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A Defense of the Positive Value of Mass Art

Chong-hwan Oh 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

When we use the term “mass art,” we use it against the notion of traditional pure art, in the sense that mass art is low art, while pure art is high art. We also use the term “popular art” instead of “low art” to avoid its pejorative sense. Since mass (or popular) art is usually thought to have a lower value, some assert that it is not art at all or, if it is art, it is low art. In this paper I will discuss Ted Cohen’s pluralistic hierarchicalism to defend the positive value of mass art. Cohen argues that there is no difference between the value of high art and that of low art, since each art satisfies the different aesthetic needs of different audiences. According to him, art is important to us because it is a focus for a mutuality that locates a community. Works of art are foci for intimate communities. The totalities of such communities to which one belongs determine what kind of aesthetic sensibility one has. As long as works of art fulfill their roles in forming aesthetic communities, the grades of their values do not really matter. In the case of jokes, it does not really matter whether the joke has slight or deep content, as long as its adequate audience feels that it is funny. We can argue that the same applies to the case of art. Cohen thinks that we must accept the egalitarian position of value, since that is the best way to explain why we sometimes enjoy both high and low art, and why sometimes a work of art can attract both high and low audiences. And this egalitarian position for pluralistic values fits more neatly into the contemporary attention to individualistic aesthetic sensibilities.

Citation status

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