The Many Meanings of a Work of Art

Dr Julie Yoo
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Certain works of art elicit many different interpretations. Indeed, a single work of art may give rise to conflicting interpretations. On the monist view, there is only one correct interpretation of a work of art so that if there happen to be many different conflicting interpretations, at most only one of them can be correct. In this paper, I develop and support the pluralist view according to which there can be many different and even conflicting interpretations that can be equally legitimate.

The main support for my argument comes from a certain theory about the nature of colors. According to certain philosophers, there is no objective fact of the matter about the color of an object; colors are 'judgment-dependent,' which means that the color of an object is essentially determined by the judgment of the perceiver. Differently situated perceivers may attribute different colors onto the same visual region and yet all be correct.

In my paper, I argue that the meaning of a work of art is analogous to that of colors in that the meaning of a work of art is judgment-dependent. Because different individuals may be differently situated in their relationship to a work of art, they may attribute different meanings, and because the meanings are judgment-dependent, they may be equally legitimate, even if some of them conflict with each other.

This does not mean that just any interpretation is legitimate. I close the paper with a discussion of several crucial constraints upon a good interpretation, one of them being the intended interpretation of the artist.

Keywords: Aesthetics, Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of Interpretation
Stream: Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Many Meanings of a Work of Art, The

Dr Julie Yoo

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lafayette College

Ref: A06P0025