DAVID NOVAK - Metaphysics of Art
Aestheticians ask two main questions about the metaphysics of art: (1) What is the ontological statusof works of art, or what kind of entity is a work of art? (2) What access, if any, does art give theviewer or hearer to reality, or what kind of knowledge, if any, does art yield? The first question arises, in part, because some works of art, such as SCULPTURES, are much like ordinary physical objects; others, such as PAINTINGS, have aspects that suggest that not all works of art can be merely physical objects. A painting, for example, is typically flat, but it can represent spatial depth; and what the painting represents often seems more relevant aesthetically than its physical dimensions. To some aestheticians, the representational character seems to be what is essential to a painting as a work of art. Some philosophers have therefore concluded that works of art are mental entities of some sort, because it is mental entities, such as visions and dreams, that are typically representational. Other philosophers, who have noticed that artists can and do express some of their own attitudes, emotions, and personality traits in their art, have concluded that art works belong in a category with NONVERBAL COMMUNICATIONS rather than with physical objects. A different line of thought suggests that works of art are not like objects even on a first impression. For example, the score of a SYMPHONY is not the same as the symphony. The score is a set of directions for playing the music, but the musical work can exist even if no one ever plays the score. Considerations such as these have led many philosophers to say that works of art exist only in the minds of their creators and of their hearers, viewers, or readers. The question whether art can provide knowledge of, or insight into, reality is as old as philosophy itself. Plato argued in The Republic that art has the power to represent only the appearances of reality. According to this theory, a painter reproduces (imitates)a subject on canvas. The counterposition, that art can yield insight into the real, is commonly held by modern philosophers, artists, and critics. Many critics, in fact, allege that art offers a special, nondiscursive, and intuitive knowledge of reality that science and philosophy cannot achieve.
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