Art and Achievement
James Grant (Oxford University)

April 26, 2019, 3:30pm - 5:30pm
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

United States


An increasingly popular view in the philosophy of art is that some artworks are good at least partly because they are achievements. This view was introduced to explain why two works that look the same, such as an original painting and a perfect copy, can differ in artistic merit. An achievement theory can say that the original is normally better because it is normally a greater achievement. Achievement theories have since been used to answer other questions, and they are now a serious alternative to traditional theories of artistic merit. This paper has three aims. The first is to articulate the achievement theory more fully and explicitly than its advocates have. The second is to show that the theory should be rejected, by raising three problems for it. The third is to show that appealing solely to the excellence, aptitude, and ineptitude a work manifests yields a distinct, and better, theory of artistic merit.

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