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There is a long tradition of trying to analyze art either by providing a definition (essentialism) or by tracing its contours as an indefinable, open concept (antiessentialism). Both art essentialists and art anti-essentialists share an implicit assumption of art concept monism. We argue that this is a mistake. Species concept pluralism, a well-explored position in philosophy of biology, provides a model for art concept pluralism. We explore the conditions under which concept pluralism is appropriate, and we argue that they obtain for art. Art concept pluralism allows us to recognize that different art concepts are useful for different purposes, and what had been feuding definitions can be seen as characterizations of specific art concepts.


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: UIDHIR, C. M. and MAGNUS, P. D. (2011), ART CONCEPT PLURALISM. Metaphilosophy, 42: 83–97. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2010.01678.x, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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