The Arc of Philosophy & Art: An inquiry into the structure of experience & work of art with John Dewey, Joseph Beuys, & Jacques Derrida
Kristopher J. Holland
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The articulation of the structure of human experience has been a constant struggle in the discourses of philosophy and art. The legacy of this discourse is dominated by a Cartesian worldview that describes human experience within a mind-body paradigm. This locks the world within a material / non-material binary which has led to the separation of experience with art versus objects as art. Using the method of philosophical inquiry this dissertation links the pragmatist work of John Dewey, the artistic oeuvre of Joseph Beuys, and Jacques Derrida's deconstructive writings in a conversation that critiques the previous 'structuring' of human interaction with the world found in philosophical and artistic discourses. This inquiry yields new insights for defining works of art, thinking through artistic intentionality, and most importantly understanding the multiple trajectories in articulating experience in a philosophical and artistic sense. In order for those issues to emerge, first, John Dewey's notion of experience is examined to lay the groundwork for understanding artworks as experiences rather than objects that is then explored through examination of the conceptual art practice of Joseph Beuys. Lastly, to push the role art play within the articulation of experience even further, the work of Jacques Derrida is introduced radicalizing Dewey's pragmatism and Beuys sculptural framing of the world. This last act, as the culmination of this philosophical inquiry, illuminates the role artistic practice plays as part of the critique of the hidden everyday assumptions about how we experience the world that is still deeply embedded within what Derrida calls Western thoughts 'logocentric' frameworks. It is by exploring the philosophical side of experience presented here and using artistic practice as vehicle to frame the experiential articulation of events, that this inquiry pushes the boundaries of what we think we know about our everyday experiences in life and how art objects shape it. In essence the structure of human experience is found here only by linking the discourses of philosophy and art found in Dewey, Beuys, and Derrida.