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Art as philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Why did the response to the exhibition Johannes Vermeer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1995 surpass all expectations? Why do paintings of the Annunciation evoke so strong a response in women, regardless of their religious beliefs? Art can function as philosophy when it tries to answer such questions, and when it explains what wants explanation, exemplifies a philosophical position, analyses a concept, or makes a philosophical point. In order to enable art to do or to help philosophy do what it typically does, viewers should look at a work of art with a mind open to whatever the work might say or do and put themselves into it with senses alert to its textures, sounds, and what else they might see from within it. Richard Wollheim said that when he first saw a work, he stood before it for two hours looking at it, trying to understand what the artist was trying to do. This should not be paramount, however, because a work can do more or other than what its artist intended. Viewers want to know what they can see there so long as what they come up with, their interpretation, is faithful to the marks on its surface – the announcing angel in an Annunciation is an angel, not a bird – and they can make a case for it such that others can see it as they do.

Citing this article:
Wiseman, Mary. Art as philosophy, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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