Pictorial Art and Epistemic Aims

In Harald Klinke (ed.), Art Theory as Visual Epistemology. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 11-28 (2014)
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The question whether art is of any epistemic value is an old question in the philosophy of art. Whereas many contemporary artists, art-critics, and art-historians answer this question affirmatively, many contemporary philosophers remain skeptical. If art is of epistemic significance, they maintain, then it has to contribute to our quest of achieving our most basic epistemic aim, namely knowledge.Unfortunately, recent and widely accepted analyses of knowledge make it very hard to see how art might significantly contribute to the quest of achieving this aim. Hence, by the lights of recent epistemology, it is questionable whether art is of any epistemic value. In order to hold on to the epistemic value of art, one has three options: (a) reject the recent analyses of knowledge that make the epistemic value of art questionable, (b) accept the recent analyses of knowledge but argue that they are compatible with the epistemic value of art, or (c) find another epistemic aim (besides knowledge) and show that art is of significant help in achieving this aim. In this paper I will argue that, at least with respect to pictorial art, option (c) seems promising. By reconsidering some basic insights and ideas from Nelson Goodman we can identify (objective) understanding as an epistemic aim to which pictorial art makes a significant contribution.
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