Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction

By Noël Carroll | Go to book overview

5


Art, definition and identification

Part I

Against definition

Neo-Wittgensteinianism: art as an open concept

Throughout this book, we have examined successive attempts to define art. The representational theory of art, neorepresentationalism, the expression theory, formalism, neoformalism, and aesthetic theories of art are all attempts to provide comprehensive definitions of all art. But each of them appears inadequate in turn. Undoubtedly, this has led some readers to suspect that maybe one cannot define art at all; the diversity of objects we call art may seem too great to be encompassed by a single definition. Or, perhaps some of you thought this from the very beginning; perhaps you started reading this book with the opinion that art cannot be defined and, as a result, regarded each of the theories that we reviewed as predestined to fail. Maybe the entire project struck you as quixotic from the outset. But however you came to the conviction that art cannot be defined, you may feel reassured to learn that it is also a philosophical position, sometimes called Neo-Wittgensteinianism.

Throughout the twentieth century especially, philosophers of art have attempted to define art. Probably one reason that Western philosophers have been preoccupied with defining art for the last century or so is that it is during this period that we have found ourselves confronted with a dazzling array of different kinds of art whose sheer variety is unprecedented. On the one hand, there have been the multifarious creations of the avant-garde which, from Romanticism onwards, have consistently challenged settled ideas of art with their radical departures from conventional practice.

And, on the other hand, during the same period, Westerners grew more and more familiar with the art of other cultures, which, though deviating from the canons of Western art, nevertheless have a prima facie claim on

-206-

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Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Introduction 2
  • 1 - Art and Representation 19
  • 2 - Art and Expression 59
  • 3 - Art and Form 108
  • 4 - Art and Aesthetic Experience 156
  • Contents 205
  • 5 - Art, Definition and Identification 206
  • Index 269
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