The nature and value of art
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This thesis examines the nature and value of art. It is primarily concerned to advance an argument which makes sense of the significance we ordinarily afford art, rather than rendering it merely aesthetic and thus cognitively trivial. Contrary to philosophical orthodoxy, it is argued that 'art' does not have two distinct senses. Rather, we should understand art as an inherently evaluative, evolving cultural practice. Thus, I argue, 'art' is essentially a cluster concept. I consider an account of art according to which it is in the pleasure art affords, that its value lies. However, though we derive pleasure even from apparently unpleasant artworks, the mark of art's value lies elsewhere. That is, the pleasure we derive from art is the result of an artwork's being of value in some other way. Through critically assessing the standard accounts of art's value, I argue that art's pleasures are primarily cognitive. Furthermore, I argue, the cognitive value of art arises primarily from the engagement of our imagination and interpretation of artworks. That is, we enjoy the imaginative activity of engaging with artworks and the promotion of particular imaginative understandings. Furthermore, as imaginative understanding is of fundamental importance in grasping the nature of our world and others, art may have a distinctive significance. That is, art may afford insights into and thus promote our imaginative understandings of our world and others. Thus, through the promotion of imaginative understanding, art may cultivate our moral understanding. Therefore, art is of profound significance and import.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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