British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (4):363-378 (2003)

James Shelley
Auburn University
Consider the following three propositions: (R) Artworks necessarily have aesthetic properties that are relevant to their appreciation as artworks. (S) Aesthetic properties necessarily depend, at least in part, on properties perceived by means of the five senses. (X) There exist artworks that need not be perceived by means of the five senses to be appreciated as artworks. The independent plausibility and apparent joint inconsistency of these three propositions give rise to what I refer to as ‘the problem of non-perceptual art’. Assuming that the propositions are independently plausible and jointly inconsistent, there will be three ways of solving the problem: you may affirm (R) and (S) while denying (X); you may affirm (S) and (X) while denying (R); or you may affirm (R) and (X) while denying (S). The first of these, once the orthodox solution, has been displaced in recent years by the second. The third has never really been defended. I defend it here. If successful, my defence will have shown that there is reason to deny the existence of non-aesthetic art and no reason to believe that art is not essentially aesthetic.
Keywords Conceptual art  Aesthetic perception
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DOI 10.1093/bjaesthetics/43.4.363
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