Saturday, October 13, 2012

By the way, if any of you want to discuss the thoughts you're developing for your paper (regardless of topic) feel free. Discussion could be a good source of new relevant ideas for you. Of course, your paper will have to largely consist of your own thoughts on the topic.


  1. Hi all,

    Some of you may have seen this already, as I wrote it on the grad-office blackboard before class today, but I'd like to put a version here as well to make it easier for me to access all of your intelligent and much appreciated comments. Here it goes:

    When (if ever) does a work of art become complete/finished?

    FIRST PASS (sorry, it's a mouthful):

    For any artwork W created by an agent (or group of agents) c, and any time t, W is complete/finished at t iff c would (collectively) believe W to have achieved, at t, maximal aesthetic value V for c's (collectively) intended audience A.

    Some notes:

    Since c could cease to exist at t, we must understand "c would believe..." in a counterfactual sense, that is, if c still existed, c would believe...

    Since we can in principle evaluate the status of the work's completeness at any time, my proposal has the implication that a work can come in and out of completion depending on whether c would believe at the relevant time that it satisfies the relevant conditions. For instance, if the conditions require that a painting's colors maintain a certain level of vividness, then any change in vividness would make the work incomplete. Whether or not the vividness could be restored and thus the artwork brought back into completeness would depend (counterfactually) on whether c believed the restoration successfully maximized aesthetic value for A (c's intended audience).

    My analysis for completeness has some obvious epistemic disadvantages and perhaps also some normative disadvantages. For instance, we are very clearly going to be epistemically closed from access to c's beliefs in a wide variety of circumstances. Furthermore, we might have normative qualms with allowing, for instance, J.K. Rowling to announce suddenly that she felt (for some reason pertaining to the relevant conditions) that Harry Potter was no longer complete. I certainly believe the copy sitting on my shelf is complete!

    I'm interested in what people think of this first pass attempt at an analysis of artwork completion. I think it has some advantages, most of which I've withheld from the above notes. Comments are appreciated : )

  2. Your analysis seems very interesting to me but my worry is that when can we as actual audiences evaluate the status of the work's completeness? in other words, how can an actual audience, or maybe a restorer, be aware of time t? Because A seems to be a hypothetical audience for the creator herself.