I am trying to deny Joseph Margolis' argument that pieces of art are not 'universals'. Particularly, I want to say that types (in the tokens-of-a-type sense) are essentially the same thing as universals. He says that art, unlike universals, can be created or destroyed. I want to argue that art, instead of being created, is discovered. Which leads us to the title of this question.

Particularly, why do we say that art is created rather than discovered? And what would be the consequences if we were to take that artists 'discover' rather than 'create'?

  • The same question is asked about mathematics, and, in the end, it makes little difference. For any metaphysical theory with "creation" one can routinely produce an equivalent one with "discovery". Just imagine eternal "grand repository" of artworks, on the model of platonic realm, from which artists pluck their pieces. It makes even less sense to do this for art than for math because the former, unlike the latter, is highly personalized, and is not subject to strict rules that "predetermine" mathematical theorems and limit "creativity" there.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 21:50
  • Artwork arises from individual experience in a unique way that is not true of universals. If Van Gogh had not been born, no one else would have, or could have, painted Starry Night. That's why you can buy a piece of art, but you can't buy 'red' or a theorem. People have tried to patent some computer algorithms, but they were too simple and basic. It would be like trying to patent the idea of a left turn lane.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 0:03
  • @ScottRowe This reminds me a historian's quip about the "l'Hopital's" rule, which he lifted from the paid lectures delivered to him by Bernoulli: "Let the good Marquis keep his rule; after all, he paid for it fair and square." Margolis is talking about artworks as "types" rather than physical copies, and, to an art platonist, Starry Night eternally exists as such, whether van Gogh, or somebody else, or nobody, ever "discovers" it, by painting a physical token, or not. And, of course, one can no more buy it than they can the "l'Hopital's" rule.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 0:26
  • Are the processes of creation and discovery mutually exclusive? Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 3:29
  • Obviously created. Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


The words "created" and "found" have meanings. You cannot found what dont already exist. Can you find me an integer between 1 and 2?

Data above, theory below. Do any evidence suggests that a poem already exist before its poet create it? Or a painting?

  • 1
    Discovery concerns finding out about something which was previously unknown/unperceived. How is it possible to have data or knowledge about something before we know it to exist?
    – Shay
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 20:09
  • Its not possible to have data or knowledge about anything before its existence is known. Why did you ask that? What did I said that implies that? I said in my answer that to found something that thing must already exist. You doubt that? If a thing do not already exist then it cannot be found. It can be created though. Agree?
    – Atif
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 4:24

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