Morris Weitz was a twentieth-century American thinker who gained a substantial philosophical education and taught it at several universities. Weitz’s primary focus was on interpretation, literary criticism, and ontology. Still, he is well-known and highly respected precisely for his 1956 article titled “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics” and later rewarded with a Matchette Prize. In this anthologized work, Weitz, just as many other famous philosophers, discusses art and aesthetics and provides his unique ideas regarding their definition, conditions, and concerns.
To begin with, Weitz did not think that art may be defined and judged by theories, and in this idea, he supported Ludwig Wittgenstein. Consequently, if philosophy and art field itself are freed from theories, it becomes impossible to have a particular set of criteria to determine specific resemblances between different works of art and therefore define art. Weitz considered competent people as those who are allowed and should judge art since they are aware of the changing standards and preferences. This perception also means that art is a rather adventurous, spontaneous, expansive, and open concept that may be understood by may not be defined (Weitz, 1956). Consequently, aesthetics should not be concerned with art’s nature but has to seek its concept and never mention any criteria or defining rules.
To be honest, I find Weitz’s perception of art rather confusing and controversial and cannot decide if I fully agree with it. It is difficult for me to accept the fact that the majority determines whether a particular creation is a work of art but has no criteria and explanations for that decision. Further, if future generations completely change their perception, will the significant creations of the past like the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s statue of David, or Shakespeare’s Hamlet still be considered the works of art? In my opinion, art should be defined but also left with a possibility of free interpretation.
Weitz, M. (1956). The role of theory in aesthetics. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 15(1), 27-35. Web.