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Karlström, Anna. Authenticity
2015, In Heritage Keywords, edited by Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels and Trinidad Rico. USA: University Press of Colorado.
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Summary: This text offers a brief overview of some approaches to the concept of authenticity in international heritage management. Focusing on a case study of Buddhist sites in Laos, Karlström then argues that culturally specific understandings of authenticity pose problems for the universal application of a preservationist approach to heritage management. It concludes with some open-ended questions about how we should pursue alternative approaches.

Comment: This is a good text for instructors who want to discuses authenticity in the context of a reasonably in-depth look at a particular non-Western cultural context. While the article itself is light on conceptual/ philosophical work, if offers useful material for philosophical analysis and discussion. It would pair well with the theoretical framework provided in Yuriko Saito's "Why Restore Works of Art?", or the alternative approach to authenticity captured in Carolyn Korsmeyer's "Real Old Things."

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Langer, Susanne. Feeling and Form; a Theory of Art Developed From Philosophy in a New Key
1953, Charles Scribner’s Sons.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: Langer offers a theory of art according to which artworks are purely perceptible forms which embody some sort of feeling. Objects are art if they have ‘significant form’ which is understood as a form symbolic of human feeling or clearly expressing our internal lives. A discussion of different types of symbols and ways to symbolise follows to explain how art can symbolise feeling. The book discusses different arts, where they create different ‘primary illusions’, e.g. ‘virtual time’ is characteristic of music, while ‘virtual space’ – of visual arts. Thus arts are alike in that they all create forms symbolic of human feeling, but differ in what kind of illusions they create.

Comment: Langer is likely the most well-known female author of a major theory of art, and thus teaching her work can be particularly valuable in the context of curriculum diversification. The most interesting discussion points of this book will likely relate to the understanding of what is a symbol and what it means to symbolise human feeling.

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Lopes, Dominic McIver. Art Without “Art”
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47(1): 1-15.
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Abstract: Some argue that there is no art in some non-Western cultures because members of those cultures have no concept of art. Others argue that members of some non-Western cultures have concepts of art because they have art. Both arguments assume that if there is art in a given culture, then some members of the culture have a concept of art. There are reasons to think that this assumption is false; and if it is false, there are lessons to learn for cross-cultural studies of art both in anthropology and philosophy.

Comment: Lopes’ light and approachable writing style makes this paper very well suited for undergraduate teaching. It is an excellent study in philosophical method: the structure of all arguments is very clear, the challenged premises are individuated and the requirements for challenging them are spelled out in detail. One major advantage of the text is the way in which it exposes the Western-centric biases present in our views on non-Western art. Various problematic historical and current attitudes are mentioned and discussed, including the division between the West and the rest, paternalism, etc.

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Lopes, Dominic McIver. Beyond Art
2014, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Publisher's note: This book offers a bold new approach to the philosophy of art. General theories of art don't work: they can't deal with problem cases. Instead of trying to define art, we should accept that a work of art is nothing but a work in one of the arts. Lopes's buck passing theory works well for the avant garde, illuminating its radical provocations.

Comment: Introduction and sections 1-3 are particularly useful in teaching. Lopes looks at the challenges defining art faces and asks what sort of conditions would a definition have to satisfy to be successful and whether a we need a definition of art at all. This is likely to prove quite stimulating, especially considering the focus on hard cases: students often enjoy puzzling over what we should do with controversial works, and are likely to have conflicting intuitions which can lead to a good discussion.

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Lopes, Dominic McIver. Nobody Needs a Theory of Art
2008, Journal of Philosophy 105(3): 109-127.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: The question "what is art?" is often said to be venerable and vexing. In fact, the following answer to the question should be obvious: (R) item x is a work of art if and only if x is a work in practice P and P is one of the arts. Yet (R) has appeared so far from obvious that nobody has given it a moment's thought. The trouble is not that anyone might seriously deny the truth of (R), but rather that they will find it uninformative. After all, the vexing question is pressed upon us by radical changes in art of the avant-garde, and (R) offers no resources to address these changes. With that in mind, here is the case for (R). The challenges posed by the avant-garde are real enough and they need to be addressed, but the vexing question is the wrong question to ask to address them. It does not follow that the question has no good answer. On the contrary, (R) is all the answer we need, if we do not need an answer that addresses the challenges posed by the avant-garde. Moreover, (R) points to a question that we do need answered. So, not only is it true but, in addition, (R) is as informative as we need.

Comment: This text offers a good introduction to contemporary sceptical attitudes towards the classificatory project. The current debate is presented as likely unresolvable and the choice of a theory as largely a matter of opinion. Lopes makes a good case for his title: why should we care about a defining art? The text is full of controversial points and hooks for class discussion.

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Lorand, Ruth. Classifications and the Philosophical Understanding of Art
2002, Journal of Aesthetic Education 36: 78–96.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: Lorand argues against Kivy and others who claim that philosophising about various forms of art needs no theory of art, and suggests that it's time to resume the inquiry into the nature of art. In fact, any satisfactory theorising about any specific issues (such as characteristics of an art form) must be ‘linked to a higher, more general level that functions as its source for basic suppositions and definitions’ (79, such as a theory of art). Lorand then discusses some reasons why one might renounce the classificatory project, including Weitz’s open concept argument. She introduces a distinction between classificatory definitions and the philosophical question. The former depend on the norms, traditions and beliefs present within a given context, and has been the focus of most theories of art. But it only distracts us from the more worthwhile philosophical question about the (elusive) essence of art. A discussion of the distinction between the classificatory and evaluative uses of ‘art’ follows, with Kant, Mothersill and Dickie at its focus. It leads Lorand to arguing for a ‘Platonic’ approach, one focusing on uncovering art’s essence, without the distraction of classification which can merely uncover ‘current social trends’ (93).

Comment: This text can be useful in three ways. Firstly, it introduces and discusses some anti-essentialist arguments. Secondly, it draws attention to some common characteristics of different definitions – their focus on necessary and sufficient conditions. Finally, it claims that looking for the essence of art is possible and more important from mere classification. All of these can inspire interesting discussions, though it will be worth pointing out that Lorand’s arguments are more controversial than she makes them seem.

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Meager, Ruby. The Uniqueness of a Work of Art
1958, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 59:49 - 70.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir
Abstract: In this paper I have come a very long and pedantic way round to the venerable old conclusion that the uniqueness demanded of a work of art is that consequent on its essentially being evaluated for itself and not for its instrumental potentialities; and have given an old problem of the possibility of rational aesthetic evaluation an answer at least as old as Kant's. But I hope that by taking the long way round I have raised a few of the complexities buried in our familiar talk of works of art and have thereby succeeded in laying a promising metaphysical ghost.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Mikkola, Mari. Pornography, Art and Porno-Art
2013, in Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography, ed. by Hans Maes (London: Palgrave Macmillan)
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Abstract: Philosophers involved in the ‘porn-or-art’ debates standardly assume that pornography is centrally about sexual arousal, while art is about something else. I argue against this assumption and for the view that there is no single thing that pornography (or art) ‘is about’. This suggests that there is no prima facie reason for claiming that some x cannot be both pornography and art. I further go on to develop an understanding of (what I call) ‘porno-art’ - a wholly new kind of thing developing from the extant categories of pornography and art, but still distinct and separate from them.

Comment: This text can be used to introduce parts of the debate on art and pornography. The criticism it offers is interesting particularly because it focuses on non-mainstream and feminist pornography, and because it introduces a more nuanced analysis of what can be the aims of pornographers. The text can further serve a validating role for female students who might be interested to read about the existence and value of feminist pornography. Further, Mikkola’s use of Amie Thomasson’s work on artefactual kinds can serve as a good excuse to promote Thomasson’s work in class.

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Monseré, Annelies. Non-Western Art and the Concept of Art: Can Cluster Theories of Art Account for the Universality of Art?
2012, Estetika 49(2): 148-165.
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Abstract: This essay seeks to demonstrate that there are no compelling reasons to exclude non-Western artefacts from the domain of art. Any theory of art must therefore account for the universality of the concept of art. It cannot simply start from ‘our’ art traditions and extend these conceptions to other cultures, since this would imply cultural appropriation, nor can it resolve the matter simply by formulating separate criteria for non-Western art, since this would imply that there is no unity in the concept of art. At first sight, cluster theories of art seem capable of accounting for the universality of art since they (can) start from a broad cross-cultural range of artworks and nowhere seem to extend one conception of art to other conceptions. Yet cluster theories remain unsatisfactory, because they can neither avoid misapplication of the proposed criteria, nor clarify the unity in the concept of art.

Comment: Due to the focused character of this paper it is best used as a further reading, or a core reading in courses focusing on cluster theories or non-Western art. The first part offers an interesting discussion of the requirements which a successful theory of art should meet: it should be able to account for the cultural diversity of art. The critique of cluster accounts offered in the second part of the paper focuses on their Western-centric character. It can be useful to discuss whether they could be modified in ways which would allow them to stand against Monseré’s criticism, or whether it is in fact at all possible to formulate a definition which will be flexible enough to account for arts of all cultures, yet general enough to capture ‘art’ as a unified concept.

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Nzegwu, Nkiru. African Art in Deep Time: De‐race‐ing Aesthetics and De‐racializing Visual Art
2019, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77 (4): 367-378.
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Added by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: In two essays in the ART/Artifact(1988) exhibition catalog, white American museum curator Susan Vogel and white American philosopher Arthur Danto pronounce that Africans do not distinguish between art and nonart. Although seemingly objective empirical statements, their assertions about Africa and its art are racially based ruminations of a white supremacist worldview. I argue that in theorizing within the category of race they produced racialized aesthetics that commit the Eurocentric fallacy of upholding systemic racist objectives. I argue that (1) their assertions fail to be about African art, but about hegemony and power; (2) as the longest enduring artistic activity of humanity, African art is an important check to racialized aesthetics; (3) art is produced outside the category of race and from a critically conscious awareness of the world; and (4) art bespeaks creativity and presupposes the artistic and moral values of a culture in the manipulation and transformation of physical reality.

Comment: Written in an engaging way, this paper invites the reader to re-evaluate some common assumptions about art from different cultures. Exposing the prevalent Western approach to African art as racialised, it can be a great tool in making students understand both the structural-societal, as well as own biases in approaching other cultures. Ngzewu defends a powerful thesis: that ‘the West’s conception of art and creativity presupposes white racial hegemony.’ She exposes the way in which Western art is tacitly assumed to be a yardstick against which all is measured, and the Westerners have become the ‘purveyors of knowledge’ who apply this yardstick to decide whether works of other cultures are art, all without any need to consult the creators of those works, or to revise own concept of art. As such, the paper can be very empowering to some students, while also being very uncomfortable to others – teaching it might require some skill in leading the discussion in a constructive way. The import of Ngzewu’s argumentis that while racism and white domination rest on the assumption of cognitive and moral superiority of white people, the approach to African art she criticises serves to reinforce this assumption. This can inspire further class discussion on the importance and value of aesthetics. Best used before assigning other texts on non-Western art, which should all be read in light of Ngzewu’s criticism.

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Patridge, Stephanie. Exclusivism and Evaluation: Art, Erotica and Pornography
2013, in Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography, ed. by Hans Maes (London: Palgrave Macmillan).
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: Patridge discusses and rejects some of the main arguments for the exclusivist thesis that no pornography can be art: Levinson’s, Mag Uidhir’s, and one based on Rea’s definition of pornography. In doing so, she offers a useful overview of some other arguments already used against those authors. This leads her to conclude that at least some pornography can be art. A normative question follows: should we treat pornography as art? Given the high cultural status of art, and the often unethical nature of pornography, doing so might lead us to promoting unethical attitudes. She finds such treatment too unselective: at least some pornography isn’t morally problematic (and some of it can actually be morally laudable), while much of art, including erotic art, definitely is. But consumption of pornography cannot be taken out of our paternalistic and sexist cultural context. As most pornography is inegalitarian and expresses (and possibly promotes) harmful attitudes towards women, enjoying it constitutes a moral flaw. This is true even if the consumer is never inspired to actually harm women – in those cases enjoyment of pornography constitutes moral obliviousness, a ‘failure of sensitivity and solidarity with the victims of such imagery’ (54) similar to taking enjoyment in racist jokes.

Comment: This text offers a good and brief overview of the main points in the art and pornography debate. This makes it a good ‘one-stop-shop’ for classes which do not wish to look at it more closely. Alternatively, it can be used as an introduction to the topic and followed by some more specific papers. It also engages the normative question and offers a discussion of moral issues related to pornography. This will likely prove to be a very interesting point for class discussions.

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Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature
1969, New York, World Pub. Co.
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Publisher's note: In this beautifully written and brilliantly reasoned book, Ayn Rand throws a new light on the nature of art and its purpose in human life. Once again Miss Rand eloquently demonstrates her refusal to let popular catchwords and conventional ideas stand between her and the truth as she has discovered it. The Romantic Manifesto takes its place beside The Fountainhead as one of the most important achievements of our time.

Comment: Teaching this text might be quite challenging, as the theory proposed is very revisionist. The text can be inspiring in two ways. Firstly, it can encourage a discussion on the status of the avant-garde and most abstract art forms – some students will likely share the sentiment that many such works are not art. Second, Rand’s definition has clear normative undertones: it is not only about what art is, but about what art is for and what its purpose should be. It might be instructive to use her text to inspire a discussion on whether we should expect definitions of art to cover these points.

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Root, Deborah. Fat-Eaters and Aesthetes: The Politics of Display
1996, in Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, and the Commodification of Difference. USA: Westview Press.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes
Summary: Root employs Méxica mythology as a lens for revealing the consumptive, and even cannibalistic, character of power. In particular, she points to the way colonial power sets up Westerners as "experts" and arbiters of art and culture, presenting appreciation of culture as a pretext for violence and control.

Comment: This chapter serves as an introduction to Root's booklength study of these themes, so the presentation only gestures at these relationships and provides a brief selection of examples that illustrate them. However, if can be useful for raising initial questions about the relationships among power, art, and culture. It provides a counterpoint to a more sanguine perspective on cross-cultural appreciation expressed by Thomas Heyd in "Rock Art Aesthetics and Cultural Appropriation."

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Saw, Ruth. What Is a “Work of Art”?
1961, Philosophy, 36: 18–29.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: This examination of the concept “work of art” has been prompted by the desire to find a starting point for aesthetic inquiry which, to begin with at any rate, will arouse no dispute. A claim for general agreement such as Clive Bell's: “The starting point for all systems of aesthetics must be the personal experience of a pecular emotion”, is countered by I. A. Richards's “the phantom aesthetic state”, and any attempt to claim “beauty” as the central concept is straightway confused by the varied contexts in which “beauty” and “beautiful” may function. We hear much more often of a beautiful stroke in cricket than in painting, and many of our moral judgments have an aesthetic flavour. An action may be bold, dashing, mean, underhanded, unimaginative, cringing, fine, as well as right or wrong. Aesthetic adjectives and adverbs may occur in any context, and part of our job is to separate out the various uses and establish their inter-relationships.

Comment: The text is written in an approachable and somewhat digressive narrative, which makes it a pleasant read, but might require the lecturer to provide the students with some reading guidance. The classificatory account proposed by Saw is rather general – discussing it might be instructive in helping the students understand what sort of conditions are likely to be successful in a definition. The claim which can inspire most class discussion concerns the distinction between the qualities of works which make them art in the classificatory sense, from the qualities which are subject of appraisal.

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Sigman, Jill. Self-Mutilation, Interpretation and Controversial Art
2003, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 27(1): 88–114.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov
Summary: Sigman studies outrage and offense in the art context. The first important observation she makes is that, often enough, the public's recoiling from a piece of art comes with the assumption that the object of offense is interpretatively transparent. This is because in the absence of art-historical or theoretical wherewithal, we default to pre-conceptual reactions - fear of otherness, loss of our ethical bearings, low self-esteem etc. Since most historical offense-based arguments against art have made a claim that the particular work is demeaning to the public, Sigman carefully lays out the features of demeaning treatment - a mostly intentional act that treats persons as less than persons, usually in an abusive manner. On this description, very few artworks could be considered demeaning. Furthermore, as Sigman shows in her art-historical contextualization of artist Stelarc's performance work Street Suspension, public outrage could be tempered and/or extinguished through attentive engagement with problematic artworks.

Comment: This is a thought-provoking text which can provide good background for a debate on controversial art. It is quite easy to read and features examples which make it accessible for beginners classes on aesthetics, art interpretation, the value of art, and modern art in general.

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