Approved by Faculty Senate March 30, 2009
PHILOSOPHY OF ART
Curriculum, Outcomes, Policies, and Requirements
Instructor: Ed Slowik
Art and its Significance, Stephen D. Ross, ed. (1994)
Introduction to Aesthetics, George Dickie (1997)
Aesthetics concerns the philosophy of art, which deals with such problems as the
definition of art, its role and function, taste and judgment, and interpretation, to name
only a few. We will read works which cover a wide range of views and which span the
entire length of Western philosophy. Much of the material will discuss art within the
larger realm of social, political, moral, and scientific activities.
(1) a class presentation integrating concepts from the readings with respect to a work of
art: 15% (students are required to include an audio, visual, or tactile component in their
presentation); (2) a take-home midterm: 20%; (3) a presentation of one article from the
text book (during the last few weeks of the semester): 20%; a term paper: 30% (due
during the final exam period at the latest); and class participation: 15%. Class attendance
and participation are crucial to success in the course, since I plan to run it much like a
seminar (where we work through the material together).
The midterm and will consist of essay questions exclusively, mainly based on the notes I
give in class. The paper will be 10-to-15 pages in length, typed, double-spaced, on a topic
that the student checks with me (you can go longer than 15 pages). I strongly encourage
that you give me rough-drafts of the paper, since this will greatly increase the chances of
getting a good grade on the final version. I will provide more detailed information on the
requirements of the paper later in the quarter. The presentation of a paper from the book
must also be checked with me.
Schedule: Pages refer to the Ross text (Dickie readings will be assigned in class).
Sept. 5 Introduction
Sept. 8, 10 Plato, Republic Bk. II, p. 9-16.
Sept. 12, 15 Aristotle, p. 65-77
Sept. 17, 19 Hume, p. 78-92
Sept. 22, 24 Nietzsche, p. 162-177
Sept. 26, 29 Tolstoy, p. 177-185
Oct. 1, 3, 6, 8 Class presentations (and extra-time to finish earlier material)
Oct. 10 Bell, p. 185-191/ Take home midterm assigned
Oct 13, 15 Collingwood, p. 191-203
Oct. 17, 20 Langer, p. 221-237/ Take home midterms due
Oct. 22, 24 Goodman, p. 237-253
Oct. 27, 29 Merleau-Ponty, p. 281-299
Oct. 31, Nov. 3 Ross, p. 299-325
Nov. 5, 7 Pepper, p. 325-331
Nov. 10, 12 Hirsch, p. 331-349
Nov. 14, 17 Foucault, p. 439-457
Nov. 19, 21 Danto, p. 469-483
Nov. 24, 26
Dec. 1, 3, 5, 8
10, 12 Article presentations, and extra-time to finish earlier material
Papers due: 8-10 AM, Wednesday, Dec. 17
I. Aesthetic Experience and Judgement
A. Judgement and Taste
B. Objectivism and Subjectivism
D. Hume and Kant
E. Aesthetic Reasons
II. Fundamental Concepts in the Philosophy of Art
A. Art and the Aesthetic
E. Interpretation and Intention
III. Theories of Art
E. Post-Kantian Theories (19th century)
F. Post-Kantian Theories (20th century)
G. The Value of Art
H. Art, Culture, and Politics
All course activities and assignments simultaneously address all University Studies
required course outcomes in Philosophy of Art 280 in the following ways:
The purpose of Humanities...to provide a framework for understanding the nature
and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning
and value in human life...
Philosophy of Art explores the basic concepts and problems associated with aesthetics,
which is the philosophical study of art. Some of the fundamental questions explored are:
What is beauty? What makes an object a work of art? What is the nature of aesthetic
experiences? Besides examining the various views that have been taken on these and
many other issues, the student is also taught the methods by which philosophers
investigate aesthetic problems and concepts.
These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote
students' abilities to...
a. Identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular
A few of the main areas of study in Philosophy of Art are provided above, but the main
emphasis in the course will be on the epistemological and metaphysical aspects of
aesthetics; which can be roughly described in the following two questions: "How does a
person perceive and evaluate an art work", and, "What must an object possess in order to
be an art work?" All topics covered are in the Humanities discipline.
b. Understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influences
perceptions and interpretations.
Philosophy of Art will spend a considerable amount of time in evaluating the influence of
historical context, culture, and race and gender on the aesthetic experience. A significant
portion of the current literature in the philosophy of art is devoted to describing these
aspects of the experience of art; thus the course will cover this material in great depth.
For example: Is the content of an art work universal, or is its meaning relative to different
cultures, genders, or historical periods? These questions are explored with repeat to all
topics investigated in the course.
c. Understand the role of critical analysis in interpreting and evaluating expressions
of human experience.
Philosophy of Art is devoted to the critical analysis of concepts and issues pertaining to
human experience, which is a feature it shares with all philosophy courses, moreover.
Therefore, the interpretation and evaluation of the products of human thought as they
pertain to aesthetics constitutes the basis of Philosophy of Art. For example: Is the
content of an art work independent of, or dependent upon, the author's beliefs and
intentions in making the work? Critical analysis is thus applied to all topics covered in