Art and Its Object

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Transcript of Art and Its Object

The Argument


The' question posed: What is Art? Scepticism whether a general answer may be given: such scepticism itself to be sceptically considered. The physical-object hypothesis, Le. the hypothesis that works of art are physical objects, introduced. 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. owever 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 difficulties for the hypothesis to be considered.

~-I4 C~

The diffkulty presented by Representation or ' representational properties. A discussion of repII



and its Objectsresemblance


An Essayand seeing-as, and the

1 resentation,'1


suggestion made that resemblance might be understood in terms of seeing-as rather than

1 vice.versa; the intrduction of intention into any"


such analysis.

those which dispute the exha,}lstiveness of the distinction between immediately and mediately' perceptible properties, and those Which insist that works of art possess properties other' than the immediately perceptible,"1


The difficulty'presented

by Expression or ex-

pressi},'le roperties. Two cJude .causal views of pexp~ession rejected" Natural ex,pre~sion and 'correspondences' ,,~I~'



",i!' fl',~


The~physical-object hypothesis"to be strengthened by a consideratiqn of alternative hypotheses . 'Ii"" .,. e.bdut the work of art: specificaIly, over those areas of art where the physical-object hypothesis . ~ II,gains a foothold (cf. 9-10)", . '1 ii, The Ideal theory, Le. the theory'thiit works of art are ment al ~ntiiies,.,and the, P;esentational theory, Le. the theory that ::jyVorks f art., have o onlyimmediately percepti1?le' properties, introduced.

2~-3 1 The first set, of objections to the' Presentational m theory @onsidered:.Difficulties for the exhaustive distinction between immediatelyand mediately perceptible pnwerties are presented by meaningI!J properties and expression-properties: Sound and "' Meanin~ ", poetry and ,the so-called imusi@ of . 1', ih ,poetry': the representation 'bf movemen1}:the rep.. '.resentation of space ('tactile values'). The Gombrich argument con@erni'ng expression. (In the II! course of tl}is discussion the notiop of Icqnicity

bldefly'introduced~) ,11:'f)




"Thesecond set of objec,tionsto the present~tionaltheory considered. Difficulties presented by pro. pertiesl1\th~tin'dubit'bly are not immediately perceptible;, but areJnhe,rent to art.Genres and the 'radical f presentation': the spectator's expectations and the artist's intentions: the concept of art as sornething that the spectator must bring with him. Thf discussion broken off for a parenthesis."


The Ideal theory considereg. Two' objectins raised: that the theory would make art private, and that it disregards the medium. (The bd. coleur problem, or the problem ofart's diversity or arbitrariness introduced.) 35-7 The Ideal theory and the Presentational theory contrasted. Objections to the Presentational theory to be considered under' two - headings:



The pro mise to consider those arts where the work of art clearly cannot be identified with a physical object now redeemed. Types and tokens,,

and the claim made that types may possess13'

12 ---


-- *Art and its Objects physical properties. Accordingly the arts where the physical-object hypothesis evidently does not hold are less problematic for aesthetics.38-9





.. ,,~


--"-~--An Essay


Interpretation. Critical interpretation and interpretation through performance. Interpretation said to be ineliminable. The cntrast between description and interpretation not to be narrowly taken. *


vidu al works of art: the analogy with language properly understood does not require that we should be able to identify either of these apart fromart and its objects. The so-called 'heresy of paraphrase'. 50

Art and phantasy contrasted: the fundamental error in the Ideal theorY'restated in the light ofsections 46-9. '




The con cept of art reconsidered, and the claim that works of art intrinsically falI under this concept. The suggestion, to~ which this claim gives rise, that the question, What is art?, may be st be answered by considering the aesthetic attitude. The aesthetic attitude, and distortions of it. Art and nature falsely assimilated. The connexion between seeing soniething as a work of art and that thing's having been made as a work of art. The amorphousness of the concept 'art', and the pervasiveness of art itself.

The concept of art as a form sidered from the standpoint Understanding works of art: duced, and 'the conditions f once more examined.

of life now conof the spectator. Iconicity reintro-, expression in art


The work of art as a self-subsistent object: this ~ r conception qualified. The 'invitation in art' and 'the transcendental'...





A third point of view on the conception of art as a form of lire suggested. Art and how it is learnt. No more than a suggestion thrown aut. The analogy so far pursued (sections 45-55) has been between art and language, not 'between art and code: two contrasts contrasted. Style and redundancy. Tw limitations to the analogy of art and language. The fact that some works of art are in a (natural) language, and the lack of anything in art parallel to ungrammaticality or incoherence. 15


* 45Art as 'a form of life'" and the analogy between art and language introduced. The concept of arJ; as a form of life considered from the standpoint of the artist. The artistic, intention, and the intentions attributed to indi14~ ~





IIArt andits Objects * 59The 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 consideration of art as an essentiallyl!istorical phenomenon. Art's historicity examiried. The social determination of art. The bricoleur problem finally reconsider~d..


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 ,ineradicable self-consciousness of art.


An omission recorded.

Art and its Objects *

.(irt andits Objects59The last point suggests a consideration' of the traditional demand of. unity in a work of art. Unity considered, and three objections to any strict or formal explication of the notion. Consideration of unity leads in turn to a consideration of art as an essentially l1istorical phenomenon. Art's historicity examined. The social determination of art. The bricoleur problem finally reconsidered. . Aesthetics: and how it might divide into the seemingly substantive and the seemingly trivial.i






'What is art?' 'Art is the sum or totality of works of art.' 'Whatjs a work of art?' 'A work of art is a poem, a paint'mg, a piece of music, a sculpture, a novel. . ..' 'What is a poem? a painting? Cj, iece of music? a sculpture? a p nove!?' . .;' 'A poem is . . ., a painting is . . ., a piece of

music is ...;a sculpture is . . .' a novel is . . .' I .




The importance of the seemingly trivial in aesthetics for art itself: the perennial and ineradicable self-consciousness of art. An' omission recorded.

~twould be natural to assume that, if only we could fill in the gaps in the last line of this dialogue, we sh~)Uld hav~ an answer to one of the mqst elusive of the traditi,onalproblems of human culture: the nature of art. The assumption here is, of course, that the dialogue, as we .have' it above, is consbquential. This is something that,for t~e present, I shall continue to assume. 2 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 intended. 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 ",c '.:..!', -.,


answers\ 17




~ ' """"-

f '.


\~i.~ ~uOAf\:~1 rocedurally, that is, to the objections of the traditiopalist: that I shall start with what I have called the overME>. nstead of waiting for the particular answers and" I seeing what they have in common, I shall try to aNticipate them and project the area over whic