Instructor: Prof. Patrick Roney Office: 265 Social Science Bldg

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Instructor: Prof. Patrick Roney Office: 265 Social Science Bldg.

Office Hours: 2:00-3:00 Monday and Wednesday

Office Phone: 338 1622 Email:

Phil 413 Aesthetics

Course Goals: This is a course on aesthetics and the philosophy of art. In this course we will:

  1. Learn the basic issues in the philosophy of art. How can we define a work of art? What is the beautiful? How is art distinguished from science, religion, and ethics? How are they related? Are there standards of taste? Do works of art have their own proper ontological status? What is the relation of art to social and political life?

  2. Investigate whether art has changed fundamentally from what it was in the past. In the contemporary world, it seems as if the boundaries of art have expanded so far as to make one wonder whether “art” is really something distinct at all. Is this true? Does art have a specific set of characteristics and aims that are its own?

  3. Learn to apply basic and essential concepts of the philosophy to art to various works of art. During the course of the semester we will be dealing with various works of art, including literature, drama, painting, photography, film, etc. Our aim is to learn to read, interpret and appreciate the issues involving art and to bring ourselves closer to art.

Course Description: Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that investigates the nature both of art and of the beautiful. It was not until the 18th century, however, that aesthetics was considered worthy of being studied as a separate and distinct branch of philosophy. Since then, its development has expanded to address much broader themes, including theories of the work of art, artistic practice, and of the theory of ‘taste’ . The place of aesthetics as a philosophical discipline has always been an unsettled one. Some modern philosophers and schools have continued to treat aesthetics as a branch of philosophy that is of lesser importance than others, but for many others aesthetics has been thrust into the center of philosophical inquiry thanks largely to the work of Immanuel Kant. This course will follow the second line of thinking. The problems that are dealt with in aesthetics are no longer of marginal importance, and it is necessary to know and understand the way in which aesthetic concerns are related to issues in epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. This course will introduce students to the essential questions concerning art, the beautiful and aesthetic judgment. These questions include, what is the (work of) art, what is the beautiful, what role do form and content play in artistic production and appreciation, how does one respond to a work of art, etc? We will read both classical and modern sources so that the student may become familiar with philosophical treatments of art and beauty from Plato to the present. These readings will raise different questions for us, such as the relation of art to culture and society, to technology, and questions such as whether art is a thing of the past.

Course Materials: There is one textbook that we will read during the course, The Continental Aesthetics Reader, ed. by Clive Cadeaux. It is available at the bookstore and you are required to buy this. There will also be a reader provided. You should purchase this at the photocopy room in the library.

Course Requirements: 3 essay papers that will be assigned to you in the class at various times (see the course schedule). All 3 essays will require that you first submit a rough draft to me. It will be due a week before the final revised essay is due. No final draft will be accepted unless you first submit to me a rough draft. Essay topics will be assigned to you although you will have some choice in what you write on.

Reading the assigned material in this class is a must. If you don’t you will quickly find yourself lost. The main readings are on the course schedule, so you should know well in advance what you are supposed to read for that week.

Class Conduct: This is an upper level philosophy class and you are here because you are serious about deepening your knowledge of philosophy. I expect your class conduct to reflect this. I will set down these rules and I expect them to be followed. If you do not I will give you one warning and after that I will call you into my office to discuss the situation. Repeated violation of these rules will result in your expulsion from class for the rest of the semester.

  • Cell phones and computers must be switched off and put away. You are not to make or receive any calls, text messages, or voice message while in class. Put your cell phone away. You are here to learn and study philosophy. Cell phones are very distracting and affect your ability to concentrate. Either put them away or do not enter the classroom.

  • Repeated lateness. Please do not. Get here on time. I start lecturing at 12:35 and I expect you to be here. When students come in late it distracts both me and the class.

Grading: You can turn work in late but it will be penalized. You will lose ½ a point for every day it is late past the due date.

2 essays: 20% each = 40%

1 Final essay 30%

Class discussions and presentations: 20%

Attendance and class conduct: 10%

Grades: Letter grades will be assigned according to the following scale:


















59 and below





Plagiarism: Plagiarism of intellectual property, which is the unacknowledged use of the ideas as well as words of another, will not be tolerated. Students who plagiarize or cheat will receive an automatic F for the course and their case will be referred to the University Disciplinary Council. If you are worried about the possibility of accidental plagiarism during the course of composing a paper, speak to us! It is acceptable to discuss the meaning of the works with others prior to writing your essays, but collaboration—in the sense of receiving unauthorized help—in any stage of writing is plagiarism.

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