What has gone virtually unnoticed in the literature on s art, however, is that minimal art for Wollheim designates the point where painting the medium to which Wollheim has devoted attention , regardless of its historical or stylistic affiliations, is almost not an art. The idea that a correspondence of material form and meaning is essential to artistic representation, ostensibly challenged by the putative minimality of s art, has long engaged Wollheim. This is the central problem in his philosophical aesthetics. This broadening constituted the ground zero not only of art making, but also of its viewing and interpretation. In the second of these, Wollheim responds to the ideas set forth in the other essays.
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Oxford, pp. As if that were not hard enough, try adding prints, films, dances and buildings and the problem becomes intractable. Yet traditionally the aim of aesthetics has been to undertake an abstraction from the properties of particular works of art, and of different forms of art, with precisely the hope of isolating just those general features which are supposed to characterise or define the nature of art itself.
To discover defining, or even characteristic, properties of art, if such there be, presupposes an answer to even more basic, ontological, questions concerning what sorts of things or entities works of art are. Are they physical objects, ideas, universals, classes, or what?
First published over twelve years ago, this concise, elegant and wide-ranging book has established itself as an indispensable text for undergraduate courses in aesthetics. The second edition leaves the original text unchanged but adds a helpful analytical contents, summarising the argument, as well as an extended and up-to-date bibliography and six Supplementary Essays on related topics.
The content of the original Art and Its Objects falls roughly into two parts. These are technical terms, easier to illustrate than to understand. Types and tokens have some but not all properties in common. My copy of Ulysses might weigh 13 oz.
In the text of Art and Its Objects Wollheim considers several objections that might be raised to making a complete identification between an individual work of art and a physical object. Are there not some properties, representational or expressive, for example, which are possessed by some individual works of art but could not be possessed by any physical object?
And what about more radical theories, such as those of the Idealist school associated with Benedetto Croce and R. Collingwood, which identify all works of art with some inner state of mind of the artist? Wollheim argues that there is nothing in these objections that forces us to conclude that no works of art can be physical objects. But likewise he is careful to stress that there is nothing that forces us the other way, making us identify even some works of art with physical objects.
Wollheim returns to these issues in the Supplementary Essays. The nagging worry about physical objects is that they have properties which are unwelcome as properties of works of art. For example, they age, fade and decay.
Wollheim is sceptical of the distinction between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties, but he is tempted by the latter suggestion. Essay V further clears the way for the physical object hypothesis, with regard to representational properties.
In the main text, Wollheim argues that looking at representational pictures involves seeing X, the medium or representation, as Y, the object or what is represented.
He now prefers the notion of seeing Y in X, partly to allow for the fact that we can see X and Y at the same time. This is surely right: we do not cease to see the paint when we perceive the figure painted. Suppose a poet in the 20th century quite unknowingly produced an identical set of words to that of a 16th-century poet. Do we have two poems or just one? How many types and tokens are there? Wollheim sidesteps this one, but insists that a constraint on any correct answer be that the identity of all works of art depends essentially on their history of production.
This identity condition is a theme of several of the Essays. Then again, suppose that technological innovations made it possible to reproduce paintings with almost total fidelity to the original. Would not pictures then become types rather than individuals?
And would there be any aesthetic significance in this change? Wollheim agrees that pictures could in these circumstances be reclassified as types. But he argues in detail that because of the consequent changes in how an artist would conceive of his work the change of ontological category would have an aesthetic, as well as merely taxonomic, relevance. For Wittgenstein, words have meaning only in virtue of having a function in human practices. We understand the meanings of words only by understanding the relevant practices.
Wollheim draws instructive parallels between art and the Wittgensteinian conception of language, both from the standpoint of the artist and from that of the spectator of art. Art comprises a complex institution or practice which makes certain activities possible. But things have moved on since the programmatic suggestions of Art and Its Objects in The notion that certain human actions and concepts can be explained through their role in institutions or practices has played a major part in philosophical theories of action and of language over the last decade.
Wollheim takes a poor view of the theory and poses for it a dilemma: either it is not an institutional theory of art, if it requires that there be independent good reasons for conferring the status of art on an object, or it is not an institutional theory of art, if it allows the conferment to take place for no good reason at all.
An opportunity was missed to draw together the suggestions of the main text and the new ideas from the essays on the identity of works of art and on criticism: for together they almost palpably yield a conception of artistic value. Perhaps as a consequence, the book is written in a more austere, and technical, idiom than Art and Its Objects. However, the main theses are readily comprehensible and many of the details are fascinating and provocative.
For example, we are offered finely detailed analyses of what it is to compose a musical work and to perform one; also, of what is and is not part of a fictional world. Are Huck and Jim really having a homosexual relationship, as Leslie Fiedler suggests, in the world of Huckleberry Finn? Wolterstorff has a keen eye for the logical conundrum. Suppose Henry Kissinger were to play the lead role in a play about Henry Kissinger. Would we have the same relation there between actor and character as we have between, say, an actor and Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman?
And what is the relation anyway? Or how can impossible objects, like the Escher buildings, be represented in pictures? The pivotal idea in the book is that of using an art artefact to perform the action of world projection. The novelty of the book is the analysis of representation as a human action, rather than as a relation between a symbol and what it symbolises. Wolterstorff strives always for generality in his definitions and I think in the end this weakens the specific contribution he hopes to make to aesthetics.
For it turns out that world projection is neither a necessary nor a sufficient characteristic for identifying works of art. Not all world projection is artistic and not all works of art involve world projection. But from the start the distinction is uncomfortable. Paintings belong to neither category but are considered, without much argument, to be physical objects. A kind is identified by the properties essential within it and a kind exists only in as much as the associated properties exist.
Needless to say, kinds are abundant. These are properties of sounds: the work thus composed is the norm-kind characterised by those properties. It is to bring it about that something becomes a work. I wonder if this paradox could not be removed by distinguishing the existence of properties individually from the existence of complex combinations of properties.
On this topic, Wolterstorff is at his best, not shying away from any of those perennially elusive problems about the nature of fictional characters and fictional states of affairs.
Nearly everything here is illuminating and thought-provoking. Also, by careful application of the distinction between what is included in a fictional world and what is true in the actual world, he explains, for example, what it means to say that I in the actual world can see Hedda Gabler in the fictional world or how Napoleon can make an appearance in War and Peace. We have a pervasive habit in our ordinary speech of talking of fictional characters as if they were real people.
But it takes a logician to sort out the Pickwickian tangles of what we really mean when we talk so freely of fictions. Can we refer to Sherlock Holmes in the way that Watson can? No, because we are referring to a character, he is referring to a man. What about characters, like Faust, who seem to appear in different fictions with slightly different properties?
All three are kinds, but the former has fewer essential properties than the latter two. Calling characters kinds is not to undermine their uniqueness or individuality. There is no implication that characters are stereotypes or that the kind must be exemplified elsewhere. The main problem with this view is in identifying what the kinds are.
What are the essential properties of Anna Karenina or Dorothea? Send Letters To:.
London Review of Books
Sigmund Freud This intellectual biography of Freud presents a fresh and This intellectual biography of Freud presents a fresh and thorough analysis of the whole body of his writings. Each of these is studied in its context, and their chronology is shown to be of great importance. This reissue contains a new Preface by Professor Wollheim that takes account of recent critical work on Freud. In this distinguished book, first published in , Richard Wollheim offers an original approach to the philosophical understanding of a person. Countering prevailing theories on the nature of persons, Wollheim submits an account of the mind dynamically conceived and proposes that we take as fundamental the process of living as a person.
RICHARD WOLLHEIM ART AND ITS OBJECTS EBOOK
Oxford, pp. As if that were not hard enough, try adding prints, films, dances and buildings and the problem becomes intractable. Yet traditionally the aim of aesthetics has been to undertake an abstraction from the properties of particular works of art, and of different forms of art, with precisely the hope of isolating just those general features which are supposed to characterise or define the nature of art itself. To discover defining, or even characteristic, properties of art, if such there be, presupposes an answer to even more basic, ontological, questions concerning what sorts of things or entities works of art are. Are they physical objects, ideas, universals, classes, or what?
Art and Its Objects: With Six Supplementary Essays
Art and architectureLiterature and literary objeectsPhilosophyAesthetics. Cambridge University PressSep 30, — Art — pages. Types and tokens have some but not all properties in common. Art and Its Objects work by Wollheim Added to PP index Total downloads 43, richard wollheim art and its objects 2, Recent downloads 6 months 12 33, of 2, How can I increase my downloads?
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