Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art

Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art

Peter Lamarque

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 0199655499

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Work and Object is a study of fundamental questions in the metaphysics of art, notably how works relate to the materials that constitute them. Issues about the creation of works, what is essential and inessential to their identity, their distinct kinds of properties, including aesthetic properties, their amenability to interpretation, their style, the conditions under which they can go out of existence, and their relation to perceptually indistinguishable doubles (e.g. forgeries and parodies), are raised and debated. A core theme is that works like paintings, music, literature, sculpture, architecture, films, photographs, multi-media installations, and many more besides, have fundamental features in common, as cultural artefacts, in spite of enormous surface differences. It is their nature as distinct kinds of things, grounded in distinct ontological categories, that is the subject of this enquiry. Although much of the discussion is abstract, based in analytical metaphysics, there are numerous specific applications, including a study of Jean-Paul Sartre's novel La Nausee and recent conceptual art. Some surprising conclusions are derived, about the identity conditions of works and about the difference, often, between what a work seems to be and what it really is.

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I don’t think the analogy is very strong. How do ideas inform literary works? Obviously the question affords no simple answer. Wherever there are meanings there are ideas and wherever there is language there is meaning. I think the most promising analogies revolve round the notion of a theme in a literary work. One ⁷ For examples see Emmett Williams, ed., An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, New York: Something Else Press, 1967. For an argument that concrete poetry is not literature, see

work is complete and therefore stops. In what follows, a ‘completed work’ will be one that satisfies genetic completeness, in this sense: the work is completed as a result of a decision by its creator that the work is complete. 2.2. Unfinished Works We need a brief word here about the celebrated cases of unfinished works that acquire the status of works, indeed canonical works, even in their unfinished state. Do these constitute counterexamples to the idea that a work is brought into

distinction; if that distinction is not tightly drawn then the supervenience thesis is again weakened. aesthetic essentialism 103 so marked as any other notation in the score and while, of course, performances may fail to realize the aesthetic qualities —performances may fail to adhere to any notation —an adequate rendering will demand characterization in these terms.¹³ Part of what is involved in the necessity of aesthetic descriptions is the normativity of a class of judgements. These

trying to preserve basic beliefs about works enshrined in practices. The works and the practices are internally linked in a way that is not true of natural objects and the linguistic practices within which they are identified and described. It makes sense to say that many of our commonly held beliefs about natural objects are wrong or misplaced, that we could find out things about their intrinsic nature that deeply clashed with such beliefs. But works have no independent existence from the

that works (including musical, pictorial, literary, sculptural, etc. works) are cultural artefacts among whose viii preface essential properties are intentional or relational properties (i.e. what they are as works is partially dependent on how they are taken to be by qualified observers); that works are distinct from the ‘objects’ that constitute them; that they are underdetermined by physical or notational properties; but that they are nonetheless real (not merely ideal) entities,

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