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Article
Morris Weitz
The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Second Edition
  • Aili W. Bresnahan, University of Dayton
Document Type
Encyclopedia Entry
Publication Date
1-1-2014
Abstract

Morris Weitz’s initial theory of art was provided in his book Philosophy of the Arts (1950). Here Weitz calls his theory of art “empirical” and “organic,” and he defined “art” as “an organic complex or integration of expressive elements embodied in a sensuous medium." By “empirical” he means that his theory answers to the evidence provided by actual works of art. “Organic,” for Weitz, means that each element is to be considered in relation to the others in a living and not merely mechanical way. Weitz also has a broad understanding of “expressive,” which refers to an artistic property that functions as a semiotic sign, either of a specific emotional feeling, an emotional quality, or another sign of an emotional feature.

These expressive signs are at once presentational and representational in his view, by which he means that they both are something and are about something (at the very least they are about emotion or emotional qualities).

In this way his early theory of the art object can be classified as a formalist one that expands upon the traditions of Clive Bell and Roger Fry in a way that deepens the concept of form so that it provides particular kinds of emotional content, thereby incorporating the theories of John Dewey and a list of practicing artists and critics that includes DeWitt Parker, A.C. Bradley, Albert Barnes, Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright and others. Indeed, in Weitz’ initial theory form and content are identical; he denies that in art these are separable dichotomies, since both refer to the “what” and the “how” of an artwork as a whole.

ISBN/ISSN
9780199747108
Document Version
Postprint
Comments

The document available for download is the author’s accepted manuscript, provided in compliance with the publisher’s policy on self-archiving.

Some differences may exist between the manuscript and the published version; as such, researchers wishing to quote directly from this resource are advised to consult the version of record.

Permission documentation is on file.

Publisher
Oxford University Press
Place of Publication
New York, NY
Citation Information
Aili W. Bresnahan. "Morris Weitz" 2ndThe Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Second Edition Vol. 6 (2014)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/aili_bresnahan/4/