Art Rethought: The Social Practices of Art

ISBN : 9780198801344

Nicholas Wolterstorff
352 ページ
156 x 234 mm

Human beings engage works of the arts in many different ways: they sing songs while working, they kiss icons, they create and dedicate memorials. Yet almost all philosophers of art of the modern period have ignored this variety and focused entirely on just one mode of engagement, namely, disinterested attention. In the first part of the book Nicholas Wolterstorff asks why philosophers have concentrated on just this one mode of engagement. The answer he proposes is that almost all philosophers have accepted what the author calls the grand narrative concerning art in the modern world. It is generally agreed that in the early modern period, members of the middle class in Western Europe increasingly engaged works of the arts as objects of disinterested attention. The grand narrative claims that this change represented the arts coming into their own, and that works of art, so engaged, are socially other and transcendent. Wolterstorff argues that the grand narrative has to be rejected as not fitting the facts. Wolterstorff then offers an alternative framework for thinking about the arts. Central to the alternative framework that he proposes are the idea of the arts as social practices and the idea of works of the arts as having different meaning in different practices. He goes on to use this framework to analyse in some detail five distinct social practices of art and the meaning that works have within those practices: the practice of memorial art, of art for veneration, of social protest art, of works songs, and of recent art-reflexive art.



Part One: The Grand Narrative of Art in the Modern World
1 The Early Modern Revolution in the Arts
2 Why the Revolution?
3 The Grand Narrative and the Grand Narrative Theses
4 Wherein Lies the Worth of Disinterested Attention?
5 Art, Religion, and the Grand Narrative

Part Two: Why The Grand Narrative Has To Go
6 The Inapplicability of the Grand Narrative to Recent Art
7 Why the Grand Narrative Never Was Tenable

Part Three: A New Framework For Thinking About The Arts
8 The Arts as Social Practices
9 Meaning of Works of the Arts and Artworks

Part Four: Memorial Art
10 The Social Practices of Memorial Art
11 The Memorial Meaning of the Mural Art of Belfast

Part Five: Art For Veneration
12 The Social Practices of Art for Veneration

Part Six: Social Protest Art
13 The Social Practices of Social Protest Art
14 The Social Protest Meaning of Uncle Tom's Cabin
15 The Social Protest Meaning of the Graphic Art of Kathe Kollwitz

Part Seven: Art That Enhances
16 Work Songs: Social Practice and Meaning

Part Eight: The Art-Reflexive Art of Today's Art World
17 The Social Practices of Art-Reflexive Art
18 Art-Reflexive Meaning in the Work of Sherrie Levine

Epilogue: Good Works and Just Practices
19 What Happened to Beauty?
20 The Pursuit of Justice and the Social Practices of Art


Nicholas Wolterstorff is Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University, and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many books, including Understanding Liberal Democracy (OUP, 2012) and Works and Worlds of Art (Clarendon Press, 1980).