The Philosophy of Art / Edition 1

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Written with clarity, wit, and rigor, The Philosophy of Art provides an incisive account of the core topics in the field.

  • The first volume in the new Foundations of the Philosophy of the Arts series, designed to provide crisp introductions to the fundamental general questions about art, as well as to questions about the several arts (such as literature, music or painting).
  • Presents a clear and insightful introduction to central topics and on-going debates in the philosophy of art.
  • Eight sections cover a wide spectrum of topics such as the interpretation of art, the relation between art and moral values, and the expression and arousal of emotion through art.
  • Pedagogical features include full-color illustrations, vibrant examples, thought-provoking discussion questions and helpful suggested readings.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is an outstanding achievement in pedagogical clarity and philosophical argument, and certainly is worth reading by students who seek an introduction to philosophy of art as well as by professionals who look for a well-argued commentary on...the key issues in the field. Without hesitation I recommend it to all. Thomas Heyd, Philosophy in Review

“A judicious and wide-ranging introduction to contemporary philosophy of art by one of its foremost practitioners. Davies’s book is notable for emphasizing both the biological and cultural dimensions of artmaking, for regularly keeping in view non-Western as well as Western modes of art, and for an exemplary degree of clarity and reader-friendliness.” Jerrold Levinson, University of Maryland

“Davies has contributed to almost every debate in contemporary philosophy of art. Clearly written, with intriguing examples, this book brings readers to the cutting edge of every core topic in aesthetics.” Dominic McIver Lopes, University of British Columbia

“This book sets a new standard for introductory books in aesthetics and philosophy of art. Brief but knowledgeable descriptions of examples show how philosophical questions arise and illustrate how various views might be challenged. Technical terms function as tools, not burdens. Applications and connections sections at the end of each chapter raise readers’ interest and show how much more there is to the issues discussed. Davies’s book is a pleasure to read and manages to enliven both philosophy and the way we think about the arts in general.” Susan Feagin, Temple University

"In the first volume in the new Foundations of the Philosophy of the Arts series by Blackwell, which is designed to provide crisp introductions to the fundamental general questions about art, as well as to questions about the several arts, Davies presents an insightful introduction to central topics and on-going debates in the philosophy of art." Pavel Sedlak, Centre for Arts and New Technologies in Praque

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405120234
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/28/2005
  • Series: Foundations of the Philosophy of the Arts Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 489,692
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Davies teaches philosophy at the University of Auckland. He is the author of Definitions of Art (1991), Musical Meaning and Expression (1994), Musical Works and Performances: A Philosophical Exploration (2001), and Themes in the Philosophy of Music (2003), and the editor of Art and Its Messages: Meaning, Morality, and Society (1997) and Art and Essence (2003).

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Table of Contents

List of Figures.



Why study the philosophy of art?.

Applications and questions.

References and readings.


1. Evolution and culture.

A biological basis for art.

The cultural invention of art.

The big and the small picture.

"It all depends what you mean by the word art.".

Applications and Connections - the museum, tourist art, popular art, and ancient art.


Further reading.

2. Defining art.

Essentialism and anti-essentialism.

Arguments against the project of definition.

If not an essence, what unifies the concept of art?.

Some definitions of art.

Definitions and non-Western art.

Taking stock.

Applications and Connections - intuition versus definition, art's value and definition, Euthyphro and experts.


Further reading.

3. Aesthetics and the philosophy of art.

Aesthetic and artistic properties.

An illustration.

The aesthetic attitude and art for art's sake.

Aesthetic theory criticized.

Artworks that pose a challenge to aesthetic theory.

Art's contextually relative properties.

Art for art's sake, again.

Applications and Connections - copies and misattributions, viscera and understanding.


Further reading.

4. Varieties of art.

Artworks as public items.

Are artworks created or discovered?.

Are all artworks potentially multiple?.

Multiply instanced artworks.

New works based on old ones.

The ontological variety of works of art.

Is the identity of an artwork fixed or evolving?.

Applications and Connections - musical recordings, the movie of the movie, the matter replicator.


Further reading.

5. Interpretation.

When is interpretation necessary?.

What is interpreted?.

Actual intentionalism.

Hypothetical intentionalism.

Value maximization.

Uses for interpretation.

Theory-driven interpretation.

Does interpretation change the work's meaning?.

What is interpretation's primary purpose?.


Further reading.

6. Expression and emotional responses.

The nature of emotion.

Identifying others' emotions.

Identifying the emotions in art.

The expression of emotion in music and abstract art.

The emotional response of the audience to the work of art.

Responding to fictions.

Responding to tragedies.

Responding to the expressiveness of instrumental music and abstract art.


Further reading.

7. Pictorial representation and the visual arts.

The experience of representation.

Representation and resemblance.

Representation — culture and biology again.

Art versus non-art, a matter of style.

Representation in photographs and paintings.

Recognition and representation.

Photography as an art.

Moving images.


Further reading.

8. The value of art.

Evaluation and functionality.

Rules, universality, and objectivity in artistic evaluation.

The purpose and form of artistic evaluation.

What is rewarding about the experience of art?.

Value and pleasure.

Art and education.

Messages through art.

The relation between artistic and moral values.

Should a work's immorality undermine its claims to artistic merit?.

Morality in documentaries and fictions.


Further reading.


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