Art from a Wittgensteinian Perspective: Constitutive Norms in Context

Authors
Sonia Sedivy
University of Toronto, St. George
Abstract
This article offers a detailed textual reexamination of the ‘family resemblance’ passages to reconsider their implications for understanding art. The reassessment takes into account their broader context in the Philosophical Investigations, including the rule following considerations, and draws on a realist interpretive framework associated principally with the work of Cavell, Diamond, McDowell, and Putnam. Wittgensteinian “realism with a human face” helps us discern that the primary issue is not whether certain concepts are definable, posing a stark opposition between essentialism and its denial about kinds such as language or games. What is at issue is keeping uses of language in view in their variety and their broader life contexts. Focus on rules suggests more broadly that norms and values inhere in practices and play a constitutive role in determining the entities integral to those practices. From this perspective, a Wittgensteinian framework explains art as locally overlapping practices, each with their own constitutive norms and values for the works integral to them. What makes something art has normative force specific to a practice. This recognizes the historically contingent nature of art practices in a way that relational definitions or disjunctive ‘cluster’ explanations do not
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DOI 10.1111/jaac.2014.72.issue-1
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