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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Everything Can be Defined as "Art"

I am taking a summer class called "Philosophy of Art" and my first paper is an argument in spite of my instructor who made it clear to the class that it's a cop-out to say that "everything is art." It frustrated me so much that he said that not everything can be art when it's a philosophy class and it is obvious to me that everything CAN BE art. So here is my paper...Enjoy :)

Everything Can Be Defined as Art Written by Nadine Staaf

My ontological commitment:  Everything can be defined as ‘art’ because not everyone can agree on one definition of the term ‘art.’ In addition, everyone perceives art differently, the majority may be incorrect in their agreement, and the art world is not helpful by their creating definitions of what art is and what it is not.


As a class, we can agree that art does not have a single definition. As a society, our definition of art changes over time. “The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy…” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/art-definition/).  Neither artists, nor art appreciators, nor the entirety of the art world can come to a single definition of what art is or is not. If not everyone can come to full agreement of what art truly means, would it not be possible for a person to be correct in saying that art has the potential of encompassing all things?


There is nothing in its physical form that cannot be seen as art or appreciated as art by at least one person on Earth. That statement in itself makes it possible for every physical thing to be an artwork, depending upon the person witnessing the thing, and depending upon the person’s perceptions upon witnessing the thing.

One can argue that an idea is not a “thing” because it is not physical, so an idea cannot be defined as art. But, what is an idea? An idea is not necessarily a physical thing, but an idea has the potential to be art because the thinker of the nonphysical thing can perceive the idea to be artistic, and every idea has a thinker of that idea. An idea, no matter what its characteristics, can be as much art as a physical “thing” because an idea can have properties much like many famous physical artworks: beautiful to the eye of the beholder, vivid, intentional, thought-provoking, to name a few.

The Majority

It is closed-minded to say that not everything can be art when every person on Earth has different thoughts than the next person, and who is to say that, even though the majority of people think a similar idea, their perception is completely truthful? For example, the majority of people may perceive a pile of human feces on the ground as a non-example of art, and the minority may see that same defecation as art. This does not mean that the majority is more accurate in their understanding of art simply because they are the majority. The same is true of the minority. No one person or group of people is 100% accurate in their judgement of what art is, and even if all human beings decided to interpret something as art, all human beings have the potential of being incorrect in their judgements. For example, it is possible that all humans at one time agreed that the sky was blue. As so long as no one realized that the sky is not made up of only blue but rather it is made up of a variety of colours, (http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html), everyone was incorrect in their agreed upon judgement of the sky’s colour.

The Art World is Not Helpful

It is likely that the art world has the potential, as does every other person, to be completely inaccurate in their judgement of what art is and what art is not. As emphasised with the blue sky example above, the majority can be as incorrect as the minority in their judgements. The art world becomes nevertheless unhelpful when its judgements limit what is considered art and what is considered non-art.

The definition of art continues to be broadened over time, as illustrated in paragraph 2, but a broadened definition is not as encompassing as a definition that states that all things and ideas can be considered to be art. It is obvious that an all-encompassing definition is the goal of the art world. A worthy goal would be to create a definition where art is not limited to a specific set of terms. The definition of art in the future, if there is to be a single definition, will be ‘anything.’

In conclusion, it is clear that not everyone can agree (yet) on one definition of the term ‘art,’ perception allows each individual on our planet to see something different when experiencing the same thing or idea, a majority or minority agreement does not make a judgement accurate, and the art world simply establishes a limit on what can be termed ‘art’ even if that limit is without all-encompassing truth or helpfulness to understanding what art is or what art is not.

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