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Unit information: Aesthetics in 2015/16

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Unit name Aesthetics
Unit code PHIL20136
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Pearson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This course is an introduction to contemporary analytic Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. We shall focus on some key questions about the nature of our aesthetic appreciation of, and our emotional involvement with, artworks; and the metaphysical nature of aesthetic properties and value. Questions will include the following: What is art? How, if at all, can music arouse emotions (such as happiness, sadness, despair and even hope) in us? How, if at all, can we have genuine rational emotional responses to characters and events (such as the fate of Anna Karenina) that we know to be fictional? How, if at all, are artworks different from non-artworks? Is there a feature or a property that all and only artworks possess? Are there real mind-independent aesthetic properties that are instantiated by certain objects irrespective of our judgments about those objects’ aesthetic value? In virtue of what does a picture represent? Is it necessary to provide a different aesthetics for different genres of music, e.g. rock and classical? How can we explain the beauty of a sunset or other natural phenomena? By the end of the course, you should have a good understanding of these questions, and some of the putative answers that philosophers have offered in response to them.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course, students should:

(1) have a general knowledge of the philosophical discussion of art.

(2) be able to evaluate some views about art and engage critically with a number of arguments about art.

Teaching Information

10 x 1 hour lecture plus 10 x 1 hour seminar

Assessment Information

Formative: 2 essays of 2000-2500 words

Summative: 3-hour examination

Reading and References

  • P. Lamarque and S.H. Olsen (eds), Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytical Tradition, An Anthology, Blackwell 2004.
  • Budd, M., Values of Art: Pictures, Poetry and Music, Penguin, 1995.
  • Gaut, B. and Lopes, D.M., The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, Routledge, second edition, 2005.
  • Wollheim, R. Art and Its Objects, Cambridge University Press, 1980