Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Perceptual Indistinguishability and Forgery

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Nelson Goodman, in his Languages of Art, asks us to consider Rembrandt's Lucretia and a forgery of it. 

Rembrandt van Rijn, Lucretia, 1666  

Rembrandt van Rijn, Lucretia, 1666

 

An aesthetic empiricist accepts that necessarily if two paintings are perceptual indistinguishable, then they are aesthetically indistinguishable.* Thus, if it is possible for an original such as Lucretia to be perceptually indistinguishable from a forgery, then they could not different aesthetically. We can put these ideas into the following argument: 

  1. Necessarily if two paintings are perceptual indistinguishable, then they are aesthetically indistinguishable.
  2. An original Lucretia and a perfect forgery are perceptually indistinguishable.
  3. Therefore, an original Lucretia and a perfect forgery are aesthetically indistinguishable.

Questions: (a) Do you accept the conclusion is true on the basis of (1) and (2)? (b) If not, then do you reject (1) or (2) and why? 

*Formalists like Clive Bell and Clement Greenberg are thought of as aesthetic empiricists.