Internal Beauty

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In the title essay of The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art Arthur Danto describes two dominant strains of the philosophy of art in its Platonic beginnings: one that art is dangerous, and thus subject to political censorship or control, and the other that art exists at several removes from the ordinary reality, impotent to effect any meaningful change in the human world.1 These two ways of understanding art, really two charges laid at art’s door, seem contradictory, he writes, until one realizes that the second is a philosophical response to the first. In a ‘‘kind of warfare between philosophy and art’’ philosophy sees art as a rival, as a challenger to the supremacy of reason over the minds of men. Thus Danto describes the premise advanced in Book X of the Republic that art is mimesis, or that of The Ion that the artist lacks knowledge of what he does, as components of a powerfully disabling theory of art, designed not so much to come to terms with the essence of art as to neutralize its power through metaphysical exile, denying art causal efficacy or epistemic validity in the real world. And the history of aesthetics, in Danto’s view, continues this disenfranchisement, whether in the Kantian ephemeralization of art as an object of disinterested judgment, outside the realm of human practical and political concerns, or in the Hegelian ‘‘takeover’’ of art, in which it is demoted as an inadequate form of philosophy
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