Volume 87, Issue 3, Summer 2013
Robert Greenleaf Brice
Hagberg and Wittgensteinian Certitude
In the penultimate chapter of his book, Art as Language, G. L. Hagberg presents an argument against Arthur Danto, George Dickie, and other advocates of the Institutional Theory (IT), arguing that a tension exists within the theory. Through conferral, a spokesperson declares what artifacts are accepted into the artworld. Hagberg finds this problematic because, while the criterion one uses is something that the later Wittgenstein would endorse, it points back to an essentialism that he clearly rejected. But Hagberg believes he can avoid this problem by applying Wittgenstein’s notion of certainty to specific artifacts in aesthetics. By relying on Wittgenstein’s notion of certitude, however, he exposes himself to a tension that exists in On Certainty: is certainty natural, or is it social? Although the propositions Hagberg uses have the potential to become certain, he treats them as if they begin that way. In this paper I present two ways in which Wittgenstein classifies or understands certainty: a bottom-up approach, where certainty is part of our natural and instinctual predisposition, and a top-down approach, where certainty is acquired through positive reinforcement. I believe Hagberg fails to appreciate this distinction as well as the consequences for his claim.