The Nature of Art

Stephen Davies

in The Artful Species

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199658541
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746253 | DOI:
The Nature of Art

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This chapter proposes that art is pan-cultural and found in every epoch, including prehistory, and rejects the idea that art is confined to recent European culture. “Cluster” accounts, which list art-relevant properties and argue that an item’s realizing an appropriate subset of these is sufficient to make it art, fail to help us determine the status of marginal cases. A multi-stranded account is preferable: something is art if it fits into an established art category, or it was intended to be art, or it achieves excellence in realizing artistic goals. Much art is functional, and being contemplated for its own sake is only one among many functions that art can serve. Most animals do not qualify as artists, though they may sing, dance, or do other things beautifully, because their creations lack the generativity—development, change, and novelty—that marks art. Sperm whales are a possible exception.

Keywords: art; art forms; birdsong; bowerbirds; chimpanzees; cluster theory; functionality

Chapter.  5045 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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