The works of art from the philosophically innocent point of view

Hungarian Philosophical Review 57 (4):7-17 (2012)
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the Mona Lisa, the Mondscheinsonate, the Chanson d’automne are works of art, the salt shaker on your table, the car in your garage, or the pijamas on your bed are not. the basic question of the metaphysics of works of art is this: what makes a thing a work of art? that is: what sort of property do works of art have in virtue of which they are works of art? or more simply: what sort of property being a work of art is? In this paper we argue that things are works of art in virtue of what they are like, their intrinsic features, that is, in virtue of the fact that they have the perceptual (auditory, visual, etc.) properties they have. In other words: being a work of art supervenes on perceptual-intrinsic features. Currently, this metaphysical view is extremely unpopular within the philosophy of art. It is unpopular because there allegedly exists a knock-down objection to it, the well-known argument from indiscernible counterparts. our thesis implies, among other things, that every perceptual duplicate of a work of art is also a work of art. according to the argument from indiscernible counterparts, however, there could be (or even: there are) indiscernible counterparts such that one of them is a work of art while the other is not. hence things cannot be works of art solely in virtue of what they are like. Our paper divides into three parts. In the first part we state our views. In the second part we defend it against various versions of the argument from indiscernible counterparts. (In doing so our position will become more plausible, we hope). In the final part we provide some meta-reflections on the matter.

Author's Profile

János Tőzsér
Research Centre for The Humanities, Budapest, Hungary


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