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(2010-01-18 03:39:00)





分类: 艺术哲学









The analytic philosophy of art



Analytic philosophy analyses the concepts that are fundamental to our practices. Art is a recurring form of human practice. Some have argued that all human societies show evidence of artistic activities. The purpose of the analytic philosophy of art is to explore the concepts that make creating and thinking about art possible. Some of these concepts include: the very concept of art itself, as well as the concepts of representation, expression_r, artistic form, and aesthetics. These concepts will be discussed at some length in this book.



But there are also further concepts that the philosopher might look at, such as interpretation, forgery, creativity, and artistic value, among others. A philosopher of art might concentrate on specific artforms - asking "What is literature (dance, music, film, drama, and so forth)?" Or, she might explore the concepts of certain artistic genres, such as fiction, comedy, tragedy, poetry, and the like. All these and more are the concepts that the analytic philosophy of art takes as its subject matter.



As with the philosophy of law, so with the philosophy of art, coming to understand these concepts is an important contribution to the life of the practices in which they figure, often constitutively. We have suggested how central the concept of the law is to the practice of jurisprudence. Similarly, the concept of art is fundamental to our artistic practices.



Without some sense of how to classify certain objects and performances as artworks, the Museum of Modern Art wouldn't know what to collect, the National Endowment for the Arts wouldn't know to whom to give money, nor would the United States government know which institutions deserve tax relief for the preservation of our artistic past. Nor even, without some command of the concept of art, would economists know how to evaluate empirical claims like "Art is a significant component of the financial well-being of New York City. '


But far more important than the preceding "official" uses of the concept of art is the role the concept plays in our personal, ongoing commerce with artworks, since how we respond to an object - interpretively, appreciatively, emotively, and evaluatively - depends decisively upon whether or not we categorize it as an artwork. Suppose we come across a living, breathing couple seated at opposite sides of a wooden table, staring intently at each other. Ordinarily we might pay no attention to them at all, or avert our glance out of a sense of politeness. But if we categorize the situation as an artwork - as the performance piece Night Crossing by Marina Abramovic and Ulay - our response will be altogether different.



We will shamelessly scrutinize the scene carefully, attempt to interpret it, perhaps in terms of what it says about human life and relationships. We will try to situate it in the history of art, comparing it to other artworks in various genres. We will contemplate what it expresses and what feelings it arouses in us, and we may evaluate it - possibly commending it for drawing our attention to neglected realms of experience, or for moving us, or for making its point with a startling economy of means. Or maybe we will criticize it for being boring or hackneyed. But in any event, it is clear that once we categorize the situation as an artwork, our response to it will differ radically from the way in which we regard comparable seated couples in "real" life.



Or consider surgical procedures. In the everyday course of life, we do not think of them as alternatives to a night at the opera. But when such procedures are incorporated in a performance piece such as the work Image/New Image(s) or the Re-incarnation of Saint-Orlan and we categorize Orlan's plastic surgery as a work of art, we see it in a different light. We note the interesting color arrangement of the surgeons' uniforms and we ask about the meaning of Orlan's self-elected decision to go under the knife - what does it say about society, about women, about personal identity, about art history and the ideals of female beauty found there ? That is, we react to the event completely differently from how we would, had we happened upon an ordinary gall-bladder operation. The attempt to interpret the meaning of your typical gall-bladder operation is out of place, but the attempt to interpret an artwork is usually appropriate. Yet interpretation here hinges on whether or not we classify the item in question as an artwork - on whether we correctly apply the concept of art to it.



Thus, clarifying our concept of art is not merely a matter of dry, academic book-keeping. It lies at the living heart of our artistic practices, since categorizing candidates as artworks puts us in a position to mobilize a set of art responses that are the very stuff of our activities as viewers, listeners and readers. In order to play the game, we need a handle on the concept of art. And it is the task of the analytic philosophy of art to make sure that that handle is a sturdy one by reflecting upon the concept of art and articulating its elements in as precise a manner as possible.



As already indicated, the concept of art is not the only one that preoccupies analytic philosophers of art, though for the reasons just stated, it is a central one. Representation, expression_r, artistic form, aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties are also of great interest. Consequently, much of the remainder of this book will be spent analysing these six concepts. Other concepts might have been chosen for analysis; however, for a text of this length, these should supply the inquiring student with a serviceable introduction to the field.



Analysing concepts


The phrase "analysing concepts" has been bandied about extensively in this introduction. But what does it involve? How do you go about analyzing concepts ? Since so much time will be spent in what follows analysing concepts, some opening comments may be helpful here.



Like most issues in philosophy, there is substantial debate about what concepts are and how to analyse them. However, there is one very standard approach (though as we shall see in Chapter 5, it has not enlisted universal assent). We can call this standard approach the method of necessary and sufficient conditions. It proceeds by breaking concepts down into their necessary and sufficient conditions for application. Although this method is controversial, we shall presume its practicability for most of this text, if only because it is a powerful tool for organizing and guiding research, even if ultimately it rests on certain questionable assumptions.



The standard approach takes concepts to be categories. Applying a certain concept to an object is a matter of classifying it as a member of the relevant category. Calling an object an artwork involves determining that it meets the criteria or conditions required for membership in the category. Analysing a concept is a matter of breaking it down into its component parts, where the component parts are its conditions for application.



Think of the concept bachelor. What is a bachelor? A bachelor is an unmarried man. We can break down or analyse the concept of bachelor into two component parts - manhood and unmarriedness. In order to be counted as a member of the category bachelor - in order to apply correctly the concept of bachelor to a candidate - the candidate must meet two conditions: he must be a man and he must be unmarried. Individually, each of these conditions is necessary for anything to count as a bachelor, and together (conjointly) they are sufficient (just enough) to categorize a candidate as a bachelor. Analysing the concept of bachelor - which might also be called "defining 'bachelor'// - is a matter of articulating the necessary and sufficient conditions for applying the concept bachelor to, for instance, the boy next door.



This method of analysing concepts should seem fairly commonsensical. When you want to know what something, like a bachelor, is, you want to know (1) the feature or features of the kind in question that every proper member of the category possesses; and (2) you want to know what feature or features differentiate members of the relevant kind or category from members of other kinds. For example, if you want to know what a bachelor is - how to apply the concept bachelor - then you want to know what all bachelors have in common and also what sets bachelors apart from other kinds of things, such as husbands and spinsters.



That is, you want to know what feature or features are necessarily possessed by all the proper members of the category, such that absence of the feature in question precludes membership in the category (were the boy next door married, he would not be a bachelor). And you want to know what feature or features are sufficient to differentiate members of the relevant category from members of other categories (were the boy next door an unmarried male, he could not be a husband or a spinster). Unmarriedness and maleness are each individually necessary conditions for bachelorhood; together, these criteria represent a sufficient condition for bachelorhood.



There is a very useful way of setting out these ideas. Since we will employ it throughout the text, it will be beneficial to introduce it here. "x is a necessary condition for y" means that something can be a y only if it is an x. Someone can be a princess only if she is a woman. Being a woman is not a sufficient condition for being a princess. But it is necessary; it is a necessary requirement for being a princess that one be a woman. Someone may be a woman and not a princess, but one cannot be a princess and not a woman. Womanhood is a necessary condition for princesshood, or, to state it formulaically: y is a princess only if y is a woman. Here the truth of "y is a woman" is a necessary condition - an unvarying requirement - for the truth of "y is a princess."



We cannot, however, say that if y is a woman, then she is a princess. Most women are not princesses. Womanhood is not a sufficient condition for princesshood; it is not enough to establish princesshood. Something else needs to be added. A likely candidate is that y be of royal lineage, where that is to be determined by the laws of the lands in question. Then we could say that if y is a woman and of the right royal lineage, then y is a princess. That is, the antecedent clause of the proposition - "y is a woman and of the right royal lineage" - guarantees the truth of the consequent clause of the proposition "y is a princess."



In the preceding example, womanhood and the right royal lineage are each individually necessary conditions for princesshood and conjointly they comprise a sufficient condition for princesshood. To summarize this information formulaically, we can say: y is a princess if and only if (1) y is a woman and (2) y is of the right royal lineage.



The locution "if and only if" signals that this analysis is proposing necessary conditions (the "only if" conditions) and sufficient conditions (the "if" conditions) for princesshood. Similarly, y is a bachelor if and only if (1) y is a male and (2) y is unmarried. Here conditions (1) and (2) are each on their own necessary conditions for bachelorhood and together they are jointly sufficient for bachelorhood.



This kind of analysis is often called a real or an essential definition. That it is a definition of the relevant concept should be evident. It is an essential definition because it attempts to get at the essential features of the concept - its necessary and sufficient conditions of application. It is said to be a real definition of the concept because unlike so many dictionary definitions it does not simply track how people commonly use the concept, but allegedly discovers the real conditions of application of the concept.



You will encounter many definitions of this sort in this book - set out in terms of the schema "x if and only if y." Some of these will include analyses of pictorial representation and artistic form. There will also be a large number of proposed analyses of the concept of an artwork, articulated in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. Sometimes the text will refer to these as theories of art, sometimes as essential or real definitions. The variations in terminology should not throw you. In each case, we are talking about attempted analyses of the concept of art.



This brief review of the method of necessary and sufficient conditions or, less cumbersomely, the essential definition approach to analysing concepts, is intended to give you some idea of what is meant by the phrase "analysing concepts." After all, we've been using and will use that notion a lot, and you have a right to some concrete sense of what that abstraction might involve. However, it was also noted that this approach to the way in which we go about applying concepts is controversial and that alternative views will be explored in the last chapter of this book.



Yet until the last chapter, we will be employing this approach to analysing concepts pretty much without worrying about its adequacy. This might strike you as strange and even irresponsible, if the approach is really disputed. But let me make two remarks on behalf of this procedure.



One objection to the essential definition approach is that many of our concepts are applied without resort to necessary and sufficient conditions. Arguably, many of our concepts do not have necessary and/or suffficient conditions of application. There is no reason to presume that the concepts that we explore by means of this method will turn out to be analysable in terms of necessary and/or sufficient conditions. That is a fair observation. However, since we won't know whether a given concept is congenial to this mode of analysis until we've tried it, we have no grounds for dismissing this approach from the get-go.



Second, even if the method of definition does not turn out to be the best way of understanding how we go about applying concepts, the method still has immense heuristic value. By "heuristic value," we mean that the method of definition, even when it fails, can assist us in making discoveries. The method alerts us systematically to the richness and complexity of the phenomenon that confronts us.



For example, when a philosopher of art, like Aristotle, proposes that representation is a necessary condition of art, we consider that conjecture by asking whether indeed everything we categorize as art is representational. If we think of color field painting, we will reject this conjecture as too exclusive. But we will learn something by refuting this conjecture. We will not only learn that the representational theory of art is false, but that the realm of art encompasses more different kinds of things than imagined in Aristotle's philosophy and that of his descendants, and this will sensitize us to the need to acknowledge nonrepresentational art in subsequent theorizing.



Similarly, if we hear that self-expression_r is a sufficient condition of art, that prompts us to ask whether or not that criterion really picks out only artworks. Of course, it does not, because there is a great deal of self-expressive behavior in everyday life - like the tantrums of a hungry infant - that are not artworks, not even performance art. So, we reject the self-expression_r analysis of art because it is too inclusive. But in this instance we not only learn that the self-expression_r theory is false, but that subsequent theorizing must be alert to the distinction between self-expression_r that is art versus that which is not. The method of definition, then, is conducive to an awareness of "joints" in the data that any future attempts at dissection must respect.

    与此相似,如果我们听说自我表现是艺术的一个充分条件,那就立刻促使我们问:这个标准是否真的能够单把艺术甄别出来。当然,它不能,因为日常生活中有大量自我表现的行为——如一个饥饿的婴儿的勃然大怒——这不是艺术品,这不是艺术品,甚至不算行为艺术(performance art)。因此,我们摒弃关于艺术的自我表现分析,因为它太包容了。但是,在这种情况下,我们不仅知道了自我表现论是错误的,而且还知道此后的理论活动必须敏感于作为艺术的自我表现与并非艺术的自我表现之间的区别。于是,这种定义法有助于我们意识到有待分析的材料中有一些“关节”,此后对这些关节的解剖必须严肃认真。


Attempted analyses of concepts in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, even where they fail, abet discovery. They systematically flush out data and distinctions that enrich our understanding of art. They awaken us to the breadth and diversity of the world of art, while also charting its boundaries. In this way, the philosopher's preoccupation with analysing concepts can also contribute to our appreciation of art in all its luxurious and wondrous manifestations.




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