Philopsophers often question what is “art” or “love” or other words for humanity has never had a solid definition.

The quest to finding a general principle which can define these words is always admirable and bears much fruit (e.g., reading Heidegger’s work on coming up with a the nature and definition of “being” is continually mind expanding) but I think words of the class of art actually don’t have proper conceptual definitions. They are defined by a set of concretes rather than an abstract principle. They are non-conceptual words.

Taking art as an example.

What is art?

  • Is what an athlete does art?
  • Is how you live your life a work of art?
  • Is everything hanging in a museum art?
  • Is anything that anyone creates (even a todo list) art?
  • Is art that which reflects one’s sense of life and how they believe things ought to be?

If someone picked any of those definitions for “art” then it is likely to only be held by them and a few other like-minded individuals. Making conversing about art impossible as those they converse with will have different definitions.

Maybe art is really just all of the things a culture has chosen to uphold as art at a given point in time. I.e., art is enumarted by the concretes of the moment rather than having a conceptual unity.

Is this way of defining terms a dangerous way of thinking that ceases thoughtfulness? Probably.