Definition Projects in Aesthetics and the Historical Origins of Fine Art
I believe, and will now try to show, that the historical origin of the modern system of the arts has profound implications for our understanding of that system’s categories, and the way they function in western and global culture generally, as well as in philosophy
Implications of the Art Divided thesis (ADT) for the philosophy of the arts
A. Is Art definable?
The short answer is “no”. There is no definition that will work for “art” into the distant past and around the world, because there is no one thing there to define.I believe the candidates for distinguishing features of Art are better explained by this ideological function than as indicators of an essence.
1) The modern system is inconsistent, in ways that reveal its ideological function.
2) The modern system presupposes that all the fine arts have a common nature, in that
3) The modern system arbitrarily divides Art from craft, but then goes on, in effect, to include certain craftwork as Art after all.
4) The modern system separates art from entertainment, but certain films and graphic novels now garner attention as fine art.
5) The modern system inherently separates Art from the rest of life
To call something Art, in the modern system, is to grant it a certain status and potential financial and spiritual value, and to attribute to it certain functions defined by that system. There is no “art with a small a” in that system.
The Aesthetic, Aesthetic disinterest, and the Artist
ADT has similar implications for the notions of the aesthetic and the artist.
That the Aesthetic is an autonomous realm, that Aesthetic value is separate from other sorts of value, and that the experience of paying attention to aesthetic objects is of special and deep importance to human beings; these ideas are central to the modern system.
Accepting the historical origins thesis means, in my view, that it should be abandoned.
Philosophy of the arts after definition projects?
In short, abandoning the effort to provide abstract definitions of “the concepts” of art and the aesthetic will not leave us unemployed. Rather, in my view, it is likely to make the philosophy of the arts more concrete and more interesting, more socially on target and more connected with the actual practice of painters, musicians, poets, film-makers and others.