Margaret Brichant (6010067) Prof.

Justin Smith Phil 339/A (Aesthetics)

Aesthetics Take-Home Final Question 1: Danto argues that philosophy “has a special subject matter,” and that not everything is an appropriate subject matter for it. Art, however, he asserts, is “spontaneously susceptible to philosophical treatment.” In support of this, he cites the myriad of philosophers throughout the ages who have all concerned themselves with, at some point or another, a concern for the nature of art. (Danto, Section 3, P. 54) Thus, he endeavors to set forth an explanation of why this is so; and, in so doing, revealing something of the nature of art and philosophy. (Danto, Section 3, p. 54). Danto’s treatment of this manifests itself in his distinction between his appraisal of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes as a philosopher, and his appraisal of the same object as an art appreciator. What Danto finds intriguing is the problematic relationship between the “real” Brillo boxes found in the grocery store, and Warhol’s physically identical Brillo Boxes that have been transfigured into art. For, he maintains, if they look identical to the human eye, then, he inquires, what distinguishing factor makes one a work of art? The philosophy of art, Danto asserts, was once so foreign to the art appreciator that, the mere act of reading a philosophy of art required one to acquaint oneself with the system in question – that is, the critical structures of the philosopher – only to realize, “that it may not have been worth the effort” (Danto, Section 3, P. 55). What he means by this is that, the philosophical treatment of art was so external to the nature of art that, its treatment of art left out or discarded the very nature of art as a phenomenon. “The philosopher,” he asserts, “was apt to bring to bear the entire weight of his system, and to pick from art only that which happens to be pertinent to his concerns” (Ibid.) In short, the non-philosopher, he proclaims, is likely to face disappointed upon turning to what philosophers have written on art; for, he explains, those aspects of art that are so entrancing to the art appreciator is “often simply philosophically irrelevant” (Ibid.) He sums this point up nicely with his description that “philosophers of art and the art-world itself, like facing curves, touch at a single point and then swing forever in different directions” (Danto, Section 3, P. 56). Thus was the nature of the relationship between philosophy and art until, he contends, art evolved in such a manner that the philosophical questions of its essence have “almost become the very essence of art itself” (Ibid.) With this evolution, he explains, the distance between philosophy and art has been narrowed so that, rather than the one standing outside the other, external to it, they have become inextricably bound together – where the philosophy of art, rather than addressing art externally, becomes “instead the articulation of the internal energies of the subject.” (Ibid.) The relationship has become so narrowed that, he argues, it, at times, is impossible to distinguish art from its own philosophy (Ibid.) Danto’s argument on the nature of this evolution (that of the narrowing distance between the two fields) can be adequately understood in his inquiry into the distinguishing characteristics between Warhol’s Brillo Boxes and the “real” ones. The two objects, completely identical to the perceptible eye, have been distinguished from each other in that one has been transfigured into a work of art, while the other has not. Being that the two objects are identical in form, what distinguishes them from each other must lie in something outside their mere appearances. This very

To begin with. p. a class of copies or performances. The copy of Ulysses. he sets forth the basic underlying hypothesis concerning varying arts. Thus. 7). “a novel. While this might appear to disprove the physicalobject hypothesis. While he acknowledges the inherent differences among works of art.in regards to artworks of types. unique object of the work that a loss of this copy would lend itself to a loss of the art work (Wollheim. 4). 8). the validity of the physical-object theory remains unaffected by the errors of misapplication. Section 6. Section 7. 4). he contends. he endeavors to determine some commonality among art works amidst their myriad of differences. in which there is no individual object. Section 8. For. p. style. if one were to lose their copy of Ulysses. are not acceptable in constituting the work of art. can there truly be said to be a physical object to the work if its expression is manifested in individual performances and copies? He explains this position with the example of the work Ulysses. this flaw was not so much in the theory. Richard Wollheim explores his conception of his “physicalobject hypothesis” and its potential shortcomings.nature of indiscernibility between the two objects perfectly lends itself. Herein lies his first depiction of a potential shortcoming to the physical-object theory . In short. the physical-object hypothesis maintains that all works of art are physical objects. but in the selection of the physical object that was selected for the work (Wollheim. then one would dislike Rosenkavalier (Ibid. The fact that there are instances wherein the work and its copies are interchangeable does not mean that there aren’t contexts in which they are not interchangeable. if it should be lost. that works of art are physical objects – “the physical-object hypothesis” (Wollheim. of which there are copies. the question of what (if anything) different works of art and different arts in general have in common (Wollheim.) Such positions. with this. Section 6. if a performance of Der Rosenkavalier were taken to be the works physical object.” (Danto. The contemplation of the work becomes above and beyond a philosophical inquiry. 5). in which there is no single object of work – but. He explains that determining a unified definition of art as a whole is a near impossibility. rather than evaluating the work of art through its appearance. he suggests. Herein lies the heart of Danto’s distinguishing factors between appreciating Warhol’s Brillo Boxes as a philosopher. and a copy or performance of a work of art (Wollheim. p. physical objects must. so. Wollheim argues. Wollheim contends that certain forms of art cannot be identified as physical objects insofar as they do not exist in space and time – as. and one did not like a performance. This gives way to Wollheim’s description of the aesthetic-object theory. Question 2: In his work Art and Its Objects. namely. Ulysses would become a lost work (Wollheim. 6). p. he asserts. if such a work were characterized as being a physical object. It is only when a copy is a single. “little if anything is left over for the pleasure of artlovers. Put briefly. Section 4. is not my or your copy but is the class of all its copies” (Wollheim. Section 5. he warns. Such arts would include works of literature. and appreciating the same object as an art appreciator. Section 3. he replies. Section 3. there is a difference between a work of art.. Thus. 56). 4). however. 6). music. p. he takes as his starting point of inquiry. drama (which he deems “types”). Likewise. P. he continues. He explains. insofar as it is a copy and not the original manuscript. p. the contemplation of the object becomes more a philosophical inquiry as opposed to an appreciation of the work artistically. to the philosophical question of what makes something art. rather. which he sees as the most compelling argument against the physical-object theory. he suggests. Section 7. p. he is ultimately unwilling to dismiss the theory altogether. p. (Wollheim. the view that a work of art is .His work presents a series of arguments against this theory. perfectly suited for philosophical modes of contemplation such that. does not terminate the survival of the art work. To this argument. etc.

manage to become “harnessed to the process of making. The artist. whereas the artist. Wollheim then introduces Freud’s idea wherein he compares the artist with the neurotic (Wollheim. according to Wollheim. colors. expressive qualities. 116). its copies. takes this world of fantasy as his starting point.” which he explains as an individual’s interpretation of the marks. he explains. Section 50. as lying in its interpretive nature. for both the artist and the spectator. he asserts. “we must ignore the surface elements. p. Wollheim asserts. where both relate their perceptions.” which Wollheim characterizes as the view that the object of a work of art exists in the mind of the artist alone – his intentions. not the extent of this activity (Ibid. turn away from reality “and lead a large part of their lives in the world of phantasy”. textures. always comes back to the medium of the work of art. 40). power. Section 50. Thus. etc. which can equally be found in non-artistic or practical contexts.” creates an object which “can become a source of shared pleasure and consolation” (Ibid. Wollheim endeavors to provide a philosophical analysis of the nature of art that is rooted in human experience. p. For. – which is then manifested in the incomplete image of its external object. Both the artist and the neurotic. “the link between artist and audience has been severed” (Wollheim. he explains. Section 50. conceptions. suggesting the absurdity of this conception of artistic creation. he asserts. there is no longer an external object wherein both the artist and the spectator have equal access to. Thus. He refers to his conception of “seeing-in. “refuses to remain in that hallucinated condition to which the neurotic regresses” (Wollheim. “the artist wins through his phantasy what the neurotic can win only in his phantasy: honor. etc. to the external object of the artistic medium. which he explains as the theory wherein an artist’s ability to create works of art lies in his ability to construe elaborate images or intuitions in his own mind. for it ignores the very nature of interpretation that is involved in the perception of a work of art. he contends. Section 22. Also explained through his explanation of the “ideal theory. and the love of women” (Wollheim. “finds a path back to reality”.characterized by its aesthetic qualities. the spectator. With this theory. “out of the material of his wishes. Wollheim sees an inherent flaw in this theory. rather.) for the spectator. To the question of those works of art that are types.” Thus. feelings. Question 3: In his work Art and Its Objects. Herein lies Wollheim’s primary critique of the Croce-Collingwood theory – it completely denies this aspect of a shared external object. unlike the neurotic.” or the ideal theory. argues against this theory. on a painted surface. and representational aspects. this theory suggests that there is not some sort of connection between the physical work of art that can be perceived. in creating an external object of art. Section 23.) For this reason. Upon establishing the absurdity of this theory. that is. etc. by reducing the work of art to something inner or mental. and its interpretations. Wollheim contends. Wollheim sees the essential characteristic of all works of art – types and individuals. According to this theory. He quotes Freud in saying that. the artist. performances. he explains in Freud’s words. However. in short. Wollheim interprets this claim to mean that the artist. 117). p. One’s interpretation. p. takes the works medium as its reference point and construes meaning accordingly. Thus. etc. 116). of the immediate gratifications of phantasy” (Ibid. . Wollheim discusses what he refers to as “the CroceCollingwood Theory of Art. p. However. and go straight to the mind which organizes them” (Wollheim. the artist grasps those elements of his fantasy and. in order to arrive at the distinctively aesthetic.) Those motivations which initially lead the artist into the world of fantasy. the distinguishing factor lies in the fact that the neurotic continues to remain in this world of fantasy. 37) Wollheim. are likewise interpretations of the original object. conversely. begins with an intention and has to determine how to manifest his intentions into a medium. Wollheim sees a fundamental aspect of the experience of art to lie in interpretation – both on the side of the artist and the side of the spectator. a primary feature of art necessary involves the act of renunciation: “renunciation.

it is not always the case that an artwork resembles a set of artworks at all. than that particular cannot be considered a member of this family. the concept of art. the definition need not and cannot be given. he contends. Cambridge: Harvard UP. set forth by Wittgenstein. he explains.) Herein lies the key aspect of this theory. he explains. the theory equates the set of art works with the set of games – for. but. games. that since there can be no discernable single property common among all classes of art.) While. to come about that “we intuitively recognize as a game [or work of art] though it fails to conform to our pretended definition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.” and further. Wollheim. Danto endeavors to provide a response to the prevailing wisdom.) Rather. should one be instructed to extract all works of art from a warehouse. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art. but can be discerned intuitively.” (Danto. Arthur C. 1980. according to this theory. a unified definition of art cannot be given.) He then quotes Weitz’s extenuation of this concept which maintains that. is not necessary since we are able to determine those things which are games or works of art without one. relationships.” (Ibid. However. an ‘a complicated network of similarities. In other words. art can be seen as “a logically open set of things that share no common feature” (Ibid. For this reason. the very nature of family resemblance implies that there be some underlying genetic trait that constitutes their “family resemblance. we will also find no common properties – only strands of similarities. Art and its Objects. Section 3. However. Danto cites Kennick’s assertion that. require some common uniting quality in order for them to be considered games. the theory maintains. if this genetic trait does not exist in a particular. there may appear to be that art. p. form a family wherein the resemblances amongst its classes “connect the members of a family ‘criss-cross in the same way’” (Ibid. Danto then explains the next aspect of this theory. With the advent of the 1960s. or work of art. the man in the warehouse would be unable to discern a work or art from its identical counterpart that is. “excludes the possibility that there is a criterion for artworks and hence excludes that there is some set of conditions necessary and sufficient to works of art” (Ibid.) Namely that.57-8). he explains.” (Ibid. and such classes of art that are perceptually indiscernible from non works of art. a work of art may be truly indiscernible from all other every day. for both sets. this theory of intuition falls short. like games.) As to the notion that a definition of art need not be defined. there are similarities. 59). not a work of art. as with works of art. p. he concludes. games. 1981. is “almost appallingly ill chosen. In such situations. but on the mere basis of intuition (Danto.) For. Section 3. as with art.) Thus. Danto suggest. Danto sets forth the Wittgensteinian thesis of art as the view that a definition of art cannot and need not be arrived at (Danto.” (Ibid. Richard. overlapping and criss-crossing’ (Ibid. he continues. namely that. there remains the possibility for a new game. this identification with art as a family-resemblance term analogous to games. For.) Danto credits to Wittgenstein this comparison between art and its classes with the nature of games – for. like art. . rather than finding characteristics that are common to all games or works of art. this theory suggests. one would be able to do so without the need of a definition.Question 5: In Transfiguration of the Commonplace. (Ibid. rather. have a common property. commonplace objects. “if we were to actually look and see what it is that we call art. a definition of games. 60). it is by appeal to intuition that we are able to discern what makes something a game or work of art (Ibid. or art works. according to this Wittgensteinian philosophy. for all respective matters. Works Cited Danto. that of “family-formulation classes. 2nd ed. Pp. Section 3.

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