Tuesday, April 14, 2009

(AP) Dickie on Defining an Open Concept

I suggested last time that Dickie offers the following intensional definition of art in response to Weitz's claim that art is indefinable-because-open:

Art (Dickie) = Artifactuality (Af) + Institutional Recognition (IR)

where the institution is the "artworld;" artifacts include all of the deliberate material (and perhaps cognitive) products of human activity; and where recognition occurs as any person functioning as a member of the artworld confers on some artifact the (descriptive and evaluative) status of "artwork."

Dickie presents his definition of art as open-yet-definable (Af and IR are necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for anthing to count as a work of art). I suppose that the raison d' etre of all such (intensional) definitions is to expose the essence of works of art, allowing us to distinguish works of art from all other things. Yet, failing as he does to offer any criteria for either membership in the artworld or proper (objective) institutional recognition or assessment, anyone and for any reason can confer on any human artifact the status of "artwork." It seems as though Dickie's definition of art is no more exclusive than the simple claim that all artifacts are works of art, so long as someone intends them to be. That is, Dickie's definition is equivalent to the rather unhelpful-because-excessively-inclusive "Intentionality Thesis" (art exists whenever someone intends it) applied within the realm of the artifactual. In short:

Art (Dickie) = I-sub-a (where a is anyone) + Af.


Art (Dickie) = Af + IR = I sub-a + Af.

Capturing as well (by eliminating from both expressions Af) the fact that

IR = I sub-a (that is, institutional recognition is equivalent to the intentionality thesis).

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