Art is enworldment

Too many people think art is the production of interesting, pleasing or entertaining sounds, images, performances, etc. This mode of making produces sterile artistic product.

We have forgotten that real art founds whole new ways to exist in the world.

Art is not here to be looked at, listened to or experienced. Art is here to give us new ways to look from ourselves, listen to the world around us and experience reality.

Socially, the purpose of artists is to enlarge the world and make room for more kinds of life, more kinds of personhood.


This helps explain why art is so often created by misfits.

The artist does not fit into the world as it is, so they have to enworld a bigger world capable of accommodate them, so it can welcome them home.


The purpose of art is enworldment.


This is true also for philosophy. Philosophy is not here to produce arguments for what is true, or contrive new explanations for this and that, or speculate on what might be the case. Philosophy is the design of new ways to conceive existence, to experience life, to relate to others, to respond to events and to make something new of oneself and reality.

  • I say “design” because philosophies are not only about experience but interaction —  much of it functional — among groups of people. There is a need for what Nick Gall calls (borrowing from software engineering) interoperability. In cases where the user of something might be very different from the creator, design methods for explicitly understanding  and accommodating difference  are indispensable. It is true that philosophy has been done by solitary artists communicating to the few capable of understanding them, but this is only an accident of history. When our ways of conceiving existence begin to threaten our continued existence, it might be time to revisit how we think about how we think about thinking.

5 thoughts on “Art is enworldment

  1. Great post! A couple of observations. I’m reading more about the distinction between spectator theories and maker theories. Western philosophy has long been enthrall to the spectator theory of knowledge (ie we spectate and then represent the world). We need to switch to a maker theory of knowledge (ie we co-construct the world with human and non-human agents, a la Latour).

    I like the idea of philosophy as service design. A related kind of design is game design, and the advantage is that there is more deep (read philosophical) thinking on game design than service design (at least as far as I have seen). It struck me that the key difference between game design and service design is that game design only cares about usable and delightful (eg fun); it drops the constraint of useful. Play is an end-in-itself.

    1. More precisely, philosophy is polycentric design. I’m still uncomfortable with characterizing all polycentric design as service design. I might come around, but I sorta doubt it.

    2. Also, Latour’s (really Souriau’s) word “instauration” — interactive, collaborative discovering/creating/cocreating — is my word of choice for making. Even our knowledge about the world — and the very conceptions we use to produce that knowledge — is instaurated with involvement from the very realities we conceptualize and know.

      Realities actively participate in our perceiving, conceiving and knowing them — and not least when they refuse to cooperate and be the things we call them.

      This is at the root of my impatience with logocentrism. Those words and sentences are forged, tested, used, reinforced, worn out, broken, discarded, recycled, reforged, etc. in innumerable interactions, 90% of which are totally wordless.

      The most interesting philosophical problems form around where words and interactions stop functioning properly together and fail, not where clearly articulated arguments clash in the agora.

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