Art Forms Emerging: An Approach to Evaluative Diversity in Art

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78 (3):303-318 (2020)
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An artwork in one culture and form, say European classical music, cannot be evaluated in the context of another, say Hindustani music. While a person educated in the traditions of European music can rationally evaluate and discuss her response to a string quartet by Beethoven, her response to music in a foreign culture is merely subjective. She might "like" the latter, but her response is merely subjective. In this paper, I discuss the role of artforms: why response can be "objectively" discussed within artforms, but is nonetheless subjective across them. My discussion falls into two parts. First, I offer a psychological account of aesthetic response to art: cultural learning stabilizes this response across individuals who are educated in an artform. Second, I offer a cultural-evolutionary account of the diversity of artforms, adapting Darwin's Principle of the Divergence of Character to explain the multiplicity of art forms.

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Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga


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