . As Osmin's tage gradually increases, there comes (just
., II when the aria seems to be at an end) the allegro assai, which
, ,
on our part will not automatically bring it about that we
138 139
I .~ 1
Art and its Objects An Essay
is in a tat ally different tempo. and in a different key: this is ating inside a cantinuing activity ar enterprise, and this
baund to. be very effective. Far just as a man in such a enterprise has its awn repertaire, impases its awn
tawering rage aversteps all the baunds af arder, maderatian stringencies, affers its awn appartunities, and thereby
and prapriety and campletely fargets himself, so. must the pravides accasians, inconceivable autside it, far inven-
music to.a farget itself. But since passians, whether vialentar
tian -and audacity. ,
nat, must never be expressed to. the paint af exciting disgust,
and as music, even in the mast terrible situatians, must never
A parallel suggests itself. In recent years aur knawl-
affend the ear, but must please the listener, ar in ather wards tdge af the ematianallife and develapment af children-.
must never cease to. be music, so. I have nat chasen a key
and hence af adults in so. far as we all retain infantile
remate from F (in which the aria is written) but ane related residues - has increased beyand anything believed feas-
to. it nat the nearest, D minar, but the mare remate A ible farty ar fifty years ago., thraugh the explaitatian af
minar. an abviaus enaugh resource: the play af <;:hildren.By ab-
serving and then interpreting haw children play it has
There is here, not far belaw the surface, 'l clue to. same- r;>rovedpassiBle to. trace back certain daminant anxieties,.
thing which we' have perhaps ignared, ar at any rate and the defences that are characteristically invaked
underestimated, in cannexian with the prablems raised in against them, to. the earliest manths af infancy. But such
the last sectian: mare generally~ in cannexian with ex- abservatian has in turn prov~d pas,sible anly because af
pressian. Far what Mazart's letter brings aut is the way in ,the inherent. structure that games passess and that the
which the attributian af expressive value ar significance child twists and turns to. his awn needs. There is, we may
to. a wark af art presuppases an autanamaus activity, say, a 'life af farms in play'.
carried aut aver time, which cansists in the building up, So.,far instance, we say that play is inhibited when the
in the madifying, in the decampasing, af things which we child's interest in a dall cansists salely in dressing and
may think af as unities ar structures. A precanditian af \!lndressing it, ar when the anly game it can play with tay
the expressiveness af art is - to. apprapriate the title af a trains ar cars cansists in accidents ar collisians, just be-
famaus wark in general art histary - the 'life af farms in cause we are aware that these games admit af further
art'. This phrase shauld nat lead us, as perhaps it did passibilities, which the child is unable to. utilize. ,Or,
Henri Fa<;:illan,who. cained it, to. assign a kind af impetus again, we argue that the child is anxiaus when it maves
ar quasi-evalutianary efficacy to. the farms themselves, cantinuausly from playing with water, to. cutting aut in
distinct fram human agency. On the cantrary, it is paper, to. drawing with crayan, and back again, just be-
always'the artist who., cansciausly ar uncansciausly, cause these activities have already been identified as
shapes the farms that bear his name. (Indeed, nathing less different games. If the structure af play is nat explicitly
than that wauld suit my paint.) Nevertheless the artist referred to. in psychaanalytic writing, this can anly be
daes nat canjure these farms aut af nathing: nor do. we because it seems such an abviaus fact. Yet it is in virtue af
have to. maintain that he daes so. in arder to. attribute it that we are enabled to. assign to. the child such a vast
agency to. him. In creating his farms the artist is aper- range af feelings and .beliefs - frustratian, envy af the,
140. 141
".- ,' ~,._.".__.

Art and its Objects An Essay-p

mother, jealousy; guilt, and the drive to make re- 'the result of these interrelations, or tlIe"dream, is aJdnd,
paration. ~ of picture:puzzle, unintelligible in itseJf, in which the
'\ I am not saying that ar\,5s, or is a form of, play. Tlfere various' latent thoughts, constituting the wish ar~ rep-
is a view to this effect, deriving .f~om Schiller and then resented,in a pictographio<script, to be deciphered only
lost inl vulgarization in the 'last century. Here I compare a;ijJ:ei'themost careful
'.(. analysis.
art and play, only tQ"make a point about art apalogo,us to The work 6f art . has,this in common with the ., ..dream:
thaCI have beel]~asserting about play: namely, that art that it'ildraws upon. powerful unconsciol,ls sources./BuUt
w.ust first have a, life of its. own, before ,i,t can then is unlike the dream in, that even at its freest it exhibits,.cf
Become all"the:btherthings thatit is. vastly .g:eater measure' of contrbl,iand Kris',suggestion, is
.' ',' . ' ,

Tqis point, about> the priority oril!au~ononiy of art's tha~ if we: want an analogue for artistic creation We
pwn proceduresi wasn:iade by the psy~hoanalyst Ernst should find it, in,the f.\?rfuation rfbt..of drea~s but of]okes. D
~ris, al)d in a way which allows \ls a further insight;,Jnto F,prih Jokes fmd"the' Unconscious Freud had propos~d a ..
its significance. Kris pqt it by saying.Jhat in the creation. sQmewhat different relation as p.olding between the pr~-
0]' a, work of art the relation,s of the primary ana the 1il1a~yand the secondary processes when a jO,keis formed~
secondaty processes are reversed from, those in Freud. expressed "this byrsaying that a joke comes I into
the~tudy of the dream. The tepns need explication. In beipgwhen a preconscious thought is 'given over for. a
The lnterpretation.of Dreams, Freud driven to:con- moment' to unconscious revision. Jokes, like dre~ms', g
elude th~t, two fundam.entally ~different types .of psy- haye,some of the characteristics of our earliest mode of!1 rII
chIcal proc~ss can be'~iscriminated in the fexmation iPf thinking. (it ~as, Breud pointed"out, no s,oincidence t~at
dreams. One of these, which also q.ccounts for our ordh manypeople,confron,ted . forthefirst time with the analo/"' '.,.'
nary th~nkihg, issue's'IJinrational trains of thought.1~e sis of a dream, find it funny or in the nature of' a joke.)
other process, which is the survival of om earrliest mental At the same time, whereas a dream is asocial.,priyate and
appar;atus, seizes hold of this train of thought and oper- "eludes un,derstariding, a joke is social, public and aims at
ates upon it in certain characteristic ways: the ways intelligibtlity. And theexpl<)nation of these.differences-
which Freud singled out for scrutiny are! condensation, alo:p.gwith what the two phenomena have in common" -
displacement, and the casting of thought into a visually lies in' the relative influence of the two psychic processes.
representable form. The more primitive of the two pro- A dream remains au;fond an unconscious wish that
cesses Freud called the primary process: t~e other, the makes use of the secondary process 'in order to escape
process of rationality, he called the secondary process: detectiol) and to avoid unpleasure: a joke is a thought
and as to their interrelations, Freud formed the hypoth- . which takes advantage of the primary process to gain
esis that a train of thought, which is the product of the elaboration and to produce pleasure. On this level, the
secondary process,. is subjected to the .operations of the work of art resembles the joke, not the dream.
primary process when and only when there has been It is not necessary to accept the precise way in which
. on. to it a wish to which expression is denied. Kris goes on to demarcate the primary and secondary
, ,,~,"", ",a .

Art and its Objects An Essay

processes in order to benefit from his suggestion. For
what it permits us to see is the necessity, for art's expres- 54
siveness, indeed for its achievements in general, that there ~ertain remarks I have made apropos both of artistic
should be certain acdedited activities with stringencies @reativity (lnd of aesthetic understanding, might seem to
of their own, recognized as leading to works of art, upon ,endorse a particular view in the psychology of art:
which the secondary process operates. We could not l'lamely, that art consists)n the manufacture of certain
make joke$ unless there was, in general, language; more qrtifacts which are conceived of and valued, by artist and
particufarly, something that we had to say in that spectator alike, as preeminently independent and self-
language. By contrast, dreams lack s,!ch presuppbsi- subsistent objects. The significance of a work of art
I!I tions. "
(would be the view) lies in its oneness~ A great deal bo~p.
But the comparison between jokes a,sFreud explained o~ traditional aesthetics and of psychoanalytic writing
them and works of art allows us to see more than this. It converge on, this point.
allows us to see yet another thing that is wrong in the Now, .it is certainly true that the affirmation and cel-
Croce-Collingwood theory: and that is the extent to ebration ofithe whole object plays a great part in art. As
which the theory distorts or disguises what occurs at the the representative of the good inner figure, of the parent
moment of 'externalization'. For that is the moment at assaulted in phantasy and then lovingly restored, it is
which, in Freud's words, the thought, or the project that essential to all creative activity. There are, however,
lies behind the work of art, is 'dipped in the unconscious'. other feelings and attitudes thatjare accommodated, or to
Without such an immersion, the elaboration that makes which we find correspondences, in those complex and
for much of the depth of the work of art would be miss- Fllultifarious structures which we designate works of art.
ing. In a brilliant series of essays Adrian Stokes has drawn our
Again~ the assimilation of works of art to jokes rather attention to the'enveloping aspect of art, the 'invitation' as
than to dreams restores to its proper place in aesthetic he calls it, which is in danger of being overlooked by
theory the element of making'or agency appropriate to those who concentrate upon the self-sufficiency of the
the artist. For, as Freud points out, we 'make' jokes. Of work of art. And this aspect of art has its deeper ex-
course we do not - as he goes on to say - make jokes in planation too. Before we can experience the good or re-
" the sense in which we make a judgement or make an stored parent as a whole figure, we must first be able to
objection. We cannot, for instance, decide to make a establish relations of a stable and loving character with
joke, nor can we make_a joke to order. Similarly, as Shel- ,parts of the parent's body, felt as benign influences. With-
ley pointed out, 'a man cannot say "I will compose 'out such part-object relations the whole-object relation
poetry" ': but it does not follow from this that the poet would never be achieved, and it is Stokes' contention that
does not compose poetry'". In a clear sense he does. There it is these earlier psychic states that certain forms of art-
is, however, no sense at all in which we can say that we and Stokes is here thinking explicitly of the painterly
make our dreams. style, or,\ of art in the plastic rather than in the carving
144 145
~~'"" 6 w_'- 'C,~' .._,~--,~-"
1W 1

Pu:;tapd its Obj~cts ,~ An Essay

" . .' ,;~
tradition, as -yvellas'muchqpodern art -lllVlte us to re- psychic state from which such art springs is, at any rate
experience. 1:>,9'the standards of 'the classical mind', deficient in
It would not be~appropriate,here to follo~ these'"sp~cu- awareness ~oth of the self and of clearly defined external
lations in d~tail. F9r that would take u,~,out of the phil- 6qjects. The art that attempts to appease this state does so
osophy of art into its psychologyer pheno'nienology~ The 'bY 'setting up a point ,Of rest or tranquillity over and
point I want to m'akeis more gen~fal. It is,that a!}inap.- against,the'oppressive flux of appearances. We need not
" equate 'or 'a' diminishedtYiew of'our; aq;ual experience,pf .(~ven if w.e can) follow Worringer in all that he says. But
art" ~an in~ turn suggest, or "reinforce, a 'false ~theoreticaJ it1s poss'ble to see ~J1his rather murky analysis a charac-
conceptioh of art'. Indeed;' w~~are already in a pgsitio-Qto terization - although ironically enough, an inadequate or
ste thi~ at. .work. For if .weNdke wacertain~ Q,road~"phi~o- ~ne-sided characterization - o~ those early psychic states
'" $,pphical characterizationof\l1he aesthetic attitude - "a§, to which Stokes'essay~ make
" references. w \"

~or ihsdhce, it fs:defined by Kant in t~~ms o~;disinterest- 'It

lJI.ednes~Vor by Bullbugh i,nterms~bf psyc¥ical distahcef or
(perhaps)' by ortega y Gasset'in tenn,sof dehumanizatign -'[\:]]:e
analogy between art and language has nqw been con-
- we I"mayinterp~~t this as the reflection of/!!afone-~,jd~d si€leredfirst, from ,the point of view
of- the~:artist, ~ho'
concern .with the work of art as"aITi~:aependent"andself" mfl.'Ybe @Ompared,to the speaker of a language, then,
Hi $ufficjent object:, Ai'l th~se pHilosophers, .we maY1~~ay.;, frem: the point of view of the audience or spectator, who
were only able "to envisage ;'\tn,~Waepthetic attitude as may be compared to the person who hears or reads a
exemplifying" a whole-object",v," W' rIi' language. Conversely, I have tried to see how far the
, Nor need we stop ,here. Eor we can Iiext,end our in- notions of meaning something and of understaqding m'ay
;'ty"rpI~nition from the adherents of a\icertain tradi'tion"to, De applied to art. However~ recent. philosophy suggests a
its critics. Iri Abstraction and Empathy Wilhelm Worrin- t1}itd point of view from which the analogy may be ,con-
ger, while, explicitly 'attackiing the empathists, in effe'ct sidered. In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein
questioned the presuppositions of~ a whole continuing showed how the concept oLa language and what it in-
way of regarding and evaluating works of art. Undef"the volves may be understood, or our understanding of it
guise of theory a specific preference for one formaf aes" deepened, by considering how we learn language. The sug-
thetic experience had (he claimed) been erected into an gestion, therefore, would be that we should consider our
absolute or timeless norm. 'Our traditional aesthetics', he analogyfrem the point of view of someone learning either
wrqte in 1906, 'is nothing more than a psychology of the language or art. Is there a resemblance between the way
'Classical feeling for art: In the present setting it is in- in which language is acquired and the way in which art is
structive to examine Worringer's characterization of the acquired? A more fundamental inquiry might be, Does the
process of learning art tell us anything about the nature
~. other form of art or aesthetic experience, the 'transcen-
dental' as he called it: which he particularly connected of art, in the way in which the precess of learning a lan-
with the art of primitive peoples and the Gothic. The guagedoestell us something about the nature oflanguage?
146 147
Art and its Objects An Essay
I shall not answer this question: upon which the issues may become confused, or the one substituted for the
raised in section 52 evidently bear. I shall merely make other. The first, which is straightforward, raises again the
an observation, which in turn may suggest how the ques- issues of understanding and paraphrasability. It is an es-
tion is to be answered. In the Philosophical Investi9ations sential; not a contingent, feature of a code that, if we
Wittgenstein insists that if we try to find out about the claim to understand a coded message, and are then asked
nature of. language by considering how someone learns what it says, we should be able to say. We could not
a language, we must not (as St Augustine did) take the understand a message in a code unless we were able to
c~se of the person learning his native language. In dis- decipher it or to formulate it en clair. Accordingly, if we
cussing iconicity I came close to talking of what would assimilate art to a code, then we will find ourselves think-
be the equivalent in art of the native speaker of a ing (falsely, as we have seen) that our understanding of a
language. I stopped short: why I stopped short is, work of art will be adequate only to the degree to which
perhaps, because there is no equivalent. we can paraphrase it, or can say what we understand by
it. Conversely, we may now say that when Hanslick re- '
jected the expressiveness of music, he did so because he .
The analogy that I have been pursuing through these found cogent an argument which implicitly treated
later sections is, I want to insist, one between art and music as, or presupposed music to be, a code rather t~an
language. The insistence is necessary: for there is another a language.
analogy, which bears a superficial resemblance to mine, The confusion between language and a code, alterna-
and which may, deliberately or in error, be substituted tively the deliberate assimilation of art to a code, also
for it. That is the analogy between art and a code. Either occurs - though more obscurely - when certain attempts
it may be specifically held that art has more in common are made to apply information theory, which was after
with a code than with a language: or else the original all worked out in connexion with the study of telegra-
analogy may be adhered to, but the characteristic fea- phic or telephonic channels, to the problems of aesthet-
tures of a language and a code may become so confused ics. I am .specifically thinking of the attempts to invoke
or transposed, that in point of fact it is to a code, not to the notion of redundancy to explain, on the one hand,
language, that art is assimilated. In either case error meaning, on the other hand, coherence or unity, as they
ensues. (For these. purposes a code may be defined as the occur in art. I wish to maintain that any such enterprise,
representation, or mode of representation, of a language. in so far as it goes beyond mere suggestion or metaphor,
With, of course, this proviso: that there is not a one-one rests upon the assimilation of art to a diminished version
correspondence' between languages and codes. Sem- of language, and hence to a diminished version of itself.
aphore would be an example of a code: so also, though In scanning a linear message, we may be able on the
less obviously, would be the alphabetic inscription of basis of one sign or element to infer, to some degree of
English or French.) .probability, what the next sign or element will be. The
I want to consider two ways in which these analogies higher the probability, the more u~necessary it is, given
148 149

Art and its Object~ An'Essay


the first sign, for the second sign to be set down. The now wish to establish whether it is a language or its rep;
superfluity of one sign on the basis of a preceding sign is resentation, i.e. a code, that most ad~quatel{;'satisfies
called redundancy, which in turn admits of degree. In such a model, we must first consider wH'atare the factors
inverse ratio to a sign's redundancy is the informa.tion it that would justify us in assigning transition probabilities
carries. If a sign is 100 per cent redundaht, it carries no between successiveelements in a message.Roughly, there
information, since its occurrence can be totally pre- would seem to be two kinds 'of determinant: syntax 'or
, dieted; however, as its redundancy or' degree of prob~ formation rules, arid empirical frequencies. I shall not try
ability decreases, so the infQrmation that it carries to assess the comparative role;in a code and in language,
increases. If we now try to use these notions to_explicate "of syntactical constraints over t4e sequen~e of elements:
the aesthetic notions of meaning and unity, we shall say though we may already remark a significant difference in
~he foIIow,ing:'The conditions in which an element of a the fact that the elements or alphabet pi' a coge ?,re de-
work of art gives rise to meaning are the same as those in numerable, whereas no precise' limit can be set to the
which information is carried, Le. the conditions increase vocabulary of a language.' But if we ~urn to statistical
in favourability as redundancy approaches zero. By con- frequencies, the the use that (!:anbe made of
trast, the conditions in which a work of art gains in, unity these in the two cases, seems to be one of principle. For
are the same as those in which redundancy is increased: thougH it may be possi~le to use statistical material to
for 'our awareness 'of a pattern unfolding is coincident assign a probability to the success,or of some. specified
with a large number of our expectations being re- eode":element;the corresponding'assumption 'tEat would
alized. have to be employed in respect of,language seems quite
I now wish to maintain two points. First,. that the unwarranted: namely, that. the employment of a given
notion of redundancy applies much more readily or ex- string of words makes'probable its reemployment.
tensively to the representation of a language than to a As for any direct argument to the 'effectth~t art, or any
language itself. This contention does not, of course, di- essential feature of it, can be explicated in terms of re-
rectly bear upon the aesthetic issue: but it has a negC!-tive dundancy, the case seems even weaker. And there are
force, in that it removes one argument, based on analogy, three considerations that weigh against it: ,/

for thinking that the notion of redundancy is central to In the first place, the notion of redundancy pre-
art. Secondly, I want to argue, more directly, that the supposes linearity. There must be a specified sense or di-
notion of redundancy has only a peripheral application rection in which the work of art is to be read: and it is
to art. . only in the temporal kinds of art that' such a direction
To apply the notion of redundancy presupposes that can be unambiguously posited. Secondly, if it runs
we are dealing with what may generally be thought of as counter to the creative character of language to a~sume
a probabilistic system: a system, that is, where we are that the 4igher the occurrence of a certain sequence, the
able on the basis of one sign or set of signs to make a higher the probability of. its recurrence, the cor-
preferred guess as to the subsequent sign or signs. If we responding assumption about art must be even less well
15° 151

Art and its Objects An Essay
founded. Of course, there are areas of art where we find
very marked stringencies as to the sequence of elements;,I 57
- am thinking of the rules of melody, or poetic metre. But J have; then, been trying to elucidate the notion of art as
these string~ncies cannot be equated with probabilities a:form of life by pursuing the analogy that the phrase
based on frequency. For it is only if the stringencies have itself intimates: that with language. However a point is
been adopted, that we shall find the corresponding con- ~@achedat which the' analogy runs out. I want in thjs and
straints exemplified: equally, it is only if we know that die subsequent section to touch on two important limi-
the stringencies have been adopted, that we are justified tations that must be set upon it.
in modifying our expectation to "anticipate them. Jhird- But, first, an objection to the analogy as such, which I
ly (and the last sentence suggests this point), even if it mention solely in order to get it out of the way. It might
were possible, to explain meaning or coherence in art in be argued that art cannot be compared to language in
terms of redundancy, mere redundancies, even rule- that the two differ radically in function: for the ~unction
governed redundancie?, would not, suffice: we should of language is to communica'te ideas, whereas the func-
require felt or experienced redundancies, Not every re- tion of ,~ art is something quite different" e.g. to arouse,
dundancy generates a corresponding expectation; nor is it express, evoke emotions, etc. Alternatiyely, it is the func- ,
any part of the understanding of art that we should be "tion of one of the two uses of language, i.e. the scientific,
equally aware of, or attentive to, all transitions that exhi- to communicate ideas, tho.ugh it is the function of the
bit high frequency. A central question in ~the psychology .other use, i.e. the poetic; to express' emotion, and the
of art is why some redundancies give rise to expectations, ~nalogy is therefore ambiguo\ls in a significant respect, in
and others do not. ,that it does not state which of the two uses of language is
Equally, it must be pointed out that not every expec- intended. But the theory that language is essentially con-
tation in art is based on redundancy. We may expect cerned with the communication of ideas is a dogmatic
Mozart to treat a theme, or van Eyck to order a mass of \
notion, which does not even take account of the variety
detail, in a particular way, but we could not formulate of ways in which ideas are communicated. However, the
this in terms of past performances. Those who are hope- theory of the two uses of language (as in the critical
ful of the application of information theory to the prob- theory of I. A. Richards) constitutes no real improvement
lems of art tend to talk of styles or conventions as on it, incorporating as it does the original error: for it
'internalized probabilistic systems'. That is ,consonant, would never have been necessary to postulate the poetic
with their approach. In Renaissance and Baroque use if the account of the scientific use had not been taken
Wolfflin is sharply critical of the theory; there attributed over unexamined from the theory of the single use.
to Goller, that the great changes of style can be attributed However, a related point constitutes the first of the
to tedium or a jaded sensibility. If the foregoing charac- genuine limitations to the analogy. To compare art to
terization of style were acceptable, there would be much language runs into the difficulty that some works of art,
to be said for Goller's theory. more generally some kinds of work of art, e.g. poems, ,
152 153
'~._,,~ ,'.', ." .. ..-.-
Art and its 01>jects An Essay
plays, novels, are actually in language. In the case 9f the ~hat we have encountered here is a defe@tina certain
literary arts, does the'-analogy simply collapse into ident- analogy between art and something else, not a defect in
ity? Or are we to observe here ~adifferel1ce in level, and art itself. It 'would be wrong, for instance)Vto think that
, say that literary works of art at one and the. same 'time ant e~hibits to a high degree something that language tol-
are like linguistic structures and also hav~ as their com- , erates only to a low degree, i.e. wnat we might think of as
poneqts linguistic structures? 'vagueness'; To counteract this temptation we needtoisee
There certainly seems no easy way of deciding
ill! the positive side to the indetermina<;;y possessed by art:
whether it, is fruitful to persist.rin the analogy oyer the :m0re specifically: how this indeterminacy accommo-
range of the literary arts; In view of the way we"have €lates, or brin~s to a convergence1 demands, chara<;,i;
been using the analogy, it .looks as !'though the 'crucial t~ristically made of art~ by tile spectator-' and deman~s
question to ask would be, Is ~here a ~pecial sense in which @haracteristically';.maderpf art by t~e artist. We alre,ady
we could be "said' to understand a poem or a novel over nave 9,urV'eyedsome material that bearsuBpn,this.
and above our understanding of the words, phrases, sen- From the spectator's point it is, as we have seep (sec-
tlnces, that occur in tit? But it remains unclt~'arhow this
tf6n38), req~ired that he ~p.6uld be able to structure o~
question 'is to be decided. Fo:r;i\,instance:If it is asserted, as jnterpret the work of art ~J1more ~ways than ~ne. The.: ,'.:
it is in the l';{ewCriticisrri', .that understanding Roetry. is freedom in perception and understanding that this allows u
grasping a certain structure of metaphors, is ihi~, t~m- ih~n1is one of the"recognized values that art possesses. But,
tamount to giving an affirmativ~' answer to <1'this,frcfues- tH:islirfreedomis acceptable only if it is not gained at the
.k. '
tion?i1' ~~' " . @~penseMofthe arb'st: it must, therefore, be congruent,
with some requirement of his.
58 'f:
To identify this requirement, we need to realize thai, at
The second!limitation th~t must be placed"on the analogy any rate over a great deal of art, the artist is chqrac-
between art and language is more pervasive, in that it teristically operating at the'intersection of more than one
operates across the whole range of the arts: and thaUs, intention: It would, therefore, be quite, alien to his pur-
"" the far higher degree of tolerance' or permissibility that poses'if there were rules in art which allowed him to
exists in art. In language, for instance, we can recognize construct works which could be unambiguously cor-
degrees of grammaticality, or we distinguish between related with a 'meaning': whether this meaning is envis-
those statements to which a semantic interpretation is aged as an inner state or a message. For it would be of no
assigned, those where one may be imposed, and those interest to hiril to construc;t such works: or, to put it
where no such interpretation is feasible. It is evident that, another way, his distinctive problem would always con-
though works of aTt can become incoherent, it is imposs- sist in the fusion or condensation of works constructed in
ible to construct a set of rules or a theory by reference to this way. .
which this could be exhibited. A misleading way of putting the preceding point
At the risk of obviousness it must b~ emphasized that would be to say that all (or most) art is ~ambiguous'. Mis- i
154 155
, , ,._~,- -- -, ..,
Art and its Objects An Essay
leading: because it suggests that the intentions whose 'Works of art with some' clear-cut concept of order as this
point of intersection is a work of art are of the same type lIaS been systematically developed in some adjacent :III
or order: for instance, that they are all meanings. But it theory: for instance, with mathematical concepts of sym-
needs to be appreciated that very often the 'confluence metry or ratio, alternatively with the concept of Gestalt
will occur between a meaning and, say, a purely 'formal' as this occurs in experimental psychology. The trouble,
intention. By a formal intention I mean something like 'however, is that any such equation yields us at best a
the desire to assert the materiality or physical properties {\:!;laracterization of certain versions,. or historical vari-
of the medium: alternatively, an intention connected ap<ts,of the coherence demand: it does not give us a uni-
with the tradition, in the sense of wanting to modify it, versal account. It allows, for instance, for the
or to realize it, or to comment upon it. l,lenaissance notion of concinnitas, which was,
, It is instructive to reflect how little any of these con- sjgnificahtly enough, developed with a mathematical
siderationsarise in an area that is often in philosophy model explicitly in mind: it will not, however, allow for
bracketed with art, i.e. morality. Once this is appreciated the types of order that we find exemplified in many of 'I'

to the full it should cause little surprise that, whereas the great Romanesque sculptural ensembles or, again, in
morality is rule-dependent, art isn't. the work of late Monet or Pollock.
There are a number of considerations that account for
tlilis inadequacy. In the first place, the coherence that we
In the last section the word 'incoherent' was introduced leok for in a work of art is always relative to the el-
in connexion with defective works of art, and it might be ements that the artist is'required to assemble within it.
thought an error that this was not taken up, ,since it (lhe requirement may, of course, originate either exter-
would have provided us with a means towards the sol- J1ally or internally to the artist.) In this way all judge-
ution of our problem. For do we not have here a concept ments of coherence are comparative: that,is to say, the
for characterizing deviation in the domain of art, anal- work of art is pronounced to be more coherent than it
ogous to that of ungrammaticality or nonsense as applied might otherwise have been, given its elements, alterna-
to language? tively more coherent than some other arrangement of
The suggestion is attractive: incorporating, as it does, those same elements.
an ancient idea, at least as old as Aristotle, that the Secondly, there are likely to be considerable differences
peculiar virtue of a work of art consists in its unity, or in weighting between the different elements,. so that
the relation of parts to whole. There are, however, cer- whereas some elements are treated as highly malleable
tain difficulties that emerge in the course of working out and can be adjusted at will, to fit the demands of com-
this suggestion, which somewhat detract from its prima position, other elements are comparatively intractable
facie utility. and their original characteristics must be sqfeguarded. An
The appeal of the suggestion lies in the idea that we example of a somewhat superficial kind comes from the
can straightforwardly equate the coherence demanded of Madonna della Sedia where, it has been pointed out, .
156 157
=~Tr _n",," III

Arti;,.andits Objects An Essay

Raphael, confronted by the possibiljt){fof having two . in;,that the work of art does not, 'in its manifest proper-
adjacent circular shapes on his canvas;'preferred to flatten ..ti~s,present us with enough evidence to comprehend the
out the knob of the chair back"'rather than distort the eye, prder it exhibits. This is, of course, something to be met
of the ln~flnt Chris!: in acting thus he was implicitly ac- with more 'at certain historical periods than others. It is
cepting,a certfin evaluation concernifJ.gthe"integrityof<his no coincidence that the art-historical term which we'use
elemehts. It is arguable that tne MorelIian sc~~dules of to chara'Cterize a period when this phenomenon was
hand, ear, finger, are <;}efective,fromthe point of view of IllOst in evidence, 'mannerism', has a twotold meaning: it
connoisseurship, .just because t~ey fail to recog- connotes at once erudition concerning the past, and a
nize the existence,.of such constraints qpon the artist. Gleeppreoccupation with style. .
Thirdly, the elements themselve;; will not always !pe
homogeneous as to type or matter. For instance"in q1r~'
~?in Btaque still-lifes from 19,d' onwards t~e elements to ~nbugh has already been said in this essay to suggest that
be ordered will include the profiles ,of the various objects OUI'"initial hope of elicitihg a definition 6f art, or of a
thai'constitute tHe still life and also the materiality wofthe work of art, was e;xcessive: to suggest this, though not tb
pictu~e surface. It is, fhdeed, necessary to ap,preciate th~ ,pr@veit. However, it may anyhow be that a more ,fruit-
'vyry wide range of elemeuts that are characteristically flit as well as a more realistic; tnterprise would be to
assemb"led in works of art, if, we ""ar«<to see why there.' see,k, not""a definition; but a general method for ident-
always is a problem of order In art. Equally, this enables
\ifying works of art, and, In the concluding consideration
us~to see why "the argument, which 'originates with Plot- of the preceding section, there is an indication how this
inu~! that beauty cannot consist in organizatiou,i'because"" might be'Ybbtained. For the met~od might~take this form:
if it did:' we would not be able to predicate beauty of that we should, first, pick out certain obje<;;tsas original
totally simple objects, is vacuous in its application to art. Or primary works.of art; ahd that we should then set up

For within art there will be (virtually) no such cases. ,~, sdme rules which, successively applied .to the original
Tbe foregoing considerations alone would account for works of art, will give us (within certain r.ough limits) all
the very limited utility of introducing strict or systematic subsequent or derivative works of art.
notions of order or regularity in the explication of artis- A strong analogy suggests itself between such a recur-
tic order. But to them we can add another consideration, sive method of identifying works 9f art and the project of
whose consequences are far-reaching indeed. And that is a generative grammar in which all the well-formed sen~
.that in many instances, the kind of order that is sought tences or a language are" specified in terms of certain
by the artist depends from historical precedents: that is, kernel sentences and a set of rewrite rilles. The major
he will assemble his elements in ways that self-con- difference between the two enterprises would be that,
sciously react against, or over,tly presuppose, ar- whereas the derivations of which a grammar takes ac-
rangements that have already been tried out within the. count are permissible or valid derivations, the transform-
tradition. We might call such forms of order 'elliptical', ations to which a ~heory of art needs to be adequate are
!58 159

Art and its Objects An Essay

those which have been made over the ages: identifiable eiected either fnstantaneously or seriaiIy over time.
works of art constitute a historical not an ideal, set. ltxamples of such metamorphoses would be the great sty-
It is a corollary of this last point that if we could lay . listic changes, as these have been studied by those 'philo-
down the rules in accordance with which the historical $ophical' art-historians who have sensed most clearly
derivations have been made, we should have a theory t~e essentially transformational character of art, ...e.g.
which not merely was comprehensive of all works of art, Wolfflin, Riegel, Fo<;:illon.It would be possible to interpret
it would also give us some insight into their formation. these powerful thinkers as attempting to formulate the
But can we arrive at a formulation pf the!'e rul~s? It is recursive devices whereby art proceeds. Their actual
important that at'"the outset we should be aware of the achievement was subject to three limitations. In the first
immensity of the task. It is, in the first place, evident that ~lace, they had far too narrow a conception of the range
it would be insufficient to have rules which merely al- @fdevices operative in art: symptomatic of this would be,
lowed us to derive from one work of art another of the ~or irlstance, Wolfflin's failure to account for, or, for that
same, or roughly the same, structure. We may regard it matter, to see that he had to account fbr, Mannerism in I
as the persistent ambition of Academic theory to limit ,pis stylistic cycle. Secondly, they had no theoretical
the domain of art to works that can be regarded as sub- r;meansof fitting together stylistic changes on the general
stitution-instances of an original or canonical work:,but ~.r social level with changes of style on an individual or
this ambition has been consistently frustrated. expressive level: Wolfflin's famous programme of 'art his-
Of course, there are historical derivations that have. t0ry without names' is in effect the denial that there is
been of this simple form, e.g. the changes in sonnet form any need to make the fit since all change occurs primarily
which comprise much of the history of early Renaissance or operatively on the nibre general level. Thirdly, all
literatures. But as we move out from this narrow base, tpese writers were confused about the status of their in-
we encounter increasing complexity. The next cases we v~stigation. From the fact that it is in the nature of art
might consider are those which involve the embedment, that it chang~s or has a history, they tried to move to the
total or partial, of one work of art in another. The conclusion that the particular history it has, the par-
simplest example here is that of allusion or quotation: a ticular changes it undergoes, are grounded in the nature
more complex instance, cited by 1. A. I).ichards in The of art. , .

Principles of Literary Criticism, is provided by the second It would seem to be a feature of contemporary art that
chorus of Hellas, where we have, a~ Richards puts it, a the transformations it exhibits are more extensive in
borrowing by Shelley of Milton's 'voice'. character than the stylistic changes with which the philo-
There are, however, a substantial number of trans- sophical art-historians concerned themselves. For it is ar-
formations in the domain of art which are more radical guable that whereas the earlier changes affected only the
still, and require for their understanding rules much stron- more or lysS de~ailed properties of a work of art, e.g.
ger. Such transformations consist in nothing less than painterly versus linear, in the art,of our day one work of
the deletion of the principal characteristics of earlier art, art generates another by the supersession of its most gen. .
r60 16r

Art and its Objects An Essay

eral or its all-over properties, e.g. Pont-Aven as the suc- have an acquaintance with that local part of t~e frame-
cessor of Impressionism, hard-edge painting as the - work where the work occurs: alternatively, that he
successor of abstract expressionism. should be able to take this on trust fromjsomeone who
There are two general problems that arise in connexion satisfiesthis condition.
with the devices"interms of which I have suggested that A far more difficult problem arises concerning the re-
the history of art might be set out. These,problems are lation between the conditions necessary for identifying a
very difficult, and I shall simply mention them. The first work of art and those necessary for its understanding. To
concerns the nature ()f these, devices. Are they theoreti- what extent do we ne~d to be able to locate the work of
cal postulates made by the art-historian in order to art in its historical setting before we can understand it?
explain the course of art, or do they enter more The answer that we give to this question is likely to vary
substantively into the activity of the artist, say as regu- from one work of art to another, depending upon the
lative principles either conscious or unconscious?Perhaps extent to which the forID'ativehistory of the work actu"
this distinction need not be tOd/sharp. We have seen that ally enters into, or affects, the content: to put it another
it is characteristic of the artist that he works under the way, the issue depends on how much the style of the
concept of art. In q.ny age this concept will probably work is an institutional, and how much it is an express-
belong to a theory, o{which the artist may well be un- ive, matter. As a rough principle it might be laid down
aware. It then becomes unclear, perhaps eve~ immaterial, that those works or art which result from the application
whether we are to say that the artist,works under such a of the mOreradical transformational devices will,require
theory. . for their understanding a,correspondingly greater aware-
Secondly, How much of art should we hope to account ness of the devices that went to their formation.
for in this way? In linguistic theory a distinction is made Two examples may serve to make-this last point. Mer-
between two kinds of originality: that to which any leau-Ponty suggeststhat much of the dramatic tension of
grammatical theory must be adequate, which is in- Julien Sorel's return to Verrieres arises from the sup-
herently rule-abiding, and that which depends on the cre- pression of the kind of thoughts or interior detail that we
ation of rules: It would be paradoxical if originality of could expect to find in such an account; we get in one
the second kind did not also exist in art. page what might have taken up five. If this is so, then it
61 would seem to follow that, for the understanding of this
passage, the reader of Le Rouge et Ie Noir needs to .come
In the preceding section I ha~e indicated some kind of to the book with at any rate some acquaintance with the
scheme of reference, or framework, within which a work co~ventions of -the early-nineteenth-century novel. The
of art can be identified. This does not, of course, mean second example is more radical. In 1917 Marcel Du-
that any spectator, who wishes to identify something as a champ submitted to an art exhibition a porcelain urinat'
work of art, must be able to locate it at its precise point with the signature of the manufacturer attached in his,
within such a framework. It is enough that he should Duchamp's, handwriting. The significance of such icono-
Art and its Objects An Essay
clastic gestures is manifold; but in so far as the gesture is (more specificillly)social determination, that is thought
to be seen as falling within art, it has been argued (by incompatible with the highest values of art: spontaneity,
Adrian Stokes)that this requires that we project on to the originality, and full expressiveness.
object's 'patterns and shape. .. a significance learned The question that now arises, whether social deter-
from many pictures and sculptures'. In other words, it mination is in fact incompatible with these values, is hard
would be difficult to appreciate what Duchamp was to answer: largely because it' presupposes a clearer or
trying to do without an over-all knowledge of the history more precisely formulated notion of social determin,ation
of art's metamorphoses. than is generally forthcoming from either the adherents
We can also approach the matter the other way round. or the critics of social explanation.
If there are many cases where our understanding of a It is evident that, if one reads into the notion of social
work does not require that we should be able to identify determination somethjng akin to compulsion, or gen-
it precisely, nevertheless there are very few cases indeed erally of a coercive character, then it will follow that
where our understanding of a work is not likely to suffer explanation. in social terms and the imputation of the
from the fact that we misidentify it, or that we falsely highest expressive values are incompatible. And certaiply
locate it from a historical point of view. It is in this re- some of the most su,ccessfulattempts to date to explain
spect instructive to consider the vicissitudes of appr~ci- works of art by reference to their social conditions have
ation undergone by works that have been systematically seen it as their task to demonstrate some kind of con-
misidentified, e.g. pieces of Hellenistic sculpture that for straining relation obtaining between the social environ-
centurie9 were believed to have a classical provenance. ment and art. Thus, there have been studies of the
stringencies impJicit in patronage, or in the com-
missioning of works of art, or in the taste of a ruling
The argument of the preceding section appears to dispute clique. However, this interpretation cannot exhaust the
a well-entrenched view about art: for it suggests that it is notion of social determination: if only because it con-
only works of art that come above - whereas, on the spicuously fails to do justice to the theoretical character
ordinary view, it is those works which fall below - a that is generally thought to attach to social explanation.
certain level of originality or self-consciousness, Which All such explanation would be on a purely anecdotal
need or can acquire a historical explanation. Now, in so level.
far as the ordinary view is not mere prejudice, the dispute Another interpretation, therefore, suggestsitself, along
may be based upon a misunderstanding. For the kind of the following lines. To say of a particular work of art
explanation I have been talking of is, it will be observed, that it is socially determined, or to explain it in social
one in purely art-historical terms, whereas what is ordi- terms, is to exhibit it as an instance of a constant cor-
narily objected to is a form of explanation which would relation: a correlation, that is, holding between a certain
see the work of art as the product of extraartistic con- form of art, on the one hand, and a certain form of social
ditions. It is not historical determination as such, it is life, o~ the other. Thus, any particular explanation pre-
164 165
-'"",,-' ".'"
"'~""""'- ',-_.w "'

M and its Objects An Essay f

supposes a hypothesis of the form, Whenever A then B. 'fabric of social life, and is also r:eflected in the art of the
To say in gerl'eral"that art is socially <ietermined is to do age. The other view would be it is the same processes of
no more than to subscribe to a h~~ristic maxim,ad- labour that occur in the infq.structure of society, whe:r;~
vocating the framing and testing of SUGhhypotheses:~This they are framed in the production 'relations, and alsp pro-
interpretation obviously derives' from, traditional em- 'Vide art with its accredited vehicles. On this latter view
piricism, and traditionah empiricism is surely right in in- the difference between the worker anp. the artist would
sistiDg that, as long as the hypotheses are no more than lie in the conditions, not in the character, of their ac-
statements of constant conjunction, <j.,nyexplanation by tI-\;,ity.What the labourer does in an alienated fasp-ion, at
the command of another, deriving therefore neither
r~ference to them in no way prejudices!.fr~edom.,A work
of art may be socially determined in this' sense~>andalso pi<ofit nor benefit to himself from it, the artist does, in
display, to any degree,wspontal1eitx, originality, express" comparative autonomy. '" ,

,iveness, etc. However, a fairly cq,ndusive consideration If we now ask whether social determination under-
"against this interpretation of social determination is the stood in this third way is or is not compatible with free- .
apparent impossibility<'of finding plausible, let aldhe~true, dom and the other values of expression, the answer must,
hypotheses of the required "character: which may in turn Me"in the detail that the specific .pattern of explanation
'be"related to a specific difficultyqf principle, which is exhibits. In the case where thepfocesses 'Of mqdes of
that of identifying forms of art andJorms of social life"in labour are. the intervening factor, we perhaps already
such a way that they m.ight be found to recur acrqss have enough of the detail to work out an answer: given,
history. ' that is, we can accept a, particular view of freedom and
Accordingly:, if..the thesis of social determination is "Self-consciou~pess.A further point, however, would also
both to be credible and to enjoy a theoretical status, a seem worth makin g in connexion with this third in-
, ,'"

further interpretation is required. More specifically, an terpretatiort of social determination: and that is that the
interpretation is required'which,involves a"'more intimate determination now occurs on an extremely high level of
link between the social and artistic phenomena than generality or abstractness. \ The link between art and
mere correlation. A likely suggestion is that we,?hould society is in the broadest terms. This may further suggest
look for a common component to social life and to art, that the determination cannot be readily identified with
which also colours and perhaps is coloured by the re- constraint or necessity.
maining components of which these phenomena are con-
63 .
stituted. And we may observe among Marxist critics or <.
philosophers of culture attempts, if of a somewhat sche- The conclusion, toward which the argument of the pre-
matic kind, to evolve such patterns of explanation: one, ceding four sections has been moving, might be put by
for instance, in terms of social consciousness, another in saying that art is essentially historical. With this in mind,
terms of modes .or processes of labour. The one view we might now return for the last time to the bricoleur
would be that social consciousness is at once part of the problem, and see what light this throws tipon it.
166 167
Art and its Objects An Essay
One point immediately suggests itself. And that is, logical or ontological status of works of art that occupied
when we consider the question asked Qf any particular the opening sections. Such a sentiment, though com-
. stuff pr process, Why is this an accredited vehicle of art?, prehensible enough, would be misguided. For it is not
only from a philosophical point of view that it is necess-
we need to distinguish between two stages at which it
might be raised, and accordingly between two ways in ary to get these matters as right as possible. Within art
which it might be answered. In its primary occurrence itself there is a constant preoccupation with, and in art
we must imagine the. question raised in a context in that is distinctively eaily or distinctively late much em-
which there are as yet no arts, but to the consideration of phasis upon, the kind of thing that a work of art is. Criti-
which we perhaps bring to bear certain very general prin- cal categories or concepts as diverse as magic, irony,
ambiguity, illusion, paradox, arbitrariness, are intended
ciples of art (such as those specified in section 47)..In its
secondary occurrence the question is raised in a context to catch just this aspect of art. (And it is here perhaps that
in which certain arts are already going concerns. It will we have an explanation of the phenomenon recorded in
section I I that a painting which was not a representation
be apparent that, when the question is raised in this
second way, the answer it receives will in very large part \ of Empty Space could yet properly be entitled 'Empty
be the analogies and the disanalogies that iiiSpace'. For the title of this picture would be explained by
we can "constructbetween the existing arts and the art in reference to the reference that the picture itself makes to
question. In other words, the question will benefit from
the comparatively rich context in which it is asked. It is, It needs, however, at this stage to be pointed out that
for instance, in this way that the question, Is the film an the arguments in the opening sections are less conclusive
art? is currently discussed. than perhaps they appeared to be. Certainly some con-
Last time I considered the question I argued that it ventional arguments to the effect that (certain) works are
not (are not identical with) physical objects were dis-
gained in force or significance as the context was en-
riched. We can now see that the enrichment of the con- posed of. But it could be wrong to think that it follows
text is a historical matter. In consequence the question, as from this that (certain) works of art are (are identical
with) physical objects. The difficulty here lies in the
part of a serious or interesting inquiry, belongs to the
later or more developed phases, not to the earlier phases, highly elusive notion of 'identity', the analysis of which
a fortiori not to the origin, of art. Yet it is paradoxically belongs to the more intricate part of general phil-
enough in connexion with the beginnings of art that it is osophy.
generally raised. . . ..
64 It will be observed that in this essay next to nothing has
'This', someone might exclaim, 'is more like aesthetics', been said about the subject that dominates much con-
contrasting the immediately preceding discussion with temporary aesthetics: that of the evaluation of art, and its
the dry and pedantic arguments centring around the logical character. This omission is deliberate.



~. iJ1(


.. it ill

~I There is little in the literature of aesthetics that can be rec-
"",' in an l'Ullqualified way. I can enumerate the
'Yorks that 1 have found most valuable or supgestive:/hey
~re K,mt's C,ritiqye of J!!.flgment'/)theintroduction to Hegel's
Philosophy of ,Fine Art, Alain's Systeme des Beaux-Arts,
Ijj };rnst Gombri~i1's Art and Illusion and '~Meditations on a
~" .,
Hobby Horse,'"a~t t~e essays,of, .f\driaI1Stokes. I have alsq
;1, ~ !been deeplx~ influen~ed
~ by the thought of Freud and Witt-
'1' gensteih, thoug:h.:their writings specifically on"aesthetics a~e, .
jUdged by the high standards that th~y themselv~s impose,
disappointing. .
:'.,. '., Most contemporary; writing onaesthetjcs takes the form
,of articles. In ~iting "these articles I employ th:~ following
.' abbreviations: Yij.
Aesthetics and Language, ed. .Wqliam
" Elton (Oxford, 1954) Elton
,Aesthetics T;o-day, ed. Morns Philipson
I "T
(Cleveland and New York, 1961) Philipson
Philosophy Looks at the Arts, ed. ]. Mar-
golis (New York, 1962) .j Margolis
Collected Papers on Aesthetics, ed. Cyril
Barrett, S.]..(Oxford, 1965) Barrett
Aesthetic Inquiry: EsS{lYs in Art Criticism
and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Monroe
C. Beardsley and Hubert M. Schneller
(Belmont, Calif., 1967) Beardsley
American Philosophical Quarterly Amer. Phil. Q.
British Journal of Aesthetics B.f.A.

Art and its Objects An Essay
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism ].A.A.C. Philosophy', Jahrbuch fUr Asthetik und Allgemeine Kunst-
Journal of Philosophy J. Phil. wissenschaft, Band 9 (1964),pp. 216-26.
Proceedingsof the Aristotelian Society P.A.S.
Proceedings of the. Aristotelian Society,
Supplementary Volume PhjJ.and Phen. Sections 6-8
Philosophy and Phenomenological P.A.S.Supp.Vol.
Res. There isa voluminous contemporary literature on the onto-
Phil. Q. logical status of the work of art, which is reviewed -in R.
Philosophical Quarterly Hoffmann, 'Conjectures and Refutations on the Ontological
Philosophical Review Phil. Rev
Status of the Work of Art', Mind, Vol. LXXI,(October 1962),
Psychological Review Psych. Review
pp. 5I2-20. More generally, see e.g. Bernard Bosanquet,
Three Lectures on Aesthetics (London, 1915), Chap. II; C. 1.
Sections 2-3 Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and Valutltion (La Salle,
For traditional treatments of the question, see .~.g. Plato, Re- IlL, 1946), Chaps. 14-15; J.-P. Sartre, The Psychology of Im-
agination, ,trans. anon. (New York, 1948), Part IV; Margaret
public, Book X; Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, ~rans. Aylmer
Macdonald, 'Art and Imagination', PAS., Vol. LIII (1952-3),
Maude (Oxford, 1930); Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic, 2nd ed.,
'pp:' 205-26; Mikel Dufrenne, Phenomenologie de
trans. Douglas Ainslie (London, 1922); Roger Fry, Vision and
]'l;xperience Esthhique (Paris, 1953); Jeanne Wacker, 'Par-
Design (London, 1924); Ernst Cassirer, ;4n Essay on Man
ticular Works of Art', Mind, Vol. LXIX (April 1960), pp.
(New Haven, 1944); Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition in
223-33, reprinted in Barrett; J. Margolis, The Language of Art
Art and Poetry (New York, 1953). >;. .
and Art Criticism (Detroit, 1965), Chap. IV; P. F. Strawson,
For the sceptical view, see Morris Weitz, Philosophy of the
'Aesthetic Appraisal and Works of Art', The Oxford Review
Arts (Cambridge, Mass., 1950), and 'The Role of Theory in
Aesthetics', ].A.A.C., Vol. XV (September 1957), pp. 27-35, Woo3 (Michaelmas 1966), pp. 5""'13.
reprinted in Margolis and in Beardsley; Paul Ziff, 'The Task
of Defining a Work of Art', Phil. Rev.~ Vol. LXII (January Sections Il-I3
1953), pp. 58-78; W. B. Gallie, 'Essentially Contested Con-
cepts', P.A.S.,Vol. LVI (1955-6),pp. 167-98, and 'Art as Essen- On the alleged incompatibility between the physical and the
tially Contested Concept', Phil. Q., Vol..VI (April 1956),pp. representational properties of a work of art, see Samuel
97-114; C. 1. Stevenson, 'On "What Is a Poem?"', Phil. Rev., Alexander, Beauty and Other Forms of Value (London, 1933),
Vol. LXVI (July 1957), pp. 329-60. This approach lar.gely Chap. III; and Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form (New York,
derives from Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Inves- 1953). For criticism of this view, see Paul Ziff, 'Art and the
tigations, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford, 1953), e.g., pars. "Object of Art" " Mind, Vol. LX (October 1951), pp. 466-80,
65-7, and The Blue and Brown Books (Oxford, 1958), reprinted in Elton. .

passim. A sophisticated variant of the view, which nevertheless

For a criticism of the extreme sceptical view, see e.g. J. retains the notion of illusion I is to be found in E. H. Gom-
Margolis, The Language of Art and Art Criticism (Detroit, brich, Art and Illusion (London, 1960). On Gombrich, see
1965),Chap. 3; Michael Podro, 'The Arts and Recent English Rudolf Arnheim's review of Art and Illusion in Art Bulletin,
I L73

.-',""" ,'".~"--, .'
. -"'-""J-' ~~--
Art an~ its OBjects Q , An Ess,ay
Vbl. XLIV (March 1962),pp. 75~, reprinted in his Towards a rMonroe Beardsley, 'The Affective Fallacy', Sewanee Review,
PsycH'ology of Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966); and tVII (Winter 1949),"pp. 458-88, reprinted in'W. K. Wimsatt,
Richard Wollheim, 'Art and Illusion', 13.J.A.~
Vol.JII (January Jr, The yerbal Icon (Lexington, Ky., 1954).
1963), pp. '15-37. A composite view is to be found in,.e.g. Curt]. Ducasse,
On representation more generally, see J.-P. Sartre,
,," The The Philosophy"' of'Art(New York, 1929)' ,
Psychology of Imagination, trans. anon. (New. York, 1948); On expression more generally, see John Dewey, Art as Ex-
Vincent Tomas, 'Aesthetic Vision', Phil. Rev., Vol. LXVIII perience (N~w York, 1934);Rudolph Arnh~jm, Art and .visual
(January 1959),pp. 52-67; MauriceMerIeau~Ponty,I.'CEilet Perception (Berkeley and Los Angeles~"I954), Chap. X" and
I'Esprlt (faris, i964); Richard Wollheim, On Dr~wing all 'The G,estalt Theory ofvExpression', Psych. Review, Vol. 56
Object '(Londbn, 1965-); and Nelson Goodman "., Languages of (May 1949), pp. 156-72, reprinted in his Towards a
Art (Indianapolis and New York, 1968). " ,Psychology of Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966); Ludwig
it Wittgens\~in, ,Philosophica~.Investigations, el G. E. !'1M.
Section 13 " .'
Ansf=ombe (Qxford, 1953); Richard Wollheim, 'Expression
and E)(pressi~riisIn" Revue In~il'nationplede Philosophie, 18
(~964), pp., 27°;;;89,!:,and""Expression',Royal Institute of 'philo-"
sophy Lectures 1966-1967, Vol. I:~ The Humall Agent (~onc
don, 1967), Chap. XIII, pp. 227-44; Nelson ~Goodman,
'II If>
banguages of Art (Indianapolis and New York~,1968);and,Guy
Sir.<::ello,Mind and Art (Princeton, N.J., 197~).

Sections 15-19
~~~2~ .
:For the Ideal theory, see~Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic, 2nd
For the first view of expression, see Eugen~{Veron, Aesthe"t-
edn, trans. Douglas Ainslie (London, 1922); and R. G.
ics, trans. W. H. Armstrong (London, 1879). Veron deeply
Collingwood, The Principles' of Art (London, 1938). In
influenceQ. Leo Tolstoy, Whauis Art?, trans. Aylmer Maude
his later writings Croce considerably diverged from the theory
(Oxford, 1930). A latter-day version of this view occurs in here attributed to him.
Harold Rosenberg, The Tradhion of the N"ew (New York,
For criticism of the theory, see W. B. Gallie, 'The Function
For a criticism 'of this view, see Susanne Langer, Phil- of Philosophical Aesthetics', Mind, V;ol LVII. (1948), pp.
302-21, reprinted in Elton.
osophy in a New Key (Cambridge, Mass., 1942), Chap. VII,
where a distinction is made between a 'symptomatic' and 'a On the importance of the medium, see Samuel Alexander,
'semantic' reference to feeling; and Monroe Beardsley, Aes- Art and the Material (Manchester, 1925), reprinted in his
thetics (New York, 1958). See also Paul Hindemith, A Com- Philosophical and Literary Pieces (London, 1939); John
poser's World (Cambridge, Mass., 1952). Dewey, Art, as Experience (New York, 1934); Edward Bul-
For the second view of expression, see 1. A. Ricpards, lough, Aesthetics, ed. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson (Stanford,
Principles of Literary Criticism (London, 1925). 1957); and Stuart Hampshire, Feeling and Expression
For a criticism of this view, see W. K. Wimsatt, Jr, and (London, 1960).
Art and its Objects An Essay
The defence of the Ideal theory in terms of 'conceived' On the depiction of movement, see also Alain, Systeme des
versus 'physical' medium is to be found in John Hospers, Beaux-Arts (Paris, 1926); Rudolf Amheim, Art and Visual
'The Croce-Collingwood Theory of Art', Philosophy, Vol. Perception (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1954),Chap. VIII, and
XXXI (October 1956),pp. 291-308. 'Perceptual and Aesthetic Aspects of the Movement Re-
On images, see Alain, Systeme des Beaux-Arts (Paris, 1926), sponse', Journal of Personality, Vol. 19 (1950-51),pp. 265-81
Livre I; J.-P. Sartre, The Psychology of Imagjnation, trans. (with bibliog.), reprinted in his Towards a Psychology of Art
anon. (New York, 1948);and Hideko Ishiguro, 'Imagination', (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966); and E.H. Gombrich,
British Analytical Philosophy, ed. Alan Montefiore and Ber- 'Moment and Movement in Art', Journal of the Warburg and
nard Williams (London, 1966).' Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 27 (1964), pp. 293-306 (with
Section 24
For the Presentational theory, see e.g. D. W. Prall, Aesthetic Section 27
Analysis (New York, 1936); S. C. Pepper, The Basis of Criti- For the theory of 'tactile values', s,ee Bernhard Berenson,
cism in the Arts (Cambridge, Mass., 1945), Supplementary Florentine Painters of the Renaissance (New York, 1896).
Essay, and The Work of Art (Bloomington, Ind., 1955),Chap. The origins of the theory are to be'found in the writings of
I; Harold Osborne, Theory of Beauty (London, 1952); and Adolf V0n Hildebrand, Robert Vischer and Theodor Lipps.
Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics (New York, 1958). 'For the weaker version of the theory,' see Heinrich
A special variant of the theory is to be found in Susanne Wolfflin, Classic Art, trans. Peter and Linda Murray (London,
Langer, Feeling and Form (New York, 1953),and Problems in 1952), and Principles of Art History. trans. M. D. Hottinger
Art (New York, 1957). (New York, 1932). .

See also Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books,

Section 25 ed. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford, 1958),pp. 9-11.
On the 'music of poetry', see A. C. Bradley, 'Poetry for
Poetry's Sake', in Oxford Lectures on Poetry (London 1909); Sections 28-31
1.A. Richards, Practical Criticism (London, 1929); Cleanth
Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Understanding Poetry, rev. For Gombrich's account of expression, see E.H. Gombrich,
Art and Illusion (London, 1960), Chap. XI, and Meditations
ed. (New York, 1950),Chap. III; Northrop Frye, Anatomy of
Criticism (Princeton, 1957); T. S. Eliot, 'Music of Poetry', in on a Hobby Horse (London, 1963). See also Richard Woll-
On Poetry and Poets (London, 1957). heim, 'Expression and Expressionism', Revue Internationale
de Philosophie, 18 (1964),pp. 270-89, and Preface to Adrian
Stokes, The Invitation in Art (Londom,1965).
Section 26 On the iconicity or 'immanence" of works of art, see
For the Shaftesbury-Lessing Theory, see Shaftesbury, George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty (New York, 1896);
Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1714), Carroll C. Pratt, Meaning in Music (New York, 1931);
Chap. I; G. W. E. Lessing, Laocoon (1766), Chaps. 2, 3, 24 and Samuel Alexander, Beauty and Other Forms of Value
25. (London, 1933);Morris Weitz, PhilosophY' of the Arts (Cam-
176 177
I .

An Essay.
Aft and its Objects Section 32
bridge, Mass., 1950); and Ernst Cassirer, Philosophy of Syrn~
For tne argument against genres or aesthetic categories, see
bolic Forms, trans. Ralph Manheim (New Haven, I953-Z).
'Ben,edetto Croce, Aesthetic, 2nd ed., trans. Douglas Ainslie
Attempts to give this account a more rfgpr°\t,~ formulation
(London, 1922), Chaps. I2 and 15, and Breviary of Aesthe&,
are to be found in Susanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key
trans: Douglas Ainslie (Houston, Texas, 1915). The issues are
(Cambridge, Mass., 1942), and Feeling land Form (New York, ,reviewed in Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of
I953);~and G. W. Morris,' 'Esthetics and the Theory of Signs',
J!itera~lf,re(New York, .1949),Chap. 1Z' ~
Journal of Unified Science, 8 (1939), pp. '13-50. Both.Morris
iFqr the argument that would connect genre-classification
and Langer are criticized (by C. L. Stevenson) in Language, and the criteria of evaluation, see Harold Osborne, Aesthetics
~' , ~ ~

Thought and 0ulture, ed. P. Henle (Ann Arbor, 1958), Chap'.

8. See "also Richard Rudner, 'On Semiotic Aesthetics', ,,(ing Criticism (London,~i955).,
For the defence of.! genr,e-c
" riticism, see Northrop Frye, Th. e
, ,

J.A.A~C., Vol. X (September 1951), pp. 67-'77, reprinted in -A'natomY ,of .Criticism(Princeton, 1957). See also William
Beardsley. On Langer, see Ernst Nagel's review of Philosophy
:;Empson, Som~",Version$ of. Pastoral (London, 1935); apd
in a New KfY, ]. Phil., Vol. XL (IO JuneiI943), pp.323--9,
'R.Q5; Crane, Tfle""banguHgeso~ Cr{t{~ism and the Structur;,? of
reprinted as ~A Theory of Symbolic Form'; in his Logi/'\:Yith-
:P'\f!try (Toronto, ~953). A most interesting discussIon, is to be
out Metaphysics (Glencoe, Ill.:" 1956); Arthur "Szathmaryr'
~urid"in KenaaH L. Walton, 'Categories 8fArt';,p'hil,itev.;,Vol.
'Symbolic and Aesthetic Exp~ession in Painting', J.A.i.e., LXXIX (July 1970),PP. 334-67.
Vol. Xm (SkPtember 1954), pp. "'86-96; and P. Welsh, ,'Dis- FOJl~the'lliinsistenceon thehP~rtic~larity of a work ~f art, see
cursive and Presentatipna'l Symbols', Min1, Vol. LXIV (April ,.e.g;, Stuart Hampshire, 'Logic and Appreciation', World
1955), pp. 181-'99. On Morris, see B'enbow Ritchie)' 'Th~
III l,ReView (1953), reprintecl in Elton. 1/" '1:
Formal Structure of the Aesthetic Object', ].A.A.C., Vol. lIt
,,(April 1943), pp.5-I5; and Isabel P.!Creed, 'Iconic Signs and
ExpressiveneSs', J.A.A.C, Vol. III' (April I943),Pp.I5-2T. ' ,Section
Morris withdrew from the view that'art can be distinguished
~Fot' the view that knowledge of the problem to which the
by reference to a special class of, sign in Signs, Language and work of art is a solution is essential to a~sthetic under-
Behavior (New York, 1946).
The distinction between symbol and icon as kinds of sig:p. standing, see Erwin, Panofsky~ 'The History ;f Art as a Hu-
planisilc Discipline', in hi~ Meaning in the V,isual Arts (New
goes back to Chaifles S. Peirce, Collected Papers (Cambridge,
York, 1955). Also Ernst-Gombrich; The Story of Art (London,
Mass., 1931-5), Vol. II, Book II, Chap. 3.
I950);~ and Arnold Hauser, The Philosophy of Art History
On the notion of style, see Heinrich Wolfflin, Principles of
(London, 1959).
Art History, trans. M. D. HottiJ).ger (New York, 1932), and
For critieism of this, see Edgar Wind, 'Zur Systematik der
Classic Art, trans. Peter and Linda Murray (London, 1952).
I).i.instlerischen Probleme', Zeitschrift Wr Aesthetik und
More generally, see Meyer Schapiro, 'Style', in Anthropology
allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, Vol. XVIII (1925), pp. 438-86;
To-day, ed. A. L. Kroeber (Chicago, 1953), reprinted in Phil-
and a much publicized article by Monroe Beardsley
ipson; James S. Ackerman, 'Style', in James S. Ackerman and,
and W. K. Wimsatt, Jr, 'The Intentional F.allacy', Sewanee
Rl1Ys Carpenter, Art and Archaeology, (London, 1963). See
also Paul Frankl, Das System der Kunstwissenschaft (Leipzig, ,Review, LIV (Summer 1946), pp. 468-88, reprinted in
W. K. Wimsatt, Jr, The Verbal Icon (Lexington, Ky., 1954)
1938), and The Gothic (Princeton, N.J., 1960).
Art and its Objects An Essay I'
and also in Margolis. The discussion is taken up in e.g. Isabel see' Morris Weitz, Hamlet cmd the Philosophy of Literary
~Hungerland, 'The Concept of Intention in Art .criticism', (Criticism (Chicago, 1964); Charles L. Stevenson, 'On the
]. Phil., Vol. LII (New York, 1955), pp. 733-42; F. Cioffi, 'Inten- "Analysi~' of a Work of Art', Phil. Rev., Vol. LXVII(January
tion and Interpretation in Criticism', P.AS, Vol. LXIV I958), PP. 33-51, and 'On the Reasons that can be given for
(1963-4), pp. 85-106, reprinted in Barrett; John Kemp, 'The the Interpretation of a Poem', printed in Margolis;
Work of ArJ and the Artist's Intentions:! B.].A., Vol. IV W. K..Wimsatt, Jr, 'What to say about a Poem', in,.his Hate-
(April 1964) pp. 146-54, and Anthony cSavile,'The Place of In- ful Contraries (Lexington, Ky., 1965); and the 2ontributions
tention in the Concept of Art', P.AS, V;pl. LXIX (1968--9),pp. , 'by Monroe Beardsley and" Stuart Hampshire to Art and Phil-
101-::-21: osophy, ed. Sidney Hook (New York, 1966).
Sections 35-6 ~or the suggestion that the two kinds of interpre!ation are
ielated, see Margaret Macdonald, 'Some Distinctive Features
On types and tokens, see Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected of kguments used in Criticism of the Arts', P.A.5. Supp. Vol.
Papers (Cambridge, Mass., 1931-5), Vol. IV, pars. 537 ff. XXIII (1949), pp. 183-94, reprinted (in a revised form) in
See also Margaret Macdonald, 'Some Distinctive Features Elton; and J. Margolis, The funguage of Art and Art Criti-
of tl1e Arguments Used in Criticism of the Arts', P.A.S, Supp. cism ~Detroit, 1965). .
Vol. XXIII (1949), pp. 183--94, reprinted in a revised form in
Elton; R. Rudner, 'The Ontological Status of the Aesthetic ,
Sections 40-42
Object', Phil. and Phen. Res., Vo~.X (March 1950), pp. 380-88;
C. L. Stevenson, 'On "What Is a Poem?" " Phil. Rev~, Vol. )The thesis th,at art may be defined in terms of our attitude
LXVI (July 1957), pp. 329-60; J. Margolis, The Language of towards it, or 'the aesthetic consciousness', is most clearly
Art and Art Criticism (Detroit, 1965); P. F. Strawson, 'Aes- formulated in Edward Bullough, Aesthetics, ed. Elizabeth M.
thetic Appraisal and Works of Art', The Oxford Review No. Wilkinson (Stanford, ~957). The forerunners of this approach
3 (Michaelmas 1966), pp. 5-13. are Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans.
Sections 37-9 J. c. Meredith (Oxford, 1928);and Arthur Schopenhauer, The
World as Will and Idea, trans. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp.
On interpretation, see Paul Valery, 'Reflections on Art', (London, 1883).
printed in' his Collected W'orks, trans. Ralph Manheim For'more recent discussions, see H. S. Langfeld, The Aes-
(London, 1964), Vol. XIII. thetic Attitude (New York, 1920); J. O.Urmson, 'What
See also William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity Makes a Situation Aesthetic', P.A.S.Supp. Vol. XXXI (1957),
(London, 1930); Ernst Kris and Abraham Kaplan, 'Aesthetic pp. 75-92, reprinted in Margolis, which attempts a linguistic
Ambiguity', in Ernest Kris, Psychoanalytic Explorations in formulation of the thesis; and F. E. Sparshott, The Structure
Art (New York, 1952). of Aesthetics (Toronto, 1963).
On the eliminability of interpretation, see Susanne Langer, ,See also Virgil C. Aldrich, Philosophy of Art (Englewood
Feeling and Form (New York, 1953). This view is criticized in Cliffs, N.J., 1963), which defines art in terms of a special
Jeanne Wacker, 'Particular Works of Art', Mind, Vol. LXIX mode of perception; and Stanley Cavell, 'The Avoidance of
(1960), pp. 223-33, reprinted in Barrett. :Love:a Reading of King Lear', in his Must We Mean What
For the distinction between interpretation and description, , We Say?(ijew York, 1969).

180 IS!

j'-" '

Art andits Objects1 I An Essay

An interesting development; of. this approach from "a 1951), pp. 496-'-527,and Vol. XIII (January 1952),pp. 17-46.
phenomenological point of view is ~to be found in ,Mikel Cf. W. Tatarkiewicz, 'The Classification of the Arts in Anti-
Dufrenne, Pht'in'omenologie de l~Experience Esthetique quity', Jpurnal of the History of Ideas, Vol. XXIV (April
(Paris, 1953). 1963),pp. 231-40; and Meyer Schapiro, 'On the Aesthetic At-
For a criticism of this approach, see George Dickie, 'The titude in Romanesque Art', in Art and Thought: Issued in
Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude', Amer. Phil. Q., t'(January Honour pf Dr AnandG K. Coomaraswamy, ed. K. Bharatha
1964),pp. 54-65; and Marshall Cohen 'Aesthetic Essence', in Iyer (London, 1947).
Philosophy in America, ed. Max Black (New Yorkt,1965). '
u"Forthe view that all objects can be seen aesthetically, see -, Section 45
e.g. Stuart Hampshire, 'Logic and Appreciation', in World
Review (19,52),reprinted in Elton.~t Paul Valery, 'Man and For the notion of form of life, see Ludwig Wittgenstein,
the Sea Shell', in his Collected Works, trans. Ralph Manheim Philosophical Investigations (Oxford, 1953).
(London, 1964),Vol. XIII. j , For the analogy between art and language, see John
:1: Dewey, Art as Experience (New I York, 1934); Andre Malraux,

The Voices of Silence, trans. Stuart Gilbert (London, 1954);

Section 43
i!b.' E. H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion (London, 1960); and
See John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York, 1934).For an Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 'Indirect Language and the Voices I

extreme or crude version of the view t11atlife and art are of Silence', in his Signs, trans. Richard C. McCleary
distinct, see Clive Bell,Arth(London, 1914).Such an' approach (Evanston, IlL, 1964).
is (rather ambiguously) cri~icized in I, A Richards, Prin- For the reciprocity between artist and spectator, which is
ciples of Literary Criticism (Lqndon;"I925). the' theme of much of this essay, see Alain, Systeme des
Beaux-Arts (Paris, 1926); John Dewey, Art as Experience
Section 44 (New York, 1934); also (surprisingly enough) R. G. Colling-
wood, The Principles of Art (London, 1938); and Mikel
On the concept of art in primit1ve society, see Yrjo Him, The Dufrenne, Phenomenologie de I'Experience Esthetique (Paris,
Origins of Art (London, 1900); Franz Boas, ,Primitive Art 1953). Many of the crucial insights are to be found in
, (Oslo, 1927); Ruth Bunzel, 'Art', in General Anthropology, ed. G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Fine Art: Introduction, trans.
Franz Boas (New York, 1938); E.R. Leach, 'Aesthetics', in Bernard Bosanquet (London, 1886).
The Institutions of Primitive Society, ed. E. E. Evans-
Pritchard (Oxford, 1956);Margaret Mead, James B. Bird and
Hans Himmelheber, Technique and Personality (New York, Section 46
1963);and Claude Levi-Strauss,The SavageMind, trans. anon: For the idea of an artistic impulse, see e.g. Samuel Alexander,
(London, 1966). See also Andre Malraux, The Voices of Art and Instinct (Oxford, 1927),reprinted in his Philosophi-
Silence, trans. Stuart Gilbert (London, 1954). cal and Literary Pieces (London, 1939);and Btienne Souriau,
On the modern concept of art,' see P. O. Kristeller, 'The L'Avenir de I'Esthetique (Paris, 1929).
Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aes- A nineteenth-century version of this. approach took the
thetics', Journal of tile History of Ideas, Vol. XII (October form of tracing art to a play-impulse. This approach, which
Art and its Objects An Essay
derives rather tenuously from Friedrich Schiller, Letters on tigations, ed. G. E.M. Anscombe (Oxford, 1953),.I, paras.
the Aesthetic Education of Man, trans. Reginald Snell (New 519-46, II, vi, ix, and The Blue and Brown Books (Oxford,
Haven, 1954); is to. be found in Herbert Spencer, Essays 1958),pp. 177-85, and Letters and Conversations on Aesthet-
(London, 1858-74); Konrad Lange, Das Wesen der Kunst ics, etc., ed. Cyril Barrett (Oxford, 1966),pp. ~8-40.
(Berlin, 1901); and Karl Groos, The Play of Man, trans.
Elizabeth 1. Baldwin (NewYork, 1901). Section 49
Another version of this approach in terms of a specific
. Kunstwollenor artistic volitionis to be found in Alois.Riegl, The argument against paraphrasability is to be found in
Stilfragen (Berlin, 1893); and Wilhelm Worringer, Abstrac- CIeanthBrooksand RobertPennWarren, UnderstandingFic-
tion and Empathy, trans. Michael Bullock (London, 1953). tion (New York, 1943), and Cleanth Brooks, The Well-
For criticism of the whole approach, see Mikel Dufrenne, Wrought Urn (NewYork, 1947).
Phenomenologie de l'Experience Esthetique (Paris, 1953). The position is criticized in Yvor Winters, In Defence of
Reason (Denver, 1947).
Section 47 See also Stanley Cavell, 'Aesthetic Problems of Modern
Philosophy', in Philosophy in America, ed. Max Black (New
There are scattered implicit references to the bricoleur prob- York, 1965),reprinted in his Must We Mean What We Say?
lem in Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. (New York, 1969).
J. C. Meredith (Oxford, 1928); G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of
Fine Art: Introduction, trans. Bernard Bosanquet (London, Section 50
1886);John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York, 1934).See
also D. W. Prall, Aesthetic Judgment (New York, 1929); For a criticism of the identification of the artist's achieve-
T. M. Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism (Princeton, ment with the having of images, see Alain, Systeme des
1940); Thomas Munro, The Arts and their I~terrelations Beaux-Arts (Paris, 1926),Livre I; J.-P.Sartre, The Psychology
(New York, 1940). of the Imagination, trans. anon. (New York, 1948); Henri
Fo<;illon,The Life of Forms in Art, trans. Charles Beecher
Section 48 Hogan (New York, 1948).
For the distinction between the artist and the neurotic, see
For the argument that, if a work of art expresses anything, it Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures in Psycho-Analysis,
must express something otherwise identifiable, see Eduard trans. Joan Riviere (London, 1929), Lecture 23, and 'Form-
Hanslick, The Beautiful in Music, trans. Gustav Cohen (New ulations concerning the two Principles in Mental Func-
York, 1957).Hanslick's assumptions are criticized, somewhat tioning' and 'The Relation of the Poet to Day Dreaming', in
perfunctorily, in Carroll C. Pratt, The Meaning of Music Collected Papers,ed. Ernest Jones (London, 1949),Vol. IV.
(New York, 1931),and Leonard B.Meyer, Emotion and Mean- See also Marion Milner, On Not Being Able to Paint, 2nd
ing in Music (Chicago, 1956). A view diametrically opposed ed. (London, 1957);and Hanna Segal, 'A Psycho-Analytic Ap-
to Hanslick is to be found in J. W. N. Sullivan,Beethoven: proach to Aesthetics', and Adrian Stokes, 'Form in Art', both
His Spiritual Development (London, 1927). in New Directions in Psycho-Analysis, ed. Melanie Klein et
See also Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Inves- al. (London, 1955).
184 185


Art and its Objects An Essay

Theory', ].A.A.C., Vol. XV (June 1957),pp. 412-24, and 'Some
Section 51 Remarks on Value and Greatness in Music', l.A.A.C., Vol.
XVII (June 1959),pp. 486-500, reprinted in Philipson and in
For the notion of understanding in connexion with art, see Beardsley. See also Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics (New York,
e.g. Susanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (Cambridge, 1958),pp. 215-17; and E. H. Gombrich, 'Art and the Language
Mass., 1942); C. I. Lewis, An Analysis of Knowledge and of the Emotions,',P.A.S.Supp. Vol. XXXVI(1962),pp. 215-34,
Valuation (La Salle, Ill., 1946);Ric,hardRudner, 'On Semiotic reprinted as 'Expression and Communication' in, his Medi-
Aesthetics', l.A.A.C., Vol. X (September 1951),pp. 67-77, re- tations on a Hobby Horse (London, 1963).
printed in Beardsley, and 'Some Problems of Nonsemiotic
Aesthetics', ].A.A.C., Vol. XV (March 1957), pp. 298-310; Section 57
Rudolf Wittkower, 'Interpretation of Visual Symbols in the
Arts', in A. J. Ayer et al., Studies in Communication (London, For the distinction between cognitive or referential and emo-
1955); Language, Thought and' Culture, ed. P. Henle (Ann tive meaning and its application to aesthetic theory, see
Arbor, 1958),Chap. 9; John Hospers, Meaning and Truth in ~. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, The. Meaning of Meaning
the ~rts (Harnden, Conn" 1964). (London, 1923); and I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary
See also Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations Criticism (London, 1925). The theory has, of course, been
on Aesthetics, etc., ed. Cyril Barrett (Oxford, 1966). widely discusse<;l,
but, for its releVianceto aesthetic theory, ,
see William Empson, Structure of Complex Words (London,
Section 53 1951);and Language, Thought and Culture, ed. P. Henle (Ann
Arbor, 1958),'Chaps. 5 and 6.
See Ernst Kris, Psychoanalytic Exploration in Art (New For the view that ,poetry 'is a verbal structure, see e.g.
York, 1952). See also E. H. Gombrich, 'Psycho-Analysis and W. R. Wimsatt, Jr, The Verbal Icon (Lexington, Ky., 1954).
the History of Art', International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, For a more radical view, which involves a contrast between
Vol. XXXV (October 1954),pp. 401-1 I, reprInted in his Medi- language (langue) and literature or writing (ecriture), see
~ations on a Hobby Horse (London, 1963),and 'Freud's Aes- Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero, trans. Annette Lavers
thetics', Encounter, Vol. XXVI (January 1966)',pp. 30-4°. and Colin Smith (London, 1967).

Section 54 Section 59
Se"eAdrian Stokes,'Three Essays on the Painting of Our Time For a historical account of the classical conception of order
(London, 1961),Painting and the Inner World (London, 1963), in the visual arts, see Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Prin-
and The Invitation in Art (London, 1965). ciples in the Age of Humanism (London, 1949). Con-
temporary attempts to revive' the Renaissance or
mathematical conception are to be found in George D. .'
Section 56
Birkhoff, Aesthetic Measure (Cambridge, Mass., 1933);and L,e
For the application o~ information theory to aesthetics, see Corbusier, The Modulor, trans. Peter de Francia and Anna
Leonard ~. Meyer, 'Meaning in Music and Information Bostock (London, 1951).
186 187
-- ,.. ."",'. - ___1
Art and its Objects
and' Philosophy, ed; Lewis S. Feuer (New York, 1959);
An explication of the notion of order in terms of Gestalt
G. Plekhanov, Art and Social Life, trans. Eleanor Fox et al.
psychology .is attempted by Kurt Koffka, 'Problems in the
Psychology of Art', in Art: A Bryn Mawr Symposium (Bryn (London, 1953); William Morris, Selected Writings, ed. Asa
Mawr, 1940); and Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Percep- Briggs (London, 1962).
See also F, Antal, 'Remarks on the Methods of Art History',
tion (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1954), and 'A Review of Pro-
portion', ].A.A.C., Vol. XIV (September 1955), pp. 44-57, re- Burlington Magazine, Vol. XCI (February-March 1949), pp.
printed in his Towards a Psychology of Art (Berkeley and 49-52 and 73-5; Richard Wollheim, 'Sociological Explanation
of the Arts: Some Distinctions', Atti del III Congresso Inter-
Los Angeles, 1966). This approach is criticized in Anton Eh-
renzweig, The Psycho-Analysis of Artistic Hearing and nazionale di Estetica (Turin, 1957), pp. 404-10 (with bibliog.);
Vision (London, 1953); and Harold Osborne, 'Artistic Unity Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art, trans. Anna Bostock
and Gestalt', Phil. Q., Vol. 14 (July 1964), pp. 214-28. (London, :£963).
For critical discussion of the notion of artistic unity, see
Section 64
E. H. Gombrich, 'Raphael's Madonna della Sedia' (London
1956),reprinted in his Norm and Form (London, 1966);and a For the interaction between art and theories or conceptions
brilliant essay by Meyer Schapiro, 'On Perfection,' Co- of art, see e.g. Andre Malraux, The Voices of Silence, trans.
herence, and Unity of Form and Content', in Art and ,Phil- Stuart Gilbert (London, 1954); Michel Butor, 'Le Livre comme
osoph'y, ed. Sidney Hook (New York, 1966). Objet', Critique, Vol. XVIII (1962), pp. 929-46; Maurice Mer-
leau-Ponty, 'Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence', in
Sections 60-61 his Signs," trans. Richard C. McCleary (Evanston, Ill., 1964);
Paul Valery, 'The Creation of Art' and 'The Physical Aspec~ts
On the essentially historical or transformational character of of a Book', in his Collected Works, trans. Ralph Manheim
art, see Heinrich WOlfflin, Principles of Art History, trans. (London, 1964), Vol'. XIII; Michael Fried, Three American
M. D. Hottinger (London, 1932); Henri Fo<;illon, Life of Painters (Cambridge, Mass., 1965); Harold Rosenberg, The
Forms in Art, trans. Charles Beecher Hogan (New York, Anxious Object (London, 1965); Claude Levi-Strauss, The
1948); Andre Malraux, The Voices of Silence, trans. Stuart I Savage Mind, trans. anon. (London, 1966); Leo Steinberg,
'Gilbert (London, 1954); Arnold Hauser, The Philosophy of Art 'Contemporary Art and the Plight of its Public', Harper's
History (London, 1959). See also Meyer Schapiro, 'Style', in Magazine,reprinted in The New Art: a Critical Anthology,
Anthropology To-day, ed. A. Kroeber (Chicago, 1953), re- ed. Geoffrey, Battcock (New York, 1966); Adrian Stokes,
printed in Philipson. Reflections on the Nude (London, 1967); Stanley Cavell,
'Music Discomposed', in Art, Mind, and Religion, ed.
Section 62 W. H. Capitan and D. D. Merrill (Pittsburgh, 1967), reprinted
in his Mu,st We Mean What We Say? (New York, 1969), and
For the social theory of art, the classical texts are Karl Marx,
The World Viewed {New York, 1971); and Richard Wollheim,
Economicand Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844,tr<;ms.Martin
'The Work of Art as Object', Studio International, Vol. 180,
Milligan (Moscow, 1959); Friedrich Engels, 'Ludwig Feu-
erbach and the End of a Classical German Philosophy', in No. 928 (1970), pp. 231-5, reprinted in his On Art and the
Mind (London, 1973).
Karl Marx; and Friedrich Engels, Basic Writings on Politics