The Cultural Space of the Arts and the Infelicities of Reductionism

The Cultural Space of the Arts and the Infelicities of Reductionism

JOSEPH MARGOLIS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/marg14728
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    The Cultural Space of the Arts and the Infelicities of Reductionism
    Book Description:

    Joseph Margolis, known for his considerable contributions to the philosophy of art and aesthetics, pragmatism, and American philosophy, has focused primarily on the troublesome concepts of culture, history, language, agency, art, interpretation, and the human person or self. For Margolis, the signal problem has always been the same: how can we distinguish between physical nature and human culture? How do these realms relate?

    The Cultural Space of the Arts and the Infelicities of Reductionism identifies a conceptual tendency that can be drawn from the work of the twentieth century's best-known analytic philosophers of art: Arthur Danto, Richard Wollheim, Kendall Walton, Nelson Goodman, Monroe Beardsley, Noël Carroll, and Jerrold Levinson, among others. This trend threatens to impoverish our grasp and appreciation of the arts by failing to do justice to the culturally informed nature of the arts themselves. Through his analysis, Margolis sets out to retrieve an adequate picture of the essential differences between physical nature and human culture-particularly through language, history, meaning, significance, the emergence of the human self or person, and the essential features of human life-all to explain how such difference bears on our perception of paintings and literature. Clearly argued and provocatively engaging, Margolis's work reestablishes what is essential to a productive encounter with art.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52537-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. FIRST WORDS
    (pp. 1-16)

    The argument that follows has a kind of “diagonal” force: it cuts across entrenched distinctions to reveal unsuspected conceptual linkages that are otherwise too easily ignored. That is to say, the argument is essentially heuristic and not a little confrontational, a stab at escaping the most familiar canonical limits, a way of assembling a number of distinct lines of analysis under the guise of a provisional unity that is bound to be contested. Ad hoc classifications can never be far from fiction, as we discover when we find ourselves obliged to improvise working distinctions very different from whatever we allow...

  5. CHAPTER 1 PIECEMEAL REDUCTIONISM: A SENSE OF THE ISSUE
    (pp. 17-46)

    Late twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophies of art have been gathering force in a fairly straightforward way in favor of a much-diminished run of descriptive and explanatory concepts that, if fully developed, would yield a distinct dualism between physical nature and human culture or even a complete reduction of the second to the first. They usually stop short at the analysis of inner mental states and the bearing of intentions on bodily movements in ways that might (then) be made to count as the exercise of craft abilities. This is easy enough to say but not quite so easy to explain: the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE NEW INTENTIONALISM
    (pp. 47-70)

    Let me begin again, with a suggestive but uninterpreted image—without explicit reference to what has already been said: we shall of course rejoin the argument soon enough but may delay a little to gain an advantage by a small detour. There are a good many disparate lines of unfinished inquiry that must be brought together here to constitute a proper account. I’d like to exploit their initial scatter so that the argument’s larger unity may glide into view in a gradual and unforced way. Its outcome has, of course, already been anticipated, and it is the argument rather than...

  7. INTERLUDE A GLANCE AT REDUCTIONISM IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
    (pp. 71-92)

    I must venture a little beyond the boundaries of the piecemeal strategy I’ve been tracing. It remains my primary concern, of course, and the full story’s hardly finished. But surely, its fluencies, its characteristic confidence, even its daring at times, a certain noticeable absence of hesitation in advancing its profoundly contested options betoken a reliance on congenial speculations in some wider conceptual ecology. I find the external affinities particularly well developed in the strong forms of reductionism favored among the analytic philosophies of mind produced in the last four decades of the twentieth century. The lag time is entirely plausible,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 BEARDSLEY AND THE INTENTIONALISTS
    (pp. 93-114)

    Words cannot be mere sounds to which we attach meanings by external means. For if they were, the very fluency of speech would suddenly become problematic, caught up in an infinite regress: perhaps then—construed as an action (or “utterance”)—assigned (paradoxically) to mere physical movements.¹ If we yield there, we then would have to ask ourselves: Well, assigned by whom? There’s a greater regress there that we must surely avoid: we could never overtake the paradox of our own identity as selves! The cultural world cannot be the mere effect of any interpretive or self-referential or rhetorical flourish applied...

  9. CHAPTER 4 INTENTIONALISM’S PROSPECTS
    (pp. 115-150)

    Here now are two absolutely essential ground-level constraints on the metaphysics of cultural things that bear decisively on our discerning the objective meanings of literary and nonliterary artworks alike, constraints which the theorists mentioned in the prior chapter rather incautiously neglect. The first holds that the “cultural,” ranging predicatively over a wide run of attributes that are not literally applicable to mere physical things and that involve meanings and Intentional structures, is, paradigmatically, collective in nature, that is, drawn entirely from the geistlich sources that account for the original emergence of culturally apt selves and their characteristic forms of utterance.¹...

  10. CHAPTER 5 A FAILED STRATEGY
    (pp. 151-182)

    Let me climb down from these heady abstractions to the level terrain of my initial image (the magic violinist). I’d like to offer in the way of a very small example a contemporary piece of philosophical instruction about how to determine the meaning of a poem, an instruction that quite unintentionally affords a minor illustration of all that I oppose in opposing piecemeal reductionism. It’s a textbook exercise, possibly a little more interesting for being fashionably “in” (in the piecemeal way) than for its perceptive power. But I don’t wish to propose a better reading of the poem—William Blake’s...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 183-206)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 207-214)