For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Artist or Crafts(wo)man?"

by Varkøy, Øivind; Angelo, Elin; Rolle, Christian (2020)


Are orchestral musicians artists or crafts(wo)men? This article offers a principal discussion of the concepts of artist and crafts(wo)man, as well as the relation between these concepts, from a philosophical point of view. We discuss the concept of ‘the crafts(wo)man’ based on Richard Sennett’s discussions of this concept, in which Hannah Arendt’s thinking plays an important role. Then, we turn our attention to Aristotle’s distinction between poiesis and praxis, as well as his concept of techné, as discussed by Martin Heidegger, and Plato’s discussion of inspiration as a basic fundament for artistic performance. Next, we address Walter Benjamin’s discussion on artwork in an age of technological reproducibility, and we draw lines between characteristic aspects in Sennett’s argument and the tension between professional thinking and the philosophy of art. This article is part of the ongoing project, Discourses of Academization and the Music Profession in Higher Music Education (DAPHME), conducted by a team of senior researchers in Sweden, Norway and Germany and founded by the Swedish Riksbank. The overall purpose of DAPHME is to investigate how processes of academisation affect students at institutes of higher music education in Europe, especially the education of orchestral musicians of the Western classical tradition.

Key Passage

Further, the Aristotelian concept of techné, (‘art’ in English), which is often associated with technique, can be used to discuss the technical skills needed to play an instrument, as a musician needs to have technical knowledge. However, Heidegger argues that the term techné has nothing to do with what we think about today as technical skills and that it is to be interpreted as a way in which to have knowledge or to have seen. To see, according to Heidegger, is a perception of being just as it is and uncovering the deeper truth of being. Moreover, a central aspect in Heidegger’s discussion is how we often focus on the fact that the Greeks used the word techné for both craft and art, but according to Heidegger, techné means neither craft nor art, and certainly not technical in the modern sense. Rather, the word techné indicates a way to perceive being. Techné is not about producing something. Therefore, according to Heidegger’s point of view, when art is called techné, this in no way means that the artist is a crafts(wo)man. (p.19)


Craftsman, Artist, Homo Faber, Animal Laborans, Poiesis, Praxis, Arendt, Techne



Links to Reference



How to contribute.