Is Goodman’s question of “when is art?” an adequate replacement for “what is art?” I do agree with Goodman that the latter is a frustrating and confusing question, but I still believe it is an important main focus.
However, Goodman’s question answers some questions that we had been struggling with, such as when to consider normal objects art. Asking the wrong question leads down the path of failing to distinguish objects that function as a work of art at some times, but not as others, following the importance of the question “when is art?”. A leftover brick from the Berlin Wall had a function, but now, sitting in a museum covered in symbolic graffiti, it can be considered art.
Since it is difficult to nail down specific characteristics of art, or define it, Goodman seems to enjoy only classifying it when it is clearly being seen, portrayed, and functioning as art. It makes sense, but is it enough? Should we switch our focus to “when is art?” or does that exclude necessary things that we need to discuss?