Arthur C. Danto: on Hegel and Duchamp
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 07-15-11

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Arthur C. Danto's conceptions of "the end of art" and "posthistoricism" were quickly adopted as catch-phrases and widely misunderstood by the art world of the eighties and nineties.  He did not mean, however, that art could no longer be made, accomplished, nor that any criteria for its judgment was to be doomed--deemed historical.  Here, Danto illuminates his complex philosophy--of which art was always and ever the object:

"...and it is the historical mission of art to make philosophy possible, after which art will have no historical mission in the great cosmo-historical sweep.  Hegel's stupendous philosophical vision of history gets, or almost gets, an astounding confirmation in Duchamp's work, which raises the question of the philosophical nature of art from within art, implying that art already is philosophy in a vivid form, and has now discharged its spiritual mission by revealing the philosophical essence at its heart.  The task may now be handed over to philosophy proper, which is equipped to cope with its own nature directly and definitively.  So what art finally will have achieved as its fulfillment and fruition is the philosophy of art."

"But this is a cosmic way of achieving the second stage of the platonic program, which has always been to substitute philosophy for art.  And to dignify art, patronizingly, as philosophy in one of its self-alienated forms, thirsting for clarity as to its own nature as all of us thirst for clarity as to our own.  Perhaps there is something to this.  When art internalizes its own history, when it becomes self-conscious of its history as it has come to be in our time, so that its consciousness of its history forms part of its nature, it is perhaps unavoidable that it should turn into philosophy at last.  And when it does so, well, in an important sense, art comes to an end."

Arthur C. Danto, "The Philosophical Disenfrachisement of Art." In The Wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy, and the Ends of Taste ed. Gregg Horowitz and Tom Huhn (Amsertdam: Gordon and Breach Publishing Group, 1998), 75-76.

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