Arthur Danto: Wikis


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Arthur Coleman Danto
Full name Arthur Coleman Danto
Born 1924 (age 85–86)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests Philosophy of art
Philosophy of history
Philosophy of action
Notable ideas Narrative Sentences
Basic Actions
End of Art
Post-historical art

Arthur Coleman Danto (born 1924) is an American art critic, and professor of philosophy. He is best known as the influential, long-time art critic for the Nation and for his work in philosophical aesthetics and philosophy of history, though he has contributed significantly to a number of fields. His interests span thought, feeling, philosophy of art, theories of representation, philosophical psychology, Hegel's aesthetics, and the philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Arthur Schopenhauer.


Background and education

Danto was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1924, and grew up in Detroit. After spending two years in the Army, Danto studied art and history at Wayne University (now Wayne State University) and then pursued graduate study in philosophy at Columbia University. From 1949 to 1950, Danto studied in Paris on a Fulbright scholarship under Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and in 1951 returned to teach at Columbia, where he is currently Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy Emeritus.



"Artworld" and the Definition of Art

Danto laid the groundwork for an institutional definition of art that sought to answer the questions raised by the emerging phenomenon of twentieth century art. The definition of the term “art” is a subject of constant contention and many books and journal articles have been published arguing over the answer to the question, What is Art? Definitions can be categorized into conventional and non-conventional definitions. Non-conventional definitions take a concept like the aesthetic as an intrinsic characteristic in order to account for the phenomena of art. Conventional definitions reject this connection to aesthetic, formal, or expressive properties as essential to defining art but rather, in either an insitutional or historical sense, say that “art” is basically a sociological category. (Classificatory disputes about art|see Definitions of art) Danto takes a conventional approach and develops an "institutional definition of art" in that whatever art schools and museums, and artists get away with is considered art regardless of formal definitions. Danto has written on this subject in several of his recent works and a detailed treatment is to be found in Transfiguration of the Commonplace.[1]

The essay "The Artworld" in which Danto coined the term “artworld”, by which he meant cultural context or “an atmosphere of art theory,”[2] first appeared in the Journal of Philosophy (1964) and has since been widely reprinted. It has had considerable influence on aesthetic philosophy and, according to professor of philosophy Stephen David Ross, "especially upon George Dickie's institutional theory of art. Dickie defines work as an artifact 'which has had conferred upon it the status of candidate for appreciation by some person or persons acting in behalf of a certain social institution (the artworld)' (p. 43.)"[3]

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Danto's definition has been glossed as follows: something is a work of art if and only if (i) it has a subject (ii) about which it projects some attitude or point of view (has a style) (iii) by means of rhetorical ellipsis (usually metaphorical) which ellipsis engages audience participation in filling in what is missing, and (iv) where the work in question and the interpretations thereof require an art historical context. (Danto, Carroll) Clause (iv) is what makes the definition institutionalist. The view has been criticized for entailing that art criticism written in a highly rhetorical style is art, lacking but requiring an independent account of what makes a context art historical, and for not applying to music."[2]

The End of Art

The basic meaning of the term "art" has changed several times over the centuries, and has continued to evolve during the 20th century as well. Danto describes the history of Art in his own contemporary version of Hegel's dialectical history of art. "Danto is not claiming that no-one is making art anymore; nor is he claiming that no good art is being made any more. But he thinks that a certain history of western art has come to an end, in about the way that Hegel suggested it would."[4] The "end of art" refers to the beginning of our modern era of art in which art no longer adheres to the constraints of imitation theory but serves a new purpose. Art began with an "era of imitation, followed by an era of ideology, followed by our post-historical era in which, with qualification, anything goes... In our narrative, at first only mimesis [imitation] was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story"[5]

Art criticism

Arthur Danto was an art critic for The Nation from 1984 to 2009, and has also published numerous articles in other journals. In addition, he is an editor of the Journal of Philosophy and a contributing editor of the Naked Punch Review and Artforum. In art criticism, he has published several collected essays, including Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990), which won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism in 1990; Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992); Playing With the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe (University of California, 1995); and The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000) and Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life.



Danto is the author of numerous books on philosophy and art, including:

  • Nietzsche as Philosopher (1965)
  • Analytical Philosophy of Action (1973)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1975)
  • The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981)
  • Narration and Knowledge (1985) - Including earlier book Analytical Philosophy of History (1965)
  • Mysticism and Morality: Oriental Thought and Moral Philosophy (1987)
  • Connections to the World: The Basic Concepts of Philosophy (1997)
  • After the End of Art (1997)
  • The Abuse of Beauty (2003)
  • Red Grooms (2004)
  • Andy Warhol (2009)

Selected Essays

  • The Artworld (1964)
  • The State of the Art (1987)
  • Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present (1990)
  • Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective (1992)
  • Playing With the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe (1995)
  • The Wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy, and the Ends of Taste (1998)
  • The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World (2000)
  • Philosophizing Art: Selected Essays (2001)
  • The Body/Body Problem: Selected Essays (2001)
  • The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art (2004)
  • Unnatural Wonders: Essays from the Gap Between Art and Life (2007)


  1. ^ Danto, Arthur (1981). The transfiguration of the commonplace: a philosophy of art. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674903463. 
  2. ^ a b Adajian, Thomas. "The Definition of Art", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, London, Oct 23, 2007.
  3. ^ Ross, Stephen David (1984). Art and its Significance. SUNY Press. pp. 469. ISBN 0873957644.  Note: Ross also refers us to Dickie's book Art and the Aesthetic (Cornell University Press, 1974).
  4. ^ Cloweny, David W. (December 21, 2009). "Arthur Danto". Rowan university. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  5. ^ Danto, Arthur Coleman (1998). After the end of art: contemporary art and the pale of history. Princeton University Press. pp. 47. ISBN 0691002991.  As quoted by Professor David W. Cloweny on his website. [1]

Further reading

External links


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