Tingwen Li – What If We Exclude Ready-mades from the Artworld?

Here is the latest of our recordings from The British Society for Phenomenology’s 2018 Annual Conference ‘The Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’. Tingwen Li is from the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, and the paper is titled ‘What If We Exclude Ready-mades from the Artworld?’


Abstract: “Ready-mades had formed a significant challenge to the tradition of art. While analytic aestheticians have been devoted to solving the problem of ready-mades, phenomenological aesthetics had paid little attention to this issue before the 1990s. John Barnett Brough, an American Husserlian philosopher, is among the earliest phenomenologists who were to combat the question of ready-mades. In his early discussion, unlike most of the phenomenological aestheticians who attend to art through aesthetic experience, Brough’s concern is more with the “classificatory” sense of art by interpreting Dickie’s and Danto’s institutional formulations from the perspective of late Husserl’s “Cultural World,” claiming that “a work of art is an artifact created against the horizon of the artworld and presented to an artworld public for its contemplation.” However, in the work published three years later, Brough seemed to change his idea of the analytic approaches by pointing out what they have to sacrifice for accommodating ready-mades in the artworld: Dickie would have to make a difficult choice between the artifactuality of artworks and “unaided” ready-mades, whereas Danto would pay the full cost of losing the whole classic world of art, which is also argued by James Foster who contrasts Gadamer to Danto in terms of their justifications for modern works of art. As a result, Brough is about to save the artworld by abandoning the ready-mades, albeit there is also expense of excluding them: not only of becoming philosophically disreputable, but also of thrusting a potential risk onto the artworld that has already been. For one, it refers to how we tolerate, involve, or assimilate a subverted event that has already been admitted by a tradition. For another, it is related to the flaws of Husserl’s views of historical sedimentation upon which Brough builds his phenomenology of artworld.”


The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK during July, 2018. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found at:



The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, conferences and other events, and its podcast. You can support the society by becoming a member, for which you will receive a subscription to our journal:


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