I will be presenting my paper “Art as a Social Kind” in a Panel titled “Sex, Art, and Essentialism: New Perspectives on HPC Kinds” at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science Annual Meeting in Calgary on May 27. My fellow presenters are Esther Rosario and Justin Bzovy.
Here is the abstract of my paper: It is hard to categorize art under either natural or social kinds because there are no necessary conditions for calling something art but only sufficient conditions and it is not at all clear whether these conditions are natural facts. is has been the main rationale for defending anti-essentialism. However, some attempts have been made to meet the challenge of anti-essentialism by construing art as a natural kind (Davies 2003, Gaut 2000, and Dutton 2009). Unfortunately, all these accounts fail to provide reasons as to why one should accept either of their open-ended lists of sufficient non-necessary properties for identifying something as art. Another more promising suggestion comes from Adajian (2012) who thinks that the right motivation can be found in adopting Boyd’s Homeostatic Property-Cluster theory. While I agree with Adajian’s desiderata for constructing a successful theory of art, I argue that these desiderata cannot be met even if we use HPC-kind theory because art is a social rather than natural kind. My claim is that, even though we cannot appeal to standard theories of social kinds, because they take social kinds to be mind-dependent and less real, a more naturalized theory of social kinds will serve the purpose. By applying this theory which is developed by Mason (2015) to the domain of art, I propose that social facts such as “x is an artwork” or “y is not an artwork” are not grounded in mental facts involving rules we accept, but instead grounded in behavioural and relational facts.