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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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Gregory Currie , though he holds that works of art are action types and not identical to physical objects, allows that visual artworks are “essentially embodied” (An Ontology of Art [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989], esp. pp. 125–27)

Richard Wollheim , Art and Its Objects, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 11

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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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