Puzzles About Art

Puzzles About Art: An Aesthetics Coursebook (1989)

Margaret P. Battin, John Fisher, Ronald Moore, Anita Silvers

Puzzles About Art is A very readable introduction to the philosophy of art that could be easily read by high school students. A very useful feature of the book is that it constantly cites ‘cases’ where philosophical problems about artworks arise. For example, a potential situation in which a well-known artist picks up a piece of driftwood and hands it to a curator saying it is a piece of art called driftwood. These cases are then used to discuss the problems with reference to different philosophers and theories. A teacher might like to take cases from the book and present them to students as problems to solve in groups. Each chapter is concluded with about 15 pages of these puzzles.

Sections of note: All ‘cases’ sections at the end of each chapter. Particularly 1-1, 1-2, 1-4, 1-5, 1-13, 1-17, 1-21, 2-7. Chapter 1: Art and Artworks – What is art? Essentialism and anti-essentialism, George Dickie’s institutional definition. William Carlos William and the Icebok. Pages 12 – 13. A poem that raises the issue of the relevance of the intentions of the artist in determining whether or not something is an artwork. The Strange Case of John Shmarb. Pages 106-107. A great illustration of the problem of forgery and questions about art value.

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