Artworks is an analytic aesthetics journal that covers many of the major aesthetics issues of the past couple of decades. Its discussion of art includes many major and minor figures.
A work of art is an object created for the purpose of being viewed. It may be a painting, sculpture, a print or even an ordinary object. Its purpose may be to serve a symbolic, ritualistic or decorative function. It can also be used to represent a culture, communicate an idea or create beauty. The definition of art, however, is not precise. Some definitions are formalist, while others attempt to enumerate its properties.
A conventionalist definition of art holds that it is an artifact created by an artist. It is based on the assumption that works of art stand in an art-historical relationship to earlier works. This definition is often influenced by the twentieth century’s radical artistic movements.
Another type of conventionalist definition is the historical conventionalism. It holds that artworks must stand in an art-historical relationship to the works of earlier artists. It also claims that the nature of art is socio-cultural. It is a complex, trans-historical concept. It is often associated with institutional conventionalism.
Some conventionalist definitions are enumerative in that they identify all the elements of a work of art and define them by their relation to the broader culture. These definitions may be useful in explaining how a heap of arts fits together. They do not however explain the changes that take place in the rules that govern artworks as they undergo processes.
A more sophisticated and less enumerative definition is one that attempts to distinguish the properties of a work of art. It defines the work as something that achieves excellence in fulfilling its function. This definition is referred to as an intentional-historical definition. In addition to the functions of a work of art, it also requires that a work of art have a subject, a style and an art-historical context. A defining element of this approach is its circularity.
The concept of artwork has been reformulated and reclaimed in several ways, including a new category of art called the artworld. The term was coined by Arthur Danto. His claim is that anyone who believes themselves to be a member of the artworld is a member of the artworld. This definition does not capture all the elements of the artworld and has the flaw of circularity. Consequently, it can fail to capture the differences between different kinds of social institutions.
An expressive definition, on the other hand, is a more general definition that holds artworks to have expressive properties. It is important to remember that art is a means to convey truth, not an end in itself. A prominent aesthetician wrote about the “bloated, unwieldy” concept of art. This definition, which relies on a list of seven expressive properties, may be a sufficient answer, although it is not perfect.
The earliest cluster theorist, for example, argued that the value of an artwork is its aesthetic value. In this view, the best artworks convey the deepest metaphysical truth.