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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
p. however. He explains that determining a unified definition of art as a whole is a near impossibility. Section 7. a class of copies or performances. Section 4. the view that a work of art is . Richard Wollheim explores his conception of his “physicalobject hypothesis” and its potential shortcomings. if it should be lost. the physical-object hypothesis maintains that all works of art are physical objects. does not terminate the survival of the art work. he continues. he replies. he suggests. the validity of the physical-object theory remains unaffected by the errors of misapplication. if a performance of Der Rosenkavalier were taken to be the works physical object. He explains. and one did not like a performance.in regards to artworks of types. to the philosophical question of what makes something art. Wollheim argues. (Wollheim. so. P. p. and appreciating the same object as an art appreciator. In short. Section 3. he sets forth the basic underlying hypothesis concerning varying arts.) Such positions. p. Likewise. unique object of the work that a loss of this copy would lend itself to a loss of the art work (Wollheim. he contends. insofar as it is a copy and not the original manuscript. he is ultimately unwilling to dismiss the theory altogether. p. Section 5. 4). of which there are copies. It is only when a copy is a single. This gives way to Wollheim’s description of the aesthetic-object theory. in which there is no individual object. 6). The copy of Ulysses. music. but in the selection of the physical object that was selected for the work (Wollheim. Thus. rather than evaluating the work of art through its appearance. there is a difference between a work of art. p. that works of art are physical objects – “the physical-object hypothesis” (Wollheim. 8). if one were to lose their copy of Ulysses. 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. The contemplation of the work becomes above and beyond a philosophical inquiry. drama (which he deems “types”). Section 6. While this might appear to disprove the physicalobject hypothesis. if such a work were characterized as being a physical object. in which there is no single object of work – but. the contemplation of the object becomes more a philosophical inquiry as opposed to an appreciation of the work artistically. 4). this flaw was not so much in the theory. style. with this. he takes as his starting point of inquiry. Question 2: In his work Art and Its Objects. 56).His work presents a series of arguments against this theory. 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. To begin with. he suggests. Herein lies his first depiction of a potential shortcoming to the physical-object theory ..nature of indiscernibility between the two objects perfectly lends itself. he warns. While he acknowledges the inherent differences among works of art. are not acceptable in constituting the work of art. “little if anything is left over for the pleasure of artlovers. he asserts. 6). 7). Section 7. and a copy or performance of a work of art (Wollheim. Put briefly. perfectly suited for philosophical modes of contemplation such that. p. p. 5). namely. Wollheim contends that certain forms of art cannot be identified as physical objects insofar as they do not exist in space and time – as. Section 6. 4). Such arts would include works of literature. which he sees as the most compelling argument against the physical-object theory. he endeavors to determine some commonality among art works amidst their myriad of differences. “a novel. To this argument. physical objects must. Ulysses would become a lost work (Wollheim. is not my or your copy but is the class of all its copies” (Wollheim. then one would dislike Rosenkavalier (Ibid. Section 8. For.” (Danto. the question of what (if anything) different works of art and different arts in general have in common (Wollheim. Herein lies the heart of Danto’s distinguishing factors between appreciating Warhol’s Brillo Boxes as a philosopher. etc. Section 3. rather. p. Thus.
Thus. are likewise interpretations of the original object. he asserts. – which is then manifested in the incomplete image of its external object. in creating an external object of art. Wollheim asserts. he asserts. Wollheim sees an inherent flaw in this theory. With this theory. “we must ignore the surface elements. and representational aspects. Question 3: In his work Art and Its Objects. and go straight to the mind which organizes them” (Wollheim.) for the spectator. However. “out of the material of his wishes. to the external object of the artistic medium. 37) Wollheim. Wollheim sees the essential characteristic of all works of art – types and individuals. etc. of the immediate gratifications of phantasy” (Ibid. there is no longer an external object wherein both the artist and the spectator have equal access to. etc. The artist. To the question of those works of art that are types.) Those motivations which initially lead the artist into the world of fantasy. and the love of women” (Wollheim. begins with an intention and has to determine how to manifest his intentions into a medium. etc. “finds a path back to reality”. conversely. for both the artist and the spectator. 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. in short. this theory suggests that there is not some sort of connection between the physical work of art that can be perceived. Both the artist and the neurotic. Herein lies Wollheim’s primary critique of the Croce-Collingwood theory – it completely denies this aspect of a shared external object. Section 23. He quotes Freud in saying that. argues against this theory. p. 116). p. on a painted surface. its copies.characterized by its aesthetic qualities. However. a primary feature of art necessary involves the act of renunciation: “renunciation. manage to become “harnessed to the process of making. Section 50. For. etc. textures. Wollheim interprets this claim to mean that the artist. and its interpretations. the distinguishing factor lies in the fact that the neurotic continues to remain in this world of fantasy. 116). “refuses to remain in that hallucinated condition to which the neurotic regresses” (Wollheim. the artist. rather.) For this reason. feelings. by reducing the work of art to something inner or mental. Thus. turn away from reality “and lead a large part of their lives in the world of phantasy”. he contends. Section 50. p. always comes back to the medium of the work of art. according to Wollheim. Section 50. the artist grasps those elements of his fantasy and. Also explained through his explanation of the “ideal theory. He refers to his conception of “seeing-in. in order to arrive at the distinctively aesthetic. expressive qualities. conceptions. which can equally be found in non-artistic or practical contexts. he explains in Freud’s words.” or the ideal theory. “the artist wins through his phantasy what the neurotic can win only in his phantasy: honor. . Upon establishing the absurdity of this theory. takes the works medium as its reference point and construes meaning accordingly. power.” which Wollheim characterizes as the view that the object of a work of art exists in the mind of the artist alone – his intentions. Wollheim contends. p. p. unlike the neurotic. Section 22. whereas the artist. 117). as lying in its interpretive nature. the spectator. performances. he explains. One’s interpretation. colors. Wollheim discusses what he refers to as “the CroceCollingwood Theory of Art.” which he explains as an individual’s interpretation of the marks. that is. suggesting the absurdity of this conception of artistic creation.” creates an object which “can become a source of shared pleasure and consolation” (Ibid. he explains. 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. Wollheim endeavors to provide a philosophical analysis of the nature of art that is rooted in human experience. where both relate their perceptions. not the extent of this activity (Ibid. “the link between artist and audience has been severed” (Wollheim.” Thus. According to this theory. 40). for it ignores the very nature of interpretation that is involved in the perception of a work of art. Wollheim then introduces Freud’s idea wherein he compares the artist with the neurotic (Wollheim. takes this world of fantasy as his starting point. Thus.
rather. For.) As to the notion that a definition of art need not be defined. this theory suggests. according to this theory. he explains. he concludes. 59). Danto then explains the next aspect of this theory. is not necessary since we are able to determine those things which are games or works of art without one.) While. for both sets. the theory maintains. Section 3. like art. as with works of art. Section 3. However. there may appear to be that art. like games. the concept of art.57-8). For this reason. However. “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.” (Danto. . an ‘a complicated network of similarities.” (Ibid.” and further. as with art. a work of art may be truly indiscernible from all other every day. 1980. this theory of intuition falls short.) Rather. he explains. the definition need not and cannot be given.) Danto credits to Wittgenstein this comparison between art and its classes with the nature of games – for.) For. he continues. Wollheim. a unified definition of art cannot be given. Richard. than that particular cannot be considered a member of this family. Danto endeavors to provide a response to the prevailing wisdom. we will also find no common properties – only strands of similarities. Art and its Objects. one would be able to do so without the need of a definition.” (Ibid. Works Cited Danto. for all respective matters. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. a definition of games. 1981.) Namely that. the theory equates the set of art works with the set of games – for. In such situations. have a common property.” (Ibid. (Ibid. relationships. there remains the possibility for a new game. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art. games. require some common uniting quality in order for them to be considered games. set forth by Wittgenstein. the very nature of family resemblance implies that there be some underlying genetic trait that constitutes their “family resemblance. according to this Wittgensteinian philosophy. commonplace objects. to come about that “we intuitively recognize as a game [or work of art] though it fails to conform to our pretended definition. Cambridge: Harvard UP. Danto suggest. 2nd ed. and such classes of art that are perceptually indiscernible from non works of art. rather than finding characteristics that are common to all games or works of art.) Thus. Pp. if this genetic trait does not exist in a particular. namely that. Section 3. but. this identification with art as a family-resemblance term analogous to games. that since there can be no discernable single property common among all classes of art. the man in the warehouse would be unable to discern a work or art from its identical counterpart that is. form a family wherein the resemblances amongst its classes “connect the members of a family ‘criss-cross in the same way’” (Ibid. In other words. Danto sets forth the Wittgensteinian thesis of art as the view that a definition of art cannot and need not be arrived at (Danto. With the advent of the 1960s. he explains. he contends. it is by appeal to intuition that we are able to discern what makes something a game or work of art (Ibid. “if we were to actually look and see what it is that we call art. is “almost appallingly ill chosen.) Herein lies the key aspect of this theory. Danto cites Kennick’s assertion that. art can be seen as “a logically open set of things that share no common feature” (Ibid. or art works. 60). it is not always the case that an artwork resembles a set of artworks at all. Arthur C. overlapping and criss-crossing’ (Ibid.) He then quotes Weitz’s extenuation of this concept which maintains that. or work of art. games. p. but on the mere basis of intuition (Danto.Question 5: In Transfiguration of the Commonplace. p. but can be discerned intuitively. should one be instructed to extract all works of art from a warehouse. not a work of art. that of “family-formulation classes. there are similarities.
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