AOK: Arts

Four main questions:

  1. What is art?

  2. Are aesthetic judgments objective or subjective?

  3. How do the arts contribute to our knowledge of the world?

  4. What are the main similarities and differences between the arts and the sciences?


What is art?

Most people would agree that for something to be a “work of art,” it must be human-made. A sunset may be beautiful, but it would not be called a work of art. Beyond this, opinions differ about what makes something art. Three criteria will be explored:


The intention:

Activity: Which of the following would you classify as art?

  1. Pottery

  2. Manufactured pots and pans

  3. Ballet

  4. Gymnastics

  5. Soccer

  6. Mount Everest

  7. A painting of Mount Everest

  8. A child’s drawing of a face

  9. A beautiful face

  10. Opera

  11. A piece of music generated by a computer

  12. Bird song

  13. Hamlet

  14. A Tv soap opera

  15. A person dripping paint randomly on a canvas

  16. A monkey dripping paint randomly on a canvas

  17. Tattoos

  18. Video games

According to the intention criteria, something is a work of art if someone makes it evoke an aesthetic response in the audience ( aesthetics: the branch of philosophy which studies beauty and the arts).

Despite the appeal of the intention criterion, some critics have doubted that only intending something to be art is enough to transform it into art.


The quality of the work:

Artists are expected to have a high level of technical competence, and the artist should be able to make a good likeness. It can be assumed that a work of art could not be made with no talent or training in the arts.

Traditionally, it was believed that beautiful art is produced by painting decorative objects, or by revealing the beauty in everyday objects. But, since we can speak of vision concerning the form of a work of art as well as its content. 

The response:

Do you think that the idea of expert opinion is more problematic in the arts than in the sciences?


By suggesting that everyday objects might have aesthetic value, Duchamp can be seen as raising the question of where art ends and non-art begins.

Instead of saying that everything is art, we could perhaps rescue the above idea by saying that “ everything can be looked at from an aesthetic point of view.”




How do art and morality intersect? Watch the video, while watching the video makes notes of what seems most relevant to you. These notes might support your answer to one of the following questions. 


Judging art

“To what extent are our judgments about what distinguishes good art from bad art objective?

“To what extent are they influenced by the culture we grow up in and/or personal tastes?”


Do you think the world is becoming culturally more homogeneous? To what extent do you think that your own cultural tradition is under threat?




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