Recognition and Reconciliation: The New Role of Theory in Aesthetics
Hrehor, Kristin Amber
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George Dickie’s institutional theory of art has been subject to extensive debate over the past 30 years. It has been both revered and deplored, garnering such attention for the seemingly controversial way in which Dickie answers the question, “What is art?” In Dickie’s view, an object derives its existence as a work of art in the context of the informal institution of the “artworld,” a concept which was borrowed from Arthur Danto’s earlier work on the theoretical context surrounding works of art. Another significant feature of Dickie’s institutional theory is that it provides a definition of art, a problem that philosophers of art have attempted to solve for the past few centuries. Dickie’s theory inclines one to dismiss other candidates for definitions as implausible, such as those put forth by R.G. Collingwood and Leo Tolstoy, since, as Dickie insists, an acceptable definition of art must be able to account for the many different kinds of practices that are all referred to as “art.” I do not wish to conclude that the task of defining “art” is no longer a viable option for philosophers, as others such as Morris Weitz and Peter Kivy have suggested. Instead, I will provide an alternative way of philosophizing about art that is similar in some ways and yet very different from the methods Weitz and Kivy have proposed. I will illuminate a new way of interpreting the theories of Collingwood, Tolstoy, and Danto which is different from those that have been proposed in the past, one that highlights their normative and institutional features. On the foundations of this new interpretation, I will propose a new role for the philosopher of art, one that takes into consideration the significance of the institutional structure of the artworld and how it can be normatively constrained.