Public defence in Comparative Literature: Letícia Vitral

Title: Artworks as diagrams - Diagrammatic reasoning and the epistemic potential of art
Subject: Comparative Literature
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Date: Tuesday 15 December 2020, at 1:00 pm
Place: Via Zoom:
External reviewer: Professor Frederik Stjernfelt, Aalborg University, Denmark
Examining committee:
Professor Kay O’Halloran, University of Liverpool, UK 
Professor Jesper Olsson, Linköping University, Sweden
Associate Professor Elin Sütiste, University of Tartu, Estonia
Chairperson: Professor Lars Elleström, Linnaeus University 
Supervisor: Professor Lars Elleström, Linnaeus University
Examiner: Professor Gunilla Byrman, Linnaeus University
Spikning: Tuesday 24 November, at 10.15 am, electronic spikning i Diva

For those who can't join via Zoom, the public defence will be broadcast from a room at Växjö campus. Please contact for further information.

You can find the full thesis here: Artworks as diagrams - Diagrammatic reasoning and the epistemic potential of art


Thesis abstract:

This thesis is concerned with establishing a bridge between matters of aesthetics and epistemology, by investigating the mechanisms through which artworks allow agents to derive knowledge through the former’s manipulation. It is proposed that, in order to understand the epistemic potential of artworks, we need to approach them as diagrams, in the sense developed by Charles Peirce. The background upon which the arguments are developed are mainly those of American Pragmatism – with a special emphasis on primary literature from Charles Sanders Peirce about semiotics and inquiry, and John Dewey about aesthetics. It is introduced that the manipulation upon artworks can be an example of an inquiry process, due to artworks’ diagrammatic symbol-typetoken structure, which embody the logical relations of abduction, deduction and induction. Through Peirce’s definition of inquiry, and Dewey’s definition of an aesthetic experience, it is possible to defend that artworks deliberate create states of doubt and chance as to stimulate and guide inquiry as a way to achieve an aesthetic experience, corroborating to the claim that inquiry processes and aesthetic experience share the same ontological basis: it is in the nature of aesthetic experience to confront agents and contexts with state of chance and doubt, to be further guided through inference into a state of regularity and belief. In order to develop and test the argument, I present the development of Arthur Danto’s influential theory of aesthetics based on Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, by focusing on a review of Danto’s main writings about it. The central point that Danto developed in this theory is that what gives something the status of an artwork are not the immediately perceivable sensorial features of an artifact, but something else. I claim it to be a “diagrammatic structure” that can be potentially manipulated through an inquiry process. I conclude by establishing a possible development of my argument in relation to modelling processes: as diagrams, artworks can be understood as models, opening room for the emergence of new hypothesis and conjectures about the relationship between aesthetics and epistemology.

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