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 knowledge about the world (e.g., art educates us about what is important in life)

3.       Davies rejects idea (of formalists or advocates of “art for art’s sake”) that art’s value is solely intrinsic and that the extrinsic values pertaining to art are not values of art as art

          a.       They claim, for example, that the educative value of art is like the value a painting has as a door stop or tool for finding out what sort of clothes people in the time of the painting wore

                    i.        And these values have noting to do with valuing art as an artwork

          b.       Davies argues that art, identified and appreciated as art, is a source of extrinsic value, as with the educative value of art



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

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

                    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

6.       Objective: art’s value resides in work independently of what judges judge

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

8.       Ideal expert appreciator view of aesthetic value

                    i.        Davies and David Hume

          b.       Such experts (many art lovers are such)

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

          d.       Have experienced relevantly similar works

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

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

          g.       Have good sensory capacities

          h.       Attention to detail

          i.        Have relevant knowledge and sensibilities

          j.        Unprejudiced attitude

          k.       Have a great deal of practice

9.       Great art will pass the test of time and become universally acknowledged

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

11.     One: Cultural relativist objection

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

                    i.        We could have been taught to disvalue such art

          b.       Measures of artistic value are cultural constructions

          c.       No-transcultural standard for what is good art

12.     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; 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

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

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


14.     Two: Even experts disagree

          a.       So elements of personal preference in judgments of aesthetic value and they are not objective or universal

15.     Davies response: Elements of personal preference in judgments of aes merit doesn’t support ‘subjective relativism

          a.       Subjective relativism holds that

                    i.        All opinions equally worthy

                    ii.       All opinions are unsupported expressions of idiosyncratic preferences

                    iii.      No objectivity 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

                    i.        Is not always hidden and we can try to tease out its influence

                    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

          d.       Medical analogy

                    i.        Because of this subjective element we might seek out 2nd and third 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

17.     Pleasure art gives them 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

18.     **Art’s value much deeper than pleasure; More like the value of love/friendship; relation to art helps define art lovers

          a.       Pleasure is too puny 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

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

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

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

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

          b.        Making or app art is a mode of existence and self-realization

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



22.     Ways art might educate us:

          a.       Art refine our perceptual and discriminatory skills, enhance our imagination and shape or change 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 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                           

          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


23.     Question 8.5


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

          b.       Examples (p. 218)

          c.       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

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

          e.       Other examples: operas where women are irrational slaves to passion; pornography where women who say no are represented as really meaning yes.

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



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

28.     Question 8.6

29.     Cases where immorality does not affect work’s content/identity

                    i.        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” (like $ value of painting)

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

                              (1)     Not relevant to the artistic evaluation of the film

                              (2)     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

          d.       Painted model killed by deranged lover rather than the painter

          e.       Painter dropped dead shortly after painting it

          f.       Contrast with case of Van Gogh painted this portrait right before he cut off his ear

                    i.        If this is somehow reflect in the painting, it seems relevant to the evaluation of art as art

30.     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

31.     Question 8.6: Like which of above two cases?


32.     On the issue of can a moral defect be an artistic defect, Davies says

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

          a.       Those who claim it never is an artistic defect (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.


34.     Distinction between the immoral material depicted (e.g., rape) and the point of view the film expresses toward what it depicts

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

                    i.        E.g. The Accused, portrays gang rape as horrifying and callous

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

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

                    i.        Davies suggests that The Accused might be a better film if its description of immorality is skillfully played off against the point of view it adopts toward that immorality (presumably, the improved artistic point of view is to not be completely negative about gang rape?)


35.     Action movies, Westerns, and Crime Dramas are genres where endorsement of immoralities are not artistic defects (examples? Bonnie and Clyde? Butch Casidy and the Sundance Kid?)

          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

                              (1)     Dispensable extras not fully human

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

          d.       Prudish (=excessively sensitive to propriety) to refuse to enjoy the action and focus on the hero’s immorality and let this outweigh the artistic value

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


36.     Works glorifying immorality and celebrating of 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


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

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

          b.       (Walton’s point)


38.     Such evil works involve artistic defects:

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

          b.       If she miscalculates, it is a failure

          c.       For example, we focus seriously on a work and desire to engage with it but

                    i.        Laugh when we should cry

                    ii.       Cheer the bad guys

                    iii.      Not care if the girl ever finds the boy again

                    iv.      When author intends the opposite of these things

                    v.       Work is artistic flop

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

                    i.        Because it is both morally repulsive and incoherent in what it requires them to suppose (that torture is good)

                    ii.       Not artistic success.



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

41.     Fiction should not use actual footage of real events

42.     Porn is manipulative as it fudges line between movie fiction and documentary fact

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

          b.       Pretends to be a documentary of real happenings


43.     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 that undermine their chances of appreciating the work for what it is are morally and artistically suspect



          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

45.     Davies overall assessment:

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

          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

46.     Davies reasons for this assessment:

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

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

          c.       Too complicit with what it purports to report

          d.       Defender might argue: It is an advertisement, not documentary and no more at fault than other political propaganda

          e.       Response: Political propaganda should elicit skepticism and discomfort

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

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

                    i.        As a genre it can’t achieve artistic significance

          g.       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