In support of content theories of art

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (1):19 – 39 (2007)
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A content theory of art would identify an artwork with the meaningful or representational content of some concrete artistic vehicle, such as the intentional, expressive, stylistic, and subject matter-related content embodied in, or resulting from, acts of intentional artistic expression by artists. Perhaps surprisingly, the resultant view that an artwork is nothing but content seems to have been without theoretical defenders until very recently, leaving a significant theoretical gap in the literature. I present some basic arguments in defence of such a view, including the following. Content views of linguistic communication are ubiquitous, so why should they not be applicable in artistic cases as well? Also, propositional accounts of language involve two kinds of content (the proposition expressed by a sentence, plus the worldly state of affairs it represents), both of which kinds can be used in explaining artworks. In addition, the differing modal properties of artworks and concrete artefacts can be used to show that artworks could not be, or include, such physical artefacts.
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