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Reading: The Problem of Intentionality in the Contemporary Visual Arts


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Research Article

The Problem of Intentionality in the Contemporary Visual Arts


Gianluca Lorenzini

Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Social Sciences Building, Coventry, CV4 7AL, GB
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The discourse regarding intentionality and interpretation in analytic philosophy of art, although ample and lively, has concerned itself almost exclusively with the literary medium. Starting from a paper published by Hans Maes, I discuss the complications that may arise in straightforwardly applying current intentionalist strategies to the realm of the contemporary visual arts. I first present a detailed account of the difference between hypothetical intentionalism and moderate actual intentionalism which will help to better understand the nature of Maes’s arguments in his paper. I then argue that the characteristics which shape the approach of moderate actual intentionalism cannot be accommodated by certain contemporary visual artworks. I will demonstrate how in certain contemporary artworks, should a viewer be interested in accepting actual intentions within her interpretation, she will have to do so with an extreme intentionalist posture rather than a moderate actual one.
How to Cite: Lorenzini, Gianluca. “The Problem of Intentionality in the Contemporary Visual Arts”. Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics 56, no. 2 (2019): 186–205. DOI:
Published on 01 Sep 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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