Philosophy/Art 225

Introduction to Aesthetics - Spring ‘06

T & Th, 5:30-7:40 p.m. – C164




Instructor: Renee Conroy

Office:  TBA (temporarily, the Student Union)

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:20 – 5:20 p.m.


Phone: 206-616-5174


Course Description


 This course will introduce the student to the enterprise of thinking philosophically by engaging in a close consideration of the problems addressed by several major areas of interest in the philosophy of art. The major questions addressed in the course will include (but are not limited to) the following:  What is art? What is the nature of aesthetic experience?  What is the relationship between art and morality?  How does the western conception of art and aesthetic experience differ from that held by members of non-western cultures? 




· Aesthetics in Perspective, ed. Kathleen M. Higgins (required)

· Puzzles About Art: An Aesthetics Casebook, eds. M. Battin, et. al. (recommended)



Course Requirements/Grading


The student’s final grade will be based on the percentage of points earned out of 500 total possible points.  These points will be distributed as follows:


4 short response papers (1-2 pp. each) – 20%

1 “mini-conference” paper (3-4 pp.) and presentation – 20%

1 “mini-conference” set of comments (1-2 pp.) and presentation – 10%

Take-home midterm – 20%

In-class final – 30%




Response Papers


There will be a total of 4 short writing assignments (1-2 pp. each) on the material covered in class.  All of the assignments must be related to some reading or topic discussed in class the previous week.


These short papers will be due in class on the following dates: 


Thursday, April 13th

Thursday, April 20th

Thursday, May 4th

Thursday, May 18th


(Note: E-mailed or late papers will not be accepted except in cases of genuine emergency.)


Two of the assignments must be evaluative reflections on anything in the relevant reading that strikes your fancy.  On these assignments, you must argue for the claim that some particular author’s view is correct or object to a claim made by one of the authors.  For these two assignments, you need to engage with nothing other than the relevant readings and in-class discussions.


The other two assignments must be evaluative assessments of some author’s perspective that are directly related to some art event you have attended during the quarter.  For these writings, you must assess the strengths or weaknesses of a particular view in light of your experience with some work of art (be it a play, a dance performance, a musical performance, a work of photography, a painting, a sculpture, or what have you).  Since part of the purpose of these writing assignments is to get you to go out and experience art face-to-face, you must turn in some kind of supporting documentation along with these papers as evidence that you have gotten out in the world and seen some art.  (Things like copies of ticket stubs or programs will suffice for this purpose.) 


In order to be eligible to receive full-credit for the “Response Papers” portion of your grade, you must do two each of the two kinds of papers described above.  However, I will not specify when you should hand in a paper of the purely reflective kind and when you should hand in a paper that is grounded in some actual art experience.  It is up to you to decide what kind of art you would most like to engage with, and, hence, it is up to you to determine when you will write a purely reflective paper and when you will write one founded on your experiences in the artworld.  In short, in order to be eligible to receive full-credit for this portion of your grade, you must satisfy the following four conditions:


1)      You must turn in a paper on each of the due dates listed above

2)      You must write two of each kind of paper over the course of the quarter

3)      You must attach supporting documentation to each of your two papers that are evaluative reflections grounded in your experience with works of art

4)      You must go to two different art events during the quarter (i.e., you may not write on two pieces of art from the same event for two different assignments)



The midterm will be a take-home essay exam that you will have one week to complete. It will be distributed in class Thursday, May 4th and due in class Thursday, May 11th.  (Again, no late or e-mailed midterms will be accepted.)





The final exam will be given on Tuesday, June 13th during regular class hours.  It will be a closed book, closed notes essay exam covering materials from throughout the entire course.  Review materials for the exam will be distributed one week prior to the test.





The last two days of regular class (Tuesday, June 6th  and Thursday, June 8th ) will we have a mini-conference on the issues we have been discussing throughout the quarter.  The conference will be organized thusly:


1)      You will take one of your four response papers and, in light of my comments and the discussions we have had in class, expand it into a full-blown philosophical paper including an argument, an objection, and a response to the objection.  (Details regarding how to write such a paper to come as the mini-conference draws nearer.)

2)      You will give a copy of your paper to another member of the class for review.

3)      You will receive a copy of another student’s paper for review.

4)      As a reviewer, it is your job to assess the success of the argument/objection/response given in the paper to which you are assigned.  (I.e., you should point out its strengths, weaknesses, raise problems for the view, etc.  Again, details will be given as the time comes.)

5)      You will present both your paper and your comments on another student’s paper at the mini-conference.  Each presentation/commentary will be followed by a Q & A session involving all students.

6)      You will be graded on your paper, your comments, your presentation of both, and your participation in the Q & A sessions after other papers.


The dates for the mini-conference deadlines are as follows:


Thursday, May 25:  Hand in 2 copies of your completed paper (on this day you will also receive a copy of the paper on which you are to comment)

Thursday, June 1:  Hand in 2 copies of your comments

Tuesday, June 6: Mini-conference (Day One)

Thursday, June 8: Mini-conference (Day Two)


Further details on the mini-conference expectations will be given as the quarter progresses.

Reading List



Rika Burnham, “It’s Amazing and It’s Profound”


What is Art?

Plato, “Art and Appearance”

Leo Tolstoy, “What is Art”

Clive Bell, “Emotion in Response to Significant Form”  

Morris Weitz, “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics”

Arthur Danto, “The Artworld”

George Dickie, “Art as a Social Institution”



What is the nature of Aesthetic Experience?

Immanuel Kant, “The Four Moments”

Edward Bullough, “Psychical Distance”

George Dickie, “The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude”

William Pater, “A Quickened Sense of Life”

John Dewey, “Aesthetic Qualities”

Yuriko Saito, “The Japanese Appreciation of Nature”



What is the relationship between Art and Morality?

Alexander Nehamas, “Plato and the Mass Media”

Allen Bloom, “Music”

Karsten Harries, “The Ethical Significance of Modern Art”

William Gass, “Goodness Knows Nothing of Beauty”

Denis Dutton, “Artistic Crimes: The Problem of Forgery in the Arts”

James Young, “Destroying Works of Art”



How do non-Western cultures conceive of art and aesthetic experience?

Eugen Herrigel, “Zen in the Art of Archery”

Barbara Sandrisser, “On Elegance in Japan

Isidore Okepwho, “Principles of Traditional African Art”

Christopher Small, “African Music”

Kaung-Ming Wu, “Chinese Aesthetics”

Gary Witherspoon, “Navajo Aesthetics:  Beautifying the World through Art”


(Related readings from the Puzzles About Art book will be announced in class.  These readings are optional, but they will help clarify the issues and further our class discussion.)

Master Schedule



Thursday, April 13th:   Response Paper #1 due


Thursday, April 20th:   Response Paper #2 due


Thursday, May 4th:       Response Paper #3 due

Take-home midterm distributed


Thursday, May 11th:     Take-home midterm due


Thursday, May 18th:     Response Paper #4 due


Thursday, May 25th:     Mini-conference Paper due (2 copies)


Thursday, June 1st :      Mini-conference Comments due (2 copies)

                                      Final exam study guide distributed


Tuesday, June 6th:         Mini-conference (Day One)


Thursday, June 8th:       Mini-conference (Day Two)


Tuesday, June 13th:      Final exam (In-class)



Note: All assignments are due IN CLASS on the dates listed above.  No late or e-mailed assignments will be accepted except in cases of genuine, documented emergencies.


Note: All information on this syllabus (including readings and due dates) is provisional and may be changed at the instructor’s discretion.