Abstract

Many people prefer to own originals by famous artists rather than copies by artists who are not famous. First of all, many are willing to pay more for the originals. Secondly, many are thrilled to discover that they have in their possession an original by a famous artist.

Why do people prefer to own the originals? Psychologists George Newman and Paul Bloom suggest that many people believe that the law of contagion holds. (Newman and Bloom 2012) This is a generalization which says that every human being has a soul that permeates her body, and that if contact between the body of a human being and an object occurs, the soul might spread from the body to the object. Newman and Bloom claim that their proposal could explain why people prefer to own the originals, and that we have good reason to believe that the proposal is correct.

In this talk, I will first develop the proposal that the psychologists put forward and show that it could explain why people prefer to own the originals. I will then show, however, that we have no good reason to believe that the proposal is correct. The proposal predicts the currently available evidence, but there is, contrary to what many philosophers think (Gendler 2008, Mandelbaum 2013, Levy 2015), an alternative according to which many people imagine that the law of contagion holds, whose initial probability is at least just as high.