Monday, February 2, 2015

The "Intentional Fallacy"

 An artist—whether it be a writer, painter, photographer, etc.—has an intention when she creates a work of art. Her intention, or motivation, is influenced by the world she lives in, her culture. This culture includes the language she speaks, the environment she calls home, the people she interacts with, the media surrounding her, etc. All these external forces come together and shape the artist, giving her a personal identity. Her artwork is similarly affected by the environment she lives in because it is coming from her, but it also has the power to transcend time and space. An artist’s relationship to her work is bound—they are subjectively linked together, trapped. Independently, however, the artwork is able to move forward, changing and adapting to the environment it lives in.

Critics investigate artwork with different methods, but there are two main approaches to a critique: whether or not the artist has achieved her intentions and whether or not the creation is successful. Analyzing an artist’s life and her motivation to create artwork is important, but it’s context bound and culturally constructed. The “intentional fallacy”, a concept discussed in W.K. Wimsatt and M.C. Beardsley’s essay of the same name, is criticizing a work of art based on the artist’s intention rather than looking at the creation itself. External forces collide to create a work of art, but then it exists on its own, evolving independently. Wimsatt and Beardsley write that there “is a danger of confusing personal and poetic studies….There is a difference between internal and external evidence for the meaning of a poem” (477). According to the “intentional fallacy”, internal evidence is the only valid evidence because it’s the unchanging structure or the artwork, it’s eternal body. The external evidence is it’s veiled history and subjective relationship to the artist—interesting, no doubt, but superfluous.

As for my artwork, I created a little man sitting in a chair. He’s made from wire that I twisted, creating his structure. I chose to make a static figure, thinking, because I think the “intentional fallacy” is a concept about inactivity. Critics who are hung up on an artist’s intention are stuck in the past, elsewhere, and not moving. Instead, they’re contemplating artwork and making judgments that will probably never be validated.



I had a lot of questions about the “intentional fallacy” before I started reading, but the article cleared up a lot of my confusion. I think it’s strange to say an artist’s opinion doesn’t matter when her opinion could add an entirely new element to a work of art, but I also understand that the success of art is partly measured by its ability to stand alone. I don’t think Wimsatt and Beardsley are completely arguing against the artist, but more importantly, that the artwork should be self-sufficient. Does artwork lose depth and meaning if the artist is cut away from it? What does it gain?

1 comment:

  1. Sculpure! Bravo! And what beautiful writing, wonderfully punctuated by those final questions. This is a terrific model of a successful carrying out of this assignment, for students who may be wondering what success looks like on the three main rubric areas for this assignment (the aesthetics of the art, the blog post, and the understanding of the theory). Well done!

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