Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Anderson, Douglas


Works of art can be interpreted a variety of ways. A work might be judged as moving while it may also be interpreted as worthless. I argue that a pragmaticistic interpretation of art – that is a theory based on the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce – can encompass the variety of interpretations of a work of art. The first mode is the aesthetic interpretation that focuses on the quality or the degree of feeling of unique presence. The second mode is the semiotic interpretation that focuses on the sign function of a work of art. The aesthetic interpretation is founded on the view of aesthetics as a theory of perception that is similar to eighteenth-century German and British aesthetics. The semiotic interpretation draws upon Peircean semiotics and its three major sign types: icons, indexes, and symbols. The outcome of the aesthetic interpretation is that every work of art has value insofar each work is a unique presence. The feeling of unique presence is an esthetic value. The outcome of the semiotic interpretation is the notion that different interpretations of art are part of an ongoing historical communal inquiry. So every reasonable interpretation of a work of art can add to or enrich the meaning of that work.




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