|Theory of the Visual Arts|
There are competing views on what qualifies photographs, paintings, sculpture, and architecture as visual arts. This entry focuses on theories of vision and their implications for claims about each of these four art forms. There is also debate over whether it is desirable to identify these major categories of art in terms of particular sense modalities.
What is partly at issue is whether vision and visual experience are isolated from other sense modalities. The status of photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture as major art forms is by no means beyond challenge; they, along with their paradigm cases, exhibit considerable variation within and across cultures, and through time.
Photography, like vision, seems to have an especially intimate connection with the world by virtue of a causal or “mechanical” process that is describable in purely physical terms. Interestingly, this alleged mechanical connection has also been responsible for the lion’s share of skepticism about whether photography is indeed an art. The basic idea is that the appearance of a photograph is, like visual experience itself, dependent in a special way on the presence of the targeted object or scene.