The Course

PHIL 233: Aesthetics

This course will offer a critical examination into the nature of art and its role and significance in human life, taking “art” in its most inclusive sense (including the visual arts, literature, drama, architecture, film, performance, and anything else that might be considered art). We will focus primarily on three of the historically most important philosophical conceptions of art: the theory of art as mimesis or imitation, the “aesthetic” theory of art, and the theory of art as expression (as well as on contemporary reflections on the issues raised by these conceptions). Beyond the central issue of the nature or definition of art, a number of crucial questions will run throughout the course. These include: Is art essentially a mode of knowledge, in some respect, or is it primarily a source of delight, entertainment, or emotional gratification? What is the relation of art to morality? Should art be morally valuable, or is it in some way independent of morality? What kind of conception of the self is involved in the traditional conceptions of art? We will conclude with a consideration of contemporary debates about traditional and modern art, and of the direction art should take in the future.

Course Hub:

Required Texts:
Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings
Suzi Gablik, Has Modernism Failed?

Course Evaluation:
30%   Paper I (5-7 pages) due March 11th
30%   Paper II (5-7 pages) due April 19th
30%   Final Research Paper due Final Exam Week
10%   Participation

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