Since the beginnings of the XX century, with the emergence of new kinds of artistic expression such as conceptual art, video, photography, etc., there has appeared a need for defining what is art and what is not. But the search for that particular definition has proved to be difficult because of one fundamental issue: How to unite in one concept all the artistic ways of expression without ending up with a too vague definition? With the emergence of this problem, there seems to appear an even more basic question: Is it reasonable to search for a definition of art?

A good question. If we go off looking for what all artworks have in common, we may find ourselves baffled. Of course, as many people have pointed out, definitions are generally a lot harder to come by than we naively think. Wittgenstein's example of game is still a good example. Try coming up with a definition that captures all and only the things we call games. Still, it might be possible to say a little more about art. For some time now (at least since 1964) many philosophers have taken a different approach: what makes something a work of art isn't any intrinsic property of the work itself. Roughly and over-simply, an artwork is something that the "artworld" takes to be art. The prototype of this view was introduced by Arthur Danto, who would find the way I've put it far too crude. George Dickie formalized the approach along the lines of the rough formula that I've given. This approach may sound a little silly at first, but it actually explains a good deal. Although it would be hard to draw...

Can a work of art have value regardless of who creates it? Can, and should, we look past the character of the artist - however immoral we consider them to be - and simply experience and esteem the work itself?

Consider these lines; perhaps you know them: In a Station of the Metro The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough I first came across this poem 35 years ago. Though tastes may vary, it still works for me. But as you may well know, it's by Ezra Pound, who was a propagandist for Mussolini and a virulent anti-Semite. If I bring that to mind as I think about the poem, it leaves an unpleasant taste. But I don't think this shows that the poem itself is less valuable, and I also don't think it means that one can't legitimately take pleasure in it. Whether all cases work this way is another matter. Pound was trying to present a pure image. A good deal of art isn't like that. Outside the context of art, knowing how to interpret someone's words or gestures sometimes calls for knowing something about the person. It doesn't seem crazy to think that this could also be true for certain works of art, though there is a large and long-standing debate here. On the main...