Contemplating Art: Essays in Aesthetics by Jerrold Levinson

By Jerrold Levinson

Contemplating Art is a compendium of writings from the final ten years by way of one of many prime figures in aesthetics, Jerrold Levinson. The twenty-four essays variety over matters often aesthetics and people in terms of particular arts--in specific tune, movie, and literature. it's going to charm not just to philosophers but in addition to musicologists, literary theorists, paintings critics, and reflective fans of the humanities.

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Why is that so? It helps to recall what, in the Post-Duchampian era, are two salient features of artmaking in contrast to standard artifact-making. First, one can more or less simply declare something a work of art, and it becomes such. Or at least one can, in certain contexts, or with a certain standing, do so. Second, anything, whatever its material constitution, cultural category, or ontological status, can become, or can be incorporated into, a work of art. These features are arguably enough to distinguish the concept of artwork from that of other artifacts, even if such artifacts, if Bloom is right, share with artworks the primary determining of their categorial status by a historical, or past-invoking, intention in their making.

In other words, nothing can be declared a failed artwork, in the sense of not succeeding in being an artwork at all, through failing to display a certain broadly specified form or a particular sort of functionality. But something can be declared a failed chair, in the sense of not even being a chair, if shaped like a javelin or if incapable of being sat upon at all. Thus even were an intentional-historical account of artifacts in general to be accepted, artwork would remain distinctively historical, in contrast with other artifact concepts, in respect of the creation involved requiring only the satisfaction of certain intentional-historical conditions.

Bloom’s insight is thus that all artifact concepts, and not just that of artwork, have an essential historical component, so that the past deployment of such concepts ineluctably enters into their present and future deployment, through the backward-directed intentions that the makers of such artifacts must of necessity possess. ’⁵ Bloom is persuasive in pointing up the superiority of his proposal to existing competitors, those which analyze artifact concepts in terms of necessaryand-sufficient conditions, family resemblances, characteristic functions, or prototypes.

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