Philosophy of Art - PHIL 4500 Fall 1998


PHIL 4500 FALL 1998


Professor: Dr. Valerie E. Broin

Office: L195d Office Phone: 667-3527 or 667-3362

Office Hours: Wed. 11:15-12:15, T/Th. 2:30-3:30, and by appointment


In the last twenty years serious criticism of traditional views of art have surfaced. This course will focus both on debates within the tradition of aesthetics as well as those issues which are more contemporary. We will center on some of the more enduring issues concerning what constitutes art, how it functions in society, creative expression, representation, the role of understanding and interpretation, and the relationship between art practices and society. We will read such philosophical thinkers as Hume, Heidegger, Danto, Foucault, Irigaray, Ricoeur, Barthes, Hirsch, Tolstoy, Collingwood, Marcuse, Bullough, and Minh-ha. No background in any specific art form will be presupposed, but some familiarity with an art medium (e.g., film, music, literature) will be helpful.

This is a WP course.


Required Texts:

Art and Its Significance: An Anthology of Aesthetic Experience, 3rd Edition, Stephen David Ross, ed. (A&S)

Basic Issues in Aesthetics, Marcia Muelder Eaton (BIA)

A collection of Readings



1) There will be weekly 1-2 page (typed, double-spaced) essays due that explore a problematic or controversial issue in the readings. These will be used to stimulate discussion. Altogether, these essays will account for 30% of your grade. Late submissions will not be accepted.

2) Two critical analyses ( approximately 8 pages long), each concerning a particular controversy in art theory discussed in class, will be due. The first is due on November 5 and is worth 30% of your grade. This paper can be re-written for an improved grade (and must be re-written if the grade is below a "B," according to standards for WP courses). The second critical analysis is worth 30% of your grade and is due at the scheduled time of the final.

3) Attendance and participation are quite important and will account for 10% of your grade. Low attendance can lower your grade a letter grade. Your participation in class discussions will let me know that you've come prepared.



Week 0 Introduction


Week 1 What is Art?

9/15 "Aesthetic and Artistic Objects and Their Contexts," (BIA, Chapter 5)

9/17 "The Artworld," Danto (A&S, pp. 470-481)

Week 2 Group Debate

9/22-24 Between Critic and Curator McEvilley, Rubin, and Varnedoe (Reader)

Week 3 Theories and Controversies Concerning Creativity and Expression

9/29 "Artist-Centered Aesthetic Issues," (BIA, Chapter 2)

10/1 "What is Art?" Tolstoy (A&S, pp. 178-181)

"Principles of Art," Collingwood (A&S, pp. 197-200 only)

Week 4

10/6 "The Aesthetic Dimension," Marcuse (A&S, pp. 548-557)

10/8 Class canceled

Week 5

10/13 "Woman, Native, Other," Trinh T. Minh-ha (A&S, pp. 607-620)

10/15 "What is an Author?" Michel Foucault (Reader)

Week 6 Theories and Controversies Concerning Aesthetic Responses

10/20 "Viewer-Centered Aesthetic Issues," (BIA, Chapter 3)

10/22 "Of the Standard of Taste," Hume (A&S, pp. 78-92)

Week 7

10/27-9 "The Origin of the Work of Art," Heidegger (A&S, pp. 254-280)

Week 8

11/3 "'Psychical Distance' as a Factor in Art and as an Aesthetic Principle," Bullough (A&S, pp. 458-467)

11/5 First Paper Due!!!!

Week 9 Controversies Concerning Representation

11/10 "Art and Language," (BIA, Chapter 4)

"The Invention of Africa," Mudimbe (A&S, pp. 600-606)

11/12 "The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism," Owens (A&S, pp. 591-598)

Week 10

11/17 excerpts from This is Not a Pipe, Michel Foucault (Reader)

11/19 "The Order of Things," Foucault (A&S, pp. 440-454)

Week 11 Controversies Concerning Interpretation and Meaning

11/24 "Interpretation and Criticism," (BIA, pp. 104-112 only)

"Validity in Interpretation," Hirsch (A&S, pp. 332-347)

11/26 Thanksgiving holiday

Week 12

12/1 "The Death of the Author," Barthes (Reader)

12/3 "Truth and Method," Gadamer (A&S, pp. 365-377 only)


Week 13

12/8 "Appropriation," Ricoeur (Reader)

Six Degrees of Separation, film

Final paper due at the time of the scheduled final