Bibliographies Quotes

Value and the Visual Arts

Traditionally philosophical aesthetics, at least since Kant, has been concerned with the nature of art. It has been less explicitly concerned with the value of art. … Attempts to explain the value of art may be called normative theories of art. Any such theory offers a general explanation of which art forms and works of art are worth attending to and why. ….. Representation is clearly important in painting, representationalism as a normative theory is false. Its examination, however, drives us on to a truth with which it is easily confused, that the best visual art enhances… our understanding of experience. ….

We require, rather, a conception of what painting can (and at its best does) achieve. So far two contenders have been considered — the arousal of pleasure and the representation of objects. Neither has been found adequate. Another possibility is that the social value attributed to art is warranted to the degree that art has something to tell us about human experience. In the abstract this is a more satisfactory explanation, it seems to me, since it immediately draws a connection with cognitive values, the values of knowledge and understanding which, we may reasonably assume, are those upon which the importance of history, science, and other intellectual endeavors must be made to rest.

But whatever is to be said about the normative power of cognitivism in general, there is a further question as to whether cognitive values can be said to be realized in visual art. … Art frequently enhances our understanding by providing us with new and original images and perspectives through which everyday experience is to be viewed afresh.

GORDON GRAHAM, “Value and the Visual Arts” Journal of Aesthetic Education 28.4 (Winter,

1994): 1-14 (pp. 1-2, 7, 9)