Philosophy of the Arts

Royal Conservatory

When is Philosophy?

The form of the question “When is Philosophy?” is intended. Every philosopher claiming to know what philosophy is will be confronted with others denying it. One thing they may all agree upon is that philosophy is a kind of thinking, but that might not seem very instructive. Beyond that, disagreement may start quickly. For instance, about the relevance of empirical experiments. Proponents of a naturalized philosophy put high premium on empirical evidence, whereas others may think that empirical examples are inconclusive for any truly philosophical matter.
For lack of knowing what philosophy truly is, it is safer to treat it as a practice and method of thinking, which includes the asking of certain questions.
For an argument to be philosophical it must refer to (or employ) an open question. Closed questions allow for closed determinate answers; philosophical, open questions, by definition, do not. For instance, to the closed question, “How many works of art are there in this room”, a closed answer specifying the number, say “four” may ensue.
A philosopher, however, might ask the further question, “How could I tell – first I want to know what is a work of art and what isn’t?” This is an open question asking for the theory with which to decide which objects or events are works and why. Yet, this question too might prove closed, in the event the questioner is satisfied with a closed answer (e.g. “Something is a work of art if it is xyz”). But if he isn’t, he will ask the further question, “On what grounds do we take only xyz’s to be works?” One who tries to answer this question is bound to start talking about certain theories, and arguments in them. And theories, we all know, are always relative (to specific contexts), they are debatable.
Thus, philosophy is a practice (of asking open questions), and what is at stake in it are the conceptual frameworks with which we think about the issues and objects in question.

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