On late style: Arthur danto’s the abuse of beauty

British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (4):424-439 (2004)
cannot grasp what is at stake in it without taking both its claims and its tone seriously. Read philosophically, Danto wants to reconceive art’s aesthetic dimension as those features that ‘inflect’ our attitude towards a work’s meaning, and to distinguish, in so doing, between beauty that is and beauty that is not internal to that meaning. Although welcome, I argue that his attempt to carry this through is compromised by his countervailing tendency to conceive the aesthetic in non-cognitive terms. Read as a work of philosophical confession, on the other hand, I suggest that Danto’s late turn to aesthetics may be illuminated through a comparison with Philip Guston’s late turn to figuration. To do so, I draw parallels between Guston’s development as a painter and Danto’s philosophical trajectory. Danto concludes that, though necessary to life, beauty is not necessary to art; I conclude that, on this account, only an aesthetic art makes a warranted claim on our attention.
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