Intro to Aesthetics | Philosophy Tube | Summary and Q&A

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January 6, 2017
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Intro to Aesthetics | Philosophy Tube

TL;DR

The definition of art is a highly debated topic, with various theories including essentialism, functionalism, institutional and historical definitions, anti-essentialism, and pluralism.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is essentialism when it comes to defining art?

Essentialism theory claims that art can be defined based on a specific feature, known as feature X, which all artworks possess. However, it becomes difficult to find one feature that encompasses all types of art due to their vast diversity.

Q: According to functionalism, how is art defined?

Functionalism suggests that art is defined by its function, referred to as Y. Artworks that serve this function can be considered art. However, like essentialism, the challenge lies in finding a single function that applies to all forms of art.

Q: What does institutional theory propose about the definition of art?

Institutional theories argue that art is defined by institutions or the art world. The art world, made up of individuals who have the authority to determine what counts as art, can point to anything and label it as such. However, the arbitrary nature of this definition raises questions about the basis for their decisions.

Q: How do historical definitions contribute to the definition of art?

Historical definitions state that something is art if it fits into a recognized historical artistic tradition. However, the challenge lies in determining what constitutes an artistic tradition without relying on another definition of art. Additionally, these definitions struggle to encompass newly emerged art forms and artworks created by non-human entities.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Defining art has been a challenge for philosophers due to the diversity of artworks and the constant emergence of new forms.

  • Essentialist theory suggests that all art shares a common feature, while functionalism proposes that art serves a specific function.

  • Institutional theories argue that art is defined by institutions or the art world, while historical definitions focus on fitting into recognized artistic traditions.

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