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Thompson, Janna. Art, Property Rights, and the Interests of Humanity
2004, Journal of Value Inquiry 38(4): 545-560.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes
Summary: In this paper, Thompson sets up a potential tension between two kinds of cases. On the one hand, we might think it is wrong for a wealthy collector to destroy great works of Western art that have value for all of humanity. On the other hand, we might think it is acceptable for indigenous peoples to rebury or ritually destroy artifacts from their culture, even though these works might also have value for all of humanity. How do we reconcile these intuitions? After discussing and dismissing attempts to resolve the problem by appeal to the value of the property for its possessors or the desires of non-owners, Thompsons suggests that by looking at the value of art in the context of different cultural traditions we can see why a certain universalism about the value of art will tell against allowing the destruction of artwork by the wealthy collector, but allow for the reburial or destruction of artifacts by certain indigenous communities.

Comment: This paper pairs well with Kwame Anthony Appiah's 'Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?' or Peter Lindsay's "Can We Own the Past? Cultural Artifacts as Public Goods." It is particularly good at engaging questions about the universal value of art and its implications for ownership introduced in those texts.

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Tillinghast, Lauren. Essence and Anti-Essentialism about Art
2004, The British Journal of Aesthetics 44: 167–83.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Abstract: I argue that clarity about essence provides the tools both to isolate a distinct concept of art and to see why anti-essentialism is a plausible, though incomplete, doctrine about it. While this concept is not the only concept currently expressed by our word ‘art’, it is an interesting, and might be an important, one. One of the challenges it poses to conceptual analysis is to explain what it is to be better than being good of a thing's kind, where this extra-goodness is neither a trivial fact nor simply a matter of being a good instance of two different kinds of thing. While anti-essentialism seems to be right about what types of analysis will not work for it, this result only deepens the question of what its proper analysis is.

Comment: This text offers a detailed analysis of anti-essentialist claims. It is quite complex and long, which makes it much more suited for Masters level teaching. For use in undergraduate classes, I recommend limiting it to the first two sections which focus on the problems of anti-essentialism. Those problems will likely be the most interesting discussion point for seminars. It will also be useful to talk about the good-guaranteeing sense of art: what is its importance and how do claims made in its context relate to existing definitions of art?

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van Brabant, Petra, Prinz, Jesse. Why Do Porn Films Suck?
2012, in Art and Pornography: Philosophical Essays, ed. by Hans Maes and Jerrold Levinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: The authors present ‘the paradox of porn’: pornography seems to score very highly on various evaluative criteria which make art good (e.g. ability to elicit strong emotions), and has features similar to great art (e.g. ‘Brechtian’ acting, idealisation of the human body), yet is rarely consider art. They proceed to discuss some arguments for the exclusivist thesis, suggesting that they ‘reflect a limited knowledge of or experience with pornography’ (168). A review of various types of non-mainstream porn leads them to claim that the division between pornography and art is a false dichotomy. Section 3 revisits the paradox, offering an analysis of various reasons which could lead to so little porn being (considered) art. After rejecting most of the common arguments, the authors suggest that a great majority of porn is not art for purely contingent reasons: very few pornographers even try to pursue that possibility. But pornography has the potential to be great art, and section 4 explores the ways in which it could.

Comment: This text is a fairly easy and a very entertaining read, and is presented in a form of an intriguing and unexpected paradox. This makes it an excellent introductory reading which can really interest students in the subject. It also paints a very varied and diverse picture of pornography, reaching far beyond the mainstream images most often discussed in the literature, and likely best known to students.

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Vergine, Lea. The Body as Language. Body Art and Like Stories
2000, In: Body Art and Performance: The Body as Language. Trans. Henry Martin. Milan: Skira Editore S.p.A.. 7-27.
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Added by: Rossen Ventzislavov
Summary: Vergine's account of the formative years of performance art takes stock of the many innovative strategies artists developed for re-engaging the human body. One of the crucial dimensions of this reengagement is the positioning of one's body in physical proximity with others. This happens in art through the bodily negotiation of basic dichotomies such as nature/artifice, ethos/pathos, agency/abandon, publicity/privacy, mortality/immortality etc. Vergine sees objects, and the body's undifferentiated objecthood, as active participants in the performative communication and communion between artist and audience. These forms of togetherness stand or fall on the intensity of all parties' affective investment, but they are also equally affected by the level of intellectual mutuality an art work occasions. According to Vergine, the demand for intelligent analysis and deep understanding that performance art places on its audience is balanced out by the artists' bodily presence. For her the artist's body does not serve merely as a mechanical expedient. It also "contributes to the life of consciousness and memory in a psycho-physical parallelism of processes that assume meaning and relief only when they are connected."

Comment: This text offers a historical overview of our concept of the human body in the context of art. It can be useful in any class on body aesthetics, performance art, or dance.

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Wacker, Jeanne. Particular works of art
1960, Mind 69 (274):223-233.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir
Abstract: CRITICS and philosophers of art often appeal to the idea that works of art are particulars. As Mr. Stuart Hampshire says in a passage representative of this sort of appeal, " He (the artist) did not set himself to create Beauty, but some particular thing ". But although being a particular is plainly supposed to be an important fact about works of art, the criterion of particularity to be invoked in this connection is not always clear. I do not mean to suggest that the way out of this difficulty in identifying particular works of art is obvious or that there must be some single answer which will be uniformly satisfactory in connection with each, of the arts. In short, it seems to me that although the search for analogous type-token distinctions may bring fewer returns in connection with some arts than with others, it will hardly ever entirely fail to be worth the effort. A stagger- ing amount of work needs to be done, but it does not seem to me unduly sanguine to say that in this direction the prospects for some interesting philosophical generalizations are tolerably good.

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

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Werhane, Patricia H.. Evaluating the Classificatory Process
1979, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 37: 352–54.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: In this short discussion paper, Werhane challenges the distinction between the classificatory and evaluative senses of ‘art’ defended by George Dickie. Many of the criteria which matter in the selective classificatory process are evaluative in nature, and thus even institutional classification of art depends on evaluation. This means that sometimes people whom institutionalists would interpret as using ‘art’ in the evaluative sense (e.g. in saying: ‘this is not art!’), should rather be seen as using it in the classificatory sense, evaluating the classificatory process (e.g. meaning: ‘the process which led to classifying this as art is wrong, because this should not be classified as art’).

Comment: Despite its focus on the institutional definitions of art, this paper can have a wider application to the general discussion on the possibility and appropriateness of separating the classificatory and evaluative uses of the concept ‘art’. This makes it particularly well suited as a further reading in teaching on the proceduralist-functionalist debate (or, since it is very short, an extra required reading).

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Wingo, Ajume H.. African Art and the Aesthetics of Hiding and Revealing
1998, British Journal of Aesthetics 38(3): 251-264
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Content: This text focuses on identifying distinctive features of African art. First, African art is virtually always functional and although it can be enjoyed intrinsically, it is rarely created for its own sake. It is a part of the social and political structure and cannot be understood without an understanding of this structure. The function of such art is to ‘veil social functions’: communicate that there exist secrets available to those initiated without communicating those secrets to everyone. Wingo further focuses on masks and dance as examples of African art which are experienced in specific, culturally embedded ways. He offers detailed descriptions and a theoretical analysis of various artistic and cultural practices, showing the uniqueness of the experiences they afford and arguing that they cannot be experienced or understood without a prior immersion in the culture they are part of.

Comment: The primary value of this text lies in the detailed first-hand account and a theoretical analysis of particular non-Western art practices. Most of the other, more theoretical articles in this section talk about non-Western art in a very abstract way. But surely understanding the differences between arts of different cultures requires a grasp of what the art of those cultures is like. Wingo’s text offers a valuable insight into one such cultural context and his text can be very useful when taught alongside more theoretical articles.

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Yuriko Saito. Why Restore Works of Art?
1985, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 44(2):141-151.
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes
Summary: Saito examines arguments concerning why artworks should be restored, which are couched in terms of a debate between "purist" and "integral/conservator" restoration. Purists believe artworks should only be cleaned, emphasizing the integrity of the material object, whereas integral restorationists are open to adding material to the work, emphasizing the integrity of the original aesthetic experience. Rather than embracing a particular side in this debate, Saito's discussion reveals how cultural/historical considerations can be as important to the debate over restoration as aesthetic considerations.

Comment: This article offers a useful philosophical framework for thinking about the relationship among preservation, restoration, and authenticity. Using it alongside the following readings might be particularly good in inspiring further discussion: Coleman, Elizabeth Burns. “Aboriginal Painting: Identity and Authenticity.” Jeffers, Chike. “The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Preservation.” Young, James O. “Art, Authenticity and Appropriation.” Korsmeyer, Carolyn. “Real Old Things.” Karlström, Anna. “Authenticity.”

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