LOWELL EMERSON HERR, Marquette University


This dissertation is a systematic explication and critique of Nelson Goodman's philosophy of art. The first three chapters examine Goodman's application of his theory of symbol systems to the topics of pictorial representation, expressive qualities, the identity of artworks, and the nature of aesthetic experience and value (as presented in Languages of Art, 1968). The fourth and final chapter is a critique of the central concept in Goodman's aesthetics, 'exemplification.' I argue that, although the concept of exemplification is a significant contribution to both aesthetics and semiotics, it is incapable of generating a comprehensive theory of the arts as symbol systems, as conceived by Goodman. Throughout Goodman and the Semiotic Theory of Art, I draw historical and conceptual links between 'exemplification' and 'iconic signification'--in particular, as employed within the aesthetic theories of Charles Morris and Susanne Langer. Three main theses are argued: (1) 'exemplification' successfully explicates (and definitionally eliminates) art-theoretical uses of 'iconic signification'; (2) 'exemplification' is pressed beyond its explanatory powers, and its significance obscured, within Goodman's theory of art, which is therefore in need of modification; (3) more judiciously applied, and accompanied by adequate theories of sign-production and interpretation, 'exemplification' has important applications within the study of the nature and value of art. Interspersed within my explications and criticisms, I suggest ways in which 'exemplification' can be more fruitfully applied within aesthetics. I briefly sketch a synthesis of 'exemplification' with some concepts from Umberto Eco's semiotics (A Theory of Semiotics, 1976). It is suggested that, reconstructed in this way, 'exemplification' has more substantive application to works of art as symbols.

Recommended Citation

HERR, LOWELL EMERSON, "GOODMAN AND THE SEMIOTIC THEORY OF ART (AESTHETICS, SYMBOLISM)" (1985). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8516274.