Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, December 1, 2014

val davis section 10 group 2 kant touch this (sorry this is so long)

Valeria Davis
Phil Oliver
Intro to philosophy
21 November 2014
  What is art? If you were to ask 10 different people to define art, you might get 10 different answers. One person might look in awe at a piece of art in a museum or gallery and think, “wow, this is beautiful artwork!” while another person might look at the same exact piece in confusion and wonder why it was even considered as “art” and displayed for people to look at. In some cases, people are paying traveling and museum/gallery expenses to view art that others would rather not waste their pennies on. If you ask Google what the definition of art is a lot of slightly differently worded definitions will come up. According to Merriam Webster, art is something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.[1] I like how it refers to art as “something” and not a more exact form of art. Art can be anything! The fact that new art forms such as film and photography have emerged and that art galleries have exhibited such things as a pile of bricks or a stack of cardboard boxes has forced us to think about the limits of what we are prepared to call art.[2] Over time the meaning and forms of art have varied among different people and cultures. Factors such as religious beliefs, rituals, fears, and desires have all played an important role in how art was defined and created by different cultures. However, art doesn’t always need deep emotions or a god behind the reason for its creation. Sometimes art is just there to serve entertainment purposes and be appealing to the eyes and ears. The variety of art forms is quite large, ranging from paintings, plays, films, novels, musical pieces, and even dance. What do these things have in common? Because these are all completely different art forms and don’t seem to have much in common, some philosophers started to question if art can be defined at all. With so many different art forms available, there are also so many different ways in how art can affect the person creating it and the person viewing or listening to it. Art critic Clive Bell might help us better understand the questioning of the definition of art. Bell’s theory of art is called the significant form theory. According to this theory, all forms of art that create emotion in the creator, viewer, and listener all share significant form. These significant forms include things like line and color. In 1913 Clive Bell wrote a book called Art. In this book he relates aesthetic emotion and the theory of art. The theory of significant form was stated by Bell that: There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl , Chinese carpets, Giotto 's frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible - significant form. In each, lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colours, these aesthetically moving forms, I call "Significant Form"; and "Significant form" is the one quality common to all works of visual art. [3] But what is a theory without a criticism of it? The first objection is that the theory contains a circular argument. A circular argument means that the proposed idea(s) do not contain enough to prove the statement. Therefore, it is a fallacy.  In Warburtons Philosophy: The Basics he explains that: the argument for the significant form theory appears to be circular in that two of its key concepts are defined each in terms of the other. Significant form is simply those formal properties of a work which give rise to the aesthetic emotion. But the aesthetic emotion can only be understood as the emotion felt in the presence of significant form. This is unsatisfactory. If we cannot escape this circularity of definition, then the theory will remain spectacularly uninformative. We need some independent way of recognizing either significant form or else the aesthetic emotion. Without such an independent criterion of one or the other, the theory has a viciously circular definition at its heart. It is like looking up the word ‘yes’ in a dictionary to find it defined as ‘the opposite of “no”’; and then looking up ‘no’ to find it defined as ‘the opposite of “yes”’.[4] Another objection to this theory is that it cannot be refuted, or disproved. It is almost impossible to prove that there is only one emotion that viewers feel when viewing art. Clive would say that even if you looked at a genuine piece of art but did not feel emotions from it, then you didn’t truly experience it. I think it is silly to say that everyone should get the same emotions out of a piece of art! Another philosopher, but not the last, expressed his views on the philosophy of art. Georg Hegel (1770-1831) was an early 19th century German philosopher who had a strong influence on western philosophy and other parts of western culture. He was an art supporter as well as an art student. Hegel created a more thorough philosophy of art than a lot of philosophers before his time. Hegel claimed that: art expresses the spirit of particular cultures, as well as that of individual artists and the general human spirit. I like this quote a lot because it’s saying that art doesn’t just have to emerge from large groups and cultures, but from individuals as well. He also said that there is progress in art. Yes! Art is always progressing into newer and bigger things. Whether it is doing so in a positive or negative way, I think that is for each individual to decide.
  To continue on theories, the idealist theory created by R.G. Collingwood (1889-1943) adds to the list. This theory is different from other art theories because it proposes the idea that art is not a tangible thing, but merely an emotion or idea in the artist’s mind. In Philosophy: The Basics it states: this idea is given physical imaginative expression, and is modified through the artist’s involvement with a particular artistic medium, but the artwork itself remains in the artist’s mind. In some versions of the idealist theory great stress is put on the emotion expressed being a sincere one. This builds a strong evaluative element into the theory. The idealist theory distinguishes art from craft. Works of art serve no particular purpose. They are created through the artist’s involvement with a particular medium, such as oil paint or words. In contrast, craft object are created for a particular purpose, and the craftsperson begins with a plan rather than designing the object in the process of making it. So, for example, a painting by Picasso serves no particular purpose, and was, presumably, not fully planned in advance, whereas the table at which I am sitting serves a very obvious function and was made according to a pre-existing design, a blue-print. The painting is a work of art; the table of a work of craft. This is not to say that works of art cannot contain elements of craft: clearly many great works of art do contain such craft elements. Collingwood explicitly states that the two categories art and craft are not mutually exclusive. Rather, not work of art is solely a means to an end. The idealist theory contrasts genuine works of art with mere entertainment art (art made with the purpose simply of entertaining people, or of arousing particular emotions). Genuine art has no purpose: it is an end in itself. Entertainment art is a craft, and therefore inferior to art proper. Similarly, purely religious art, so called, is considered to be craft because it was made for a specific purpose.[5] (161) An objection to this theory is its strangeness. It is weird to think that art is only existent in ones own mind or emotions, or that it serves to particular purpose. Why should someone need a blue-print for their art in order for it to hold some sort of value or meaning? I think if all artwork was fully planned out beforehand, art in itself would lose some meaning. Collingwood’s odd distinction between art object and craft objects and how to influences their worth is hard to grasp. Philosopher, George Dickie, described various art forms and how they relate in the institutional theory of art. He states that things such as music, a pile of bricks, everyday objects, writings, and photographs can all be labeled as artwork. They theory says that even though all of these things differ greatly in content and appearance, there are two characteristics that they all share. The first thing they have in common is that they are all artifacts, meaning that they have all been worked on to some extent by human beings. Typically an artifact has some historical or cultural meaning behind it, but the book stresses that the term is being used very lightly. The second thing that all of these artifacts share is that they have all been labeled as art by someone with the appropriate occupation to do so. For example, the gallery owner that chooses and displays the art, the person who publishes the book, and the person who produces the music. Basically it says that if you are the right person, anything you deem worthy of being known as art will make it so. This theory is faulty because it does not distinguish the good art from the bad art. There is no “good” or “bad” art,  if it’s art then it’s just art. I’m sure this theory has artists everywhere raising their hands and differentiating between all the horrible and amazing works of art they have produced or witnessed. The institutional theory is almost too accepting of all art forms. Some see this as a positive thing while others may see it as a flaw.  Regardless of all the theories, I think art is whatever you want it to be.

[1] “Art.” Merriam Webster. Accessed November 21, 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/art
[2] Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
[3] Bell, Clive. Art. 1913. Print.
[4] Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
[5] Warburton, Nigel. Philosophy: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

1 comment:

  1. "Regardless of all the theories, I think art is whatever you want it to be." Seems too inclusive, but maybe that's the only alternative to being too exclusive.

    What I want art to be: expressive of recognizably human experience. John Dewey said if you want to discover the sources of art in everyday life, look at the "tense grace of the ballplayer. That sounds good to me.

    Of course, "the fountain" is also expressive of a universal human experience. So I guess we've got to include it too.