How To Do Things with Art

Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (2):341-364 (2006)
In this article, I argue that speech act theory can be altered to accommodate art objects as evocative illocutionary speech acts that areaimed toward reaching understanding. To do this, I discuss the example of Zen Buddhism’s use of the koan, an aesthetic object that can be seen as evoking a given experience from its auditors for the purpose of reaching understanding on a point that the teacher wishes to make. I argue that such a reading of art as evocative can be merged with hypothetical intentionalism insofar as it recognizes a certain orientation on the part of the auditor to approach art in a certain way. In the case of koans and other artworks, the approach is one of considering what claim an author may want to convey through the auditor’s experience of the artwork
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