Philosopher with an Eye Aug 21, 2007
For a philosoper Danto displays a surprising degree of visual intelligence. This means that he can be read by even such non-philosophical creatures as practicing art historians. To them, he has however little to say. We all know from our daily experience that art is a matter of form endowed with content (or meaning, or, to quote Danto’s truly beautiful concept of endowed meaning), and that beauty (whatever it may be, as we all have our own individual vision of “beauty”) is an option and not a necessary condition in a work of art, yet an option “too humanly significant…to vanish from life…”
Having said that I wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone who truly likes fine arts and would like to have a rather consistent explanation (to be sure, not the only possible one) of some, apparently disturbing, features of the visual arts of the last fifty years or so. Danto writes with gusto and flair (just see his wonderful analysis of the art in a “resentful world,” pp. 123-124, or of a painting by Joachim Wtewael, yes, spelling is correct, on pp. 139-142) with wit and style. Almost too good to be philosophy. And if you wonder about the title, I wonder if it may not announce a return of beauty.