Share via Email Arthur Danto was concened with exactly why history is not just one damn thing after another, but forms a narrative told from a later vantage point.
Auxier and Lewis Edwin Hahn eds. The Philosophy of Arthur C. August 03, Randall E. Reviewed by Brian Soucek, University of California, Davis The thirty-third volume of the Library of Living Philosophers is dedicated to the life and thought of Arthur Danto, the philosopher and art critic who died last October.
The book is a mixed bag. This might be inevitable in a collection of twenty-seven essays and responses. But the problems go beyond the odd misfire among the contributions. The essays are at once repetitive and crucially under-inclusive; the arrangement is haphazard; and the number of essays that Danto, famous for his generosity, found impenetrable or just wrong is alarmingly high.
Few will, and still fewer should, read this book cover-to-cover. The best service I can provide, then, is to highlight what parts more selective readers will not want to miss. The format -- and point -- of the Living Philosophers series is to put great thinkers in conversation with their critics, and Danto's short responses are almost always interesting, whether they are actually responsive or, as often, not.
A reader gets more than a dozen essays deep into the book, in fact, before encountering a contribution that's better than Danto's response. Even more rewarding is the page intellectual autobiography that begins the book.
Danto's narrative is breezy at times -- one page alone finds Danto, inmaking a movie in Rodin's foundry, getting to know Giacometti in Paris, and visiting Santayana in Rome Recent survivors of the academic job market may be scandalized to hear how, inDanto was offered his first position at Columbia during an unplanned stop at its bookstore "to pick up some 3x5 cards, God knows why" He taught there for the next four decades.
Hardly less serendipitous are Danto's stories about his decision to stop producing art cold turkey in the early '60s -- before that, he was making as much money selling woodcuts as he did as an assistant professor of philosophy -- or the unexpected invitation he received in to become the art critic for The Nation, a role he inhabited to great acclaim for the next twenty-five years.
Stories like these punctuate Danto's descriptions of his own evolving philosophies of history, action, knowledge, and art -- as well as his books on Asian religions, on Nietzsche as Philosopher what Lionel Trilling called "the snottiest title he had ever seen"and on Sartre.
Danto's bibliography, helpfully provided at the end of the present volume, spans fifty pages. Together, these descriptions provide as succinct and comprehensive an introduction to Danto's thought as has ever been written. I recount here the central strand of this intellectual history in part to show what the subsequent essays fail to engage, and how their arrangement muddles some of Danto's primary philosophical achievements.
Hand painted and made out of plywood rather than cardboard, the Brillo Boxes were otherwise near facsimiles of the boxes of Brillo pads found in the supermarket. Danto was struck by the fact that whatever difference there was between Brillo Box and an "ordinary" Brillo box could not be found by looking: So why was one a work of art and the other a "mere thing"?
Danto realized, to quote one of my favorite sentences of the current book, that "The task of identifying the works of art was not an ordinary recognitional skill, like identifying the giraffes in a menagerie, or the mussels in a tide pool" Andy Warhol, the Pop artist. Well known as Danto's "founding myth" has become, two insights about "The Artworld" still emerge from this book.
First, a full half-century after "The Artworld" was published, it is remarkable how alive the metaphor of Danto's title remains. Danto has, for years, made clear that the artworld is not a world of people or institutions, but a community of artworks, engaged in something like a conversation In this book, Danto pushes that idea further, ascribing to the history of art the conversational logic or "implicature" described by Paul Grice As such, a work like Brillo Box can be said to constitute a logical next step in the "conversation" of mid-twentieth century art, but only someone following along with the conversation could hear that -- and thereby see Brillo Box as art.
In pursuing this metaphor, Danto vacillates between analogizing artworks to conversational statements 26,or to the speakers themselves The former perhaps makes more sense, but Danto's heart seems to lie with the latter. For one thing, the analogy between artworks and persons allows Danto to connect, in retrospect, the political currents ofthe year of the Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act, to his own discovery that seeing something as art requires us to look beyond appearances.
The community of artworks was growing no less than the American political community, and appearances alone could no longer justify exclusion and disenfranchisement The analogy between artworks and persons, a staple of Danto's metaphysics,makes possible one of the few connections between Danto's philosophy as opposed to his criticism or his life and the political.
A second insight about "The Artworld" also emerges: Prior to "The Artworld," Danto had contributed to the philosophy of history the concept of "narrative sentences," had edited with Sidney Morgenbesser an anthology on the philosophy of science, and had begun work in epistemology and the philosophy of action that would later result in books.
Across these fields, Danto was looking to notions of theory-laden observation to answer philosophical problems, which, he found, all took the same form:Danto’s investigations into history, progress, and art theory, coalesced into his best-known essay, “The End of Art.” Before tackling “The End of Art,” we need to briefly consider how.
Arthur Danto’s best-known essay, "The End of Art," continues to be cited more than it is understood. What was Danto’s argument?
Is art really over? And if so, what are the implications for art. The End of Art: A Philosophical Defense Arthur C. Danto History and Theory, Vol. 37, No. 4, Theme Issue Danto and His Critics: Art History, Historiography and After the End of .
This essay takes Arthur Danto’s end-of-art thesis as a case in point of a substantive philosophy of history. Such philosophy explains the direction that art has taken and why that direction could not have been different.
Arthur Danto obituary In his essay The End of Art (), he claimed that art had progressed through three phases – uniformly imitating . Second came Danto's theory of art history and his infamous "end of art" thesis, which held that art's developmental narrative ended once it turned its definitional project over to philosophy; the lack of stylistic imperatives in Danto's definition was well-suited to the radical pluralism that followed.