Philosophical Theories of Art


Art is a medium through which people communicate their feelings, thoughts and ideas. It is a powerful and unique form of expression that can have many functions including creating beauty, exploring the nature of perception, generating emotions, or raising awareness for various causes. However, not all art is created equal and many people struggle with determining what constitutes meaningful art.

Several philosophical theories have been developed to define art. Some define art in terms of aesthetic communication while others define it as a cultural phenomenon. The latter approach explains how a work of art can be defined as a cultural phenomena in that it expresses an element of truth of a culture and provides a springboard from which that truth can be uncovered.

There are a few key factors to consider when determining what makes something a piece of art. Some of these include its physical execution, its skill or composition and whether it has had a significant impact on art history. For example, works such as the Mona Lisa, The Starry Night and The Birth of Venus have been able to inspire generations of art lovers through their captivating style and subject.

Art can also serve a ritualistic or symbolic function within a culture. For example, certain pieces of art may be used in religious ceremonies or used to represent particular ideas such as love, beauty, power, freedom or death. Some art is even used to raise awareness for a variety of social issues such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and ocean pollution.

The debate over what defines art continues to this day. Some philosophers suggest that existing definitions of art are based on flawed and incomplete information. These critics argue that the central art forms at any given time are listed in part because of the influence of androcentric and male-dominated art historians, curators and other experts. They therefore call for new definitions that incorporate or presuppose a framework which is not androcentric and gynocentric (Stecker 2003).

Other philosophers, such as Arthur Danto, support the idea that an object can be considered a work of art if it meets a set of internal historical criteria. This includes the fact that it was produced by an artist in an artistic context with a recognized and live artistic motivation and that it resembles at least one acknowledged artwork (Carroll 1993).

Other philosophical theories have been proposed that combine features of institutional and aesthetic definitions. For example, an approach based on the idea of appreciation argues that to appreciate something as art it is necessary that one finds its existence valuable in itself (Iseminger 2004). Other philosophers have suggested that there are cases which are both open concepts and that require a decision to either expand or close the concept in order to determine what is or is not art.