Talk: Tuesday 25th November, Dr. Sam Liao

The Dual Character of Art Concepts

Tuesday 25th November, 2-4pm. Location: Carrington 101.

Dr. Shen-yi Liao, University of Leeds & Nanyang University.

All welcome.


There is a dormant debate about the concept of art. Some have claimed that the concept of art is essentially evaluative. Calling a work “art” involves making a positively-valenced aesthetic evaluation of it. Some have claimed that the concept of art is essentially descriptive. Calling a work “art” merely designates its membership in a category. Others say that the concept of art has both senses. What is at stake is one of the most fundamental questions in philosophical aesthetics: what is art? We aim to revitalize this debate by showing that it is founded on a false assumption: that the concept of art must be evaluative, descriptive, or both. In fact, through a series of experimental studies, we argue that the concept of art is neither evaluative nor descriptive in the senses that philosophical aestheticians have discussed. Instead, the concept of art is normative in a distinct sense – it is what Knobe, Prasada, and Newman call a “dual character concept”. Calling a work “art” indeed involves making an evaluation, but not about whether a work is good or not. Instead, the evaluation is about whether it realizes the ideals of art or not. Furthermore, we show that this dual character also holds for other central art concepts, such as literature.