Phil 227

Fall 2006

Casey O'Callaghan

73 Campus Avenue


Barnett Newman infamously quipped, "Aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds." In this course we will ask the question "What is Art?" and see that some of the most challenging recent artwork self-consciously flaunts this question. In exploring what makes something art, and what art does, we'll examine several questions central to contemporary philosophy of art through the lens of artistic works and practice. With close attention to visual, performance, literary, and experimental art forms, we'll explore the philosophical significance of art, and the relevance of philosophy to art.



1.  The Art Question [TAQ], Nigel Warburton.

2.  Aesthetics in Perspective [AP], Kathleen M. Higgins.

3.  Other readings [O], Bates WebCT.


Recommended supplements:

1.  Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction, No‘l Carroll, Routledge.

2.  Artists on Art, eds. Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves, Pantheon.

3.  The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, eds. Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes.



Midterm (M 10-16): 1/4

Paper (M 11-13, 4-6 pages): 1/4

Final exam (T 12-12, 8am): 1/4

Attendance, preparation, quizzes, and participation in discussions: 1/4


Topics and Readings:


What is Art? (W 9-6)


The Problem of Indiscernible Counterparts (M 9-11)

              Arthur Danto, "Art, Philosophy, and Philosophy of Art"  [O]

              The Art Question [TAQ], Introduction: Art and Philosophy


Representation (W 9-13)

              Plato, "Art and Appearance" from Republic, [AP: 114-121]

John Berger, "Oil Painting"  [AP: 464-466]

John Cage, "Experimental Music" [AP: 148-151]

Leonardo DaVinci, extracts from his notebooks [O]

                  {Further reading: Mark Rollins, "Pictorial Representation" [O]


Form (M 9-18)

Clive Bell, "Emotion in Response to Significant Form" [AP: 365-367]

[TAQ], Chapter One:  Significant Form


Expressing Emotion (W 9-20)

Leo Tolstoy, "What is Art?"  [AP: 362-364]

Milan Kundera, "The Nature of Kitsch" [AP: 397-398]

Robin Collingwood, "Expressing Emotion" [AP: 371-376]

[TAQ], Chapter Two:  Expression of Emotion

              {Recommended: Jenefer Robinson, "The Emotions in Art" [O]}


An Aesthetic Attitude (M 9-25)

              Edward Bullough, "Psychical Distance" [AP: 164-167]

              George Dickie, "The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude" [AP: 172-179]


The Role of Artists' Intentions (W 9-27)

Wm Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" [AP: 409-413]

              P.D. Juhl, "Computer Poems" [AP: 414-417]


Fakes and Forgeries (M 10-2)

              Nelson Goodman, "Art and Authenticity"  [O]


Copies and Mass Reproduction (W 10-4)

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" [AP: 98-102]


What kind of thing is an artwork?  What category of being does it belong to?   (M 10-9)

              Amie Thomasson, "The Ontology of Art" [O]


Can we define 'art'?  Definitional Challenges (W 10-11)

              Moritz Weitz, "The Role of Theory in Aesthetics" [AP: 75-81]

              [TAQ], Chapter Three:  Family Resemblances


Midterm exam (M 10-16)


The Artworld (M 10-23, W 10-25)

Arthur Danto, "The Artworld" [AP: 68-74]

              [TAQ], Chapter Four:  Institutional Contexts

Pablo Picasso, An Interview

              Georges Braque, "Reflections on Painting"

              [TAQ], Chapter Five:  So What?


Philosophies of Arts (M 10-30, W 11-1)

              Peter Kivy, Philosophies of Arts, (Cambridge, 1997)

                           Chapter 1, "How We Got Here, and Why" pp. 1-29 [O]

                           Chapter 2, "Where We Are" pp. 30-54 [O]


The Meaning of Music (M 11-6, W 11-8)

              Peter Kivy, "Why Music?"  Chapter One in Music Alone (Cornell, 1990) [O]

              Eduard Hanslick, "On the Musically Beautiful" [AP: 329-330]

Peter Kivy, "Emotions in the Music" Ch. 3 of Intro. to a Phil. of Music (OUP, 2002) [O]

{Nick Zangwill, "Against Emotion:  Hanslick Was Right About Music" [O]}


Photography and Realism (M 11-13, W 11-15)

              Susan Sontag, "On Photography" [AP: 599-603]

              AndrŽ Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image" [O]

              {Kendall Walton, "Transparent Pictures" [O]}


The Power of Movies (M 11-27, W 11-29)

              No‘l Carroll, "The Power of Movies" [O]

              {No‘l Carroll, "Defining the Moving Image" [O]}


Art's End? (M 12-4, W 12-6)

Arthur Danto, "Approaching the End of Art" [AP: 454-460]