What is Art?

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.

Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#511  Postby -1- » May 6th, 2017, 9:55 pm

Nick_A wrote:One thing for sure. The distinction between art and expression has been forgotten amongst the educated.

More obliterated than forgotten, I would say, but it's not the doing of the educated people entirely: it's partly the newly found importance of the copyright laws and their strict enforcement that is to blame for the obliteration.

Since you, Nick_A, haven't forgot this important distinction, would you call yourself uneducated? (-:
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Re: What is Art?



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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#512  Postby Gertie » May 7th, 2017, 9:07 am

We tend to categorise things so they fall into neat boxes via certain properties, this is a vegetable and that is a fruit, and that can be a useful form of labelling and organising. So we can pick some properties that we say something we want to categorise as 'Art' must have, then put stuff into our designated boxes. But things in reality often aren't that cut n dried, often it's more accurate to see categories in terms of prototypes, with radial relations, so one thing is more prototypical Art than another.

And some more recent Art has consciously played with this idea - is a urinal Art because somebody calls it a 'Fountain' and signs it? Well why not? If I say 'No', that isn't similar enough to a Mona Lisa, you can't put it in the same box marked 'Art', then maybe you'll miss out on something interesting, rewarding, or beautiful to you by not seeing it in that context. I don't like missing out, so if the artist says I'm calling that Art, I want to give myself the option of looking at that something a different way, her way. Maybe I'll get something out of it, maybe I won't, or maybe I'll think it's ****, but there you go, that's all fine.
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#513  Postby Spraticus » May 8th, 2017, 5:29 pm

Gertie wrote:We tend to categorise things so they fall into neat boxes via certain properties, this is a vegetable and that is a fruit, and that can be a useful form of labelling and organising. So we can pick some properties that we say something we want to categorise as 'Art' must have, then put stuff into our designated boxes. But things in reality often aren't that cut n dried, often it's more accurate to see categories in terms of prototypes, with radial relations, so one thing is more prototypical Art than another.

And some more recent Art has consciously played with this idea - is a urinal Art because somebody calls it a 'Fountain' and signs it? Well why not? If I say 'No', that isn't similar enough to a Mona Lisa, you can't put it in the same box marked 'Art', then maybe you'll miss out on something interesting, rewarding, or beautiful to you by not seeing it in that context. I don't like missing out, so if the artist says I'm calling that Art, I want to give myself the option of looking at that something a different way, her way. Maybe I'll get something out of it, maybe I won't, or maybe I'll think it's ****, but there you go, that's all fine.


There are ways of defining things that don't require neat boxes. If I can give a botanical example it might clarify what I mean. When you are diagnosing a plant species the normal process is a succession of binary choices; does it have feature A or not, or does it have A or B, but in some cases the situation is more complex. Within Erodium, for example, there is a group of species where the choice is made from half a dozen overlapping sets of features. Within the group there are, say, from two to six variations for each feature, such as type of hair on the base of the stigma, and each species has a different set of six of these features. Each member of the set is different but they all go into the same box. That box, of course goes into a larger box. There are sets, sub-sets and sub-sub-sets etc., and art can be seen in the same way. The definitions can be very broad and flexible but as long as the artifact has some of the whole range of possible features, it fits in the box.
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#514  Postby Nick_A » May 8th, 2017, 10:30 pm

-1- wrote:
Nick_A wrote:One thing for sure. The distinction between art and expression has been forgotten amongst the educated.

More obliterated than forgotten, I would say, but it's not the doing of the educated people entirely: it's partly the newly found importance of the copyright laws and their strict enforcement that is to blame for the obliteration.

Since you, Nick_A, haven't forgot this important distinction, would you call yourself uneducated? (-:


The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
Albert Einstein


I have yet to become as uneducated as Einstein so that I can open to learning. It isn't easy

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. - Mark Twain -


This is a good beginning for making the transition from being educated into actually learning something.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#515  Postby Gertie » May 9th, 2017, 12:33 pm

Spraticus wrote:
Gertie wrote:We tend to categorise things so they fall into neat boxes via certain properties, this is a vegetable and that is a fruit, and that can be a useful form of labelling and organising. So we can pick some properties that we say something we want to categorise as 'Art' must have, then put stuff into our designated boxes. But things in reality often aren't that cut n dried, often it's more accurate to see categories in terms of prototypes, with radial relations, so one thing is more prototypical Art than another.

And some more recent Art has consciously played with this idea - is a urinal Art because somebody calls it a 'Fountain' and signs it? Well why not? If I say 'No', that isn't similar enough to a Mona Lisa, you can't put it in the same box marked 'Art', then maybe you'll miss out on something interesting, rewarding, or beautiful to you by not seeing it in that context. I don't like missing out, so if the artist says I'm calling that Art, I want to give myself the option of looking at that something a different way, her way. Maybe I'll get something out of it, maybe I won't, or maybe I'll think it's ****, but there you go, that's all fine.


There are ways of defining things that don't require neat boxes. If I can give a botanical example it might clarify what I mean. When you are diagnosing a plant species the normal process is a succession of binary choices; does it have feature A or not, or does it have A or B, but in some cases the situation is more complex. Within Erodium, for example, there is a group of species where the choice is made from half a dozen overlapping sets of features. Within the group there are, say, from two to six variations for each feature, such as type of hair on the base of the stigma, and each species has a different set of six of these features. Each member of the set is different but they all go into the same box. That box, of course goes into a larger box. There are sets, sub-sets and sub-sub-sets etc., and art can be seen in the same way. The definitions can be very broad and flexible but as long as the artifact has some of the whole range of possible features, it fits in the box.


Categorising is a tool then, a way of managing stuff?

So who cares if I call a urinal art and somebody else says it isn't? Gallery owners, marketers - aside from the artist and me it's the business side of art and the gate-keepers of our cultural heritage I suppose.
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#516  Postby Spraticus » May 9th, 2017, 3:23 pm

It would be very difficult to talk about anything if we didn't categorise.
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#517  Postby Nick_A » May 9th, 2017, 4:03 pm

Spraticus wrote:It would be very difficult to talk about anything if we didn't categorise.


Very true. How could I talk about women if I didn't categorize?
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace
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Re: What is Art?

Post Number:#518  Postby -1- » May 11th, 2017, 11:32 pm

Spraticus wrote:It would be very difficult to talk about anything if we didn't categorise.

True. Words of a symbolic language are a category by each.

Generalization is healthy. Overgeneralization is unhealthy. Nobody knows how to clearly and unambiguously separate the two. Either extremes are easy to spot. ("Food is edible" -- good generalization. "People of different races have different temperaments" -- not healthy generalization.) But gray areas are not easy to decide which of the two general generalizations to file them under. ("Greek food is greasy". "Everyone wants a blonde woman.")
Sweat the small stuff... because then the big stuff will take care of itself.
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