Ontology of Art

Stephen Davies

in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279456
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Ontology of Art

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  • Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • Metaphysics


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Ontology is the study of the kinds of things there are in the world. The ontology of art considers the matter, form, and mode in which art exists. Works of art are social constructs in the sense that they are not natural kinds but human creations. The way we categorize them depends on our interests, and to that extent ontology is not easily separated from sociology and ideology. Nevertheless, some classifications and interests are likely to be more revealing of why and how art is created and appreciated. There are a number of traditional classifications of the arts, for instance in terms of their media (stone, words, sounds, paint, etc.), their species (sculpture, literature, music, drama, ballet, etc.), or their styles or contents (tragedy, comedy, surrealism, impressionism, etc.). The ontology of works of art does not map neatly on to these classifications, however.

Keywords: ontology; ontology of art; social constructs; human creations; classifications of the arts; sculpture; impressionism

Article.  12545 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Metaphysics

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