Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

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What follows is a guest post by Karen Glover

Rightly or not, academic philosophy has a reputation for pursuing irresolvable debates about highly speculative questions, often with no material stakes or outcome. For some, this is proof of philosophy’s futility; for others, it points to the value of dialectic not in its utility, but as a worthwhile end in itself.

The intentionalism debate in aesthetics could be seen as one such debate. This is primarily a normative debate about whether, and to what extent, artists’ pronouncements about the meaning of their artworks should be determinative for the interpretation of those artworks. While there have been some exceptions, the discussion has focused to a great extent on literary artworks. (For an overview see Irvin 2006.) Anti-intentionalists and extreme actual intentionalists represent the two poles of the debate. The former divorce the meaning of the work entirely from reference to the historical author’s intentions, whereas the latter collapse them.  Neither pole has many remaining adherents. Continue reading