THE RE-EMERGENCE OF METAPHYSICAL AESTHETICS
ADAM, BETTY CONRAD
Doctor of Philosophy
Metaphysical aesthetics has re-emerged in contemporary aesthetic literature. It goes by the name of the philosophy of art, and Arthur C. Danto, who openly proclaims an ontological approach to art, is its most obvious proponent. Nelson Goodman is also in this camp in the sense that his general views in the philosophy of art are determined by his answer to the question of what there is. The first chapter defines the term "metaphysical aesthetics" by considering four early twentieth century aestheticians, Benedetto Croce, Henri Bergson, John Dewey, and R. G. Collingwood. These aestheticians are classified as metaphysical aestheticians because they write within a classical tradition that assumes a relationship between aesthetics and metaphysics. This chapter also considers early twentieth century criticisms of "metaphysical aesthetics," and suggests that as the twentieth century develops, the mainstream of aesthetic thought moves away from metaphysics altogether; thus, during the middle of the century, aesthetics is taken to be independent of metaphysics. The second chapter introduces Arthur C. Danto as a metaphysical aesthetician. It considers Danto's early articles, "The Artworld," "Reflections Upon Randall's Theory of Language," and "Artworks and Real Things" with respect to their metaphysical character. The third chapter analyzes Danto's most substantive work in aesthetics, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981). This analysis demonstrates that Danto's metaphysical views impinge upon his definition of art, his theory of imitation, and his concept of the structure of an artwork. The fourth chapter examines Nelson Goodman's Languages of Art with respect to its metaphysical character. Goodman's conclusions in the philosophy of art, like Danto's, are determined by ontological commitments, in this case the ontological economy of a nominalist. Goodman thus stands as a further example of a philosopher working within contemporary analytical aesthetics whose aesthetics are based on ontological rather than strictly empiricist foundations. The final chapter formulates the nature of contemporary metaphysical aesthetics against the background of metaphysical aesthetics in its traditional form, that of the classical aestheticians and that of the early twentieth century aestheticians.
Philosophy of Religion