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What is AskPhilosophers? This site puts the talents and knowledge of philosophers at the service of the general public. Send in a question that you think might be related to philosophy and we will do our best to respond to it. To date, there have been 4974 questions posted and 6265 responses. [more]

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A friend of mine thinks that we can define art as 'a statement of creativity'. I'm not sure I agree with him but am struggling with working out what a 'statement' is. Has any philosopher written about this question? Is it possible to define a statement?

Response from Charles Taliaferro on August 10, 2014
You and your friend are on to a great topic that has a long and important history. The term art is derived from the Latin term for a principled way of making thing or in Greek from the term techne ... from this standpoint in the ancient world the term art would be shorthand for a work of art ore that which is produced through principled activity... In the ancient world, art was understood to involve imitation a painting of a horse should in some way offer us an image that imitates what it would be like to see a horse. As time moved on, we started to think of works of art as not imitations but as expressions of feelings or ideas. Your friend is on to something important: some works of art are intended to be and actually are making statements and to do so with creativity. One of the two most famous, well known paintings in the world are Michaelangelos ceiling painting of the creation. One may see this as both a work of creativity and expressing a doctrine humans are creations of God....and it may also function as presenting us many other things, expressing the artists Platonism his belief that the soul exists prior to the body or even as a statement about the importance of an older generation to pass along its power to a younger generation and so on. But it would be hard to classify ALL works of art as making statements and many creative statements do not seem to be works of art. So, some works of art are purely sensuous or too enigmatic to count as making statements think of colorfield paintings.

You can find ample sources that will present you with some stimulating proposals about what makes something a work of art in the online philosophical encyclopedias. I wrote an introduction to aesthetics with chapters that may interest you on works of art, how to recognize and evaluate them, is a short book: Aesthetics, A Beginners Guide

Published by OneWolrd Press, Oxford

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