Davies, Ch 8: The Value of Art



2.      Davies thinks art is intrinsically valuable (=valuable for its own sake) as well as extrinsically valuable (=valuable as a means)

         a.      Art is intrinsically valuable in that we value our experience of it for its own sake much as we value our interaction with friends for its own sake

         b.      Art is extrinsically valuable as a means to, e.g., knowledge about the world (e.g., art can educate us about what is important in life)

3.      Some of art’s extrinsic values are values of art as art (identified and appreciated as art) and some are not

         a.      For example, art’s educative value –e.g.,that it can help us figure out what is important in life--is an extrinsic value of art as art (a value of art identified and appreciated as art)

         b.      Other extrinsic values of art are not values of art as art (identified and appreciated as art)

                   i.       The dollar worth of a painting

                   ii.      Valuing a book as a door stop is not to value it as art

                   iii.     Valuing a painting because it can tell you what kind of clothes people wore at the time it was painted is also not to value it as art (but as history)

                   iv.     These values have nothing to do with valuing or appreciating art as an artwork

4.      Davies rejects the view of formalists and advocates of “art for art’s sake” that art has only intrinsic value and none of art’s extrinsic values are relevant to valuing art as art



6.      Objective: Some judgments of art’s value are better (e.g., correct vs incorrect, more or less worthy ) than others

7.      Universal: Ideal experts with ideal conditions of appreciation would arrive at same (approximate) judgment of art’s value

8.      Grants no rules/formulas for producing or determining good art

         a.      Base properties on which aesthetic qualities/values depend not systematically related to those aesthetic qualities/values

                   i.       Vivid shade of purple that makes this painting look garish (strident, excessively loud) makes another look vibrant

                   ii.      Repetition that unifies one work makes another boring

         b.      But don’t need such rules for art’s value to be objective/universal

9.      Ideal expert appreciator view of aesthetic value (Davies and Hume)

         a.      Aesthetic value is determined by what ideal appreciators judge to be valuable

         b.      Such art experts

                   i.       Have time to return to the work and think about it

                   ii.      Have experienced relevantly similar works

                   iii.     Familiar with art practices and traditions of that type of work

                   iv.     Have a track record of making judgments that other experts find convincing

                   v.      Have good sensory capacities

                   vi.     Attention to detail

                   vii.    Have relevant knowledge and sensibilities

                   viii.   Unprejudiced attitude

                   ix.     Have a great deal of practice

         c.      Many art lovers are art experts in this sense (so not elitist?)

10.    Great art will pass the test of time and become universally acknowledged by art experts

         a.      What about ordinary good art? Is Davies suggesting that the universality and objectivity of art’s value is limited to great art only?

11.    Two objections to the universality and objectivity of art’s value

12.    One: Cultural relativist objection

         a.      No transcultural standard for what is good art

         b.       Measures of artistic value are cultural constructions

         c.       Agreement about great art is result of common indoctrination not perceived facts about the value of such art

                   i.       We could have been taught to disvalue such art

13.    Davies reply: The value of some art is based on its relation to our common humanity and it thus transcends different cultures/eras

         a.      Much human experience is shared in common

                   i.       We have similar needs/desires/vulnerabilities

         b.      Themes reflecting this common ground–love, friendship, mating, parenting, peace/war, ritual, religion, birth, death – have abiding importance and attraction

         c.      Art that addresses these themes has value common to all people in all cultures

14.    Some measures of artistic merit will be valid across cultures and other dimensions of artistic goodness will be culturally localized

         a.      Davies thinks some dimensions of aesthetic value judgments are universal and objective and some are culturally relative

15.    Two: Even experts disagree

         a.      This shows that there are elements of personal preference in judgments of aesthetic value and they are not objective or universal

16.    Davies response:

         a.      Elements of personal preference in judgments of aesthetic merit do not support ‘subjective relativism’

                   i.       Subjective relativism holds that

                            (1)    All opinions are equally worthy

                            (2)    All opinions are unsupported expressions of idiosyncratic preferences

                            (3)    No objectivity (better or worse) that applies in particular cases

         b.      Even with disagreement among experts, we can examine particular evaluations and the reasons for them and put our own judgments on a more firm basis

         c.      Subjective dimension effects on aesthetic judgment can be limited

                   i.       Is not always hidden and we can try to tease out the influence of subjective factors

                   ii.      Nor is it always dominant or decisive

                   iii.     It can steer the judgment, but it can’t legitimately ignore or misrepresent facts about work relevant to its evaluation

                   iv.     Perhaps Roger Ebert (the film critic) is friends with certain directors and thus tends to like their movies more than he otherwise would

                            (1)    He still might judge one of their movies as lousy

                            (2)    We might take this into account when use his evaluation

         d.      Medical analogy

                   i.       Because of this subjective element we might seek out 2nd and 3rd opinions, like we do in medicine

                   ii.      ***Medical experts don’t always agree, but that is no reason to assume they all are quacks with no better views that ordinary person who knows nothing about medicine

                   iii.     ***Their disagreement doesn’t lead us to deny objective facts about medicine

                   iv.     **Should have a similar response to the (occasional) disagreement among experts about the value of artworks

                            (1)    We should not conclude that there is no better or worse in judgments about the value of art



         a.      Questions 8.1 and 8.3

18.    Pleasure art gives is an important reason people value art, but not the only reason

         a.      Interest in art might be motivated by curiosity, habit, and other considerations that pay no regard to pleasurable pay off

19.    **Art’s value much deeper than pleasure; More like the value of love/friendship

         a.      Pleasure is too puny a value to capture art’s human significance

         b.      Demeans and trivializes our experience of art by claiming its primarily motivated by a desire for pleasure

         c.      Insulting, like saying a mother’s interest in her children is because she derives pleasure for herself from them

20.    Love for art or another person often is pleasurable, thought it can also give rise to difficulties and pain

21.    Their relation to art helps define art lovers and this is not explained by saying they are seeking pleasure

         a.      Art lover, like other lovers, not out for herself , but devoted to the object of her passion (which can be frustrating or irritating as often as delightful)

         b.      Art lover’s identity in part shaped by her relationship to the art she loves

                   i.       Just as mother’s identity is shaped by her love of her children

         c.      Making or appreciating art is a mode of existence and self-realization

         d.      Claim that such a person seeks art for the pleasure it gives fails to explain the central role it plays in her life



23.    Ways art might educate us

         a.      “Art refines our perceptual and discriminatory skills, enhances our imagination and shapes or changes attitudes and values”

         b.      “Might allow us to better recognize emotions in others, empathize more deeply with them, better absorb their point of view, be more sensitive and sympathetic to their feelings, more aware of our own prejudices”

         c.      “Fiction can bring out morally (and other) significant patterns we might not notice in real life situations, especially because they are crafted by skilled observers of human nature who can control and highlight fine detail of particular aspects of events and steer readers to new understandings”

                   i.       Question 8.4                  

         d.      Fictions have special powers and this makes them potent educators

                   i.       Its seductiveness is both source of value and danger, depending on whether they correctly inform or mislead the reader about what is involved in experience or responding to states of affairs they describe


24.    Question 8.5


26.    Even if works not blatantly misogynist, they can convey sexist presuppositions that underlie them

27.    Examples (p. 218)

         a.      In movies, viewer called on to adopt a male gaze, with female actors presented as passive, dependent sex objects whose function is to validate the hero, while males portrayed as powerful and active

         b.      Women who assert independence and autonomy are punished (often with death) and good girls shown finding fulfillment in servitude to men and family

         c.      Operas where women are irrational slaves to passion

28.    Women can (should?) feel excluded from intended audience and feel alienated from engagement with such works

         a.      They resist imaginatively taking up cognitive and emotional profile work assumes in its audience

         b.      Likely to draw out and criticize the objectionable attitudes of artist and his times

         c.      Fault the artwork

         d.      A moral defect that leads to artistic one? (See below)

         e.      Fails as art because it presumes to say something universally true and attract a global audience, yet does neither



30.    Davies believes that for immorality to be relevant to art, it must affect art’s identity and content

31.    Examples where immorality does not affect work’s content/identity

         a.      Examples of immoral actions that (because they do not affect the identity and content of a work) should not influence our artistic evaluation of it (should not affect how it should be evaluated as a work of art) and yet they do “influence how the artwork is approached”

         b.      Producer of film cheats the cast/crew of wages

                   i.       Not relevant to the artistic evaluation of the film

                   ii.      Yet may have an obligation not to see the film

         c.      Painter murdered his model right after finished her portrait

                   i.       Might find it no longer possible to accept the calm innocence of the painting’s appearance at face value

                   ii.      Awareness of this likely to affect viewer’s experience

                   iii.     But it is not relevant to evaluating the artwork as art

                   iv.     Do you see why Davies must say this given his ontological contextualism?

         d.      Does the immorality affect the content of the artwork in this case?

                   i.       Van Gogh self-portrait with bandaged ear he cut off himself

32.    Cases where immorality is central to artworks’ identity/content

         a.      Fictional story featuring rape, torture, etc

         b.      Movie recording real acts of rape, murder, etc

         c.      Classical performer at a supposed live performance cheating her audience by miming here CD

33.    Question 8.6 (Roman Coliseum) Fits which of above two categories?


34.    Does Davies think a moral defect can be an artistic defect?

35.    Immorality of artwork is sometimes an artistic defect and other times it is not

         a.      Those who claim it never is an artistic defect (or perhaps that it is never relevant to art as art) might do so out of fears that admitting morality might be relevant to art opens the door to censorship.

36.    Difference between immoral material (e.g., rape) being depicted and the point of view the film expresses toward what it depicts itself being immoral

         a.      Film might present a morally appropriate attitude to the immorality it contains, one a morally sensitive audience will share

                   i.       Shakespeare’s Macbeth shows murder to be soul-destroying for those who commit it

                   ii.       The Accused, portrays gang rape as horrifying and callous

         b.      Possible example of immoralism (where a moral defect is positive aesthetically)

                   i.       Might The Accused be a better film if was less clear about its negative attitude toward this rape?

37.    Action movies, Westerns, and Crime Dramas are genres where endorsement of immoralities are not artistic defects

         a.      Heroes ruthlessly disregard the law and the suffering of their victims and audience is suppose to empathize with heroes and enjoy the death and havoc they cause

         b.      Special conventions at work in this genre that blunts the immorality

                   i.       People get chairs broken over heads and thrown out glass windows without getting seriously hurt

                   ii.      Consequences of immorality not portrayed: Characters who get hurt are not filled out, nor is their suffering or affects on their families depicted

                            (1)    Dispensable extras not fully human

                   iii.     Also hero’s cause has rough justice on its side

         c.      Prudish (=excessively sensitive to propriety) to refuse to enjoy the action and focus on immorality endorsed and let this outweigh the positive artistic value

                   i.       Especially given widespread toleration in other contexts of sports and entertainments that are genuinely violent and harmful.

38.    Works glorifying immorality and celebrating evil (relishing in detailed depiction of unmitigated cruelty and suffering) have their artistic value corroded by their immorality

         a.      Different from the above thrillers in that

                   i.       No overall moral viewpoint shared by audience

                   ii.      Detail in the suffering depicted and the characters who suffer are made to be real people

39.    When an evil work tries to get us to believe evil is good, it’s asking us to imagine a conceptual impossibility

         a.      That evil is good: That cutting up people for fun is right

         b.      Similar to Walton’s point that we can’t imagine these things

40.    Such evil works involve artistic defects

         a.      If artist intends work to elicit particular effect from audience

         b.      And doing so requires imagining something we can’t imagine

         c.      The artist has miscalculated, and the work is a failure in this respect

41.    A work fails if it tries for a sympathetic approval of audience and alienates them instead

         a.      Because it is both morally repulsive and incoherent in what it requires them to suppose (e.g., that torture is good, or that sexism is desirable)

         b.      Not artistic success



43.    He thinks that documentaries should be actual footage of real events

44.    Fiction should not use actual footage of real events

45.    Pornography is manipulative as it fudges line between movie fiction and documentary fact

         a.      Defends itself as fiction using actors who have informed consent

         b.      Then it pretends to be a documentary of real happenings

46.    Art works must respect their audiences

         a.      Artistically successful work must respect its audience by providing for their ability to reach an appropriate judgment of the work

         b.      Ways that engage the audience’s interest and sympathy (e.g., manipulation of emotions) that undermine their chances of appreciating the work for what it is are morally and artistically suspect



48.    Description of the film

         a.      Documentary of Nuremberg rallies of Hitler’s national socialist in 1934

         b.      Hitler is represented as eloquent, visionary savior and hero who is loved by and unites the German folk to whom he will bring fulfillment and self-respect

         c.      Depiction works because of cinematic mastery of film

         d.      Riefenstahl skillfully blends stunning, beautiful, forceful images and symbols

         e.      Artistic technique displayed in film is of highest order

         f.       Many people now are repulsed by Riefenstahl’s glorification of ideas and values that led only a few years later to Hitler’s barbaric, racist rule

49.    Davies overall assessment:

         a.      If it is a documentary it fails because it is too sympathetic with what it reports

                   i.       If any artistic fault with this work, it lies in commitment to image over truth, given that it presents itself as a documentary

                   ii.      Tries too hard to persuade, to sell its message

                   iii.     Too complicit with what it purports to report

         b.      If it is advertisement for Hitler, then it is political propaganda and this genre is manipulative by its nature and hence can’t be great art

                   i.       Political propaganda should elicit skepticism and discomfort

                   ii.      To be persuasive, propaganda does what it can to prevent such results, thus it is inevitably at odds with its own nature

                   iii.     Propaganda doesn’t show the sincerity honesty and self-awareness that are found in great art

                            (1)    As a genre it can’t achieve artistic significance

         c.      If Riefenstahl’s film seems to be great art, this is only because it is careful to pretend to be more than a political advertisement

Study Questions Davies, Ch 8: The Value of Art


1.         Explain the difference between valuing art intrinsically and extrinsically.

2.         Give an example of an “extrinsic value” of art that Davies thinks is not relevant to valuing art as art and then give an example of an extrinsic value of art that Davies thinks is a value of art as art (identified and appreciated as art).

3.         Explain Davies views on the degree of universality and objectivity in the assessment of art’s value. Explain both the cultural relativist and the experts disagree objections to Davies view. How does Davies respond to each? (Consider the medical analogy he uses in response to the experts disagree objection).

4.         Describe what an ideal art expert (one whose judgment of the value of an artwork is reliable) would be like, according to Davies and Hume.

5.         What is Davies’ view of the following: Art lovers are interested in art because of the pleasure it brings them.

6.         Give examples of cases where Davies argues the immorality associated with an artwork is irrelevant to its identity and content (and explain why it is). Now give examples where he thinks such immorality is relevant to the artwork’s content and identity.

7.         Using examples, explain the distinction between immoral material being depicted by art and the point of the view of the artwork (e.g., film) toward what is depicted itself being immoral.

8.         What is Davies view on whether the immorality of an artwork is an artistic defect or not?

9.         What is “immoralism?” What does Davies say about the film The Accused that suggests a possible example of immoralism?

10.       Identity and explain Davies examples of art genres that he argues endorse immoralities but that are not such that this endorsement leads to artistic defects.

11.       Give a plausible example of how a moral defect in a work of art can also be (or leads to) an artistic defect. (I recommend using one of Davies’ or Walton’s examples.) Explain why this is the case.

12.       According to Davies, why will an artist inevitably fail is she tries to get us to believe that evil is good (e.g., that cutting up people for fun is right)?

13.       Davies embraces some moral requirements for artworks (and great artworks). What are they? (Both pornography and Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will violate these requirements, according to Davies.)