Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Danto concludes that a necessary condition for a definition of art is that art is a representational intellectual activity. Does this condition rule out pop art as being art? Would Danto agree with Plato's observation that art is representation of the sensible world and not the reality of the forms of things?

  2. Wittgenstein writes:

    For imagine having to sketch a sharply defined picture "corrresponding" to a blurred one. In the later there is a blurred red rectangle: for it you put down a sharply defined one. Of course—several such sharply defined rectangles can be drawn to correspond to the indefinite one.—But if the colours in the original merge without a hint of any outline won't it become a hopeless task to draw a sharp picture corresponding to the blurred one? Won't you then have to say: "Here I might just as well draw a circle or heart as a rectangle, for all the colours merge. Anything— and nothing—is right."—And this is the position you are in if you look for definitions corresponding to our concepts in śsthetics or ethics.… How did we learn the meaning of this word … in what language-games? Then it will be easier for you to see the word must have a family of meanings.[1]

    In other words, for Wittgenstein, śsthetics is like a game:

    For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that.… I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities that "family resemblances" … And I shall say: games form a family.[2]

    Do you agree that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions for art? Is there one meaning to the concept of art? Does art have an essence?

  3. Explain clearly how Warhol's Brillo Boxes are a crucial test of the limit of what counts as art? Can a clear distinction be drawn between art and reality? Heidegger writes with respect to Karl Jasper's Psychologie der Weltanschauugen:

    Here the question of "what man is" is raised and answered in terms of what he esssentially can be.[3]

    In a similar manner, does art define itself? Does it make sense to ask whether Andy Warhol's and Marcel Duchamp's work brings art to self-consciousness? Is the question of what art is, part of what art can be?

  4. In the following passage, Paul Weiss does not include photography as an authentic from of art:

    [Photographers] have little and sometimes even no appreciation of the śsthetic values of experience. And when they do have such appreciation it is rarely relevant to their purposes. One need not … be an artist to use a camera with brilliance.[4]

    What do you think would be Danto's assessement of Weiss' judgments as to the status of photography. Many artists such as Gerhard Richter and even Wallace Nutting use photography in their work. Are they genuine artists?



Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. New York: Macmillan, 1958. ∂ 77.


Wittgenstein. ∂ 66-67.


Martin Heigegger. Sein und Zeit. TŁbingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1967. 301n. "Hier wird das, 'was der Mensch sei', erfragt und bestimmt aus dem, was er wesenhaft sein kann …"


Paul Weiss. Nine Basic Arts. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univerity Press. 1961. 216, 218.