Sadly, we lost one of our greatest philosophers of art this past Friday. I cannot overstate how important Arthur Danto has been to the development of my own understanding of art and our relationship to it. In particular, his idea of the “Artworld” has greatly influenced many of my own writings and works of criticism (most of them published here on this blog). And I still have much to learn. For instance, I have a tendency to conflate the terms “aesthetics” and “philosophy of art,” something that Danto warned us not to do. This past August, in a review of Danto’s final book, What Art Is, Joseph Tanke wrote:
While many take aesthetics and the philosophy of art to be synonymous, Danto argues for a hard distinction between the two. For him, aesthetics is largely a matter of delectation, a consideration of the way in which things appear to the senses, along with an argument for the superiority of one arrangement over another. The philosophy of art, on the other hand, is an inquiry into what distinguishes art objects from other things in the world; it is an attempt to answer the question, what makes art art?
Moving forward, I will try to make an effort to speak of “philosophy of art” in my approach to the subject, and not “aesthetics,” for I certainly have no desire to argue for the superiority of one arrangement of sensory data over another.
You can read the New York Times obituary of Danto here:
And here is a reprint of a brief article that Danto published in 2002: