George Dickie's Theory: The Institutional Theory Of Art

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In his new institutional theory of art, George Dickie comes to the conclusion that “a work of art is an artifact of a kind to be presented to an artworld public,” a theory which he views as ultimately classificatory and which rejects both the traditional theories of art as well as the anti-definitionalist theories of art. To break down this concept, one must begin with the notion of the “artifact,” which Dickie refers to as a thing—not necessarily an object—that consists of altered, previously existing material(s) that have been used or manipulated in a certain way. He acknowledges that there are then secondary artifacts which are also created for the sake of presentation to the art world but are themselves not works of art due to their existence…show more content…
Meanwhile, theories from so-called anti-definitionalists such as Morris Weitz reject essentialist definitions entirely—no stipulations because there is nothing to stipulate. In his piece “Art as an Open Concept,” Weitz argues that all theories of art fail by inherently misconceiving the concept of art itself, aimlessly gesturing toward a single true theory of art. There cannot and need not be such a theory, as evidenced by the plurality of already extant theories, none of which have been unanimously accepted and almost all of which contradict one another. Weitz points out that in spite of such contradictions, we are still able to talk about art, to refer to things as art, and to classify works of art into other subconcepts (modes, media) of it. As such, the belief that comprehensible discussion and thought about art is impossible without a categorical definition of it is more or less invalid. The unifying fatal mistake made by most theories, Weitz suggests, is that they fail to recognize art as an open concept—open in the sense of being “perennially flexible”—without any necessary or sufficient conditions surrounding it. Art and its subconcepts cannot be accurately or wholly defined because their criteria must allow for the incorporation of new principles into their folds, and such newly developed principles would make the act of attempting to define their conditions betrayals of the concepts they serve as criteria for in the first place. Weitz further elucidates that although art and its subconcepts are employed for the description and evaluation of works, and those descriptions and evaluations themselves depend upon sets of criteria, that does not make such criteria necessary or sufficient. That these concepts may be used to describe and evaluate works is contingent to their integration of new cases with new properties, thus expanding the concepts
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