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Just because there are different words this does not mean that there are clearly distinguished kinds of thing.

"The individual words in a language name objects - sentences are a combination of such names. Every word has a meaning, it stands for something." Augustine

Wittgenstein had accepted Augustine's way but later realized that context is needed to truly understand a word. Wittgenstein said that we restrict words if we try to define them out of their context. He said: "philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday". Essentially, Wittgenstein is saying that taking language out of context renders it often useless and at the very least, hard to understand fully. He recognized that words have many different uses in different contexts.


The context for the development of the use of the word "art" was - in Europe - the attempt by painters and sculptors to raise their status at the time of the Renaissance. Before then they had been generally  regarded as craftsmen (few women). They and their proponents, such as Vasari, wanted to raise their status and thus the monetary value of their work. They began signing their work, educating themselves and including references to classical culture, developing their own themes rather than working to specified requirements of those commissioning them such as Church authorities, etc.  They became not anonymous craftsmen, but individualistic Artists with an emphasis on personal style and self-expression - i.e. the now widely accepted notion of the Artist which was further developed and exaggerated by the Romantics. It is now so widely accepted that it seems as if it were a fact of nature, or true by definition, rather than a recent cultural developement with economic roots.

Raised Status of Painters and Sculptors

Up until the Renaissance, painters and sculptors had been considered merely as skilled workers, not unlike talented interior decorators. However, in keeping with its aim of producing thoughtful, classical art, the Italian Renaissance raised the professions of painting and sculpture to a new level. In the process, prime importance was placed on 'disegno' - an Italian word whose literal meaning is 'drawing' but whose sense incorporates the 'whole design' of a work of art - rather than 'colorito', the technique of applying coloured paints/pigments. Disegno constituted the intellectual component of painting and sculpture, which now became the profession of thinking-artists not decorators.


It happened a bit later in Holland, but was the same sort of development:

Rembrandt's Self-Portrait in Painter's Costume is one of the abnormally numerous depictions of the artist by himself. Even though the sheer amount of Rembrandt's self-portraits is exceptional, it is also symptomatic of a period when the individuality of the artist was a newly recognized value. Many 17th-century Netherlandish painters went out of their way to apply their trademark on their work. Unsurprisingly, the habit to sign one's work spread at that time.


A marxist approach complements Wittgenstein's advice :-)

Also there has been a lot of work on aesthetics - after Kant, Hegel, etc. - there's no need for us to reinvent the wheel - my old aesthetics lecturer would be shaking her head. I'm not saying philosophers now agree or that we must agree with authorties on the subject, but maybe we should be aware of what some of the main ones have said, which  would  avoid some of already refuted generalisations made here.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Jun 15th, 2009 at 12:09:37 PM EST

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