A couple of years ago, Tom Wartenberg suggested to me that Danto’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 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. In other words, art is simply in the eye of the informed observer.
Nowhere in this analysis does Danto offer a definition of art capable of countering Weitz’s skepticism.