A Theory of Art

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To say a work of art had a positive quality like humor, for instance, was to praise it to some degree, but this could be offset by other qualities which made the work not good as a whole. Beardsley defended all of his canons in a much more detailed way than his eighteenth century predecessor however: through a lengthy, fine-grained, historical analysis of what critics have actually appealed to in the evaluation of artworks.

The discrimination enabled Beardsley to focus on the artwork and its representational relations, if any, to objects in the public world. The main debate over aesthetic value, indeed, concerns social and political matters, and the seemingly inevitable partiality of different points of view.


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The central question concerns whether there is a privileged class, namely those with aesthetic interests, or whether their set of interests has no distinguished place, since, from a sociological perspective, that taste is just one amongst all other tastes in the democratic economy. The sociologist Arnold Hauser preferred a non-relativistic point of view, and was prepared to give a ranking of tastes. High art beat popular art, Hauser said, because of two things: the significance of its content, and the more creative nature of its forms. He defended this with a thorough philosophical analysis, rejecting the idea that there is such a thing as truth corresponding to an external reality, with the people capable of accessing that truth having some special value.

Instead, according to Taylor, there are just different conceptual schemes, in which truth is measured merely by coherence internal to the scheme itself. Janet Wolff looked at this debate more disinterestedly, in particular studying the details of the opposition between Kant and Bourdieu. Jerome Stolnitz, in the middle of the last century, was a Kantian, and promoted the need for a disinterested, objective attitude to art objects. The country yokel who jumps upon the stage to save the heroine, and the jealous husband who sees himself as Othello smothering his wife, are missing the fact that the play is an illusion, a fiction, just make-believe.

Art is not the only object to draw interest of this pleasurable kind: hobbies and travel are further examples, and sport yet another, as was mentioned briefly above. In particular, the broadening of the aesthetic tradition in recent years has led theorists to give more attention to sport. David Best, for instance, writing on sport and its likeness to art, highlighted how close sport is to the purely aesthetic. But he wanted to limit sport to this, and insisted it had no relevance to ethics.

Best saw art forms as distinguished expressly by their having the capacity to comment on life situations, and hence bring in moral considerations. No sport had this further capacity, he thought, although the enjoyment of many sports may undoubtedly be aesthetic. The traditional form of art criticism was biographical and sociological, taking into account the conceptions of the artist and the history of the traditions within which the artist worked.

But in the twentieth century a different, more scientific and ahistorical form of literary criticism grew up in the United States and Britain: The New Criticism. Like the Russian Formalists and French Structuralists in the same period, the New Critics regarded what could be gleaned from the work of art alone as relevant to its assessment, but their specific position received a much-discussed philosophical defense by William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley in This debate over intention in the literary arts has raged with full force into more recent times.

A contemporary of Wimsatt and Beardsley, E. One reason he rejected intention, at times, was because he believed the artist might be unconscious of the full significance of the artwork. The debate also has a more practical aspect in connection with the visual arts. For it arises in the question of what devalues fakes and forgeries, and by contrast puts a special value on originality. There have been several notable frauds perpetrated by forgers of artworks and their associates. The question is: if the surface appearance is much the same, what especial value is there in the first object?

Nelson Goodman was inclined to think that one can always locate a sufficient difference by looking closely at the visual appearance. But even if one cannot, there remain the different histories of the original and the copy, and also the different intentions behind them. The relevance of such intentions in visual art has entered very prominently into philosophical discussion.

Of course, representational art is still to be found to this day, but it is no longer pre-eminent in the way it once was. It is the same thing with painting, dance and music; nothing is real in their works, everything is imagined, painted, copied, artificial.

What is Aesthetics? (Philosophy of Art)

It is what makes their essential character as opposed to nature. In the same century and the following one, with the advent of Romanticism, the concept of expression became more prominent. And Burke, Hutcheson, and Hume also promoted the idea that what was crucial in art were audience responses: pleasure in Art was a matter of taste and sentiment. But the full flowering of the theory of Expression, in the twentieth century, has shown that this is only one side of the picture.

Bouwsma who have preferred such theories. Social theories of art, however, need not be based on materialism. One of the major social theorists of the late nineteenth century was the novelist Leo Tolstoy, who had a more spiritual point of view. Coming into the twentieth century, the main focus shifted towards abstraction and the appreciation of form. The aesthetic, and the arts and crafts movements, in the latter part of the nineteenth century drew people towards the appropriate qualities. Eduard Hanslick was a major late nineteenth century musical formalist; the Russian Formalists in the early years of the revolution, and the French Structuralists later, promoted the same interest in Literature.

Clive Bell and Roger Fry, members of the influential Bloomsbury Group in the first decades of the twentieth century, were the most noted early promoters of this aspect of Visual art. Only one answer seems possible— significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way; certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. Abstraction was a major drive in early twentieth century art, but the later decades largely abandoned the idea of any tight definition of art.

There are, however, ways of providing a kind of definition of art which respects its open texture. But this suggests that these two contemporary definitions, like the others, merely reflect the historical way that art developed in the associated period. Certainly traditional objective aesthetic standards, in the earlier twentieth century, have largely given way to free choices in all manner of things by the mandarins of the public art world more recently.

Response theories of art were particularly popular during the Logical Positivist period in philosophy, that is, around the s and s. Science was then contrasted sharply with Poetry, for instance, the former being supposedly concerned with our rational mind, the latter with our irrational emotions. Thus the noted English critic I. Richards tested responses to poems scientifically in an attempt to judge their value, and unsurprisingly found no uniformity.

We are now more used to thinking that the emotions are rational, partly because we now distinguish the cause of an emotion from its target. If one looks at what emotions are caused by an artwork, not all of these need target the artwork itself, but instead what is merely associated with it. So what the subjective approach centrally overlooks are questions to do with attention, relevance, and understanding. People who are sad move more slowly, and when they speak they speak softly and low. The discriminations do not stop there, however. Guy Sircello, against Hospers, pointed out first that there are two ways emotions may be embodied in artworks: because of their form which is what Hospers chiefly had in mind , and because of their content.

Thus, a picture may be sad not because of its mood or color, but because its subject matter or topic is pathetic or miserable. That point was only a prelude, however, to an even more radical criticism of Embodiment theories by Sircello. Communication theorists all combine the three elements above, namely the audience, the artwork, and the artist, but they come in a variety of stamps.

Bell and Fry saw no such social purpose in art, and related to this difference were their opposing views regarding the value of aesthetic properties and pleasure. Communication theorists generally compare art to a form of Language. Langer was less interested than the above theorists in legislating what may be communicated, and was instead concerned to discriminate different art languages, and the differences between art languages generally and verbal languages. She said, in brief, that art conveyed emotions of various kinds, while verbal language conveyed thoughts, which was a point made by Tolstoy too.

But Langer spelled out the matter in far finer detail. This gave rise to the main differences between presentational and discursive modes of communication: verbal languages had a vocabulary, a syntax, determinate meanings, and the possibility of translation, but none of these were guaranteed for art languages, according to Langer. The detailed ways in which this arises with different art forms Langer explained in her book Feeling and Form. Discussions of questions specific to each art form have been pursued by many other writers; see, for instance, Dickie, Sclafani, and Roblin, and the recent book by Gordon Graham.

Like the concept of Expression, the concept of Representation has been very thoroughly examined since the professionalization of Philosophy in the twentieth century. Gombrich was the first to point out that modes of representation are, by contrast, conventional, and therefore have a cultural, socio-historical base. Thus perspective, which one might view as merely mechanical, is only a recent way of representing space, and many photographs distort what we take to be reality— for instance, those from the ground of tall buildings, which seem to make them incline inwards at the top.

Goodman, too, recognized that depiction was conventional; he likened it to denotation, that is, the relation between a word and what it stands for. He also gave a more conclusive argument against copying being the basis of representation. For that would make resemblance a type of representation, whereas if a resembles b, then b resembles a— yet a dog does not represent its picture.

In other words, Goodman is saying that resemblance implies a symmetric relationship, but representation does not. As a result, Goodman made the point that representation is not a craft but an art: we create pictures of things, achieving a view of those things by representing them as this or as that. Practice Pays we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History. Not interested in getting valuable practice questions and articles delivered to your email?

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The art circle : a theory of art

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Add Notes. Hide Show timer Statistics. The purpose of a general theory of art is to explain every aesthetic feature that is found in any of the arts. Pre-modern general theories of art, however, focused primarily on painting and sculpture.

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Every pre-modern general theory of art, even those that succeed as theories of painting or sculpture, fails to explain some aesthetic feature of music. The statements above, if true, most strongly support which one of following? A Any general theory of art that explains the aesthetic features of painting also explains those of sculpture. B A general theory of art that explains every aesthetic feature of music will achieve its purpose.

C Any theory of art that focus primarily on sculpture or painting cannot explain every aesthetic feature of music. D No pre-modern general theory of art achieves its purpose unless music is not art. E No pre-modern general theory of art explains any aesthetic feature of music that is not shared with painting and sculpture. Last edited by hazelnut on Aug 30, pm, edited 2 times in total.

I think its D. This would make it seem that no pre modern theory of art fulfills the condition to be a general theory of art unless we exempt music from the category of art. What is the OA? The answer is D. That was a necessary condition in 1. Alas, the question states this in a tricky way by using No pre-modern theory This can be converted into If pre-modern theory I think the answer is D.

Used the same logic as Exellon's. Every pre-modern general theory of art, even those that succeed as theories of painting and sculpture, fails to explain some aesthetic feature of music. IMO: c Any theory of art that focuses primarily on sculpture and painting cannot explain every aesthetic feature of music. Tx Exellon.. I had to read the question with d several times to understand I am huge animal person Guys, I understand why it is D but am failing to rule out B.

Is B not also true?

Theory of art - Wikipedia

If a general theory of art that explains every feature of music then the purpose has been achieved? Please help I misinterpreted the question as a strengthen type and marked E as the answer. Hypothetically, if it were a strengthen question, would E do the job? The statement above, if true, most strongly support which one of the following? The purpose of an art is to explain every feature of every art. This cannot be true for sure. In real art there is nothing accidental The artist knows and understands what he wants to convey, and his work cannot produce one impression on one man and one impression on another, presuming, or course, people on one level.

Gurdjieff anticipates the unsympathetic response which his criteria for art predictably arouses, and the question of whether such deliberate and controlled creation is really creation at all. He also anticipates the argument regarding whether the elimination of the subjective element in art is, in fact, desirable. His claim is that most people, rather than measuring art by the consciousness which it represents, measure it instead by its unconsciousness. People are in the habit of admiring the elusive or indefinite or mysterious quality which they take for granted as an essential component of an act of artistic creation, without which, they assume, we are dealing with craft, perhaps, or some other type of product which is inferior to art.

In contrast, Gurdjieff measures artistic merit solely by the level of consciousness an artwork represents. They rule him and they express themselves in one form or another. The true artist determines and controls the process of creation from start to finish, including thoughts, feelings, the projection of energies, all of which are generated from within.

In particular, two key points in his philosophy of art must be highlighted and linked to his larger world-view. One is that, despite the forcefulness with which Gurdjieff distinguishes conscious and unconscious art, he readily acknowledges that these antithetical categories exist largely on a theoretical level.

The situation regarding individual works of art is more complex, in that tangible artworks almost inevitably embody both subjective and objective elements. Given this reality, each is relatively valuable artistically according to the level of understanding it represents. The notion of relativity applies to art insofar as it applies foremost to artists and to human beings in general. Gurdjieff holds that people differ drastically from one another in respect to their levels of consciousness, and consequently they produce art which belongs to varied levels.

Addressing a group of students in Moscow, he explains the distinction he recognizes among human beings:. At the moment it is not clear to you that people living on the earth belong to very different levels, although in appearance they look exactly the same. Just as there are different levels of men, so there are different levels of art. Only you do not realize at present that the difference between these levels is far greater than you might suppose Where he perhaps differs from others in this notion is in the degree to which he maintains that we differ.

In one of his lectures, to illustrate his understanding of the difference which he perceives among human beings, Gurdjieff uses the analogy of the difference between the essence of a mineral and a plant, of a plant and an animal, and of an animal and a human. The essence of two people, he asserts, can vary in quality more than that of a mineral and an animal.

The range which exists among humans, in other words, makes them equivalent at times to different species. Yet being or essence is at least as important as knowledge, and levels of knowledge and being must be compatible for comprehension to result. The relation of being to knowledge is important for the artist because the production of objective art depends on the understanding which results from their harmonious relation. He explains the relevance of this balance:. And yet it is his being. And people think that his knowledge does not depend on his being. Two people with different qualities of essence will understand the same idea quite differently; the level on which they can know something is directly related to the level of their being.

When knowledge and being are not at compatible levels, understanding becomes distorted and efforts put forth to achieve a result are ineffectual or harmful in their consequences. Gurdjieff explains, for example, what can result from a predominance of knowledge:. It is useless knowledge. On the other hand, if being outweighs knowledge, a man has the power to do Either form of imbalance results in empty or distorted efforts. Positive consequences, or objective art in this case, can only result from a harmonious balance of knowledge and being.

All the differences which strike us about people, then, can be explained according to their levels of understanding. Human beings, depending on the compatibility of their knowledge and essence, and their level of conscious awareness at any given moment, span a vast continuum ranging from unconscious to highly conscious. These levels of understanding which exist among humans are reflected in all their activities. For example, as many levels of art, language, religion, and other human endeavors exist as there are levels of understanding.

As an example, on one level, art may manifest as crude and imitative, on another as sentimental, on another as intellectual, constructed art, and so on. Or, on one level religion may exist as ceremony and sacrifice, on still another as faith and adoration, on another as based on philosophical or theological ideas, and on another it may involve conscious efforts to live according to the precepts of Christ or Buddha.

All the manifestations of our lives can be divided into categories based on the degree of consciousness invested in every action. Conscious evolution requires intentional efforts to evolve, and the only alternative is degeneration:. Everything in the world, from solar systems to man, from man to atom, either rises or descends, either evolves or degenerates, either develops or decays. But nothing evolves mechanically. Only degeneration and destruction proceed mechanically. Making conscious efforts means forcing ourselves to act against the forces of inertia which result mechanically from the opposing forces of nature.

When we succumb to inertia, the laws of nature carry us downward in consciousness and understanding. All intentional efforts to force movement in an upward direction and against the laws of nature, result in the evolution of human consciousness.


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  • The function of art and of the artist is to intervene and to assist in the process of conscious evolution. To aid us in our upward movement towards higher understanding and to help us struggle against the opposing forces of nature is the sacred purpose and obligation of art. To achieve this end, objective art must be multi-dimensional, lending itself to diverse levels of interpretation so that a single work simultaneously satisfies the needs of people with different levels of understanding. In its attempt to achieve harmony in the art appreciator, objective art must address itself to all aspects of a human being simultaneously, not making disproportionate demands on the intellect, for example, without requiring equivalent efforts from the emotional and sensory powers.