This semester I started attending a seminar on (I'm translating from German hear) "The Meaning of Art". The professor began with a long-winded speech about how most people, hearing the title, would no doubt assume the topic is the role of art in our lives. He then went on to say that the question of art's role in society/our lives is incoherent if we don't first develop an understanding of the nature of art itself (particularly to what extent it is communicative), and that we will therefore focus more on the question of the nature of art rather than its role.
This seems, to me, to be backwards. Art doesn't exist in presocial a void. How are we supposed to understand the nature of art without looking at the role it plays in society? I would think that especially the question of whether art is communicative can only be answered by looking at whether it is used to communicate, i.e. its role in society. Am I misunderstanding the claim, or is the professors approach genuinely backwards?