We get an overview of the philosophical approach followed by various routes io a definition of what is art or an artistic object. It's pretty dense arguing, but what do ou expect? At the end the author presents his own view. A good introduction to this area of philosophy'
Noël Carroll introduces the reader to the philosophy of art by examining in turn the most influential modern attempts to define art. He makes the point that there has been very little agreement concerning these matters, and that this suggests that there may be a fundamental difficulty with all definitional approaches to art. Having carefully examined various alternatives - representationalism, formalism, neo-Wittgensteinianism, institutional theory and so on - noting their strengths and weaknesses, and how their advocates have responded to critics, he concludes by suggesting an alternative, narrational approach that may avoid the problems created when we insist on a single, universal definition of art.
There are many introductory texts in this area, but I think that this is one of the more substantial. The author is a Professor of the Philosophy of Art, and a well-known figure in the area. His book is aimed primarily at undergraduate students of the arts, or of philosophy. Nonetheless, it should be accessible to any intelligent adult reader with a genuine interest in the subject who is willing to read carefully and is not intimidated by line-by-line argumentation. Its strength is not so much that it argues for any given approach - though obviously the author favours his own - as that it forces the reader to see how complex the apparently simple process of art appreciation really is, and why easy definitions continue to elude us.
I read this book at least five years ago, and the only thing that's prompted me to review it is revisting it here on Amazon (I didn't buy it from here originally - sorry - but from the Sussex university bookshop, where I was trying to complete my Phd), and finding the only person who reviewed it had given it a lousy two stars. Shame on you, whoever you are.
Carroll's Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction is an easy-to-read, non-patronising, highly thoughtful, reflective look at the major positions in the field. It left me feeling I wanted to find out more. It left me feeling I'd been led through the territory by a friend. I felt more intelligent for having read it. And yes, I completed my Phd. I'd thoroughly recommend it. Five stars, without hesitation.
This book, written by a philosophy professor, is filled with circular reasoning that would be spotted by a ten year old.
For instance, the author rejects the representational theory of art with the argument, that some art isn't representational. Therefore, the representational theory must be wrong. Easy, right?
Wrong. The whole point of the representational theory is that non-representational art *isn't* art. Carroll's argument is therefore a non sequitur. Essentially, he just says: "YES, IT IS". To which the representationalist will respond: "NO, IT ISN'T". Quite a debate!
Carroll assumes what needs to be proven: that the avantgarde is art. Duchamp's ready-mades and "Two Minutes of Silence" are art. Why? No idea. Because Carroll and modernist art critics say so, presumably. Therefore, definitions of art which would exclude Duchamp and the Silent Guy cannot be correct. QED.
That's an argument?
When the chips are down, Carroll cannot even present a definition of his own, at least not a coherent one. Carroll believes that design isn't art. Why not? Many people would disagree. But perhaps they aren't part of the cognoscenti Art Circle. He further believes that a traffic sign used as a wall decoration wouldn't be art. Again, why not?
What is art? Perhaps the question cannot be given a clear answer. And then, perhaps it can. How come the public after 100 years of modernist indoctrination still doesn't consider the modernist monstrosities to be "art"? Carroll implies that such people are simply silly and philistine. Another possibility is that modern and postmodern art simply doesn't appeal to some kind of aesthetic, symbolic or ritual instincts deeply embedded in our psyches. In plain English: no, Noël, it really isn't "art" after all!