Ready-Mades: Ontology and Aesthetics

British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (4):407-423 (2013)
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Abstract

I explore the interrelations between the ontological and aesthetic issues raised by ready-mades such as Duchamp’s Fountain. I outline a hylomorphic metaphysics which has two central features. First, hylomorphically complex objects have matter to which they are not identical. Secondly, when such objects are artefacts (including artworks), it is essential to them that they are the products of creative work on their matter. Against this background, I suggest that ready-mades are of aesthetic interest because they pose a dilemma. Is there really an object, a sculpture, that is distinct from its matter, a urinal, which object is created merely by the artist’s choice of the urinal? Or are we dealing with a case in which an artist passes off something, a urinal, as if it were a sculpture, even though it is not one?

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Simon Evnine
University of Miami

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