Art, Metaphysics, & the Paradox of Standards

In Art & Abstract Objects. Oxford University Press (2013)
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I consider the field of aesthetics to be at its most productive and engaging when adopting a broadly philosophically informative approach to its core issues (e.g., shaping and testing putative art theoretic commitments against the relevant standard models employed in philosophy of language, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind) and to be at its most impotent and bewildering when cultivating a philosophically insular character (e.g., selecting interpretative, ontological, or conceptual models solely for fit with pre-fixed art theoretic commitments). For example, when philosophical aesthetics tends toward insularity, we shouldn’t be surprised to find standard art-ontological categories incongruous with those standardly employed in contemporary metaphysics. Of course, when contemporary metaphysics tends to ignore aesthetic and art theoretic concerns, perhaps we likewise shouldn’t be surprised to find the climate of contemporary metaphysics inhospitable for a theory of art. While this may seem to suggest at least a prima facie tension between our basic art theoretic commitments considered from within philosophical aesthetics and our standard ontological commitments considered from without, I think any perceived tension or antagonism largely due to metaphysicians and aestheticians (at least implicitly) assuming there to be but two available methodological positions with respect to the relationship between contemporary metaphysics and philosophical aesthetics (in the relevant overlap areas). I call these two opposing views the Deference View and the Independence View. I argue that either view looks to lead to what I call the Paradox of Standards.

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Christy Mag Uidhir
University of Houston


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