Lord, Lewis, and the Institutional Theory of Art

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In "Convention and Dickie's Institutional Theory" (British Journal of Aesthetics 1980), Catherine Lord maintains the following thesis: (L) If a work of art is defined as institutional and conventional, then the definition precludes the freedom and creativity associated with art. Lord also maintains that the antecedent of this conditional is false. In this note, I argue that (i) certain confusions and assumptions prevent Lord from showing the antecedent is false, and (ii) even if the antecedent is assumed to be true, there are counterexamples to the entire conditional. With regard to (ii), I will suggest that conventionality is necessary for creativity. [This was my first published paper, written as a graduate student, taken from my University of Illinois at Chicago dissertation written with Professor George Dickie on the topic of conventions, utilitizing David Lewis' definition of "convention."]
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