The Arts and the Definition of the Human: Toward a Philosophical Anthropology

By Joseph Margolis | Go to book overview

2
“One and Only One Correct Interpretation”

ONCE YOU CONCEDE the heterodox puzzles of the perception and understanding of the arts, the heterodox nature of artworks themselves, you cannot assume, a priori, that the description and interpretation of paintings and literature must, if entitled to claim objective standing, ultimately conform in a principled way to the familiar orthodoxies of bivalence and excluded middle. Indeed, to regard the sciences as cultural practices subject to the winds of historicity, constructivist interests, discontinuous and local progress, opportunistic intuitions, ad hoc methodologies, and the like suggests the plausibility (consistent with realism) of entertaining relativistic and incommensurabilist options (if coherent on independent grounds) among the sciences themselves. I myself believe the nerve of Hegel's critique of Kant's first Critique actually sanctions such a tolerance: I also believe that Thomas Kuhn was driven to a related concession, though he was shocked to find it true.1 If you grasp the sense then in which Hegel's dialectical vision (more than his explicit doctrine) may now be the single most promising conceptual vision of our Eurocentric world, you begin to see the strategic importance of testing our most daring metaphysical and methodological options in the space of the philosophy of art. That is indeed an important part of the motivation of these studies. I hasten, therefore, to press the advantage.

I claim there are no principled grounds on which to demonstrate that the interpretation of artworks and histories and related cultural phenomena could never be coherent or objective if it were not committed to the regulative constraint that, for every suitably individuated referent,

-71-

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