Friday, October 23, 2009

(AP) Definability and Openness

Morris Weitz claims that art is an indefinable-because-open concept. I want tentatively to suggest that he conflates indefinability and openness, overlooking in the process the possibility of a definable-yet-open conception of art.

Furthermore, Weitz -- or perhaps Wartenberg -- apparently assumes that a satisfactory definition of art must be an intensional one (a specification of the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions required of each member of the set under consideration). But Weitz's preferred extensional (in this case, ostensive) definition of art is still, obviously enough, a definition.

Even so, I remain hopeful that we might construct a satisfactory -- however inclusive and broad -- intensional definition of art. See Jeff Strayer's handout for a brief summary of the relations between necessary and sufficient conditions and any attempt to define art.


  1. To be honest I really like Weiz's take on art. Art really is too broad to be defined! I mean look at the concept that he presents in defining the word game...There are these different kinds of games they are not similar at all however their concepts are similar. Weiz hits the nail on the head about art theory. At least he also justifies why he doesn't reject theory all together.

  2. In his dialogue/treatise The Grasshopper, Bernard Suits attempts to develop a definition for game-playing, a task famously thought impossible (see Wittgenstein). It seems to me that it might be worth a look in this context, both because as art (or art-making) may have some useful similarities to what Suits means by games, and because his procedure for working out such a definition might be a useful model.

  3. Matt: I'll take a look at Suits.

    Michelle: I appreciate his willingness to see the good in previous (failed) attempts -- but I think his effort to undermine all future attempts fails, too!

  4. So, in order to create an intensional definition of art for Weitz, we would need to find out what art connotes, rather than denotes?

  5. I may have misspoken in class: the N and S conditions approach supplies an intensional definition -- any other kind is extensional. So, now, what is your question re Weitz?

  6. Here's Suits's summary (though for the explanation and defense you pretty much have to read the book):

    " play a game is to engage in activity directed towards bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by rules, where the rules prohibit more efficient in favor of less efficient means, and where such rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity." (pp. 48-9)