Carroll on Artistic Value

In Stecker and Gracyk, Aesthetics Today (2010) 

This document is a summary of Carroll. 
My personal comments are in red.

THESIS: Artistic value is not limited to aesthetic value, and too much emphasis is put on aesthetic value in most theories of artistic value. (Budd's theory is therefore seriously flawed.)

Two claims are very common:

  1. Art is special in being suitable for aesthetic responses.

  2. Art can be defined in terms of its functioning to promote these responses.

BOTH of these claims are false.

The importance of interpretation as an intended response shows that these are false. EXAMPLE: Thomas Mann's story "Tonio Kröger" requires significant interpretation. Figuring out themes is a sort of literary game for readers, and is central to our practice of literature.

Thinking about structure is not "aesthetic," as normally construed, yet it is also very important in responses to art.

This "game-like" aspect of art is a major source of our pleasure with art.

Conceptual art & readymades are good examples. We'd only argue that these are primarily opportunities for aesthetic experience if we already assume that aesthetic experience is the right response to art.

The aesthetic approach pays too little attention to the need to experience artworks in light of the history of art, and in light of established practices -- these contextual aspects of art cannot be seen as object-focused experiences in quite the way that aesthetic theories require. We are also focused on "the living tradition" that informs it, on the dialogue that is taking place among artists.


                        Last updated April 3, 2011 ~ All text 2011 Theodore Gracyk