Philosophy of Art (0122-307-01)

Fall 2002

Professor Yoko Arisaka, Ph.D
Office: Campion D8
Office Hours:  M 2-3p (or later), T noon-1p.  And by appointment.
Office Phone: 422-6424   (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)

Some Photos of Students' Work

Project Proposal Suggestions

First Paper Topic (Due Tuesday Oct 8; you could turn in Oct 3 also)
Key pages and concepts. (complete)

The presentations will be on Thurs Nov 21, Tues Nov 26, and Tues Dec 3.  Each person can have up to 7 min.  The presentation is not mandatory, and all the dates are now full.  Again, your presentation need not be complete--it will be to introduce to others in class what you are working on, and why.  Attendance is required for the presentation days.  The final project is due on Thursday, December 12, 3pm.

Transgenic art--genetically altered fluorescent bunny as "art"
Orlan, a "performance artist" whose artwork is "herself"


Course Description:

This course examines various philosophical questions related to art, as well as intersections between art and culture, politics, world, from a philosophical perspective.  The questions we may examine are: What is art?  How and what does art reveal or conceal?  How can we define such things?  Is art “subjective?”  How are human expressions (in various modes) related to artistic expression?  What are some of the relations between art and culture?  Art and technology?  Art and politics?  Art considered from a global perspective?  (Do all human being all over the world share intuitions about art?  Presumably artistic expressions exist in any culture, but does that mean art is in some sense “universal?”)  All of the issues raised will be discussed through examining various essays written by philosophers past and present, as well as writers and artists.  Different media will also be analyzed (visual arts, music, dance, theatre, literary works, popular art, and others).  The course is divided into the following 5 Sections:

Section  1.   What is Art?  In this section we examine a series of general questions related to defining just what counts as “art.”  What makes something a work of art, as opposed to something else?  What do we understand by saying that something is “art?”  What does art reveal—some aspects of reality, deeper truth, aspects about ourselves?  In what way is art communicable?  Is art “subjective?”  If so, how can we ever settle the question of “what is art?”  The definition of art is an ontological question regarding the nature of art.

Section 2.  Art and Culture:  The above topic is further examined through particular forms of art, such as music, visual arts, performing arts, and other forms, which are real expressions of our cultural  ideas, insights, and creativity both singular and collective.  What are the actual contents of what is expressed in what we take it to be art?  Why does it count as art?  What does it reveal?

Section 3.  Art from a Global Perspective:  But do all cultures, all over the world, share similar views about art?  (Is art in some sense “universal?”)  What about the standards of beauty?  What if there are cultures that lack the very notion of art, yet produce “artistic” objects?  Are cultural artifacts and various other performance practices “art?”  Does art know no boundaries?  (Is that true?)

Section 4.  Art and Politics:  The conceptions of art in our society today is heavily embedded in the politics of representation, media, social norms, and other institutions that disseminate art.  Who decides what is to be performed or not in public, and why is that an issue?  Why are so many artists considered “anti-establishment” or “alternative?”  And why yet others are “mainstream?”  Perhaps we don’t even know the extent to which we are lead to think what should count as art?  Does that stifle creativity, or should art be controlled in some sense?  Why?

Section 5:   What is Art Revisited:  The last part of the course will bring together our own insights, gained through the examinations above, to produce a tentative definition of what each of us would consider “art.”  This is a personally philosophical and artistic project, through which you would establish your own views about art.

The course is designed for in-depth discussions and reflections about art, and there is much freedom, as personal creativity and expressions are integral aspects of both thinking about art and producing something (could be an idea).  So please be prepared to engage yourself, your own creativity, your mind and heart—your whole person—and be willing to share with others.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the semester, students should be able to:


1.  Philosophy of the Arts: An Introduction to Aesthetics.  Gordon Graham
 2.  The Nature of Art: An Anthology.  Thomas Wartenberg
 3.  In Praise of Shadows.  Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

There will also be handouts throughout the semester.

The reading assignments must be read before the class.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1. Short Paper (10%).  After Section 1, there will be a short analysis and evaluation paper (4-5  pages) on the question of “What is Art.”   This will include evaluating some of the articles. This is so that you can see how you are handling the material early on in the course.  Paper topics will be handed out.

2. Mid-semester Project Proposal/Outline (20%).  After Section 2, you will select ONE particular medium of your choice (visual arts, music, performance, any other), for a more in-depth analysis, to give content to the question above.  Give an outline of what you intend to analyze, in what way.  This is the outline for the creative project to be finished at the end of the course.  You may work in groups.  Your project could be: producing something--a painting, a piece of music, video production, a performance; philosophically analyzing a particular form of art, using essays; doing a research on a particular art culture; whatever you choose, you must apply and articulate your own conceptions about the nature of art (as explored in section 1), as well as make references to some of the theories discussed.

3. Project Presentation and Critique (20%).  Beginning Week 12, each of you (or group) will give a short presentation of your project.  The audience will produce a short “critique” for each presentation.  Incorporate the critique for your completion.

4.   Final Project/Paper (30%).  This is the completion of your project, due at the end of the course, December 10th.  At the end, it should contain an articulation of your own “theory of art” and attempt to define what that is.  It should also make references to the theories studied.

5.   Participation and Discussion (20%).  The course will rely heavily on discussions, critique, analyses, and other modes of communication regarding our topics and projects.

Course Schedule and Reading

* Readings and deadlines are listed in bold.

Section 1:  What is Art?

Week 1 (Aug 27, 29):  Introduction.

? General introduction of the course, including explanations for each of the sections.
? Discussions on “What is Art?” Handout.
? Wartenberg book (hereafter W): Introduction (p. xi), Section 12 (Collingwood, p. 125), 13 (Dewey, p. 137), and 11 (Bell, p. 115)

Week 2 (Sept 3, 5):  Classical Theories

? Is art “imitation,” “expression,” or something else?  What does it express?
? Plato and Aristotle (W: Sections 1 and 2, p1-28)

Week 3 (Sept 10, 12):  Modern Theories

? Art as “taste,” “emotion,” and expressive communication
? Hume, Niezsche, Tolstoy (W: Section 4: p. 38, Section 8: p. 85, and Section 9: p. 98)

Week 4 (Sept 17, 19):  Modern to Contemporary Theories

? Art as “truth?”  Art as indefinable?
? Heidegger, Weitz (W: Section 14: p. 149, and Section 17: p. 190)

Section 2: Art and Culture

Week 5 (Sept 24, 26: Short Paper Due Sept 26):  Example: Music

? How and what does music express?  Music as Elements of Culture
? Graham book (hereafter G): Chapter 4, Music and Meaning, p. 66
? Steiner (handout)

Week 6 (Oct 1, 3):  Example: Architecture

? G: Chapter 7, Architecture as an Art, p. 137

Section 3: Art from a Global Perspective

Week 7 (Oct 8, no class Oct 10):  Appropriating African Art?

? Western creations of “African Art?”
? Jegede and Appiah (W: Sections 26 and 27, p 292-)

Week 8 (Oct 15, 17 Project Proposal Due Oct 17):

? Japanese aesthetics of shadows and darkness
? Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Section 4: Art and Politics

Week 9 (Oct 22, 24): Art as Political, Art as Liberation

? Benjamin, Adorno (W: Sections 15 and 16, p. 172-)

Week 10 (Oct 29, 31): Art and Feminism

? Piper, Hein (W: Section 23; p. 253, Section 25; p. 280)
? Handout

Section 5: What is Art Revisited

Week 11 (Nov 5, 7):  Evaluation of the Aesthetic

? Subjectivism and objectivism?
? Art and interpretation
? G: Chapter 8, p. 155. Evaluation and the Aesthetics of Nature

Week 12 (Nov 12, 14): Project presentations and critique begins.

? Defining Art again
? Thinking Art and Society again
? G: Chapter 9, p. 176.  Theories of Art

Week 13 (Nov 19, 21):   Project presentation and critique continues.

Week 14 (Nov 26):  Project presentation and critique continues.

Week 15 (Dec 3):   Project presentation and critique continues.

Final Paper/Project Due: Tuesday, December 10th, 5pm.

Policy on Attendance, Turning in your papers, etc.

You are expected to attend every class, as participation is weighed heavily.  I will accept valid excuses (medical emergency, or other events which are totally beyond your control).  It is your responsibility to contact me if you must miss class.

Please note that “turning in the paper” means that I receive it; it does NOT mean that you dropped it off.  When in doubt, you must make sure with me that I actually have your material.
I will accept electronic submissions.

There will be some penalty for late papers.  Late papers must be turned in within one week past  the dealine.  No papers will be accepted beyond that date.

You may turn your final in early.  No makeup for the final.

Feel free to talk to me about any concerns you may have about the course.  I am always interested in what you have to say.

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