Volume 19, Issue 2, 2019
Philosophy of Art
Artistic Conversations: Artworks and Personhood
This essay explores claims made frequently by artists, critics, and philosophers that artworks bear personifying traits. Rejecting the notion that artists possess the Pygmalion-like power to bring works of art to life, the article looks seriously at how parallels may exist between the ontological structures of the artwork and human personhood. The discussion focuses on Arthur Danto’s claim that the “artworld” itself manifests properties that are an imprint of the historical representation of the “world.” These “world” representations are implicitly embodied in the artist’s style. The “world” that is stamped on the people of a historical period entails a point of view that influences how they might act, something like the logic that guides a conversation. This “conversational” logic is also extant in the artworks that artists of a given period create. This analysis of Danto’s account of how people are connected to their world clarifies Danto’s assertions that a parallel structure of personification in the artwork and the human exists. It also explains his claims that artworks themselves appear to be in a kind of dialogue.