The Buck Passing Theory of Art (pages 421-433)

James O. Young

ABSTRACT: In Beyond Art (2014), Dominic Lopes proposed a new theory of art, the buck passing theory. Rather than attempting to define art in terms of exhibited or genetic featured shared by all artworks, Lopes passes the buck to theories of individual arts. He proposes that we seek theories of music, painting, poetry, and other arts. Once we have these theories, we know everything there is to know about the theory of art. This essay presents two challenges to the theory. First, this essay argues that Lopes is wrong in supposing that theories of arts were developed to deal with the ‘hard cases’ – developments such as Duchamp’s readymades and conceptual art. This is a problem since Lopes holds that the buck passing theory’s capacity to deal with the hard cases is one of its virtues. Second, this essay argues that the buck passing theory has no account of which activities are arts and no account of what makes some activity an art.

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