Weitz and the Role of Theory in Aesthetics

In the yesteryear. the chief end of aesthetics has been to explicate a definition of art. A definition is a statement of the necessary and sufficient belongingss of what is being defined. This statement has to turn out its intent of giving a true or false claim about the nature. or kernel of art and what characterizes it from anything else. Many theoreticians sustain that unless we know what art is. we can non get down to react to it adequately or to state why one work is better than the other. Morris Weitz. in his essay “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics” wants to plead for the rejection of this job. He argues that a true definition of art. consisting of its necessary and sufficient belongingss is non possible. That a definition merely closes the construct of art when in its really usage. this construct demands to stay unfastened.

To explicate Weitz’s attack to aesthetics. I will first reference Wittgenstein’s attack to linguistic communication found in Philosophic Investigations. given that many critics including Weitz. have explored Wittgenstein’s refusal to speculate and build definitions of philosophical entities. In his work. Wittgenstein raises an exemplifying inquiry. What is a game? The traditional theoretical reply would be in footings of some thorough set of belongingss common to all games.

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To this Wittgenstein gives us a list of board games. card games. ball games. and asks if there is something common to them all. Despite the premise that there must be something common to them or else they would non be called “games. ” if we look and see weather there is something common to them all. weather there are any necessary and sufficient belongingss to “game” will non happen it. All we may happen are similarities and relationships between different games. If one asks what a game is. we normally pick out sample games and depict them. Weitz. merely like Wittgenstein. points out the difference between depicting and specifying. He writes:

“Knowing what a game is is non cognizing some existent definition or theory but being able to acknowledge and explicate games and to make up one’s mind which among fanciful and new illustrations would or would non be called ‘games. ” ( pp. 31 )

The Wittgensteinian job about the nature of games is merely like the job about the nature of art to Weitz. If we look and see what it is that we call art. we will besides happen no common belongingss. merely similarities. Knowing what art is has nil to make with being able to specify it. but instead with being able to depict it. acknowledge it and explicate it in virtuousness of those similarities. While a definition would shut a construct. the feature of description is its unfastened texture. We can right depict something as art by virtuousness of its similarities. but no thorough definition can be given.

To further explore Weitz’s thought of an unfastened construct. I will mention to the illustration he uses when adverting Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake. Weitz asks. is Finnegan’s Wake a novel? The traditional manner. in hunt for a definition that would allow us to reply yes or no. would build this as a factual job refering necessary and sufficient belongingss. The new manner. which avoids a definition. would hold to make up one’s mind weather the work is similar in certain respects to other plants already called “novels. ” Equally long as Finnegan’s Wake portions some. but non every similarity to other novels. so the construct of art can be extended to cover the new instance. So this work is like recognized novels A and B in some respects. but non like them in others.

But so. neither was B in some respects like A when a determination to widen the construct was made. Finnegan’s Wake standing as N+1 is similar to A and B in some respects. but non in others so the job is non factual but instead one of determination doing whether the finding of fact has to make with spread outing the conditions as to use to the new construct. So undermentioned Wittgenstein. Weitz notices how an thorough definition is non possible. and how it would merely shut a construct that should stay unfastened. “Art itself is an unfastened concept” ( pp. 32 ) he writes. Searching for a definition of what can non be defined is like seeking to squash what is an unfastened construct into an honorific expression for a closed construct.

Another of import difference that will assist us understand the differentiation of a expression and what lies behind it. is that between descriptions of art and artistic ratings. When we say that X is a work of art. we use art as an appraising ( good. mediocre etc. ) and descriptive ( bluish. soft etc. ) construct. When Ten is a work of art is understood as descriptive. what we give are non necessary and sufficient conditions. but instead packages of belongingss most of which are present ( although they need non to ) when we describe things as plants of art. Cases where normal conditions are denied are besides capable of being true in certain fortunes. So we can hold “X is a work of art and exists merely in the head. ” “X …and was made by accident when he spilled pigment into the canvas. ” Etc.

Obviously. if none of the conditions were present for acknowledging something as a work of art in virtuousness of similarities. we would non depict it as one. But none of these is either necessary or sufficient.

Now. the job with the appraising impression of art is that alternatively of depicting it praises. Although we may utilize art to praise. Weitz stresses that what can non be maintained is that theories of appraising usage are existent definitions of art. They are lone definitions of chosen standards which a critic personally decides to utilize in favour of a work. These honorific definitions merely make Weitz’s statement stronger. because they prove. through their arguments over the grounds for altering the standards of a definition. that the construct of art remains unfastened. Weitz writes:

“If we take aesthetic theories literally. as we have seen. they all fail ; but if we reconstrue them. in footings of their map and point…we shall see that aesthetic theory is far from worthless. ” ( pp35 )

There is a certain sort of pluralism in Weitz’s statement. which is inclusive of the different aesthetic theories. yet does non accept one thorough definition of art. So Weitz. plunging into a pool of Wittgensteinian objects. all related transitively through a series of similarities. comes out of it as a non-essentialist about the construct of art. He argues against a definition because he finds it debatable in its practicality. empirical cogency and deficiency of inclusiveness to new art works.

Weitz. by indicating that what we do when we say. Ten is art. is give a description. besides mentions that appraising belongingss are used to give legitimacy to a work randomly considered to be art. This flightiness and the arguments traveling on between different philosophers who evaluate and try to specify art are a strong cogent evidence to Weitz’s statement. Definitions change because there is no thorough definition of art. and one time we understand this job. all we can make is go forth the construct unfastened. describe art. and understand what a work is by virtuousness of its transitive similarities to other plants.

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