Skip to main content
Improvisation in the Arts
Philosophy Compass
  • Aili W. Bresnahan, University of Dayton
Document Type
Publication Date

This article focuses primarily on improvisation in the arts as discussed in philosophical aesthetics, supplemented with accounts of improvisational practice by arts theorists and educators. It begins with an overview of the term improvisation, first as it is used in general and then as it is used to describe particular products and practices in the individual arts. From here, questions and challenges that improvisation raises for the traditional work-of-art concept, the type-token distinction and the appreciation and evaluation of the arts will be explored. This article concludes with the suggestion that further research and discussion on improvisation in the arts is needed, particularly in the areas of non-jazz improvisation.

Inclusive pages
Document Version

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 document is on file.

John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Place of Publication
Hoboken, NJ
Peer Reviewed
Citation Information
Aili W. Bresnahan. "Improvisation in the Arts" Philosophy Compass Vol. 10 Iss. 9 (2015)
Available at: