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    Course Syllabus Aesthetics Spring 2008

    Carleton College, Department of Philosophy

    Philosophy 234, Philosophy of Art: Spring 2008

    Instructor: Angela Curran

    Office: Leighton 311

    Phone: x4222

    Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30-5 and by appointment Email:

    Course description:

    When Plato banished most poets and artists from his ideal state in his work, the Republic, he initiated what is known as the “ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry,” or a conflict between philosophy and art more generally. Central to Plato’s charge against art is that it dwells at the realm of appearance only, and does not present the truth. We begin with Plato’s charge and investigate the question of whether or not art can reveal the truth about the world. Art has drastically changed since Plato’s time. Could a pile of bricks be art? Is it possible

    to give a definition of art? Is something art if you think it is? We address these questions in the second unit. In Unit III we look at the nature of aesthetic experience. What is it to have an aesthetic experience? Is beauty a part of the aesthetic? Can we have an aesthetic experience only of artworks? Or can we appreciate the aesthetic in our everyday lives and in the natural environment? We will use many examples of artworks of various kinds (paintings, film, literature, music, and so on) as we discuss the ideas in the readings. You are also encouraged to bring in examples of artworks that you would like to discuss in relation to the readings. Course goals:

    The central goal of the course is to introduce you to some of the puzzles and problems that philosophers have considered when they have thought about art. After going through the course you will have learned a new way to think about art. You will also learn about philosophical thinking and see how examining art can teach us more about the nature of philosophy.


Course materials:


    (1) Thomas Wartenberg, The Nature of Art: An Anthology. (“NA”)

    (2) Cynthia Freeland, But Is It Art?

    (3) Reza, Art: A Play

    (4) Electronic reserve readings: Information is on the Gould library web page. Readings are through password access. The password is PHIL.

    (5) Film:

    Rebel Without a Cause. Film screening will take place outside of class at time and dates announced in the syllabus and on the Moodle course page. If you cannot make the class screening, you can check out a copy of the film at library reserve.

    (5) Trip to Walker art museum, Thursday night, April 24 (tentativeI

    will update you on the visit to the museum in class).


    Carol Strickland, The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History From Prehistoric to Post-Modern

    Course assignments:

    (1) Reading assignments, attendance, and class participation: One of the most important requirements for the course is that you come to class having read the assignments very closely. I expect the assignments to stay as they are listed in the syllabus, but you should log on to Moodle frequently to check for updates to the readings and other announcements.

    (2) Responses on Moodle: The class has an email forum through the Moodle course page (find the link on the Carleton College home page). Once a week or so (indicated below in the schedule of readings) you will be required to post a response to the reading on the Moodle forum. This will help me and everyone else in the class see in advance of the class what people are thinking about the reading.

    (3) Student discussion questions: Twice during the term, you will sign up along with several other students to prepare several (2-3) questions on the reading for the day. You should work with your partners to come up with some questions related to the reading for the day that you would like to pursue and that you think might spark class discussion.

    (4) Group debate: At the end of units I. II, and III, we will have a debate that sums up the main viewpoints addressed in the readings for that section. Everyone is required to participate in one of the three debates. Several weeks I will meet with the debate group to help plan the debate. Consult the top of the Moodle course page for detailed


information on the debates and how you will be graded.

    (5) Written work:

    (1) Three-four-page paper and a take home midterm exam (6-7 pages). I will pass out topics well in advance of the due dates. (2) Final paper (five pages) due during finals week.

    (3) Art writing assignments: You will write two (two-page) “art-writing”

    assignments on a work of art of your own choosing. The goal is to think about a work of art more closely and critically in relation to some of the issues we are discussing in the course. Tentative due dates are below. I will distribute topics for these assignments within the first week or so of the class.

    Course grading:

    (1) Class participation (includes class discussion that reflects knowledge of the reading as well as postings on Moodle; student discussion questions): 10%

    (2) Take home exam: 30 %

    (3) Three-four-page paper 15%

    (4) Art writing assignments (2) 7.5% each= 15% total

    (5) Five-page paper due during finals week. 20%

    (6) Debate 10%

    Course policies:

    (1) You must hand in all the written work to pass the class. (2) Attendance: If you miss six classes or more you will not pass the class.

Academic honesty:

    You are expected to hand in your own work for this course -- though you can consult with others, all written assignments must consist of your own words. Please do not quote without citation; do not copy from or collaborate with others (unless you have my express permission to do so); never represent another person’s ideas or words as your own. It is important to think for yourself, and not simply repeat the words or ideas of someone else. Failure to comply with this policy will affect your grade and may result in more serious consequences. If you have any questions about this, please come and talk to me.

    NOTE: Whenever you use the words of another author, you must provide a reference for the quote. Failing to do so is plagiarism. Even if you do not intend to cheat or deceive, you must use your own words


    or else acknowledge that the words in your paper are borrowed from someone else!

For students with disabilities:

    Accommodations will be provided for students with disabilities. Please talk to me at the beginning of the course to work out details of accommodations (which may include alternative grading

    arrangements). I am happy to help however I can.


    I have several office hours scheduled when you are sure to find me in my office (Tuesday and Thursday, 3:30-5). If you cannot make office hours, it is best to make an appointment to make sure I will be in my office when you want to meet. I usually check email several times during the day and this is another way we can communicate. I hope that all of you will come by some time during the first few weeks of the term so I can start to get to know you.

Tips for getting the most out of the course:

    Typically there will not be too many pages to read in this course (in comparison, for example, to a history course). Philosophy reading, however, can be dense and, at times, difficult to follow. It is a good idea to read a philosophy reading twice: the first time, to get the overall gist of what the author is getting at; the second time to raise questions about the specific claims and arguments the author is making.

    Schedule of Readings

    [Please check Moodle before the class for an update or any changes to the reading assignments]

Unit I: Art and Truth

    Topics: Is representation or imitation adequate to define the essence of art? Does art present or reveal truth and knowledge? Thursday, April 3 Topics: course introduction; art as imitation; confusing art

    and reality; art leads us morally astray

    Reading: Plato (Nature of Art Anthology (NA) )


    Tuesday, April 8 Topics: the influence of mass media Reading: Nehamas, “Plato and the Mass Media” (e-reserve)

    C. Freeland, “Reality TV” (linked on Moodle course page)

    C. Freeland, But is it art? Chapter 7

    Moodle Post #1 due by 8 p.m. Monday, April 7

Thursday, April 10 Topics: Aristotle’s Analysis of Tragedy; Catharsis

    Reading: Aristotle (NA)

    Leon Golden, “The Purgation Theory of catharsis” (e-reserve)

    N. Pappas, “Aristotle” (e-reserve)

    Film: Rebel Without a Cause

    **Film screening of Rebel Without a Cause on Sunday, April 6, 7 p.m. room to be announced on Moodle**

    Tuesday, April 15 Topics: Can art nontrivially teach us something? Is

    something a better work of art if we learn from it? Reading: Jerome Stolnitz, “On the cognitive triviality of art” (e-reserve)

    Berys Gaut, “Art and Cognition” (e-reserve)

    P. Lamarque, “Tragedy and Moral Value” (e-reserve)

    Moodle Post #2 due by 8 p.m. Monday, April 14 Thursday, April 17 Topics: Art as the revealing of a world Martin Heidegger, “Art as Truth” (NA)

    Art writing assignment #1 due on Friday, April 18 Unit II: Can art be defined?

    Tuesday, April 22 Topics: Is something art if one thinks it is? Are some

    people better qualified than others to say if something is good or bad


    Reading: Reza, Art: A Play

    T. Wartenberg, Introduction to The Nature of Art Hume, “Art as Object of Taste” (NA)

    Moodle Post #3 due by 8 p.m. Monday, April 21

Thursday, April 24 Topics: why can’t art be defined?

    Morris Weitz, “Art as Indefinable” (NA)

    S. Davies “Weitz’s anti-essentialism” (e-reserve)

    Trip to Walker art museum on Thursday, April 24 (tentative) from 6-10 p.m.


    Tuesday, April 29 Debate #1: Does art reveal truth? Topics: Can a brillo box be art?



    A. Danto, “The Philosopher as Andy Warhol” (e-reserve)

    Thursday. May 1 Topics: what is the role of art history and art theory in defining art? Must art occur in an art world?

    A. Danto “Art as Theory” (NA)

    G. Dickie “Art as Institution” (NA)

    Moodle Post #4 due by Wednesday, April 30 at 8 p.m. Three-four-page paper due Monday, May 5

    Tuesday, May 6 Topics: what is the role of aesthetic intentions in defining art? Can art be defined through a historical narrative? Reading: M. Beardsley, “Art as Aesthetic Production” (e- reserve)

    Noël Carroll, “Identifying Art” (NA)

Unit III: Aesthetic Experience

    Thursday, May 8 Topics: what is unique to aesthetic experience? Is pleasure a central part of an aesthetic experience? Reading: Francis Hutcheson “Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue” e-reserve)

    Immanuel Kant, “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” (e-reserve)

Tuesday, May 13 Topics: what is the “aesthetic”?

    E. Bullough, “Psychic distance as a factor in art and aesthetic experience “ (e-reserve)

    J. Stolnitz, “The Aesthetic Attitude” (e-reserve)

    G. Dickie, “The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude” (e-reserve)

    Moodle Post #5 due by 8 p.m. Monday, May 12

    Thursday, May 15 Debate #2: Can art be defined?


    Topic: what is the role of emotion in aesthetic experience? Reading: Clive Bell, “Art as Significant Form” (NA)

    Art writing assignment #2 due Friday, May 16

    Tuesday, May 20 Topic: what is the nature of aesthetic experience? (continued)


N. Carroll, “Aesthetic Experience: A Question of Content” (e-reserve)

    Gary Iseminger, “The Aesthetic State of Mind” (e-reserve)

    Class visit by Gary Iseminger, professor emeritus, philosophy, Carleton College

    Thursday, May 22 Topics: What is the role of beauty in aesthetic experience?

    M. Eaton, “Kantian and Contextual Beauty” (e-reserve)

    C. Freeland, But is it art? Chapter 1

    P. Taylor, “ Malcolm’s Conk and Danto’s Colors, or Four Logical Petitions concerning Race, Beauty, and Aesthetics” (e-reserve)

    Moodle Post #6 due by 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21

    Take Home exam due Monday, May 26

    Tuesday, May 27 Topics: Can we experience the aesthetic in our every day lives?

    J. Dewey, “Art as Experience” (e-reserve)

    Thursday, May 29 Topic: How does aesthetic appreciation of nature differ from our appreciation of art?

    Reading: E. Burke, “On the origin of the sublime and beautiful” (e-reserve)

    Allen Carlson. “Appreciation and the Natural Environment”

    N. Carroll, “On being moved by nature”: between religion and history” (e-reserve)

    Moodle Post #7 due by 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 28

    Tuesday, June 3 Debate #3: What is aesthetic experience? ------------------------

    Course conclusion

    Five-page paper due finals week


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