Can Kant’s Aesthetics Accommodate Conceptual Art? A Reply to Costello

Con-Textos Kantianos 12:226-247 (2020)
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Diarmuid Costello has recently argued that, contra received opinion, Kant’s aesthetics can accommodate conceptual art, as well as all other art. Costello offers an interpretation of Kant’s art theory that demands from all art a minimal structure involving three basic “players” and three basic “actions” corresponding to those “players.” The article takes issue with the “action” assigned by Costello’s Kant to the artwork’s recipient, namely that her imagination generates a multitude of playful thoughts deriving from or in any other way relating to the concept or idea that the artist has instilled in the artwork and that the artwork transmits to the recipient. It is argued that the “proper” recipient of conceptual art may very well have a multitude of thoughts that are all irrelevant to the concept or idea the artist has instilled in the artwork, even if the artwork has transmitted that concept or idea to the recipient. This shows that Kant’s art theory, as presented by Costello, cannot accommodate conceptual art. I conclude by suggesting that either one of two amendments to the theory’s account of the recipient’s experience could enable it to accommodate conceptual art.

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Ioannis Trisokkas
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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