Definition of Art

Robert Stecker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The project of defining art most commonly consists in the attempt to find necessary conditions and sufficient conditions for the truth of the statement that an item is an artwork. That is, the goal is normally to find a principle for classifying all artworks together while distinguishing them from all non-artworks. Sometimes the goal is set higher. Some look for a 'real' definition: that is, one in terms of necessary conditions that are jointly sufficient for being an artwork. Sometimes the aim is to identify a metaphysical essence that all artworks have in common. This article surveys the main trends that mark the history of the project of defining art in the twentieth century before discussing the most important efforts in the past thirty years.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577239
ISBN (Print)9780199279456
StatePublished - Sep 2 2009


  • Artwork
  • Defining art
  • Metaphysical essence
  • Non-artworks
  • Real definition
  • Twentieth century


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