Monday, April 26, 2010

(AP) Wartenberg on Weitz, Danto, and Dickie

Tom Wartenberg suggested last semester at a campus forum that Danto’s (and by extension, Dickie's) consideration of Warhol’s Brillo Box offers a solution to Morris Weitz’s skepticism about the very idea of defining art. I remain skeptical.

Weitz’s claim is that, given its expansive, creative, or “open” nature (like games for Wittgenstein), no traditional definition of art (in terms of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions) is possible. Danto invokes Warhol’s Brillo Box and its near-identical supermarket counterparts, while Dickie refers to those suitably positioned within the artworld, to argue that those persons who have achieved a sufficient understanding of the history and theory of (some domain of) art are thereby entitled to employ the “is of artistic identification" -- an act that imposes a conceptual distinction on two perceptually indistinguishable objects (or, in Dickie's case, are entitled to confer the status of an art object). Art is, therefore, in the eye of the informed observer/contributor to the artworld. Nowhere in this analysis does Danto or Dickie offer a definition of art capable of countering Weitz’s skepticism.

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