International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
DOI: 10.56734/ijahss
Etched in Flesh: The Philosophy of Tattoos and Tattooing


Tattooing is an ancient art form, dating back to Neolithic times and is today widely practiced the world over. Given tattooing’s popularity and its wide acceptance in the modern world (a recent survey found that 30 percent of the adult American population has at least one tattoo), philosophers’ continued silence with respect to tattooing is mystifying. If philosophers have nothing to say about tattooing, what could be the reason for such a glaring omission? This disregard is telling: It may be that philosophers consider tattooing too “low brow”, and hence, not worthy of their consideration. In what follows, we offer a few reasons why philosophers of art should take tattooing seriously as an art form. We will also expand on our contention that tattoos represent one of the most intimate forms of art known to humanity (indeed, perhaps the most intimate). Lastly, we will consider tattooing as a representational art form, and attempt to discern what can be gleaned of the tattoo artist’s intentions from her work.