What is a work of art? Intentions, definitions, and the ontology of art
Lafrenz, Mark T.
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This dissertation is concerned with the questions of how art should be defined and with the ontology of art. Beginning with the fact that all artworks at least have in common that they are the products of intentional activity, I discuss and criticize a variety of definitions in which this fact is explicitly or implicitly acknowledged, aiming to determine what other properties artworks have in common. I arrive at an essentialist definition of art that specifies what jointly necessary and sufficient conditions any object, across times and cultures, must meet if it is to be correctly counted as a member of the class of artworks and proceed then to work out in detail how each of these conditions should be understood. According to this definition, for any object X, if X is an artwork, then (1) it is an artifact which (2) was created with the intention that it serve a certain cultural role by which it represents of otherwise conveys meaning(s) or has assumed this role over time, and (3) has style and (4) is interpretable. After offering my definition, I defend it by means of discussion of its elements, their interrelations, and some issues engendered individually and collectively by them. Having set this definition on a firm foundation, I conclude by showing how it can help us to understand the ontology of all artworks, that is, how it can provide the basis of an account of the existence and persistence conditions for artworks.