Budd on Artistic Value
In Stecker and Gracyk, Aesthetics Today (2010)
Thesis: "artistic value is intrinsic, sentiment-dependent, intersubjective, anthropocentric and incommensurable."
We evaluate things. Most things can be evaluated from more than one perspective (e.g., cognitive, religious, social).
When artists make art, they are attempting to create something of value, as an artwork of a particular kind. (A painter makes a valuable visual object. A composer makes a valuable auditory object.)
Other people raise an objection to generating a general theory:
(1) Since different artists produce things of different kinds, there won't be a unitary value.
(2) Within each art, there is too much variation among different kinds to expect unitary value.
Response: Either way, the fact that something can be realized in many ways does not show that these have no unifying essence. (You can invest money in stocks or in real estate. Stocks and real estate are very different kinds of things. This shows that investment value can be realized in different ways.)
Fundamental idea: artworks offer experiences. The relevant experience is the one that you have if you understand that work of art. When you experience something with full understanding, you will be aware of all of its aesthetically relevant properties. These properties "ground" artistic value.
Since the experience of the work is what is relevant, full understanding must take account of whatever is aesthetically relevant to it, for those properties are intrinsic to the experience of that work, and that is the case because those properties are properties of the work itself.
Therefore the properties that are of value are intrinsic properties of the work, and the artistic value is an intrinsic value of the work.
Intrinsic value is the opposite of instrumental value. Therefore artistic value is not instrumental value.
A valuable artwork could be valuable even if no one finds the experience of it to be valuable. The experience is not automatically triggered by encountering the artwork. (The Mona Lisa would be equally valuable in a world where everyone has become blind.)
This intrinsic value, when realized, is independent of an artwork's instrumental value. Evidence: Very difficult to determine if it has any, and how much. Example: Many works of fiction generate an imaginative identification with a character. This is an intended feature of the experience of artworks of that type, and so the identification is intrinsic to the experience when there is full understanding. The further benefits of this identification are instrumentally valuable (or not) and may (or may not) occur. This kind of art might create conditions for becoming a better person, but its artistic value does not require the result to actually occur.
Is this aestheticism? Is it art-for-art's sake?
Not as usually understood. There is no assumption of a special experience that happens only with art, and there's no assumption that people who have the experience with understanding can have it apart from knowing all sorts of things about the world, beyond art.
You find it to be artistically valuable if and only if (1) you experience it with understanding and (2) you find the experience of it to be rewarding.
(2) implies that you cannot have that rewarding experience from any other thing.
We value the experience of the vehicle, not just the "content" that it communicates. (Cognitivism holds that the value is in the information we understand, so cognitivism does not focus on intrinsic artistic value.)
Issue: Does the link to rewarding experience make artistic value subjective?
No more than any position in which there's room for error. (Some people don't understand math, or make lots of errors. That doesn't make math calculations subjective.)
To the extent that a work can be understood correctly in more than one way by those who understand it, it can have more than one intrinsic value.
Last updated March 29, 2011 ~ All text © 2011 Theodore Gracyk