Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 2018

Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art

Tiziana Andina
Pages 15-19

An Ontology for the Works of Art

“What is art?” All in all it sounds like a fairly trivial question: art is so ingrained in our world that intuitively we believe everyone is able to answer it. If we look at this question closely, however, we realize that things are not so simple. Among the first who tried to clarify the issue was Plato, one of the most ardent Western philosophers for definitions. In the 10th book of the Republic he drew a long lasting distinction: the objects that make up our universe are divided among the most perfect ones, the ideas, after which everything is shaped, the less perfect ones, the material things, which are modeled after the ideas, and at the bottom of the hierarchy there are the works of art, which are more flawed, imperfect, useless and even dangerous than material things in general. It has been written that the history of philosophy is ‘nothing but a series of footnotes to Plato’. As far as the philosophy of art is concerned that is certainly true until the 20th century, when - at least since Modernism - the elegant Platonic thesis began to show signs of aging and it was no longer able to provide a good answer to the question with which we began. The talk develops the idea that the works of art are a kind of higher order objects; in particular, they are semantics vehicles, namely objects that carry meanings, which are the product of human representations.

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