The purpose of this course is to help the students understand the major issues surrounding the philosophical questions arising from the nature of art, both in terms of traditional approaches, and in terms of new conceptions that have been posed in modern and contemporary times.
Having successfully pursued the course the student should have attained the following aims:
- Be able to give an outline of some aspects of the traditional theory of art as imitation.
- Be capable of making sense of the stress on creativity in more modern and contemporary approaches.
- Show the capacity to offer a nuanced account of the Platonic approach to art.
- Be able to offer an account of the main outlines of the aesthetic theories in Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.
- Be mindful of the philosophical perplexities associated with ideas like originality, creativity and transcendence.
- Be cognizant of different ways of understanding the relation of art, religion and philosophy.
There are no special pre-requisites, though a knowledge of the history of philosophy, and intellectual interest in the nature of art are helpful.
Please see below under 'Activities'.
Articles and literature
Is also included in other courses
The content of this course will reflect on how in modern understandings of art the stress is primarily on originality and creativity, whereas in pre-modern thought the stress is primarily on imitation and representation. We will look at the philosophical significance of this contrast, and the shift to creativity, in light of the metaphysical status accorded to art in the wake of Kant's transcendental philosophy. The place of art in the wake of Kant's transcendental philosophy is ambiguous and complex. Ambiguous: Hegel proclaims art, on its highest side, to be something behind us; yet a significant number of post-Kantian philosophers invest art with a metaphysical significance in some ways unprecedented in the Western tradition. Complex: while art is proclaimed as autonomous and for itself, the nature of its relation to philosophy, and the challenge it poses for the identity and practice of philosophy is notable. Our concern will be the relation of art and philosophy in light of this ambiguous and complex status. What significance has art in challenging philosophy with forms of otherness and singularity that seem to resist incorporation without remainder into a rational system of concepts? Against the background contrast of Kant's transcendental originality and Platonic transcendent originals, we will look at the legacy of transcendental originality in selected texts of Hegel, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. What happens when we try to absolutize human "creativity"? Is the notion of imitation unavoidable, imitation as a relation to something other to ourselves. What is the significance of the darker sense of origin that comes to emerge? What of the ambiguous status of otherness in light of transcendental emphasis on self-activity? How do we view creativity? Has too much been expected of art? Has art taken the place of a formerly religious transcendence? Does it challenge philosophy to reformulate its own practice of thought?
Description of learning activities
Readings are assigned for each session from the required readings. The student is expected to read these assignments in advance. The teacher will elucidate and discuss these readings, and there will be opportunities for discussion and questions from students. Students are strongly advised to take adequate notes of the lecture-presentation by the teacher. They are also strongly advised to keep up with the assigned reading.Attendance is mandatory.
Hofstadter and R. Kuhns (editors), Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, latest edition.
W. Desmond, Art, Origins, Otherness: Between Art and Philosophy, Albany: SUNY Press, 2003.
[Peeters and Acco were asked to stock copies. Copies can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk]
The teacher will offer a number of topics for the term paper, and the student will be free to choose from among these topics. A student may be allowed to choose another topic, but only after consultation with the teacher and with his express permission. The teacher will dedicate some time during the semester to explaining what is expected from the paper. A list of topics will be given, in addition to an explanation about the form of the paper, as well as criteria used in grading. The paper is to be handed in by the deadline specified in the syllabus, both in electronic form and in hard copy.
Second examination attempt
In each academic year the student is entitled to two examination attempts: the first attempt takes place in the first or second examination session, depending on the semester when the course is offered, the second attempt takes place in the third examination session.
In the third examination session the evaluation form is the same like the evaluation form in the first or second examination session.