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imitation theory

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


A esthetics, metaphysics, epistemology The oldest theory of art, whose central claim is that the essence of art is to imitate or display things in the real world. “Imitation” is the translation of the Greek word mimesis (hence the theory is also called “mimetic theory of art”). Mimesis is sometimes translated as “ representation ” (hence the theory is also called the “representation theory of art”). This theory originated with Plato and Aristotle and was the dominant theory of art until the rise of Romanticism. It has retained a deep metaphysical concern for knowing how things are and argues that art has a cognitive role. However, there has been much debate about the precise meaning of “imitation” and “representation” and about questions relating to the nature of representation. Some writers claim that to imitate is to portray the visible form of nature, while others believe that imitation requires idealization. The basic criticism of the imitation theory is that not all forms of art are imitation or representation. Music, for example, is not essentially representational. Contemporary abstract painting further stands outside the scope of this theory. Nevertheless, the theory still has able defenders. An influential version has been developed by Nelson Goodman , who argues that representation means denotation . On this view, the relation between an artwork and the thing ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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