Abstract

The late Arthur Danto claimed that through a special act of identification, “an artwork becomes a metaphor for life, and life is transfigured.” The act of identification that Danto has in mind is character-based, such as when one sees “oneself as Anna Karenina, Isabelle Archer, or Elizabeth Bennett.” My interest is in a broader act of identification: how might the literary work itself function as the primary vehicle of figurative identification and, ultimately, of that grander achievement Danto mentions: a transfiguration of “life,” which I cast as an expansion of our possibilities for ascribing sense to the world beyond the work of art. This, I argue, offers a novel way to address central problems in the debate on artistic cognitivism. The approach I argue for effectively replaces the narrowly epistemic search for varieties of warranted belief and propositional knowledge with an account of how the formal and aesthetic features of art can yield a distinctive variety of metaphorical understanding.


John Gibson’s research focuses on topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of literature, and he is especially concerned with connections between these areas and central issues in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of the self. Much of his recent research explores the uniqueness of the forms of meaning artworks bear and the implications this has for accounts of the cultural, ethical, and cognitive significance of art. He is currently writing book titled Poetry, Metaphor & Nonsense: An Essay on Meaning (under contract with OUP).

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Source: https://louisville.edu/philosophy/People/faculty-profile-pages/john-gibson