The School of Arthur Danto

In “The School of Arthur Danto”, Crispin Sartwell opines on the late Arthur Danto’s very influential philosophical aesthetics. (I never really warmed to Danto’s “institutional theory of art”, which surfs a bit too closely to relativism for my tastes.) Sartwell writes:

I first read Danto’s work – specifically his classic work in aesthetics, “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace” – in the late 1980s, when I was a graduate student working in philosophy of art. It had a liberating effect, for a number of reasons. For one thing, aesthetics had long been a marginal sub-discipline in analytic philosophy, and seemed ready by then to peter out entirely. Serious philosophers wanted to talk about the semantics of modal logic or the structure of science rather than the disconcertingly elusive and passionate realm of the arts…

When he began publishing in the ’60s, Danto associated his own work in the most explicit way possible with analytic philosophy, writing books titled “Analytical Philosophy of Knowledge” and “Analytical Philosophy of Action.” But from the first, his work expanded the genre far beyond technical questions in logic and language. He wrote about Lao Tzu and Nietzsche, Proust and Borges, Duchamp and Warhol. And when he brought them into the contemporary philosophical discourse, he expanded the discipline to encompass or re-integrate them.

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