Author (Your Name)

John E. Sawyer, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Art Dept.


John Carpenter

Second Advisor

George Maier


The main purpose of my paper was to organise the frequently very confused area of contemporary American art and aesthetics. In order to have an over-all notion of how to do this, I turned to modern philosophy. There are certain historical and conceptual parallels between what in philosophy was called atomism or positivism and what in art is called formalism. Contemporary philosophy's criticisms of atomism and positivism, in terms of logic and also of scientific observation, would also seem to apply, a fortiori, to aesthetics, given the latter's lack of logical rigor and "objective" observation. From this it was concluded that a pragmatic attitude towards art was the most appropriate, as it would be rather presumptuous for aesthetics to claim to be more complete and exhaustive than formal logic.


formalism, post-formalism, American art


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