Practice-Centered Pluralism and a Disjunctive Theory of Art

Journal Article

Abstract In this paper, I argue that ‘art’, though an open concept, is not undefinable. I propose a particular kind of definition, a disjunctive definition, which comprises extant theories of art. I co-opt arguments from the philosophy of science, likening the concept ‘art’ to the concept ‘species’, to argue that we ought to be theoretical pluralists about art. That is, there are a number of legitimate, perhaps incompatible, criteria for a theory of art. In this paper, I consider three: functionalist definitions, procedural definitions, and an intentional-historical definition. The motivation for this pluralism comes from an analysis of practice, because the term is of apparent value to practitioners. However, a closer analysis of the concept reveals that, while disjunctive definitions help us to understand how we use certain terms (in other words, their pragmatic value), they lack ontological import. In sum, I attempt to glean lessons from the philosophy of science about the philosophy of art. If my analysis is correct, we ought to be eliminative pluralists about art as a concept.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hazelwood, C

Published Date

  • April 21, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 61 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 213 - 227

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2842

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0007-0904

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/aesthj/ayaa039


  • en