Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

Actual Art, Possible Art, and Art's Definition Author(s): GREGORY CURRIE Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and

Art Criticism, Vol. 68, No. 3 (SUMMER 2010), pp. 235241 Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40793265 . Accessed: 01/04/2014 03:11
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Wiley and The American Society for Aesthetics are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.


This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


ActualArt, Possible andArt'sDefinition Art,

since Levinson Itisthirty Jerrold introduced years hishistorical ofart.1 related theories Other, theory ButLevinson's isthe havebeenproposed.2 theory most elaborated and themost committed clearly totheproject ofdefining art.3 Much ofthedispute aboutthistheory has centered on howprecisely I willbe carefulit is to be formulated.4 to the ofbeing tediousto distinguish sometimes, point, central claim. No offormulating thetheory's ways I comeupwith a satisfactory formulation provides so I argue. definition: about I start brief something absurdly bysaying inthis contest. I provide therules ofengagement somemotivating aboutbiconditionbackground andtheir relation to the als,necessity, circularity, I characterize ofdefinition. Levinson's atproject of avoid means a to circularity by technique tempt ofcollapse. I showthat using collapsemakesthe offered unacdefinition theory bythehistorical I suggest a wayin which a parochial. ceptably newhistorical definition be crafted that is a might cosbitmore not, cosmopolitan, though perhaps, I also notethat thehistorical enough. mopolitan needto takea standon whatseemsto theorists me a difficult how we are question concerning in to interpret our intuitions aboutwhatwould, be art. counterfactual circumstances,

is notto everyone's taste. I shall things Defining o general abouttheposnottakeaccount doubts ofor needfor definitions. Evenifwe take sibility a generally to definitions, seupbeatapproach remain Levinson's riousdoubts concerning pro-

needto ask whether the posal.We do,however, falls on one ortheother sideofa familiar project divide:that, between real and nominal roughly, definitions. Is Levinson a claim aboutthe making nature ofartor aboutthemeaning of'art'?I believehe is making a claimaboutthe nature of art.5 But there are signs thathe also has hiseye on thesemantic and there are agenda, certainly connections between thetwo.To avoida waron twofronts, I am going to stick, as faras possible, tothemetaphysical Howshould weproquestion. ceed in thinking aboutthenature metaphysically ofart?An adequate ofartshould be metaphysics think to howwe intuitively aboutart's responsive nature and especially artmight to howwe think indifferent orwouldhavebeendifferent circumstances. Without such we any responsiveness have no wayofkeeping to topic. Ourmetaphysics may violate butit needsa reasonfordoing intuition, I mean so. WhenI talkaboutourconcept ofart, ofthis kind; something distinguished byintuitions different butfully reflective intuitions peoplewith about what would be artifthefacts were arranged this orthat different count as having conway way ofart.6 Another istosaythat cepts waytoputthis wehaveintuitions about invarious what isart possiblebutnonactual callthese intucircumstances; itions about art.At a certain inthe possible point I willattend to Levinson's claimthat argument, he isconcerned to tomakehisdefinition conform ourcurrent of art.Consideration ofour concept intuitions aboutpossible artshow that claim tobe so I say.I will, issuea warning however, wrong; abouthowdifficult it can be to decidewhether in this area arefully people'sintuitive judgments reflective.

TheJournal ofAesthetics andArtCriticism 68:3Summer 2010 for Aesthetics 2010TheAmerican Society

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


andArtCriticism TheJournal ofAesthetics We could never, of course, hope fora defiwe couldnever nition these lines because along formulate thelist.But evenas formulated byan be a hopeless defomniscient (lcoL)would being, arered inition. Itsaysthat thesamethings exactly onthe list. inevery the world, (lcoL) namely, things us about it to tell ismaximally parochial: purports wouldbe thecircumstances underwhich things however circumredand endsup claiming that, the stances from thosein theactualworld, vary distribution ofredness remains thesame.

biconditional: Hereis a purportedly necessary is red iff it appearsto be red to (1) Something under normal conditions. normal subjects of 'red,'sincethe Thisis no reductive definition we may term on bothsides. Nonetheless, appears about holdthatit is an informative proposition is no moreto someredness. It saysthatthere redthan itslooking redin theright thing's being circumstances.7 How is thatto be (1) is said to be necessary. the The most way, given expressed? perspicuous I shallneed,is interms ofquantificadistinctions tionoverworlds. Forthoseworried bythemetaor excessofpossible worlds, physical strangeness I saythat use ofthis to express modal machinery notions does notrequire us to believein thereI am doingit thisway alityof possibleworlds; a clearcharacterization ofthe becauseitprovides crucial differences between certain versions ofthe historical we have: So theory.

his As Levinson statedit informally, originally viewis that "a work ofartis a thing for intended inanyoftheways regard-as-a-work-of-art; regard works ofart toithavebeencorrectly existing prior He hasa gooddealtosayabout when regarded."8 counts as been intended for resomething having works have been gardin anyof thewaysprior to avoidobjections to correctly regarded, seeking hisaccount basedon unclarities that concerning I am going notion. to assumethatthisis an enso I willnotreview is redincoiff itappears tirely notion, unproblematic (Ico) Forallco, something elaborations on thisto incotobe redtonormal under nor- anyofLevinson's except subjects notethat he wants us to understand this relation malconditions, as artso long as it counts transparently: something in R is intended for and to R, where coranges overworlds. of takes regard way happens This, course, be a wayinwhich someprior artwascorrectly reus no closer to a noncircular definition. ofwhether theintender knew we form a list, that garded, irrespective L, ofall thethings Suppose thattheartist have,do, or willappearred to normal thisto be so. Also,it mayhappen actually inwayRi, where intends thework for Ri innormal conditions. Wethen regard say: subjects is an accepted art. Andlater we wayofregarding canusefully be regarded cometoseethat the work is red in coiffit is (lcoL) For all co,something inwayR2,where R2is not(yet)an accepted way named on L. of regarding art.And laterstill, becauseof the attention R2 maybecomean paid to thework, Itisimportant tosee that thelist isexactly that: In that form ofart-regarding. what way, accepted ofitems. It doesnottellus,for justa list example, counts ofregarding as a legitimate something way that "theseare thethings thatare red,"forthen as artchanges overtime. we wouldnothavegotawayfrom thecircularity inmind, letus express Levinson's this Bearing a certain set-thesetof of(Ico).The listspecifies inthis theory way: itsexwhich areactually red-byspecifying things which tension. It is that extensional specification for as is artiff itis intended (2) Something regard side (RHS) of (lcoL). appearson theright-hand artwascorrectly someprior regarded.9 a technique of We maysay that(lcoL) employs on theRHS of (Ico) coltheintension collapse: of(2)? Art ridof What isthemodal status in (lcoL),intoan extension, has, according lapses, getting and that an "essential to Levinson, thecircularity. historicity,"

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Actual Possible andArt's Currie Art, Art, Definition


ifhe is to tellus something (2coL) For all co,something is artin coiffit is is certainly required inoneoftheways Thattheways to intended for inco aboutart's nature.10 appropriate regard on artworks at a time include those L, given regarding artat earlier times must to regarding appropriate actual where be a factaboutartin anycircumstances, L is simply we have thelistofactualways I willuse quantification over ofregarding or not.As before, art.14 toexpress this: worlds it is inis artin coiff something (2co)Forall co, inco as someprior art was for tended regard inco. correctly regarded in whatever circumstances to (2co), According intended forrewe havesomething we haveart, reartwas correctly gardin thewaythatprior inthose circumstances. garded iscircular inthe as a definition, Considered (2co) It make doesnot that (Ico)useless. (Ico)is.This way aboutthenature claim still be an important might claim about the be animportant ofart, as (Ico)may is a metaphysiAndiftheproject nature ofcolor. themeaning anattempt togive than calonerather with a notbe content of'art'in other terms, why art's reflexwhich claim (so itis claimed) displays ButLevinson iveessence?11 goesto considerable us with a noncircular to definition, lengths provide somethat that is what onthegrounds apparently of 'art' is to knowthemeaning one whowants themetaphysical to.At this entitled project point In linewith dimension. has takenon a semantic this I willcontinue to treat resolution, myearlier inpart which as anexclusively issue, metaphysical thepurportedly is. I now ask whether it surely is adequate Levinson definition noncircular gives ofart. ofthenature as an account tothecircularity Levinson's objection response to theshift from is a shift (Ico) to (icoL). parallel in a way that(2co)be reformulated He suggests be not what it takes to art which now, specifies is prior butsimply interms ofwhat art, byreferthose as a ofregards, enceto a list which, namely, havebeen,up to this matter offact, legitipoint, art.As Levinson matewaysofregarding putsit, itdoes because"What is notcircular hisaccount time artat a given theconcept: is define being by that areart to theactual reference bodyofthings weshould tothat time"add,with together, prior were these thelist ofways actually things properly he says, "theconcrete Elsewhere [that regarded.12 ofartis logically is theactual] implicated history So nowwe artoperates."13 inthewaytheconcept have:

to (2coL)ifwe hope to We must add twothings is attempting thenotion which Levinson express as we do notcountsomething to capture. First, in artwhenitis putforward at time t forregard intended forsome some waythatis theregard in thesamecommunity, butonlyat other things sometimelaterthant; thatwouldmakesomeon future continstatus as artnowdepend thing's atthavetobe those Theregards relevant gencies. a world to t. Secondly, may acknowledged prior evenisolatedartistic communicontain distinct, tosuitall the isjusttoobigan entity ties;a world we needto make.Buta community comparisons It is a transworld is notjusta bitofa world. entity, in aboutthesame community forwe can think we distinct circumstances. So ifK is a community, in is happening notmerely canspeakaboutwhat two in K-in-world-W. these but K, things Taking intoaccount, we have: is artin coat r Forall co, x,k,something (2coLTK) iff at r,and for K-in-co itis madeinK-in-co in one intended forregard byitsmaker on L<r, oftheways k overcommunities, overtimes, wherer ranges of thelistL thatconsists and L<T is thatsublist mentioned on L and operative ofall theregards to t. prior

is theobjection to (2coLZK) Forall itscomplexity, it Like (IcoL),it is maximally parochial: simple. theart ofevery world ata given makes time, possiis prior on what bleoractual, depend very rigidly as it actually is. Various artforour community havebeen,in to Levinson's objections proposal of the to showtheparochialism effect, attempts for that example, proposal. Peoplehaveobjected, for artmaking we ought nottomakethecapacity

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

238 ofsomealiensociety on ourownarthisdepend of which know Inrespondtory, they may nothing. Levinson has urgedthat ingto suchobjections, he is notattempting to define theconcept ofart in general, butrather theconcept of artwhich we haveat a given time. He saysthat"theconovertime. ... It ceptofarthascertainly changed is thus worth . . . that is emphasising myanalysis aimed what theconcept ofartis justat capturing atpresent."15 "insofar as anything outside Further, ourarttradition is properly saidto fallunder our ofart, itis becausewe can appropriately concept relate it to ourtradition of art,and in particular to thenormative thathave,as a continregards matter of in that tradition."16 fact, gent emerged Thissuggests that we should putasideartandfocus on art-for-us-now. By (double) instantiation on {2coLXK) weget Forall co, is artincofor us (2&>Lus,now) something nowiff itis intended for regard byits maker in one of thewaysL thatis available now, where'us' and 'now' are rigiddesignators of communities and times: ourcommunity and the time. present I accept,forthe sake of the argument, that of (2coLusnow) picksout a legitimate category thethings that areart for usnow. Letussay things: forthesake oftheargument) that some(again, one whounderstands andaccepts has (2&>Lus,nOw) an adequateconcept of art-for-us-now. Do they have a concept of artanything likethe thereby one peopleactually with? No. The conoperate is not theconcept of art ceptof art-for-us-now that we nowoperate with. Let meexplain. we say: Suppose is nowtallin coiff it is (3) For all co, something nowofheight n in than co, greater n is someparticular where height, sayS'IO",the above which we currently counta male height as tall,and "now"rigidly thepresent designates time. Wemight theconcept of saythat (3) defines tall-for-us-now. Is that theconcept oftallness that wenowhave? No.Wenowunderstand that people andthings aretallwhen areabove generally they whatever that tobe average height, height happens at that and whatever time, fortherelevant group that time is. We understand thatit is contingent

TheJournal ofAesthetics andArtCriticism that a height above5'10"counts as tallfor human malesat thistime. We understand ifhuman that nutritional hadbeendifferent ina certain history world hadbeenactualthen a way-ifsomeother maleabove5'9"would be tall. Weunderstand that a woman be tallwithout over and 5'10", may being that in another someone be community may tall without Our present beingtallbyourstandards. of tallness understanding encompasses possibilitiesthat fails torecognize. (3) entirely Turn nowto art.Supposewe grant Levinsonwhatis actually controversialthatour concept ofartis at leasthistorically constrained: in grant, other thatit is an essential fact aboutart words, that wejudgecurrent tobe arton thebasamples sis of their relations to ourpastartistic practice. Just as werecognize thevariability oftherelevant standards fortallness, we are able to recognize thevariability oftherelevant standard for art. We are able to recognize that thecorrect to way decidewhether someitem ofMartian wareis artis to compare theintentions behind itsmaking with thewaysof regarding availablein theprior hisof Martian culture and to see thatit would tory be a mistake to saythat these are artonly things ifintended for insomewaysanctioned regard by us.11 We can see,additionally, ifourarthisthat had been different, and different standards tory ofregard hadbeensanctioned then ourcurit, by rent standards for as judging things putforward artnowwould be different. Wecansee that what is to count as artinthefuture willdepend on the of available to us at that time inthe ways regarding future andnoton thoseavailable now.We could notallowfor ifourconcept of anyofthese things artweretheone defined by(2&>LUSinow). Wheredoes thatleave us? Without a reductivedefinition ofart, Butnot, as I have certainly. without worthwhile. Conemphasized, something sider: Forallco, isartinco at rfor r,k,something (2coTK) Kiff itis madeinK-in-co at r,andintended for inoneoftheways regard byitsmaker that artproduced inK-in-co to r was prior properly regarded. Thisis a circular biconditional, justa sprucedversion of our earlier But we haveseen up (2co). that circular biconditionals can be significant indicators ofa thing's nature. stand as (2coTK) might anindicator ofthenature ofart, usthat the telling

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Actual Currie Possible andArt's Art, Art, Definition facts inwhich abouttheways nowmay something beput forward as art cannot outrun the facts about thewaysofregarding to art.18 appropriate prior Thatthis is so is an interesting claim which would survive thefailure ofan attempt at reductive defbe other reasons for inition. There may regarding itas false, butthey arenotmy concern.


historical P, is to be measured practice, by the thekinds of regards degreeof overlapbetween on thelistL and thekinds of regards in playin P. If the overlapis complete, thereis no diffiin counting P as an art-historical culty practice. If theoverlapis null,thereare no grounds for P as an art-historical Whatis regarding practice. it fora historical to overlap sufficiently practice withour actualart-historical I do not practice? VI. GIVING DUE WEIGHT TO THE ACTUAL butI do notbelievethatthiscreates know, any theproposal, serious for difficulty justas thefact A historical that This isnotquite theendofthedebate. I do notknow howmuch hairsomeone must that the definitional theorist might agree proposal loseto count as baldshows that there areno bald tiestheconcept of arttoo rigidly to (2&>LUSnow) Wearedealing with people. something essentially shemight there theactual ofart. Still, say, history contestable. vagueandperhaps Peoplewhoagree intheidea ofa connection between to takethis is something to theidea of a historical approach of art. Our con- definition art's nature andtheactual history ofartmust tofacecasesthey do expect istosomedegree notknow shesays, is onewhich ceptofart, howto classify andperhaps to disagree of artwe actually tiedto thehistory have,with aboutcaseswithout there any being wayavailable 'art' within ofthat theterm those history using ignorant theresources ofthehistorical orpertheory as mostof us use 'elm' and other deferentially, else to decide who is That right. hapsanywhere To that artis some- sortof natural kindterms.19 extent, and irresolvable disagreement vagueness different whatdifferent from tallness; enough, surely aboutart our ordinary thinking pervades theclaimed extoundermine parallelism anyway, itself. is too parochial, but ploitedabove. (2<>LUSinOw) thatthisapproach, Still,I am not confident is What we want an is too (2coXK) cosmopolitan. ofregards, will of twolists basedon theoverlap accountof art'snaturewhichallowsforsome deliver of all, it depends on rethegoods.First in art'shistory, variation butnot counterfactual a dispute between twodifferent accounts solving like of ourintuitive amount fortheunlimited enjoyed bythings to cases of "alien art" responses tallness. in a certain a which strikes me as way- dispute we should moveintwo hardto settle. With this idea inmind, claims that The historical theorist char- we The first is to givea purely general stages. a limited ofdepenintuitively recognize degree of a historical acterization practice of regarding. denceon actuality inthenature ofartitself. Why items to the is one where Sucha practice belong we are too much rather thansaying that saythis, invirtue inofthepractice ofbeing current stage ofit, on actuality, and ourexperience dependent in waysthat items in forregard tended previous claimed for ourknowledge ofwhether something be ofmany tobe art thepractice were. Suchpractices may canitnotbe,inother isorisnotart? Why areallways ofre- words, since onnoone'saccount kinds, of that we havea modally flexible concept ofregarding. The tocount as artistic ways garding lessflexible ofknowart-(2o)TK)andmuch ways thosehistorical secondstageis to specify prac- ing isart ornot? Thehistorical whether something which are actualand possible, ticesofregarding, that itisart's theorist owesusa reason for thinking andhenceas practices where nature to count as artistic, which isdependent a on (to degree) actualtothepractice areworks ofartin items belonging about rather than thequality ofourjudgments ity endwe may sense. To this thehistorical say: is art. what moreconcrete. Let us makethisa little Supof regarding is artistic pose,inthespirit we ofexperimental (4) A historical practice philosophy, ifit is a historical of regarding that comeupwith ofalien weird casesofcommunities practice similar to actualart-historical beings is sufficiently whohavetraditions which involve patterns ornooverlap ofregarding which havelittle practice. things with thatwe are used to apof regard patterns as art.Assume between actual art- plying to thethings we recognize Degree of similarity ifwe ask subjects in theexperiment, "Are andsomeother candidate art- that, historical practice

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

240 these works ofart?"they willsayno.That things couldbe for either oftworeasons. It couldbe because they havea concept of artthattellsthem that these arecontrary to thenature ofart. things Or itcouldbe because think, they simply wrongly, that thesethings are notart.You might saythat theexperiment is infact becausethere is decisive, no independent for reason that thinking subjects wouldgivea factually answer. But there wrong is.Notoriously, peoplemakecategory judgments to theprototypical features according displayed that do notlooklikefabystimuli, judging things miliar ofwater notto be water, and not samples like"Well, it doesn't look likewasaying things butwhether itis ornotdepends on itshidden ter, essence." Andthis holdsnotonly ofnatural kind terms. IfI show that looksnothing yousomething likeanycarburetor youhaveeverseen and ask it is one,I fully youwhether expect youwillsay in fact it is a carburetor, no,eventhough having been very to fitthefuncinnovatively designed tional roledefinitive ofcarburetors, and youunderstand thatcarburetors are functional objects. itcouldbe that Similarly, judgethese peoplewill weird tonotbe artsimply becausethey do objects notlook sufficiently similar to familiar works of andnotbecause havea restrictive underart, they ofart's nature. I do notdespair offinding standing to test between two these about ways hypotheses theextent ofcounterfactual variation in art,but I cannot see where, in advanceofserious experimental a historical theorist wouldgetthe work, confidence tocomedown on one siderather than theother. Hereisanother reason for theacceptdoubting of (4). Imagine a historical ofreability practice which starts off much as our artP, garding, pretty historical ofregarding did(however that practice in sucha waythat was),butthereafter diverges thelist ofregards associated with that has practice minimal P with L. have a overlap might history which makes thetemporal shift inways ofregardthat as an ingwithin practice perfectly intelligible artistic we might be able to provide a practice: narrative which links thestages ofP insucha way that eachchange inregard is an intelligible result of a response to thekinds bysomepractitioner of regards available. Each changein previously thepractice takes itfurther theactual awayfrom art-historical wearesupposed tomeasure practice itagainst, buteachchange, considered initsown seemslikea perfectly terms, legitimate, perhaps

TheJournal ofAesthetics andArtCriticism evenhighly artistic move.20 Robert Nozcreative, ickonceargued that a current distribution isjustif itis obtained from a justdistribution bychanges, eachofwhich isjust.21 I takeno viewon whether Nozick's isright. ButI amsuggesting that principle a historical theorist to accept an analogous ought thata current of regarding is principle: practice ifitis obtained artistic from an artistic of practice eachofwhich is intelligible regarding bychanges, as an artistic tothat response prior practice. In theface of suchan objection, thehistorical theorist couldmoveup a level:replacing, or on overlap in waysof supplementing, emphasis withemphasis on overlapin waysof regarding between A historical shifting waysof regarding. of would then be artistic tothe practice regarding extent that itsways ofshifting between ofreways with thewaysexemplified inour garding overlap own arthistory. Or perhaps a measure of artisticness would be given some by weighted average of thesetwokinds of overlap. I leave it openas to whether historical willbe able to detheorists If they are not,or ifthey velopthissuggestion. areunable toresolve intheir ownfavor thechoice between of our intuitions competing explanations about what ispossible I invite them tofall back art, to(2coXK) andtoclaim that itoffers anilluminating, ifnonreductive, thesis aboutthenature ofart.22
GREGORY CURRIE Departmentof Philosophy of Nottingham University NG7 2RD Nottingham United Kingdom internet:gregory.currie@nottingham.ac.uk

1. "Defining Art Historically," The British Journal of Aesthetics 19 (1979): 232-250;"Refining ArtHistorically," TheJournal andArtCriticism 47 (1989):21-33, ofAesthetics bothreprinted in Jerrold Levinson, Music,Artand Meta2nded. (Oxford Press, physics, 2006);"Extending University ArtHistorically," TheJournal andArtCriticism ofAesthetics 51 (1993):411^23, reprinted in ThePleasures ofAesthetics HistoriPress,1996);"The Irreducible (CornellUniversity of the Conceptof Art,"The British Journal cality of Aesthetics 42 (2002): 367-379,reprinted in Contemplating Art are Press, (Oxford 2006).References University throughout to thereprints. In formulating myobjectionto Levinson'sproposal,I am drawing on the objections of a number of auheavily thors: Davies,BerysGaut,GrahamOppy,Robert Stephen is at most one of Stecker,and others.My contribution overallclarification. For a comprehensive of bibliography

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Actual Possible Currie andArt's Art, Art, Definition

contributions to thedebate,together with thelocations of Levinson's see his"The Irreducible various Historireplies, oftheConcept ofArt." cality D. Carney in"Defining 2. Forexample, James Art,"The 15 (1975): 191-206;"WhatIs British Journal of Aesthetics Education16 (1982): a Workof Art?"Journal ofAesthetic Art Externally," The British Journal 85-92; "Defining of Aesthetics 34 (1994): 114-123;and Nol Carrollin "Hisand the Philosophy of Art," The JourtoricalNarratives 51 (1993): 313-326, and Art Criticism nal of Aesthetics in Nol Carroll, Aesthetics Uni(Oxford Beyond reprinted Press, 2001); see also otheressaysin PartII of that versity volume. to his accountas 3. In a recent essay,Levinsonrefers of artI am inclined to fa"thesortof complete definition oftheConcept ofArt," vor"("The Irreducible Historicality p. 13). 4. Levinson an attempt of myown to recently rejected Conformulate it. See my"A Note on Artand Historical 40 (2000): 186-190, TheBritish Journal ofAesthetics cepts," ofthe in"TheIrreducible andLevinson's Historicality reply ofArt," Concept pp.22-25. Levinsonsaid, "Whatis the 5. Introducing his theory, Wherein does itreside?"("Defining artness ofan artwork? note11,and accomArtHistorically," p. 3). But see below, and following text. panying 6. I do notclaim,and do notneed to claim,thatsameI also do makesforsameness of concept. nessof intuition morethanone way,useful not claimthatthisis anything to distinguish thosemental comin certain circumstances, to be thought which havesomeright conceptual. petencies ofconcepts and concept I do notclaimthatothertheories thereare radically different of which varieties, possession, are wrong. rather thanas this 7. At least,itcan be interpreted way, sensitivities of to theeffect thattheperceptual a statement track thefacts about in normal conditions normal subjects issues raised tothecomplex color. Foranintroduction bythis "Realism: The distinction, see,for Crispin Wright, example, Debate- W(h)ither Now,"and MarkJohnContemporary without Verificaston, Refigured: Pragmatism "Objectivity and Projection, ed. bothinReality, tionism," Representation HaldaneandCrispin John Press, Wright (Oxford University 1993),pp.63-84and 85-130, respectively. ArtHistorically," 8. Levinson, "Defining p. 6. A statein Levinson's "The to thisis given ment roughly equivalent oftheConceptofArt," Irreducible p. 6. Historicality 9. Levinsonwarnsus that,because of the problemof havetovary theright-hand sideof wemay art, revolutionary "X is intended as someprior' lines: for regard (2) alongthese or in someother artwas correctly regarded wayin contrast of thoseways"("Defining to and againstthebackground I will Art Historically," p. 17). For the sake of simplicity this. ignore ArtHistorically," 10. Levinson, p. 4. "Defining ArtHistorically," Levin11. At pp. 14-15of "Defining as towhether I believe, someuncertainty and sonmanifests, if so in whatrespectthe circularity objectionreallyis an


to hisproject. He saysthat"to eliminate thisreobjection wouldbe toeviscerate theterm butgoeson to 'art,'" flexivity claimthat thedefinition he offers does eliminate reflexivity. 12. Levinson, ArtHistorically," "Defining p. 14. 13. Levinson, "The Irreducible oftheConHistoricality centofArt."d. 24. emohasis added. 14. Thereareother tointerpret what Levinson ways says aboutthis. One istotaketheuseof'actual'in"actualbodyof thatare art"as logically redundant butthere things merely for ineffect, Thatwouldbe tosay, that what deteremphasis. mines whether is artnowin a worldW depends something on thepriorhistory of artin W- W beingtheactualworld from the pointof viewof W itself. This wouldamountto we couldungoingbackto thecircular (3ct>). Alternatively, inthis derstand theproposal ofthinking ofeach way:instead as givenbya possibleworld, we think of possiblesituation as given as counterfacpossibilities bya choiceofone world tualand another as actual.In thatwaywe can think about ifsome whatwouldbe artina given(counterfactual) world otherworldwerethe actualworld, and we wouldget difanswers to thequestion, "Whatis artin worldW?" ferent other world is onthechoicewemakeaboutwhich depending actual.Thisamounts to treating Levinson's within proposal The prospects for whatis calledtwo-dimensional semantics. suchan approach werediscussed in thepapersreferred to in note4 above. WhileI continue to believethatthetwoitdoes not,I dimensional approachto thisissuehas merit, offer definition think, anyrouteto thekindof noncircular ofartthat Levinson wants. So for we need present purposes it. notconsider 15. Levinson, ArtHistorically," "Defining p. 23. of the Con16. Levinson, "The Irreducible Historicity is mine. ceptofArt,"p. 21. The first emphasis who 17. This seems to be acknowledged by Levinson, of the positionconcernapprovesa veryclear statement "The IrSee Levinson, ing Martianart givenby Stecker. reducible of the Conceptof Art,"p. 373n20, Historicality from RobertStecker, Artworks: MeanDefinition, quoting State University Press, 1997), ing, Value (Pennsylvania p. 108. 18. Here I adapta formulation ofMarkJohnston's conwithout color("Objectivity cerning Refigured: Pragmatism Verificationism," p. 106). 19. I am notsuggesting that'art'is a natural kindterm: as natural kind thatit is a term used deferentially, merely terms are. 20. I am indebted hereto Nol Carroll's idea thatlater as artistic ifthere is a narrative which intelcounts activity links itto earlier artistic and in thelight of ligibly practices thelater toproblems which canbe seenas a response activity intrinsic to theearlierartistic Carrollemphasizes practice. a definition ofart.See his"Historical that he is notoffering ofArt." Narratives and thePhilosophy 21. See Robert and Utopia(New Nozick, State, Anarchy, York:Basic Books,1974),p. 151. 22. I am grateful to Jerry Levinson forcomments on an version ofthis and earlier and significantly different article, fora suggestion aboutthetitle.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 03:11:54 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions