‘I know what art is when I see it.’ Reasons (not) to define art

May 19, 2014 - May 20, 2014
Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent University

Gent 9000

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Catharine Abell
University of Manchester
Aaron Meskin
University of Leeds
Nick Zangwill


Kris Goffin
Annelies Monseré
Ghent University
Violi Sahaj
Ghent University
Mahdi Shamsi
University of Kent
Elgar Snelders
Ghent University
Bart Vandenabeele
Ghent University

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This conference will examine the motivations behind the project of defining art.  Recent voices in the philosophy of art have argued that the project has been wrongheaded and irrelevant. The most plausible of the contemporary attempts to define art provide us with no guidance with respect to the interpretation, evaluation, and appreciation of works of art, so it is argued. Moreover, the obsession with extensional adequacy has led astray the whole field of aesthetics, ignoring the core values of art and alienating other participants in the field of the arts from analytic aesthetics. Notwithstanding this scepticism regarding the project of defining art, there is still much work written on definitions of art and many questions in aesthetics and even in the broader field of the arts seem to hinge on how art is defined. 

The main aim of this conference is to shed light on the question whether or not we have adequate reasons to define art, a question that is often passed over in silence. This conference does not wish to add new definitions of art to the already existing bunch, but wants to reflect on the significance of actual or possible definitions of art. In this way, we aim to help reorient the project of defining art and make it more worthwhile for the artistic and philosophical community.

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