History and Intentions in the Experience of Artworks by Alessandro Pignocchi

This paper sketches a model of the
14 experience of artworks based on the mechanisms of
15 intention attribution, and shows how this model makes it
16 possible to address the issue of personal background
17 knowledge empirically. I claim that the role of intention
18 attribution in art experience has been incorrectly accounted
19 in the literature because of an overly narrow definition of
20 ‘‘intention.’’ I suggest that the observer can recover not
21 only the artist’s abstract projects, but any kind of mental
22 states that have played a causal role during the production
23 of the work. In addition, I suggest that this recovery occurs
24 in large part unconsciously and/or implicitly. p. 1

researchers in the 54
humanities doubt the existence of artistic universals, 55
arguing that the way we evaluate an artwork always 56
depends on what we know about its context of production 57
(Danto 1981). For instance, we will not attribute the same 58
value to an impressionist painting if we believe that it was 59
painted in 1872 or last year (Genette 1997). p. 1

106 Although some authors have denied any role for intention
107 attribution in the experience of artworks (Wimsatt and
108 Beardsley 1954), nowadays the majority recognizes that
109 intention attribution must play some role (Danto 1981;
110 Iseminger 1992; Levinson 1979; Walton 1970). However,
111 this role may have been incorrectly described, or, at the
112 least, some of its important components may have been
113 neglected (Pignocchi 2012). This is due, first, to an iden-
114 tification of the artist’s intention with her conscious and
115 abstract aims, as if a work of art could be produced on the
116 basis of a single intention or a small set of them. p. 2

Discussing Painting as an art,
179 (Carroll 2011) claimed that Wollheim position should be
180 called ‘‘mentalist’’ and not ‘‘intentionalist’’ since it con-
181 siders many kinds of mental states, including unconscious
182 one, that are not traditionally considered as intentions.
183 However, I want to try to subsume all of these mental states
184 under the common label ‘‘intention,’’ to insist on the notion
185 of causality. p. 3

The take-home message of this article is that the 874
intention attribution that determines part or all our expe- 875
rience of an artwork and of its properties can be implicit 876
and unconscious. Thus, we frequently do not notice their 877
influence. We have the impression of liking or disliking the 878
work or its properties per se. We say that we ‘‘like’’ this 879
artwork, without noticing that what we actually like is the 880
content of the intentions that we see behind it (we find them 881
sincere, sophisticated, original, coherent, audacious) and 882
their skilful realization in the work. p. 9

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