Yvan Tétreault – Multiple Works of Art and the Type/Token Distinction
McGill Philosophy Workshop
Multiple Works of Art and the Type/Token Distinction
Monday (March 22, 2010) at 3pm in Leacock 927
Abstract: There seems to be an intuitive difference between works of art that allow for multiple instances (symphonies, photographs, cast sculptures, etc.) and works that don’t (paintings, drawings, carved sculptures, etc.). Whereas single works are often intuitively considered to be physical objects, the ontological status of multiple works seems more problematic. Following the lead of Richard Wollheim (Art and its Objects, 1968), a number of philosophers have attempted to provide an ontology of multiple works where the work of art is argued to be some kind of type, and its multiple instances tokens. One of the main problems of this sort of view is that standard artistic practice strongly suggests that artists and audiences interact in many ways with works of art, whereas types are typically considered to be causally inert entities that are outside space and time. Alleged solutions to this problem are usually found unconvincing, and the causal inefficacy of types is often interpreted as justifying their dismissal as a relevant ontological category. In this presentation, I look at Linda Wetzel’s recent arguments against this rejection (Types and Tokens, 2009). I argue that although she provides plausible rebuttals to a number of arguments against the existence of types, it is still unclear that types can play their assigned role in an ontology of multiple works.