The foundation for a definition: an analytic analysis of the framework of practice in which art is made

Rowe, Matthew (2007). The foundation for a definition: an analytic analysis of the framework of practice in which art is made. PhD thesis The Open University.



The thesis provides an analysis of what any definition of 'art' that hopes to be extensionally adequate must include within its scope. The presumption throughout is that extension of art at any one time is that which is to be explained so that its intension should be discovered from its extension. The analysis proceeds through analysing how agents make artworks and what sorts of entities artworks are, in order to provide a framework within which any proffered definition, or objection to a definitional project, must operate. Thus, the point is not to critically examine the range of definitions already on offer but to set out those features of artistic practice that require inclusion within any definitional project. This project begins through demonstrating the inadequacy of empirical theories, through thought experiments using the method of indiscemibles drawn from the writings of Arthur Danto. This, in a modified form, is used throughout the thesis. There then follows an attempt to discover the most extreme cases with which a definition will need to contend through an investigation into the minimal limits of how artworks can be made and what things can be artworks. The result is that artworks have to be made so that they are identifiable as a distinct entity within a determinate category of art. A new form of'post-empirical minimalism' that will provide classificatory limit for post-empirical definitions in terms of artistic and other relational properties is identified and defended. The thesis closes with a proposal for simple ontology of art, consistent with the framework of making set out in the preceding chapters and which can be applied to many different definitional projects and which places the ontology of even the most avant-garde parts of artistic practice within the same basic categories of artwork ascanonical artworks.

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