Is Philosophy of Art Normative?

I’ve been reflecting on philosophy of art, which I admittedly know next to nothing about.

Philosophy of art is an entire field about which I know almost nothing. It studies aesthetics and questions like “What is art?”; “What is beauty?”; and the like.

Now it seems to me that if one were to say “Art should reflect reality” or “Art should ____” or “Beauty is ____” then they’re making a normative statement. They’re making a statement which suggests that whatever fills in the blank reflects reality, and whatever does not is not reality. Thus, if someone says “Beauty is that which attracts us,” then they’ve made a statement about the world. Yet how can philosophy of art dictate such truths? How can a statement about art be normative?

It seems to me that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder–it has a subjective nature. But it also seems possible to say that the overarching idea of “beauty” is a universal.

These are the questions on which I have been reflecting. I admit already that I know little to nothing about philosophy of art and don’t really have time to investigate it. But I would be very curious if anyone had some thoughts or ideas about these questions.

Transition into a different, but related topic: The image I’ve included here reminds me very much of an experience I had during my undergraduate studies on my history internship. My task was to track down names of people who showed up in various pieces (not art, but rather just random items like irons, stirrups, and the like) which had been given to a museum of local history. Basically, I spent much time trying to track down names online and see if I could find anything at all about them. I failed to find many, but one I did find was from a painting. I discovered that a landscape painting they had been given was by a rather well known painter in the Midwest. It was a pretty awesome feeling to track this guy down and tell the museum that they had an artwork by a guy who had painted for the White House. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the awesome feeling of uniting artist to background, art to artwork.

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What _is_ this place?

Hello to anyone reading this. I’m J.W. Wartick and I’m already a fairly regular blogger over at my main site, Always Have a Reason. That site is itself about philosophy of religion as well as Christian apologetics, theology, and science. But I have way more interests than I could contain on just that blog.

I have a fascination for history, science, and the arts. I love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and history. Paleontology and archaeology fascinate me. I love playing role-playing games and driving franchises in Madden.

In short, I need an outlet for all these things–a place for me to just reflect on my interests that don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of my main site. There is too much going on in this head to keep it all in.

You, the reader, may find this diverting. I know how interesting it can be to explore the random thoughts of people. Hopefully this site will lead you to some new interests, or perhaps you’ll comment and help lead me off to learn about things about which I know little or nothing.

You, the reader, are therefore asked by me, the author, to leave your own reflections on the topics I present here. Or, if you desire, you can just post about other random interests of your own. When I put up a post on the Battle of Midway, you can respond by talking about Gettysburg. That is fine! Please do so!

Finally, readers are entitled to a bit of background about myself if we’re going to have engaging discussions. I’m a Christian theist who loves a good debate. I’m getting an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. Philosophy of religion is my primary interest, but as you read on here you’ll find I have interests all over the place. I’m a devoted Christian who believes that the evidence for Christian theism is quite strong (if you want to read on that, you should check out my main site). You’ll note, then, that theism–indeed, Christian theism–permeates my posts, even when I’m talking about things unrelated to it. I’ll not apologize for that. We all let our worldviews into every aspect of our lives. I hope as you read here you’ll find some questions to ask and, maybe even some answers.