By Gregory Currie (auth.)
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Extra info for An Ontology of Art
Our test of a genre or category is the quality of the works that exemplify it. But it is also a test of the artist's own abilities. Works within a genre can vary greatly in quality. And both the artist's abilities and the conventions and techniques that he uses are aspects of his performance in producing the picture. So I suggest that a painting is the outcome of an experiment, and that when we judge it we are weighing the evidence that it provides concerning what we should say about the artist's performance, taking 'performance' in that wide sense which includes not merely his actions in applying paint to the canvas but also his path to the conception and execution of the work, an understanding of which involves an analysis of the conventions and technical limitations that constrain his action.
The empiricist's intuition is that aesthetic properties are ahistorical; their application does not depend upon the history of the work. It depends only upon the precise configuration of the visual pattern. But (52) does not explicate this intuition. For all that (52) tells us, it may be that a picture with a certain history of production would have had quite different aesthetic properties if its history had been different. In that case one would need to know, of any picture, what its history of production was in order to defend a judgement about its aesthetic properties (just as, in order to know the reference of an expression, one must know contingent facts about the world).
Sibley's answer is to say that we do so by employing the faculty of taste. While pictorial properties determine, in an abstract sense, the work's aesthetic properties, it is possible for there to be someone who is perfectly well sighted, and therefore perfectly able to detect the pictorial properties of the work, but who fails utterly to see that the work is graceful, dynamic, vibrant, or whatever. And the reason is that the person lacks, or is for some reason unable to exercise, the faculty of taste.
An Ontology of Art by Gregory Currie (auth.)