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In Defense of Artistic Value



Is there a distinctively artistic value that works of art have over and above their aesthetic value? No, Dominic McIver Lopes claims in a recent paper. He canvases various non-aesthetic options for underwriting artistic value. Yet he dispenses too quickly with a promising account of artistic value that would look to the artwork's status as an achievement as the basis of its value: On this achievement-based view, the value of the work of art as art (that is, its distinctively artistic value) consists in the artistically-relevant achievement that it itself constitutes. While I will not seek to vindicate the achievement view itself, I do want to show that Lopes's arguments against it are unsound. Moreover, I argue that Lopes's claim that artistic value might be nothing over and above aesthetic value is untenable, unless it is supplemented by the more basic claim that the aesthetic value in question is something achieved by an artist. Lopes's argument thus only works if he makes recourse to the achievement conception of artistic value that he is keen to reject.