You are on page 1of 11

A THEORY oF Anr '----Knnol BrncrR


Berlin will immediately see how exactly right this observation is. "2 Levi was too sober a participant not to observe that much of the time a cultivated man was at a disadvantage in the Hobbesian world of forced labor and barrack life.'---: ' I 'tt tr l. And yet. but to pursue virtue and knowledge") afforded him a rare moment of exaltation: "As if I also was hearing it for the first time: Iike the blast of a trumpet.l Anyone who experienced the long. and in particular with those ethical and political issues that mattdf'to us most? And will at least some of the art created today. But how is this possible? How could ugliness bother one to such an extent that it would influ. the recollected verses "made it possible for me to re-establish a link with the past. or East gray. then? The questions of the kind that Milosz's and Levi's observations raise lie at the origins of this book.n t 'l: "This poet came from a country where the universal ugliness and vulgarity bothered him even more than the criminal tyranny.nce one's moral and political decisions? How could it push one onto the road which ends vzith exile? Have we not learned that the aesthetic and the ethical are two separate realms? And if there is no exit? Primo Levi describes how in Auschwitz a recollection of a few lines from Dante." writes Czeslaw Milosz about a fellow exile from utopia. the words of Ulysses to his crew ("Consider your origin: you were not made to live as brutes. under the more clement skies. . saving it from oblivion and reinforcing my identity. lwarsaw.Brezhnevite winter of the 1960s and 1970s in Moscow. Joseph Brodsky. For a moment I forget who I am and where I am. like the voice of God. ril/hat. has art to do with the rest of our lives. meet this most exacting criterion of value and offer any help when recollected by those drowning in some future deluge? Philosophical theorizing about the arts is almost as old as philosophy itself."l Can poetry save lives. if anything.

.il1 tl:.l. Danto. for instance. I have learned more about the nature of poetry from Stanislaw Baraiczak and Adam Zagajewski than from many a learned Goodman...ur. Paris. my main concern is to develop my own position rather than to demolish the arguments of my predecessors. \X4rile my book belongs to the broad family of philosoph ical art theories. The reason for this focus is my conviction that music represents the central features and dilemmas of the social and historical situation of art today in a particula r7y radical..'nrt'trls llrirl cottslitutc an :rrlrvollrl. devote chapter 1 to it).. llrr. the question of what art really and essentially is .-adebate con_ ducted almost exclusively with reference to the visual arts..rrr.'rrrrrr'lr:r.1.r1rt. I'irrrrlly. lr. have felt impelled to take on the problem of getting art.rl:ry (wirlr such yrr. I have derived great benefit from the Faculty Seminar on Interpretation which John Bender and David \Tellbery so ably directed at Stanford. and not only academics.ttts: current Parisian debate concerning the crisis of contempo rary art. that there are more interesting tasks ahead of us. . without dumbing it down in any way. llr. and musicology.'l .or'ltr' lt. .r. l )t.rludy . are here brought together. t(.tlr"s/'rir'lrr'rlrrtl II. The book adcllcsscs a heterogeneous audience. rrry lxxrk rlil'fcrs from other books in the field in that it shifts the focus ol :rttcntiorr l:rorr thc question of what art is to the question of what art is for. one way or anorhe! this is still the guiding task of most philosophical work on art done today.llrrlrr'. tise and an essay: while (-.:. is what happens next (the question I pick up in chapter 2): even if we grant to this object the status of art.rrc..rll(nrl)1.rt the ontological status of this I have benefited also from the discussions that accompanied the conference on music reception which I co-directed with Michal Bristiger at the Institut fiir die \Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna and the colloquium on music and narrative which I co-directed with Anthony Newcomb at the Doreen B. . (Arthur c.'. let's even concede in advance that it is art.r'. I am trying to shift the focus ofaesthetics to the question.. In short..literary theory.. and New York. Scruton...l rr.1..u.//(r s{)rr('._..r and why we should bother ourselves with'l'srl. First. but also includes issues in poetics and hermeneutics. but also professional artists as well 2s 211 l6vs1s-in sum. The generous sponsorship of these events by the institutions just mentioned .. r. unlike most philosophers today.y. of finding away to distinguish u. if art is to have a value for us? second. .. acute.'.'. I just think that one should not stop with it. Gadamer. in chapter J....rr.. lrllrll rt: lrrrr.l ..1ilit.t1.rrrr..r... generic.l\. Schopcnhauct Nictzsclrt. l lt. ever since Plato philosophers have been much exercised by the question of what art is.. .th. lrolvllrt'st'clctnctrtsrttaybcklnlallyarranged. the text falls somewhere between a scholarly trea- I do not ignore other writers in the field and quote from them all too copiously. was the wrong form for the philosophical question to take.lnrrtlu. in effect. The late Carl Dahlhaus was most generous with his time during my year in Berlin and was as dazzling and inspiring as a conversation partner as he was as a writer. The two areas of inquiry that all too often ignore one another.j readily to mind) and the discipline continues to flourish r.(l. .rrs. not only'ttl.ll:. .. Given the functions of art identified above. we still do . ..o po. [T]he real form of the question should be .rr. . And to know this should be much more usef. Similarly useful were several faculty seminars for literary scholars. and tVollheim. writes: "In my view. k. Generically. \what ..'rl/.lr. and clear fashion. who define art primarily in terms of either poetry or painting.l rrrt'irrrs ol irlt itlcntif iccl abovc.. a combination of three fu.. Thus the diagnosis of chapter 3 might be profitably read against the background of the the eighteenth cer-rtury (Kant. art historians.ti. My musical focus is pa. and musicologists. .ltn.rllrrr rr'. Stylistically.rvrvlr:tlllr.1.trt('.1. Let's not worry too much ubo.:rs t.s ontological sratus $7e might want to say.. tlrc t'lrirlrtt'r'tlt'vott'rl to ltt'ttncrncutics (chaptcr 6) asks... Andrzej Rapaczynski and \Tojciech Karpifiski will find in these pages echoes of the discussion conducted intermittently in the museums and galleries of Italy.l .ltllt.\1.'lr. \r'orlql1. ri nt ur. and musicologists organized at the Stanford Humanities Center by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht. trrrsl (lislltliut:. and disciplinary features of my text. Like so many others. I:.. Given the aims .. This varied potential audience accounts for several stylistic...t from oth"er entities. art historians. but also literary scholilrs. where the questioning acquires a more explicitly historical character than elsewhere in the book. Idcocur. : what makes the difference between a work of art and something not a work of art when there is no interesting perceptual difference befi/een them?. how does art fulfiil them? In it ru'ltucs that urrrsic ofl'ers the best insight into the contemporary situation of the rrlts.rlcr''r lslr. art theory. t...r. the aesthetics of I have been fortunate to be able initially to test various ideas developed in this book in conversations and seminars conducted with a number of friends and colleagues over the last decade or so and I mention some of these occasions here with tributccl to tllc clisciplittc ol ltcsllrctit's sirrt'r'it u.rrrt.a) I do not think that the task is unimportant (and. I have attempted to keep the text free of technicalities and write in relatively plain English.rlislrorlltltottsislttl rl rt r:.I to us than to know how to distinguish art from other entities. And the disciplinary identity of the book is deliberately vague: it inhabits the no-man's-land between the philosophy of art.r . The question asked in the chapters devoted.'t'* *h.r.1. lrr .ully mutt.1 I ith ntily tlr.. doing grave injustice to either literature or visual arts).1r1. how should art be interpreted? lrr slrolt..1. (chapters 4 and 5) I tend to privilege music (without....rrl"l. lr.. Townsend Center for the Humanities of the University of California at Berkeley and the Humanities Center of Stanford University.'r'. \fhat should the function ofart be. .sr... tr.titioners on both sides of the Atlantic as Danto.rttn. among others).. rlr. in fact..1.ri. anyone with a serious interest in the ltvr. the range of the questions I ask is not limited to those traditionally asked by writers on aesthetics. distinguishes it from the other books in the field known to me. ancl it combines aesthetics with poetics and hermeneutics.... ".(. I hope.1 tlr. tl.-"-"-:) philosophers and what literary scholars now grandly call l.

THE USES OF ART 65 The Ethical Life 65 Art and History 15 Art and Philosophy 80 Art.Iamgratefulto the editors and publishers for allowing me to use this material here. 1. for her passionate involvement in this project through all the stages of its development...list rrssiorrs rrrrrl for their warm hospitality.l I ri ( t tN Il N l'r l'li()t-ocUE: I'I IE FUNCTION AND Vai-ur or ART 3 1992). thinking.r:. 1998). 1520-1640. Hermann Danuser. have allowed me to devote long periods to the uninterrupted reading. I am similarly grateful to Stanford university for providing me with research support and.lq'.lr.TICS: THE EXPS OF ARTWORKS C]HAPTER I AESTHETICS I.. Hanning.r'sityol ()rlorrl l.N HillandasanAstorLcctrrlcattltctJrrivt. Religion.1.N. Germany: Birenreiter.1.q. I AnsruE. r:.. Several sections of this book have already Music 28 19 d. I consider myself privileged and blessed in the generous intellectual companionship of so many fine minds.'. K.l .l. Baker and B.b-c make use of the material presented in my "concepts and Developments in Music The ory.pp. ed. I am grateful to all of them for making me see where and how the text should be improved. Haar (Oxford: Oxford University press). music faculties of both institutions lirr rnany lrorrs ol l. I rr( I1.. and I received long letters evaluating the whole project fromJohn Daverio and from Lydia Goehr. \forks and Performances.r'. for its incomparable intellectual environment. as well as those of other participants. Musical Humanism and Its Legacy: Essays in Honor of Claude V.a-b appeated in The Journal of Musicolog3t. and writing that a project of this sort requires. The last section of chaptcr 4 wirs oligirrirlly Bericbt iiber den Internationalen Kongrel3 der Gesellschaft ftir Musikforscbung Freiburg 27. ed.r11.4jl-JO. or will shortly appear.t llt(. b. II.rtr I. James McKinnon and Reinhard Strohm commented on chapter i.TUNT OF l'. lr. Thomas Grey. rs iir':rtt'lrtlly :tt l<tt. Visual Media c.-1.199J (Kassel. Two year-long research fellowships. \X/ojciech Karpiriski. . Sections 5. My Stanford students deserve particular gratitude for the patience and tenacity with which they have forced me to clarify my ideas. eds.cscntc:rl at the opening session of the 7993 International Congress of the Gesellschaft fiir Musikforschung at Freiburg and has benefited from the reactions of the session's organizet.r. Representations and Arguments 5l CHaprnn 2 AESTHETICS a. 407-33. R. and section 4.. Social Practices and Their Histories 111 b. .t.PAI .. THE N. I could not possibly express the full extent of my gratitude and appreciation to a number of my friends and colleagues who took the trouble to read some or all of my manuscript and to share their reactions with me.lrrrrlr { . scl)tc(l as tt I litll('s-\X/illis Lt'ttlrr'('rll llr('l lrrrr. c.rrrrrrrrlr. Anna Maria Busse Berger.:PendragonPress.tttt 13 ART 15 a. 12 (1994). above all. Originals and Copies 52 f.lrt:rl. " forthcom ing in T h e ll eu Oxford History of Music. The Media of Culture 15 b. Sections 3.11.. and Anthony Newcomb gave me their views of the complete lotlrt. I am similady grateful ro my wife.9. To Laurence Drefus and Richard raruskin I owe most particular thanks for having annotated virtually every page oftheir respective copies of the entire manuscript with invaluable comments. I acknowledge their generous sponsorship with gratitude. Musik als Text. vol. one from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and another from the American Council of Learned Societies.. J . d. Palisca (Stuyvesant. Functional and Autonomous Music II5 .1.rr (. in print elsewhere.1 1r . Stephen Hinton. THg GENEALOGY oF MODERN EUROPEAN ANT MUSIC 1OB in H. and the State 90 Pleasure 99 Cu.. Sections 4. I'lr.r.tprBn 3 AESTHETICS III.rr'lrrr. rtlt. Kendall s7alton subjected chapters I and4 to a detailed critique.a-b appeared in N. 4. e. Language )9 e. Danuser.

ll nay bead with ideas-only I don't know exactly utbat tbey are!" 163 Alice on "Jabberwocky.OSlSj THE POETIC MODES AND THE MATTER OF ARTISTIC PRESENTATION 165 "somebow it seems to fi. INTERPRETATION AND ITs VALIDITY a. The Rise of Abstract Music 13) e. Interpretation: Metaphor and Metonymy 2L) 213 b. DIEGESIS aNo MT. Action and Passion 202 CHaprnn 6 HERMENEUTICS.qptrn 5 POETICS II. Tbrough tbe Looking-Glass a. The Author.xll CONTENTS c.u. The Forms in Painting and Music 196 c. Dead and Alive 184 CH. Narrative and Lyric 190 b. The Modes in Painting and Music t70 c. The Voices 166 b. The Significance of Abstraction I52 Pnnr II PoBTIcs AND HERMENEUTICS: Tug CoNTENTS AND IxTnnpRSTATION OF ARTvTORKS CHAPTER 4 POETICS I. NARRATIVE AND LyRTc: THE POETIC FORMS AND THE onJECr OF ARTTSTTC PRsSrNrArrON 189 a. The Rise of Mimetic Music L20 d." in Lewis Carroll. Validity: Persuasion and Legitimacy 227 EPILoGUE THE PowER oF TASTE 235 Notes 245 271 SelectedBibliography 269 Index . Implied and Real. The Cold \War of Mimesis and Abstraction I39 f.

hostile to God and. and therefore. should be.l) Ro t. in its core. Max \Weber. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists. hostile to the brotherhood of man. sustained by appropriate institutions. plainly I know not. in its innermost and aristocratic spirit. show that it is worth asking. and many others. but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur. and those who paint landscapes. as well as those who write novels. Hence. Augustine's answef to another in- \ilhat is art? One is tempted to paraphrase quiry: "\il{hat is time then? If nobody asks me. \7e do not know what someone is doing unless we know what his purpose or intention is. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics."l Having said this. . I know: but if I were desirous to explain it to one that shouid ask me. Augustine v/ent on to look for an answer anyrvay. and evolving within the historical context of continuous traditions. and so should we. and think what a satisfactory answer would have to look like. \fhat \il/hat is x for? \7e know what something is when we is the function of x? or. Inapragmatic spirit. \il/hat know what can be. there is nothing better you can do than to take a hammer and drive a nail into a board with it. a realm of this world.oc t t ti Tun Fuxcrtox AND VRIUN Or ANr consider a discipline such as aestherics. aesthetics does not ask whether therc shouldbe works of art. and those who compose string quartets (or perform them). Art is what those who write poetry do. "Science as a Vocation" St. make it more precise. Central to any understanding of a practice must be to grasp its point. But first I should clarify the question. or is being done with it' is a hammer?. I take the question' \flhat is x? to be equivalent to. Our pretheoretical understanding recognizes in art a famtly of social practices. -W{hen someone asks.

enterprising.. the function of art? lwhat are all these sculptures and paintings.l toprovidetheheavenlybackdroptothe Assunrl)ti()trs(. and are they the arts worth bother. political.r l)crsonally known patron of a far higher social status than that of the art pro.tsltt'('itttct'tltl tothe practicesof thevariOusartsthemselves.2 \w4rat is. is produced for a market of anonymous buyers. and its function is specifically aesthetic. medicine.'l'.rll srrclr cirscs thc artwork had a clearly ..1 lrrgugh to replace the older.lresses not groups. lirrr it is ..r.goalsexr{ rn:rl l() tlrt'lrtrtt'litt'ol rrrt itst'll... or the army. lr1t.trrt'i\.tl otr thcut lnrtrt without. health care. Not sufprisingly. whether public or private.lrlli..tttsollrtiv:tlt' rl. The commonly heard claim is that until quite recendy.. or security? Clearly. The result is the artist's greater independence from the society's taste (the aftist now molds the taste of the public. rrr. business.l rrr.llrt l orrlooli( r's ()l ll)('('('r)lt'rrl rrttt'plrryccl by thc virtue . poems and novels. art as an autonomous practice pursuing goods of its own-did not exist.rrr'l lrrrrr \\'. and enhance the public and private rituals and ceremonies of religious.1 .rt. The individual artist's imagination was srrbordinated to the canon of taste of the social group to which the patrons be(style) longed.. l. dramas and films actually for? \x/hy would healthy. art in the strong. and governments divert any part of their financial resources toward the support of artists and artistic institutions and away from economic growth.()ncearthasbeenemancipatedfromthecontextof social is the function of l.. or scholarship? \x/hy should those of us who did choose these other paths want to spend any-of our leisure time in the company of artworks? \Xr'hy should private patrons. science.. Since art was created for specific social functions. engineering. mofeover.( rrv(.rrrlcss art? \What are these goods internal to artistic infrastructure. llrrtr.rlrl rrs:rrrt..r...ti. not rh" least of which was the society's self-display.1 . when they could easily follow so many other obviously valuable and satisfying professional paths in politics. Modern afi. at it were primarily not internal to the practice of art itself. r.1 stand what art is. or rather functions.rllirt11t. In particular. It is precisely the autonomy of modern art rlr. the patons were not individualizcd. lrlcn'rodern and modern art is provided by Norbert Elias's reflections on Mozrrrt.sllrr.1r. civic organizations. to make rrrli with? life efforts to making objects of this sort.llor.rltsmen's. with (demo ctatization)..ll.tvr'. This resulted in a weak individual and the strong social character A ggod example of how a . since the goods it pursued v/ere nor internal to the artistic practices themselves. especially among theorists and historians of a sociological bent..'ll . An opera extolling the clemency of a Roman emperor performed during the coronation festivities of an absolute monarch would serve as a lesson of royal virtue for both the ruler and his subjects.^lirrirrg lt'itlttrc oI ntodcrn art that it is autonomous.lrrccr.rrlr t()llltswcl-.lrr'.:y.rr. it was an aspect of the competirivc spending on status..1. In other wofds.rc'ial activities of the consumefs.rrtl.rr11.l'. education..c't6urrrlcr..'t 'sitltrrlit:rl. art was its hetefonomy.rrr.tltr)trol ir. or .rr.. Elias looks for explanations in the .rtr: it st'tvctl llrt'gtxtlsol thcpr-incil. as recently perhaps as the mid-eighteenth century. A statue ofJudith slaying Holofernes placed on the central square of a medieval city-state would serve to remind the citizens of the proud republic of the fate awaiting usurping tyrants. the question that will drive our inquiry is not a matter of idle curiosity. the question of art's function. the guilds and corporations of the civil conlast. the feasons for the change in the sociaisituation of artists.. "craftsmen'S aft" and "artists'art") in the manner ... Much of what today would be classified as art was produced to accompany.('n('..i tN( i'l('N ANll vAl I ll' { )i Alt I Al.l. but father represented social groups. sense of this term-that is. This changes the balance of power between the artist and patron in favor of the former. or existed only on the margins of alarge family of heteronomous artistic practices.t.11 .ldressed to groups of people assembled fof purposes other than aesthetic ones.otltltil .s lisc 19 tlrc clucstion of the function of art and makes the question so . Instead.rIr. A chorale prelude for the organ would remind a Lutheran congregation of both the melody and the significance of the historical sociologist develops the contrast between rlr.1rr.rtt. then. Alt I II il t.lroirrrr.'wlywctls .l r. as he calls them.ilther. lrr .tsllrt . or at least in what way they constitute a "fam77y" in \Wittgenstein's sense of the term. The need to answer the question of artt function becomes more acute as the autonomy of the artist grows. specifically modern. premodern aft was .'.tirrt. It was predominantly heteronomous.r rr.lrr rlt. but rather interrr:rl to other. Art was not as yet a specialized domain.rr(. The possibility of a rutional debate on the proper allocation of resources. Autonomy is widely seen today.'r \\. The most distinctive feature of the premodern... instead of serving it) and the greater individualization of the artwork's character.l Elias understands the contfast between the premodern and modern art (()t. and intelligent men and women want to devote their lr. but a public of isolated' 'rrr.( ltl. operas and symphonies. Art was produced for .rrr. Thus. was not at l..rlrrctt. the family.l. th<ttrglrt lhat tlrr'lroirrt 0l tlrt'rrclivllyirr lrt. The problem for a historical sociologist is to find the reasons for the change from the premodern to modem form of art-that is.(()irl ofpaintoverthe wall artditrattotltct'lryst.and rrrrl irrrlrost..trliotrsvu'. the fact that the goods one pursued in workrr1. what is its point? \'X4rat i.1rr. embellish.i. external ones. 'l'hese facts had important consequences.1. we have to grasp the points of the many practiccs wc commonly subsume under this term and see what these points have in common.. ttlr. Premodern art was embedded udthin a wider sphere of social practices and derived its significance from them. that the goals .tl tr. scientific and technological research.rrl.rll.u. to the arts rests on our having an answer to the question of the function of art..titcs lhat gave it its significance.....trr r.tll.. art served the goals of the principal social institutions: the church and the state..ral socialinstitutions.r. or education. nonartistic social activities of art consumefs.1 rhc \Weberian ideal types.r.r.t..l rIs1rlotlrrt'(.tri \\ r\ 1.rf the artwork. ll rvt. but a function of other s.t.litv i1 .1 r. ri..r'rrlrpl /\ t( lrtr'r.rrr.'t i. as the single most import ant feature distinguishing modern from premodern art.1.A I lll (ll(\' { )'...r. and social life.r .- l..ivt.rr 1.lllrtr'.It ad' a social parity existing between the artist and the buyer ..r I.l tlr... law..

.. horvever precarious.. that is. Not surprisingly.l.ur. when it comes to the social situation o{ art. global growth of prosperity. and the extremely small number of aft music composers. It is undeniable that the modernization of art involves the autonomization of the artist. tttott llt. Alt'l' t s()(i:rl:rs(('tr.('.rrrtlr.ltlrr.r1' .ssiorrirl lrorll. Lyotard lr.rrlur.u.. The postmodern vision rellrirrs plausible only so long as we imagine that the only dilemmas we shall ever l.llt{\' (tt. composers began to devise strategies for func_ tioning within the market only in the late eighteenth century.1.rur. he may be better ubl" to produce works that embody his...rrru.r ( rr is not the but rather ones thal are engaged in a never-ending competition.t1. r. First.i. artists expect to be autonomous and are of the question concerning art's functior. .r'y grasped by an all-explaining meta-narrative and a belief in a plurality of .. rrr.( facyl)yllrclrtrlt. in chapter 3. and that each is prepared ro change its views as a result. as . thc most influential of all modern meta-narratives. but that each puts its views in jeopardy by .osers is striking.. such as.r l. and writers who actually manage to make ulrri..t':-rrrr'.lt..( ()l tlrcsc lifc forms. But two cautionary remarks are in order..r.o.l.rl<cs rrs wary of any kind of secular prophecy and ready to embrace lly llr.. a vision of a plurality of life lolrrs afld stories. und thro.. { }11r.fcan-lirangois Lyotard lrt onto sotrrt'llrittli wlrt'tr lrt' t'lrtitrrs lltat wc havc lclst laith in any of the yr. The development of the market for books tlrat allowed a u/rirer a freelance existence.r... Instead s()t'l ttl tttotlct'tts.!r. preceded by decades the develop- .l l.r . as well as rhe story told by one's interlocutor.r.. . g.'lttr.rl'.rlrlryrrt. r)rulirlivc:s that l)urportedtomakesenseof thetotalityof lurn:ur lristory.. once he begins to function within the market.r. the autonomization -unug. success even today is not unqualified.ui u....l. rt'. (Mozart's is a paradigmatic .s11y1.iarity by Tocqrr. or der itling to buy a Volvo or a BM\f.'.e an artist stopsworkingfor a specific patron (a church..r..r. l.r.' 'l'lrt'slow intcllcctrral drying-out and the subsequent rapid polr lr.y) rhan in nrusjc or architecture....y. Later.ill have to recognize that various life forms will continue to compete for re'.) of All the same.r. if choices between conflicting claims are to be based upon the force ol'arguments rather than arms. ol Mirt'xisnt. In fact.ll.l lt'rrairrs as modern as it was for the last few centuries.{)ulces with one another in any foreseeable future.1 i. v/e have no alternative but to engage the compcing life forms in a rational dialogue.o-pur"i to painters or novelists' who between his time and ours actually to a living as comp.. the era of inexorably increasing sociafequ arity and d...r lrt'r'. omparing them with the views of the dialogue partner.. But the vrsiorr of a plurality of equally valid coexisting life forms may be compelling only rrr tlrose whose outlook is underpinned by one more meta-narrative.{ n:..rr..rl ..t.1. postmodernism loses some of its plausibility. or public s6nqs115-f6r music.r.localstoriesthatmake '. rlts of questions. Vhat is postmod'r.rl ."rrlo. Shall we intervene in a tlistant country.. 1.rl tlris is Elias's awafcllcss that thc tt'ilr)siti()n Ilrrrr rlrt'( rrrlr:.'. one should rath'er stress th.. Shall we tax the rich.r( (' are of the order of choosing between a cappuccino or a caffd latte.. are still living in the era that took shape decisively in the d.r..rt!!r ( orr rr lr.rg autonomization of the artist as a feature of the modern izationpro.r.'. or shall we treat them as a sepirirte culture pursuing its own legitimate life form? or. \Tithout accepting any all-embracing universal nreta-narratives.emocratization.. the principal sources of support for those puirrt.rlr.rliirrr. p.r'lott.rn(l ()v('r':ut lrirrll "trrt'l:t tt:tl'l-:tlivcs" thltt Savc eadier moderns their sense of r.1.1. music pubrishing....'At{ I 'l'llli lrllNf l'l'l{ fN ANI) VAI lllr ( )l.rr( r'r.rr('tlrr'lrosttttotl('r'rr . thereby increasing his autonomy (even if in practice this autonomy is frequently undermined by thl in_ creased economic insecurity).luirlly valid life forms and local stories that make sense of them' A large and lrrritlirl territory lies between these two extfemes. composers. with their artisanal traditions. to individual arts should not be underestimated: unrike painiers. but the pluralist acceptance that there is more than one rrr(' st()r'y to be told about it. of urrtonomization was accompanied by the birth of u g.rg from their art rake the form not of the personal patronage of the rich and powerfur. rir'r rl:u'. the distinction Ly. ( r. ' 'r It is not rue that the only choice we have is between a belief in universal lrr:. who.t th. but still 1.rl rvr'('\lr( 1I ltolrt llrt'ttt. and. I shall explain why it is plausible that various arts achieved a significant degree of autonomy long before the eighteenth the mediation of the tax code).'ll the growing autonomization of art.. \\. Second.i{)rrol rr lrlrrralityof cocxistinglifeforms andpartial.l ll lr.r. for a slightly less local and parochial. that he will be autonomous and original in this sense.. but not ones that coexist by politely ignoring one an. rt):uIr:irs':rr..uJ". Today more than ever.r r'( I ( lraws between modernism and postmodernism is far too stark.rrl.r. rather than his patrons'.\.rltirrg lurrtls. Wt'lttt'still vt'r'V ttttlc'lt tltt' . than two centuries now. or shall we allow one tribe to practice its life form by engaging rn cthnic cleansing?. our l. A genuine dialogue requires not only that thc two sides listen to one another.probabry to much erse as well' w.t rlitl rrol happen simultaneously in all artistic ficlcls. in l. The rest of us postmoderns 'rrIinuous and rapid u.11r rr lct ttl. or Rembrandt's.rr .. but of the impersonal market or the state (acting either directry o. the philo- corollary requirement of originality surely contributed to the growing urgency of the artist and its -uk.o.rrt. although the full complexity and the uneven character of this development as it pe.r instance' it occuffed much earlier in literaturc (arrrl 1rlrilosr. rrrrtltlirt'r'tion. Once we recognize that we may also face other s. and more important.1J. the early outlines of which were grasped with pu.arr.'.l lo ..A I'l ll...i sophical subfield of aesthetics.rt rt lr. around'.l..ilt.r. copyright.1 t. one must be prepared to exchange one's own story. a court) and offers his products for sale to pa*ons whose identities cannot be fully specified i' ...o. indeed. lf the competition for resources among various life forms is not to take a vi()lcnt turn.l. ment of comparable market institutions-*ch u. No less today than in 1800. in Europe and its cultural extensions it has been positively expected of the artist for mo.l. studios). tri..rrris. that of a .rs got it right in so far as the demise of meta-narratives is concerned. found successful ways to exploit market mechanisms early on (think of Titian's. tlrirr irr ( it'r rrrrrr slrt.

I know of no better description of the appropriate relationship between a social practice and its theory than the one Charles Taylor provides in his essay. The reason is that the pretheofetical rrol ion of art which must provide the point of departure for any speculation is lristorically given. be. has been an important. Be that as it may.ilt.trllr. l... .rtt.( \\.l lN( .rl. or university cumiculum make it abundantly clear that we need a theory of art.l.. .lo The knowledge of the kind St. . for the confrontation of competing views and proposals rlr.. ..ilrl l() littori'ttol 0trly rvllrtl llrt lrtlttliott ol lttl is. has characterized the practice of the modern age from its beginnings a few centuries ago.. It should now also be clear that the question we started with. the case.ur. no less than our ancestors living around 1800 did. whether'we are postmoderns or simply more than usually confused moderns. .r )l{\' ( )l' Al{ I iI ll.l..t'r tlris lrrr.rrl.l trol rrllow rrs to cvalrtatc thcm.r. the label of "postmodernism" would be no more than an attempt by lapsed Marxists to give their disenchantment the dignity of an epochal change.llt.. It is only when this practical knowledge .. sideshow. It makes sense to speculate about possible functions of art only rl thc art in question is recognizably similar to one that actually exists.l .iir(l\\'. but rather what it . what to do with the word and recog- nize appropriate occasions for its use. I may not be able to explain very clearly what art is yet sdll know..A I'l ll.il11 lrr Ltrorv nt0t(. describe the activity which is central to a practice. the knowledge I have when nobody asks me questions but which disappears when an explanation is in order.. " social Theory as Practice. an answer to the question concerning the function of art. :rrrsu. the reverse is not possible.1."$. It . and at best .lt'r'slrrrrtlings ol'itt't wor-rld compete with one another blindly. togcrher with huge doses of plain violence. The more hands one ernploys the more powerful one is. on this account.'l'!ilN ANI VAl ' l ll (lI All I l:tl llottrrilrirrt'ts.l.lrrrrt tiotr irrstilit's ottt t'llot ls. or. ot might. Social theory arises when we try to formulate explicitly what we are doing.1iical inquiry can perhaps ignore philosophical questions and simply investigate tWhoever wants to speculate rvlrrrt was. .. . Speculation does not happen in a vacuum.'.butratherwhatits hould. rf we decided to srop at our first question..8 (pascal had already noticed that beauty might be used to demonstrate power: "It is not mere vanity to be elegant. { )r) what should be cannot ignore what is. is that perhaps postmodernity is not a new era at all. what is art?. Good theory enables practice to become less stumbling and more clairvoyant.t ll it wt..l lrrllt'.'tlrs. but rlr(ir r'('sl)('('tivt'clairnscoulcl notbccomparedandrationalchoicesamongthem . It means more than superficial show or mere accoutrement to have many hands in one. one might investigate it empirically-historically and finJ out what the function or functions of various arts have actually been once these arts achieved autonomy from their traditional contexts.rl:r..ilt(.llorrrlol aSill'csUltol tlrCrli:rlogrrt...t. t hc question I want to pursue is. . particulady. rr.llr. n(. \X/hile a historical or sociol.rvrlllrt.tlrt'r'rlrrcstiotr ll t))()r'c lrlrilosopltical line of inquirywill I'.((.t'tlrt'r'.rrl tlrr lunr ltott. .'.il1. tlrrrt ll'rrr tlrr. A theory which badly misidentifies the goods we can seek in a certain domain will ground a practice which will faII to reaTize these goods.'t andis.s Charlcs Taylor. but rather an understanding. because it shows that a lot of people are working for you.( ns r'()()ur fbr debate.l ol rrright bc.. if art r r to lrrrvc a value for us? lirt this does not mean that a philosopher can or should ignore history altoy. Augustine talks about. \\.ultl rrot lrc rnaclc.I r)()t orrly what rr-right or should be.. The kinds of answers that this line leads to are well illustrated by Martha \Woodmansee's well-supported historical claim that the idea of autonomous art was introduced in late'eighteenth-century Germany to stem the commercialization of literature promoted by the new social and economic situation of the arts in the marketplace. one might explore the problem in a more speculative-philosophical fashion and ask noi so much what thefunction of the autonomousaft. . has the advantage of allowing us to evaluate vrhat actually is .rrt . . " Taylor captures the kind of relationship between :rlt and its theory I would like to maintain in my inquiry: r:. It makes public deliberation possible. of what is already current. is of the practical rather than theoretical kind.tnr'\\'( l ()ttl (t)ll(. can understand one's own stand and that ()l ()n("s ()l)l)()lr(.ss. . roughly. way around. what I am suggesting. but rathet a state of mind of the post-Marxist intelligentsia.rr. rvlr.s service.rtr.trr. 1.|.rlrt r.\(!. if all we wanted to know was what the function of art actually is. consists really of two questions rather than one: What is the function of art? and lwhat is the value of this function? one might look for answers to the first question in two ways.("'l'lrt'sttlx. .tlrcr.rrl llrr't .sl()tV()tt(... Various actuallyproposed and I'r. There is always a pre-theoretical understanding of what is going on among the members of a society.r rilli.. . . in short.t{)tltVol orrr.r rl.1 . llr.rt rrright result in choices and preferences supported by rational arguments. \7hat should the function of art be.rr rir'r'tl rrrr."r) such claims may be illuminating in iheir own way...rrl. t. wlrt'llrcl' irrt is wort[-r the l."6) This sort of piecemeal local pragmatic negotiating. but ultimately atavistic.1'. I I rs. or censorship. then it can be tested in the quality of the practice it informs' .rrr improvement.lly. and articulate the norms which are essential to it. or is. l. far from being the most central feature of modernity. ..but l11'rr:. V/hat we rvrrlrt is not a completely new practice.. a nostalgic search for a suitable secular replacement for the grand religious meta-narrative of the premodern era. Asl<ing not what the function of art is..Alristolit':rl irrtlrrilyworrlrl lcavctrswithlotsofinterestingfacts.rrrrrrr. lrrrl nol llrc otlrcl... The stronger motive for making and adopting theories is the sense that our implicit understanding is in some way crucially inadequate or even v/rong.T or by Pierre Bourdieu's sociological claim that art today serves the function of perpetuating class distinctions.. fMoreoveq] if theory can transform practice.siti6rr 11rrt.r1rr. "will corrsist in tlris.rrrlt. Elegance is a means of showing one's power. tt. the first line of investigation would be quite sufficient. our daily disputes about such issues as public funding for the arts. It may well turn out that the recourse to universal meta-narratives. unprecedentedly affluent (and hence ready to approach the world in the spirit of cheerful play{ulness) and wary of any new commirmenrs. 'li. if one does not assume that they tell one all one needs to know rl. .

c an iptcr. r'l. This sort of two-way traffic between practice and theory is to be expected in any areaofsocial action that has achieved a certain degree ofmaturity. will be possible only when we know what the purpose of speaking is. intuitions. voices of women. because of a confused egalitarianism which assumes that all discrimirr.we do not even know yet whether these traditions and practices should be continued and why. It de- . art forms seems to be broader and sharper than ever: ry to get a good seat at any malor opera house (if you can afford one) or to look at paintings at an overcrowded Matisse retrospective.:rrrst'll | ilil('lll battles over the curriculum and appointments at American universitr.rr rrrtlR. and so on.t. I pay close attention to what eadier participants in this particular debate had to say and try to keep in mind the relevant features of the social practice of art itself. or by the insidious perpetuation of socially and politically undesirable distinctions and attitudes. But certain features of a solution to the problem can be imagined in advance. This is a domain with admittedly blurry edges. Alasdair Maclntyre points out that a practice evolves within the historical context of the relevant tradition.tll(illron Ilr. we cannot introduce them all. even fairly elite. social. rrt rrl. Whether we like it or not. But once they are heard.rr. Art would have to be shown to be irreplaceable. 'l'lrc tlotrbts ol: this class fcrrce us to do precisely what I inr. suspects art of corrupting the young.'sltl(. cultures deemed peripheral.rtion is inherently unjust. rnake.ll a 1. n( l t ( ) r lo i rr t lris lrook: to consider whether art still has a worthwhile role to play rrr. features ofthe practice as it is pursued today and as a contribution in which it has evolved over the past few centuries. to introduce into the curriculum of literr .1. .rrrtl wlrich has traditionally provided argurrr. 'l'lrt'tlorrbts I have in mind are perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the r\'(:.s.lrortulristrt lrolilit from ls s() rVi..rrrrs into dilJicrrltics. . I llf. or at least important. in the sense that u/e could not conceive of a civllization worth having without this function being taken care of. tlol jttsl illl)()llg i:rrrs. ir llr('()ry rrrrry rrt't1rrir. What is unjust.xl)lt( tt tlr|ot1. rather than on reasoned argument. and political concerns than the ideology of artistic autonomy seems to allow needs to be taken seriously and carefully examined. even if confused. to help it run more smoothly by making its norms more transparent and by correctly identifying its point. we are forced to nr..rl'scnt department of I studies. howeveE is only discrimination based on force or inherited 1'rivilege. But it may also begin to influence the practice.oln. the function would have to be culturally indispensable.'.rtirr1l tll(. and an argument precisely in part about the goods which constiture this tradition. (The "existing art" would cleady have to encompass not only the art produced today. to the questions concerning the function and value of art. First.'\l lll t tl trr r\l( I il lrtgirrs lo lltil trrt'itt sotttt'\\/rrys. lrrrl :rlso rri)t()nll lltt'vt't-y irrtcllccl trirl class which has a 1rr. we would have to find for it a function that fulfills the following conditions.itst. \(/e want.l0 A I'l ili( )t(\' ( )t' Atr I' llll . minorities.. but everything that most people concerned vdth art at all would consider afttoday. however preliminary. If we are to be satisfied that art is a worthwhile pursuit. and it is better that we make them as :r rcsult of public deliberation based on rational argument than as a result of r. that ir nccrl lirr..\lll) \'.rr lit. rr lr.. however.rr rlr.)nri('. The new antiaesthedc attitude deserves attention.. But at the same time. nr()r( ( rrr. its function is much contested.ll r. and music departments as many of the previously excluded voices as lw]hen tradition is in good order it is always parrially constitured by an argument about the goods the pursuit of which gives to that tradition its particular point and purpose.'conomically compelled to make choices.rrt lrlivrttc rrrrrl pu[rlic livcs. the suspicion that artmay be much more relevant to our moral. and not simply because it may endanger the survival of some artistic traditions and practices. . it would also have to be demonsrated that the function in question may be fulfilled by much of the existing art.t. The aesthetic domain is no exception.lal dynamic of its own and develop more or less indcpcrrrlcrtly of any pronrprings a stalled practice. but so vast This book is a contribution ro the ongoing argument about the point of art. lit:. or at least important. 'l'hc battles have a background which is partly ideological and partly ecor. when public attitudes toward afi are ambiguous at best.ssiblc. Art would have to be able to make an indispensable. ()ncc l. art is not enjoying good press. socially embodied argument. ilrt. But it would be unwise and complacent to dismiss current trends in this way and not to notice that they are based on some compelling.. It is only then that we shall be able to compare the voices with one another and decide which ones are doing their appointed job best. contribution to the proper working of a human society worth striving for. Second. the function would have to be of such character that it could be fulfilled only by art and nothing else. r. after all. unwitting Platonists all.l( llr )li . whether by seductive images of morally unconventional behavior. l)()it)l iil)(l the norms of the practicc ariscs. General appetite for certain. tWe should make :rs many voices as possible heard.rl<c choices whereby a stronger department of x studies implies a weaker or .l lrl:rtt'1.rr ls lol its t lt'lt'trsc. .rr rr'('.rndom lottery or application of force and political pressure. I lrrivcrsity resources being finite.rll1. A reasonable and just discrimination among the voices. . A living tradition then is an historically extended. This rise of old political and new academic philistinism is surely an indirect proof that art still retains its power to disturb and unsettle comfortable bureaucracies. It would be premature at this stage in the discussion to offer any answers. whether produced recently or in a distant past. In particular. An unexpected and involuntary alTiance of right-wing populist politicians and leftwing populist academics. in the United States at least. we are . The argument about the point of art is particulady timely today. ()r..(. with good reason.p. Third. But this is precisely a distinction rve do not like'ssiorr:rl st:rl<t'irr :ul's sulvivlll . we should not assume tlrat they are all equally valuable and we should not be afraid to discriminate ilrnong them. and a consensus as to its ultimate value can no longer be taken for granted. Art-bashing has again become salonftihig.

but a theory of something else. by much of the art that already exists.t2 ATHEORYOFART that it provides us vdth more than enough unambiguous material.XNS OF ARTWORKS . .) As already stated. our task is not to invent a new social practice. moreover. and. one that can be fulfilled only by art. our theory would turn out to be not a theory of art at all. something for which we had illegitimately appropriated the name of art. and we know that this function would have to be culturally important. or better yet. we want to find out what the function of art should be if art is to be considered a worthwhile occupation. but rather to improve or simply clarify the ongoing one. In short. indispensable.IHE Panr I AESTHETICS: E.----. If most of the art as we know it cannot do the job we think art should be doing.