Archive for the ‘ D ’ Category


Dates: 1944-

Nationality: Belgian

Thierry de Duve is a Belgian professor of modern art theory and contemporary art theory, and both actively teaches and publishes books in the field. He also curates exhibitions. He has been a visiting professor at: the University of Lille III (France), the Sorbonne (France), MIT, and Johns Hopkins University, and was the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Distinguished Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art in Penn’s History of Art Department. He was a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Thierry de Duve’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 October 2010, 06:55 UTC, <>

Thierry de Duve is professor at Université Lille 3, département des arts plastiques in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. He writes and teaches on modern and contemporary art. Committed to a reinterpretation of modernism, his work has long revolved around Marcel Duchamp’s readymade and its implications for aesthetics. His publications include: Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade, with D. Polan (Minneapolis,1991); Clement Greenberg between the Lines, translated by Brian Holmes (Paris, 1996); Kant After Duchamp (Cambridge, 1998); and The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge, 1993).




Dates: 1930-2004

Nationality: French

Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 8, 2004) was a French philosopher born in Algeria, who is known as the founder of deconstruction. His voluminous work had a profound impact upon literary theory and continental philosophy. Derrida’s best known work is Of Grammatology.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Jacques Derrida’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 December 2010, 00:02 UTC, <>

According to Jacques Derrida, structure — the structure of language, for example — occupies an impossible and ideal position: it at once posits an absolute center that holds everything together and a meta-perspective that also holds everything together. For Derrida, then, structure is defined by a double law in which it is at once bound and unbound — such is the very possibility (or impossibility) of a structure’s existence. Which is to say, a structure can exist only in as much as it undoes itself. For Derrida, this double function is always already at work — and so Poststructuralism is born. This double logic, which Derrida calls “differance,” (a word which in French blurs the line between speech and writing) operates like an electric current; it is the alternating force which drives language, philosophy, and texts in general. This force stems from the relentless play between a positive and negative node, between the positing and undoing of a thing. Hence, just as an electric current only exists as movement, texts come to exist only from their “differance .” Therefore, there is no absolute and stable dictionary that fixes meaning in place. At the origin of meaning, Derrida tells us, is play. Hence, when Derrida reads, he seeks the play within a text, the particular ways that a text posits itself and is thereby already outside itself, playing elsewhere in unexpected fields, with unexpected texts. This is what he means by Deconstruction.



Dates: 1926-

Nationality: American

Since the early 1960s Dickie has made numerous important contributions to the philosophy of art. Among the most influential of his contributions are his attacks on key aspects of widely held aesthetic theories and his creation and critical development of the institutional theory of art. His critique of aesthetic theory addresses a number of theses about what is involved in people’s experiencing something’s aesthetic qualities (and associated theses about aesthetic objects), whereas his Institutional Theory provides an account of the concept of art that locates art’s essence within a special category of social practices attributed to a social group Dickie calls the artworld.

A widely held view among aesthetic theorists is that someone must in some way invoke a special mode of perception in himself or herself in order to experience something’s aesthetic qualities (or in order to experience something as an aesthetic object). Invoking this special mode of perception is commonly equated with adopting a special attitude toward what is being experienced, a disinterested attitude, for example. Speaking generally, Dickie shows that experiencing aesthetic qualities cannot require adopting a special attitude by providing counterexamples to the various attempts philosophers have made to show that there is a distinct kind of experience (properly classified as aesthetic experience) that people must have in order to experience something’s aesthetic qualities, and that having this kind of experience requires adopting a special attitude.

Early on in his attack on aesthetic attitude theorists, Dickie argued against the view that experiencing something’s aesthetic qualities required attending to it disinterestedly. He did this by providing examples to show that the difference between people who are experiencing something’s aesthetic qualities and people who are experiencing the same object without being aware of its aesthetic qualities merely is a function of which characteristics of the thing each person is paying attention to, regardless of the interests motivating his or her attention. Since the difference in what is experienced is explained by what is being attended to, not the mode of attention, it is not necessary to introduce notions like disinterested attention or other special modes of perception (identified in terms of the perceiver’s interests, purposes, or motives) in order to understand the experience of something’s aesthetic qualities.

Bailey, George W. S.. “Dickie, George.” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Ed. Michael Kelly. Oxford Art Online. 13 Mar. 2010 <>


Dates: 1925-1995

Nationality: French

Gilles Deleuze  (January 18, 1925 – November 4, 1995) was a French philosopher of the late 20th century. From the early 1960s until his death, Deleuze wrote many influential works on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular books were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both co-written with Félix Guattari. His books Difference and Repetition (1968) and The Logic of Sense (1969) led Michel Foucault to declare that “one day, perhaps, this century will be called Deleuzian.” (Deleuze, for his part, said Foucault’s comment was “a joke meant to make people who like us laugh, and make everyone else livid.”)

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Gilles Deleuze’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 November 2010, 19:13 UTC, <>

Kant had dissociated aesthetics into two halves: the theory of sensibility as the form of possible experience (the “Transcendental Aesthetic” of the Critique of Pure Reason), and the theory of art as a reflection on real experience (the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the Critique of Judgment). In Deleuze’s work, these two halves of aesthetics are reunited: if the most general aim of art is to “produce a sensation,” then the genetic principles of sensation are at the same time the principles of composition for works of art; conversely, it is works of art that are best capable of revealing these conditions of sensibility. Deleuze therefore writes on the arts not as a critic but as a philosopher, and his books and essays on the various arts—including the cinema (Cinema I and II), literature (Essays Critical and Clinical), and painting (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation)—must be read as philosophical explorations of this transcendental domain of sensibility. The cinema, for instance, produces images that move, and that move in time, and it is these two aspects of film that Deleuze set out to analyze in The Movement-Image and The Time-Image: “What exactly does the cinema show us about space and time that the other arts don’t show?” Deleuze thus describes his two-volume Cinema as “a book of logic, a logic of the cinema” that sets out “to isolate certain cinematographic concepts,” concepts which are specific to the cinema, but which can only be formed philosophically. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation likewise creates a series of philosophical concepts, each of which relates to a particular aspect of Bacon’s paintings, but which also find a place in “a general logic of sensation.” In general, Deleuze will locate the conditions of sensibility in an intensive conception of space and a virtual conception of time, which are necessarily actualized in a plurality of spaces and a complex rhythm of times (for instance, in the non-extended spaces and non-linear times of modern mathematics and physics).

For Deleuze, the task of art is to produce “signs” that will push us out of our habits of perception into the conditions of creation. When we perceive via the re-cognition of the properties of substances, we see with a stale eye pre-loaded with clichés; we order the world in what Deleuze calls “representation.” In this regard, Deleuze cites Francis Bacon: we’re after an artwork that produces an effect on the nervous system, not on the brain. What he means by this figure of speech is that in an art encounter we are forced to experience the “being of the sensible.” We get something that we cannot re-cognize, something that is “imperceptible”—it doesn’t fit the hylomorphic production model of perception in which sense data, the “matter” or hyle of sensation, is ordered by submission to conceptual form. Art however cannot be re-cognized, but can only be sensed; in other words, art splits perceptual processing, forbidding the move to conceptual ordering. This is exactly what Kant in the Third Critique called reflective judgment: when the concept is not immediately given in the presentation of art. With art we reach “sensation,” or the “being of the sensible,” the sentiendum.

Deleuze talks about this effect of sensation as the “transcendent exercise” of the faculty of sensibility; here we could refer to the third chapter of Difference and Repetition, where Deleuze lays out a non-Kantian “differential theory of the faculties.” In this remarkable theory, intensity is “difference in itself,” that which carries the faculties to their limits. The faculties are linked in order; here we see what Deleuze calls the privilege of sensibility as origin of knowledge—the “truth of empiricism.” In the differential theory of the faculties, sensibility, imagination, memory, and thought all “communicate a violence” from one to the other. With sensibility, pure difference in intensity is grasped immediately in the encounter as the sentiendum; with imagination, the disparity in the phantasm is that which can only be imagined. With memory, in turn, the memorandum is the dissimilar in the pure form of time, or the immemorial of transcendent memory. With thought, a fractured self is constrained to think “difference in itself” in Ideas. Thus the “free form of difference” moves each faculty and communicates its violence to the next. You have to be forced to think, starting with an art encounter in which intensity is transmitted in signs or sensation. Rather than a “common sense” in which all the faculties agree in recognizing the “same” object, we find in this communicated violence a “discordant harmony” (compare the Kantian sublime) that tears apart the subject (the notion of “cruelty” Deleuze picks up from Artaud).

Smith, Daniel and Protevi, John, “Gilles Deleuze”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>


Dates: 1924-

Nationality: American

Arthur Coleman Danto is an American art critic, and professor of philosophy. He is best known as the influential, long-time art critic for the Nation and for his work in philosophical aesthetics and philosophy of history, though he has contributed significantly to a number of fields. His interests span thought, feeling, philosophy of art, theories of representation, philosophical psychology, Hegel’s aesthetics, and the philosophers Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Arthur Schopenhauer.

Danto laid the groundwork for an institutional definition of art that sought to answer the questions raised by the emerging phenomenon of twentieth century art. The definition of the term “art” is a subject of constant contention and many books and journal articles have been published arguing over the answer to the question, What is Art? Definitions can be categorized into conventional and non-conventional definitions. Non-conventional definitions take a concept like the aesthetic as an intrinsic characteristic in order to account for the phenomena of art. Conventional definitions reject this connection to aesthetic, formal, or expressive properties as essential to defining art but rather, in either an institutional or historical sense, say that “art” is basically a sociological category. (Classificatory disputes about art|see Definitions of art) Danto takes a conventional approach and develops an “institutional definition of art” in that whatever art schools and museums, and artists get away with is considered art regardless of formal definitions. Danto has written on this subject in several of his recent works and a detailed treatment is to be found in Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

The essay “The Artworld” in which Danto coined the term “artworld”, by which he meant cultural context or “an atmosphere of art theory,”first appeared in the Journal of Philosophy (1964) and has since been widely reprinted. It has had considerable influence on aesthetic philosophy and, according to professor of philosophy Stephen David Ross, “especially upon George Dickie’s institutional theory of art. Dickie defines work as an artifact ‘which has had conferred upon it the status of candidate for appreciation by some person or persons acting in behalf of a certain social institution (the artworld) “(p. 43.).

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Danto’s definition has been glossed as follows: something is a work of art if and only if (i) it has a subject (ii) about which it projects some attitude or point of view (has a style) (iii) by means of rhetorical ellipsis (usually metaphorical) which ellipsis engages audience participation in filling in what is missing, and (iv) where the work in question and the interpretations thereof require an art historical context. (Danto, Carroll) Clause (iv) is what makes the definition institutionalist. The view has been criticized for entailing that art criticism written in a highly rhetorical style is art, lacking but requiring an independent account of what makes a context art historical, and for not applying to music.”

The basic meaning of the term “art” has changed several times over the centuries, and has continued to evolve during the 20th century as well. Danto describes the history of Art in his own contemporary version of Hegel’s dialectical history of art. “Danto is not claiming that no-one is making art anymore; nor is he claiming that no good art is being made any more. But he thinks that a certain history of western art has come to an end, in about the way that Hegel suggested it would.” The “end of art” refers to the beginning of our modern era of art in which art no longer adheres to the constraints of imitation theory but serves a new purpose. Art began with an “era of imitation, followed by an era of ideology, followed by our post-historical era in which, with qualification, anything goes… In our narrative, at first only mimesis [imitation] was art, then several things were art but each tried to extinguish its competitors, and then, finally, it became apparent that there were no stylistic or philosophical constraints. There is no special way works of art have to be. And that is the present and, I should say, the final moment in the master narrative. It is the end of the story.”

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Arthur Danto’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 November 2010, 17:12 UTC, <>


Dates: 1859-1952

Nationality: American

American philosopher and writer. He wrote major works on metaphysics, ethics, logic, social philosophy and particularly the philosophy and theory of education. He was one of the group of American philosophers, including Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and George Herbert Mead, who developed the philosophical view known as American Pragmatism. Dewey’s major work in aesthetics, Art as Experience (1934), summarizes important features of his general philosophy as well as being one of the most influential works of 20th-century Anglo-American aesthetics.

The central notion in Dewey’s thought is that of ‘experience’. For Dewey experiencing the world is an interaction between the whole organism and the environment, rather than a relation between a subject and a distinct object. Much of human experience is incoherent and meaningless, but sometimes we have an ‘experience’ that stands out from the surrounding flux. Every experience allows us to achieve self-knowledge and to guard against alienation, and it has a distinctively aesthetic quality. An experience is an individualized, self-sufficient whole, pervaded by a single emotional quality and characterized by a certain rhythm of tension and relaxation (difficulty and solution of difficulty). It is also a unity in which the completion of the experience has a meaning or significance that sums up and in a sense contains all the previous phases of the experience. This description can apply to hoeing the garden, testing a scientific theory, or merely having a conversation. For Dewey a meaningful life should include many such experiences. However, an experience that is predominantly aesthetic—rather than intellectual or practical—is one in which the peculiar features of the experience as he defined them are clarified and intensified: an aesthetic experience is one in which we are predominantly aware of the experience’s tension and relaxation, its unity, its pervasive quality and the cumulative nature of its meaning. The best examples of aesthetic experience are our experiences of (interactions with) objects of fine art.

Robinson, Jenefer. “Dewey, John.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

True art is universal and true to human nature. This universality excludes such lower senses as taste and smell from the beautiful. It also excludes the feeling of ownership and any reference to external ends. Art cannot, however, be defined. For we cannot know ahead of time what qualities will appear beautiful. Nonetheless, we can still say that harmony constitutes beauty. Harmony is defined as the feeling that accompanies agreement of experience with the self’s ideal nature. Art attempts to satisfy the aesthetic in our nature, and it succeeds when it expresses the ideal completely. The ideal, in turn, is the “completely developed self.” So the goal of art is to create the perfectly harmonious self.

Dewey then makes claims about the various fine arts, ranking them according to their level of ideality: architecture is the least ideal art, although it is most fit for religious expression; sculpture ranks higher in that it is less tied to use and is usually associated with a human ideal presented in the human figure; painting is more ideal in that its sensuous side is limited to pigment on a two-dimensional surface and it represents man’s passions and needs; music is more ideal yet as its material is not in space, its beauty manifests man’s soul, and harmony is at its core; poetry, is fully ideal, having little that is sensuous in it, concentrating as it does on the vital personality of man himself (and nature as only a reflection of this); finally, within poetry, drama gives us the highest ideal in that it deals with humans in action, overcoming the limitations of epic and lyric poetry.

Finally, in this work Dewey held that in saying that something is beautiful we objectify our aesthetic feeling. The great artist is impelled to creation, but the ordinary individual recognizes it. Aesthetic judgments operate according to principles of taste. These give us the characteristics of the objects which feeling calls beautiful. Taste is a matter of individual feeling, not of dry rules, and thus only a man of artistic nature is the right judge of works of art. Finally, aestheticism is the degeneration of aesthetic feeling, for it is simply love of the pleasures of beauty rather than a key to objective beauty in nature.

Leddy, Tom. “Dewey’s Aesthetics.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition). Edward N. Zalta (ed.) <>


Dates: 1713-1784

Nationality: French

French writer, philosopher and critic. He was a man of the most wide-ranging talents: novelist, dramatist, philosopher and writer on science, mathematics and music. In his lifetime he was probably best known as editor of the Encyclopédie (1751–65)—an encyclopedic dictionary of the arts, sciences and trades—and came comparatively late to art criticism. Characteristically determined to express a personal view on art and to attempt to justify his judgements, he had his only noteworthy precursor in Etienne La Font de Saint-Yenne; periodical journalism devoted to the arts in 18th-century France yielded no commentator to match Diderot in vigour and independence of mind. He was early acquainted with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, Roland Fréart, Jean Cousin (i), Roger de Piles and Charles Le Brun, and the theory of drama he published in 1757, the Entretiens sur ‘Le Fils naturel’, reveals a keen interest in the relations between the visual arts and the theatre. Diderot was convinced that taste is the product of experience and observation, a notion he developed in his Pensées détachées sur la peinture (1776–7); his physiological studies for the Lettre sur les aveugles (1749) and the Eléments de physiologie (1774) persuaded him that the human eye has to be educated to see. He profited from his acquaintance with artists to learn about the technicalities of painting.

The original impetus to Diderot’s writing on art came from his friend Melchior Grimm, who employed him to write on the biennial Salons organized by the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris for the Correspondance littéraire, from 1759 to 1781. This was a period of transition for French painting in both style and subject-matter, from the ‘frivolity’ of Rococo to the seriousness of Neo-classicism. The Correspondance littéraire was an informal bi-monthly newsletter, privately circulated to subscribers, who included Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia. Its sale was prohibited within Paris, which meant that the Salons articles were subject neither to royal censorship nor to the jealous attentions of the Académie Royale and those it protected; Diderot could thus speak his mind freely without fear of reprisal.

Goodden, Angelica. “Diderot, Denis.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>