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Artworks and Representational Properties

  • Sherri Irvin (a1)

A sustained challenge to the view that artworks are physical objects relates to the alleged inability of physical objects to possess representational properties, which some artworks clearly do possess. I argue that the challenge is subject to confusions about representational properties and aesthetic experience. I show that a challenge to artwork-object identity put forward by Danto is vulnerable to a similar criticism. I conclude by noting that the identity of artworks and physical objects is consistent with the insight that attending exclusively to the object's individual physical properties may prevent us from grasping the nature of the work.


Contre l' opinion voulant que les œuvres d'art soient des objets physiques, d'aucunsfont rigulièrement valoir la présumée incapacité des objets physiques à posséder des propriétés représentationnelles, propriétés que certaines œuvres d'art possèdent à l'évidence. Je fais valoir que cette remise en question est sujette à des confusions à propos des propriétés représentationnelles et de l'expérience esthétique. Je montre que de même, la remise en question par Danto de l'identité œuvre d'art objet prête le flanc à une critique similaire. Je conclus pour finir que l'identité entre œuvres d'art et objets physiques est compatible avec l'intuition voulant que prêter attention exclusivement aux propriétés physiques d'un certain objet peut nous empêcher de saisir la nature de l'œuvre.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Works of Art as Physically Embodied and Culturally Emergent Entities,” British Journal of Aesthetics, 14 [1974]: 187–96)

Why Constitution Is Not Identity,” The Journal of Philosophy, 94 (1997): 599621

Toward an Ontology of Artworks,” Noûs, 9 [1975]: 115–42)

John Hanke , “Can Representational Works of Art Be Physical Objects?The Journal of Value Inquiry, 10 (1976): 209–19, esp. p. 209.

Interpreting the Arts: The Patchwork Theory,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 51 [1993]: 597609, esp. p. 597)

John Dilworth , to give just one recent example, credits Danto with establishing this point (“A Representational Theory of Artworks and Artefacts,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 41 [2001]: 353–70).

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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