Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Art and Eligibility

08 August 2022  |  16:00  |  Online/Zoom


In the first half of the twentieth century analytic philosophy sought answers to philosophical questions by adopting a use-internal approach to analysing the language and concepts of the questions’ formulation (see e.g. Moore 1903).

In the second half, the approach came under pressure from metasemantic inscrutability worries: Grue riddles (Goodman 1954), Private Language arguments (Wittgenstein 1958, Kripke 1982), Quine’s (1960) Argument from Below and Permutation Arguments (Putnam 1980). These showed that use-internal facts couldn’t exclude radically deviant interpretations of our talk and thought.  

In mainstream metaphysics, a popular response to these problems appeals to a use-external notion of eligibility-for-reference (Lewis 1983). This ties reference to explanation and promotes abductive considerations for evaluating answers to philosophical questions (cf. McGee 2005, Sider 2011, Williams 2019).

I argue that inscrutability arguments apply to the metaphysics of art and I explore implications of accepting the eligibility solution and of promoting abductive methodology for several fundamental topics: definitions of art (or ART), analysing aesthetic and artistic properties, and for evaluating theories about the ontological category and identity conditions of artworks (of a given kind).