Show

The Value of Art

Week of: 
September 9, 2007
What is it: 

An art lover will argue that art brings beauty to our surroundings and provides occasions for intellectual and emotional reflection. But those who don't appreciate art see it as unnecessary and frivolous - at any rate, certainly not something that tax dollars should go to support. In a time when school budgets for art programs are dwindling, John and Ken are joined by Cynthia Freeland, Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Houston, to ask the critical question: what is the value of art?

Listening Notes: 

Art is often taken as a primary example of something with intrinsic (rather than just instrumental) value. But what’s so valuable about ‘intrinsic’ value? Ken and John question whether attributing ‘intrinsic’ value to something isn’t just a way to avoid giving a rigorous defense of its value.

Before making a final judgment about the intrinsic value of art, they invite Cynthia Freeland to help them understand what art is in the first place. With her explanation in hand, they begin to add some informedness to their judgment, and start to appreciate how philosophical explanations of the world aren’t the only things worth appreciating.

In the next section, Ken and John press Cynthia on the limits of what is appreciable in the arts - especially in modern art. Do ordinary - even repulsive ordinary - things become art just because they are placed in a building with the words ‘art museum’ plastered on its face? On the other hand, are beautiful things less than ‘art’ just because they are ordinary? As they respond to callers, Ken, John, and Cynthia hone down Cynthia’s definition of art.

In the final section, Ken and John talk to Cynthia about funding the arts in education. They ask Cynthia what she would say to Schwarzenegger if he asked about funding the arts in California  public schools. She discusses how art can supplement education in subjects like history and language, and the important career skills, social aptitudes, and personal qualities that involvement in the arts builds.

  • Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 2:00): Polly Stryker reports on the extrinsic value of art, as a tool to help people cope with illness.

Cynthia Freeland, Professor of Philosophy, University of Houston

Related Resources: 

Books

Web Resources

  • Schellekens, Elisabeth. (2007). "Conceptual Art." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Slater, Barry Hartley. "Aesthetics." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Get Philosophy Talk

Radio

Sunday at 10am, PST, KALW, 91.7 FM, Local Public Radio, San Francisco

Podcast

Individual Downloads  via CdBaby or Itunes.  Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via Iamplify

John Perry and Ken Taylor

Continue the Conversation

Sidebar Menu

Upcoming Shows

  • April 5 : The Nature of Wilderness
    Nowadays we think of wilderness as a fully natural environment that contrasts sharply with the designed and constructed environments in which we...
  • April 12 : The Art of Non-Violence
    We all hope for peace. Yet in the face of violence, it often seems the only recourse is more violence. Advocates of non-violence claim it’s not...
  • April 19 : Economics - Science or Cult?
    With the recent global economic crisis, many people wonder if our economic policies are built on sound principles or on dubious, unscientific claims...
  • April 26 : When Democracies Torture
    Torture is prohibited under international law and is widely considered a human rights violation. But despite the fact that 157 countries ratified the...
  • May 3 : Reincarnation - Past Lives, Future Selves
    According to Buddhist tradition, all people must suffer illness, aging, and death. Yet the universe is seen as a vast living entity, in which cycles...

Support Philosophy Talk

DONATE TODAY

Philosophy Talk relies on the support of listeners like you to stay on the air and online. Any contribution, large or small, helps us produce intelligent, reflective radio that questions everything, including our most deeply-held beliefs about science, morality, culture, and the human condition. Make your tax-deductible contribution now through Stanford University's secure online donation page. Thank you for your support, and thank you for thinking!