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Unit information: Aesthetics in 2020/21

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Unit name Aesthetics
Unit code PHIL20136
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Pearson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit 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? 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?

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the core philosophical issues and questions in contemporary aesthetics,

2. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the key literature on these issues and questions,

3. demonstrate the ability to critically engage with the relevant philosophical questions and issues, together with the key literature on these, to a standard appropriate for level I/5,

4. demonstrate the ability to communicate philosophical ideas, positions, and arguments, in clear, fluent writing of a standard appropriate to level I/5.

5. demonstrate independent research skills of a standard appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching Information

Lectures, small group work, individual exercises, seminars and virtual learning environment.

Assessment Information

Summative: 1 x open book take home exam - 100% [ILOs (1)-(5)]

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