Philosophy of Art (Fall 2013)

Philosophy of Art

PHIL 230-03 | CRN# 11189 | TR 10-11:50 | Clarke Science 210 | Fall 2013

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts |


The course covers both the nature of art and its value. It is a topically oriented survey of the area. We will confront philosophical problems and evaluate arguments about the nature of art and its value. The class will enter debates with contemporary philosophers, historians, and critics, as well as important thinkers from the past. But this is not a historical survey; rather, it is an engagement with live issues: What is art? Is there a difference between high and low art? Can we learn from fiction? Are aesthetic judgments objective? Do the intentions of artists matter when evaluating art? Is it irrational to feel fear and pity for merely fictional characters and events?


There are three required books for this course:

  1. Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen (eds.). Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. (Blackwell) [AA] (Buy a used copy on Amazon.)

  2. Colin Wilson. Let's Talk about Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (Continuum, 2010). [LT] [buy]

  3. Noël Carroll. A Philosophy of Mass Art. (Oxford, 1998). [MA] (Buy a used copy on Amazon.)

There are four optional books:

  1. Andrew Lawrence Roberts. The Thinking Student's Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education. University Of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN-10: 0226721159.

  2. Stephen Davies. The Philosophy of Art (Blackwell, 2006). [PA]

  3. Noël Carroll. The Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction [PACI]

  4. Noël Carroll. The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (Routledge, 1990). [PH]

Most of the readings will come from articles posted on Blackboard [BB].


There will be two different forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 26) daily quizzes and three take-home examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. The quizzes are closed-book, but open-note. The bulk of your grade comes from the take-home exams. All assignments must be completed to pass the course.

Quizzes (10%) + first exam (30%) + late-term exam (30%) + final exam (30%).

I encourage students who are doing well to write a term paper in place of the final exam. If you chose this option, please let me know two weeks before Thanksgiving. I'll help you refine your topic and develop an outline. You must give me an abstract and a rough outline one month before the final exam period. I will not accept a term paper otherwise.

Attendance Policy

Although I record every class meeting, attendance is required. If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course. (There are no excused or unexcused absences. But please talk to me if something major comes up that dramatically effect your attendance.)

Tardiness Policy

If you are more than 5 minutes late, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. Come to class on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not be admitted to class.

Leaving Early Policy

No matter the reason, if you leave early, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. It doesn't matter if you have a court date, a doctor's appointment, or if you have to get to work. If you leave early, you will be marked absent.

Classroom Etiquette Policy

Pay attention; don't have distracting side conversations with other students; don't read newspapers or do crossword puzzles in class; don't sleep; don't text; don't sigh loudly with displeasure. This kind of behavior is disruptive. Be civil. Be courteous. This isn't high school. If your behavior is disruptive, I will ask you to leave. If I have to ask you to leave twice, you will receive an F in the class.

Laptop Policy

Laptop use is prohibited. The same goes for tablet computers and smartphones. Consider this rehab for Facebook addiction. You should print the articles posted on Blackboard and bring them to class.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. The tests are not collaborative. All sources must be cited. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course. I am also required to report you to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. But I would report you even if it was optional. Plagiarism is a serious offense.

Class Schedule

* The readings for each class are nested under the date. You should do the readings before class. There will be a quiz every class.

Topic I: What is Art?

  • Week 1

    • C1 (T: 9/3) Introduction and Overview

      • Readings

        • Carroll, Introduction to PACI [BB] (pp. 2-13)

      • Further Reading

        • Lamarque and Olsen, "General Introduction" [AA]

    • C2 (R: 9/5) Aesthetic Theories

      • Readings

        • Beardsley, "An Aesthetic Definition of Art" [AA]

      • Further Reading

        • Carroll, PACI Ch.4 "Art and Aesthetic Experience" [BB]

        • Davies, PA Ch.2 "Defining Art" [BB]

        • Dickie, "The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude" [BB]

        • Stolnitz, "The Aesthetic Attitude" [BB]

  • Week 2

    • C3 (T: 9/10) Aesthetic Experience

      • Readings

        • Carroll, PACI Ch.4 "Art and Aesthetic Experience" [BB] (Part I, pp.156-182)

      • Further Reading

        • Carroll, "Beauty and the Genealogy of Art Theory" [BB] (*pp.35-40)

        • Carroll, "Four Concepts of Aesthetic Experience" [BB]

    • C4 (R: 9/12) Open Concept Theories

      • Readings

        • Weitz, "The Role of Theory in Aesthetics" [AA]

        • Davies "Weitz’s anti-essentialism" [AA]

      • Further Reading

        • Carroll, PACI Ch.5 "Art, Definition, and Identification" [BB] (part I)

  • Week 3

    • C5 (T: 9/17) The Cluster Account

      • Readings

        • Gaut, "The Cluster Concept" [BB]

    • C6 (R: 9/19) Identifying Art

      • Readings

        • Carroll, "Identifying Art" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Danto "Art as Theory" [AA]

        • Dickie "Art as Institution" [AA]

        • Levinson, "Defining Art Historically" [AA]

Topic II: Popular Art

  • Week 4

    • C7 (T: 9/24) The Massification Argument

      • Readings

        • MacDonald, "A Theory of Mass Culture" [BB]

    • C8 (R: 9/26) A Reply

      • Readings

        • Carroll, Mass Art, ch. 1, pp. 1-30 [MA]

  • Week 5

    • C9 (T: 10/1) The Passivity and Formula Arguments

      • Readings

        • Greenberg, "Avant-garde and Kitsch" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Collingwood, excerpts from The Principles of Art [BB]

    • C10 (R: 10/3) Replies

      • Readings

        • Carroll, Mass Art, ch. 1, 31-70 [MA]

  • Week 6

    • C11 (T: 10/8) The Freedom, Susceptibility, and Conditioning Arguments

      • Readings

        • Carroll, Mass Art, ch. 1, 70-89 [MA]

      • Further Reading

        • Adorno and Horkheimer, "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment and Mass Deception" [BB] (selected pages: 124-127, 137, 144, 157-158)

        • Adorno, "Culture Industry Reconsidered" [BB]

    • C12 (R: 10/10) Accounting for Resistance

      • Readings

        • Carroll, Mass Art, ch. 1, 89-109 [MA]

Topic III: Taste and The Value of Art

  • Week 7

    • C13 (T: 10/15) The Pluralistic Category Approach

      • Readings

        • Carroll, PMP Ch.7, "Evaluation" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Daniel Kaufman, "Normative Criticism" [BB]

    • C14 (R: 10/17) Bad Taste

        • Wilson, pp. 1-51 [LT]

  • Week 8

    • C15 (T: 10/22) Taste

      • Readings

        • Wilson, pp. 51-105 [LT]

      • Further Reading

        • Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste" [BB]

        • Bender, "Sensitivity, Sensibility, and Aesthetic Realism" [BB]

        • Goldman, selections from Aesthetic Value [BB]

    • C16 (R: 10/25) Taste

      • Readings

        • Wilson, pp. 105-163 [LT]

  • Week 9

    • C17 (T: 10/29) Liking Better Things

      • Readings

        • Cohen, "Liking What's Good: Why Should We?"

Topic IV: Art and Emotion

    • C18 (R: 10/31) The Paradox of Fiction

      • Readings

        • Radford, "How Can we be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?"

  • Week 10

    • C19 (T: 11/5) The Paradox of Fiction

      • Readings

        • Walton, "Fearing Fictions" [AA] (read pp.5-10, 13-14, 18, and 23-24; you can skip the rest.)

      • Further Reading

        • Berys Gaut, selection from Art, Emotion, and Ethics [BB

    • C20 (R: 11/7) The Paradox of Fiction

      • Readings

        • Carroll, PMP Ch. 6

      • Further Reading

        • Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, pp. 59-88. [BB]

        • Alex Neill, "Empathy and (Film) Fiction" [BB]

        • Deborah Knight, "In Fictional Shoes: Mental Simulation and Fiction" [PFMP]

  • Week 11

    • CXX (T: 11/12) **NO CLASS - Monday Classes Meet**

    • C21 (R: 11/15) The Paradox of Horror

      • Readings

        • Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, Ch. 4 [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • David Hume, "Of Tragedy" [BB]

  • Week 12

    • C22 (T: 11/19) The Paradox of Painful Art

      • Readings

        • Aaron Smuts, "Art and Negative Affect" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Aaron Smuts, "Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?" [BB]

        • Susan Feagin, "The Pleasures of Tragedy" [BB]

Topic V: Art and Knowledge

    • C23 (R: 11/21) The Problem of Triviality

      • Readings

        • Stolnitz, "On the cognitive triviality of art" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Wilson, "Art and Knowledge" [BB]

  • Week 13

    • C24 (T: 11/26) Art and Knowledge

      • Readings

        • Gaut, "Art and Cognition" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Lamarque and Olsen, "Literature, Truth, and Philosophy" [BB]


Topic VI: Art and Morality

  • Week 14

    • C25 (T: 12/3) Sympathy for the Devil

      • Readings

        • Carroll, "The Wheel of Virtue" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Carroll, "Sympathy for Soprano" [BB]

    • C26 (R: 12/5) Immoral Pleasure

      • Readings

        • Smuts, "Pleasurably Regarding the Pain of Fictional Others" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • "How to Defend Response Moralism" [BB]

Topic VII: Authorial Intention

  • Week 15

    • C27 (T: 12/10) The Intentional Fallacy

      • Readings

        • Beardsley, "Intentions and Interpretations" [AA]

    • C28 (R: 12/12) Actual Intentionalism

      • Readings

        • Carroll, "Art, Intention, and Conversation" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Levinson, "Intention and Interpretation" [AA]