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Collingwood’s Distinction Between Art and Craft Coursework

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The distinction between art and craft is unclear. Is carving sculpture art or a craft? How can we make a clear distinction between art and craft? These are some of the questions that the philosopher R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943) sought to answer. The philosopher was an aesthetician and has enjoyed great influence in this field since the end of the Second World War. Aestheticism is a procedure whereby the artist and his audience come to the realization and knowledge of certain psychological states. Collingwood is thought to be the main advocate of the expressive theory of art (Kemp, 2007).

Collingwood sought to make a clear distinction between what he called ‘Art proper’ from what we all mistakenly term art. In his work, The Principles of Art, he seeks to uncover the truth about what we mistakenly think of as art and craft. Collingwood’s description of the craft was work that required planning and execution of the plan. The craftsman already has a clear picture of what he wants to create in his mind. This, according to Collingwood, is a skill the craftsman cannot do without. Dutton uses this as a background for his definition of craft. He defines craft as skilled work that involves the application of technical skills.

According to Collingwood, crafts require the use of actions to achieve a well-defined end while in the arts there is no clearly defined end. The artist does not know the end result of his actions. The craftsman plans his work and his actions are executed in accordance with his plan. The artist does not have a specific plan. His actions are randomly executed. Collingwood further noted that because the craftsman has a specific end in mind, the means of his achieving his goal is determined by the end he has in mind. This differentiates craft from art because the artist does not have a specific end in mind. His means (e.g. tools) will determine the end result of his work (Kemp, 2007).

Craft can also be differentiated from art by its dependability. According to Collingwood, the craft is a means of making a functional end product from raw material. The end product can be distinguished clearly from its raw materials. The end product of an artist is not always functional. Art is not dependable. One cannot predict the end result of art (Dutton, 1990).

Finally, Collingwood distinguished art from the craft by stating that a work of art should be an expression of emotion. But in his definition of art as a form of expression, Collingwood made it possible for crafts to be termed at certain times as art. In his example of an actress, he points out that acting requires planning and the use of technical skills. This makes it a craft. But in the actress’ ability to use her skills to conjure up emotions in her audience, she makes acting an art. Although the actress knew beforehand what emotions she wished to conjure in her audience, she explores the unknown and in the process, she and the audience learn and become aware of certain psychological states (Dutton, 1990).

References

Kemp, Gary. 2007. ‘Collingwood’s Aesthetics’. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

Dutton, Denis. 1990. . Radio New Zealand Broadcast Talk.

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