I do Theory of Knowledge (IBDP) at school and in regards to the subject areas, I was thinking of linking the arts and design (humanities? design of products?) to reason, sense perception, intuition, and imagination as a way of knowing. It all has to relate back to epistemology, and I'm free to any suggestions or interpretations at all!


It's a rather subjective domain, and one can argue that the decision for the art piece or movement is decided by the artist themself. However, if a movement of art is influenced by the break of social stratifications (and viewed as a positive thing) it would be related to the progression of art and society.


Design in a practical sense changes in terms of aesthetics but progresses as it becomes more efficient: an example would be the new iPhone 12 and various iterations over the years.

I think progress is a subsection of change with an end goal whereas change doesn't follow any sort of restrictions. But I'm still unsure. How would you define change and progression in this specific context? Are there philosophies and theories that could be made for the intersection of art and design with knowledge?

  • 5
    Does this answer your question? How can we differentiate between change and progress in the area of history and natural sciences?
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 4:21
  • I would identify progress with evolutionary development, the capacity for more adaptability with simpler terms, in lineages that have had continuous appeal. Art depends on a personal judgement (my £, hang it on my wall), design on function also, business on systems thinking, eg refinement vs disruption).
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 4:22
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    – J D
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


Fellow IBDP student here—presumably, this question has been asked in the context of the ToK essay?

Henry F. Gilbert writes extensively on the subject (https://www.jstor.org/stable/737863), and argues that there is, in fact, progress in the arts, although it isn't in form, it's in the degree to which the artist expresses (him/her/them)self and mastery over the form. His central claim is that as an artist continues to create, he/she/they (regardless of his/her/their liking) develops skills in the medium as well as in self-expression. In other words, the more an artist creates, the more he/she/they will be able to express, in improved fashion.

To summarize, the only possible 'progress' would be in

  1. the artist's individual abilities;
  2. the degree to which the artist is able to express (him/her/them)self through art.

He acknowledges the subjectivity in the word 'beauty', and refutes claims that art can only change, not progress. For the sake of this answer, I won't go deep into his refutations; note that these refutations aren't really refutations in principle, but arguments against the manner in which these claims were made (for example, that 'beauty' remains undefined in most claims) and against the notion that 'beauty' is something that can 'progress' (its inherent subjectivity allows it to change, but prevents this change from objectively being 'progressive' or 'retrogressive').

To summarize,

  1. he does not refute the notion of 'change' in art,
  2. but argues that progress can't be in form—in your case, it would be an argument against progress in design.

I suppose you could argue that design can't progress, but art can; take this with a pinch of salt as I haven't reflected upon it too much. Also note that the later parts of this work are self-contradictory, in that he defines the progress of larger artistic movements using terms that he fails to objectively define, and applies a fair bit of his own opinion where he himself says one shouldn't.

Alternatively, you could go with others, for example, as Gilbert mentions, Ruskin, Whistler, Bell, and Croce, who argue precisely the opposite—that beauty is the only factor by which change in art can be judged—although I personally find Gilbert's arguments much more convincing.

For context, I'm analyzing how the lyrics in Radical Face's songs along with the form (sound design, production, etc) have changed (or progressed?); the focus of this part [of my essay] will primarily be on the former.

I'm not sure if this answer will help now, seeing as the question was asked over a month ago, but if you want to discuss this further, feel free to drop a message in the inbox!

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    – J D
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 23:23

For my sins, I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the RSA. For the best part of three hundred years, this question has been one of its key preoccupations.

There are probably more answers than there have ever been members. I will suggest here only that art is subjective, management and commerce are (in principle) objective, and design is their marriage in an ever-evolving and sometimes turbulent union.

  • Would you happen to know any interesting case studies or research articles in which this idea was explored? Thank you tons
    – cometa
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 4:26
  • @cometa I do not really track them, but backnumbers of the RSA Journal, in the days when it was titled the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, are an obvious place to start (recent issues tend to ignore the arts, you need those earlier ones). The Design Council has some overlap, with a website which may also be useful to you: designcouncil.org.uk More widely, try googling "art and business change" - it brings up a rich haul. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 10:58

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