Philosophy of Art (Fall 2013) - Final Exam

Philosophy of Art - Final Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 2,400 words. (There is an 1,800 word minimum.)

I. Answer one question from 1-2. (Evaluation)

1. Evaluate the "I know it's a comedy, but it isn't funny" Objection to Carroll's Pluralistic Category Approach (PCA) to art evaluation.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the PCA and its virtues. What does it purport to do? Then raise the objection. How big of problem this? What is the basis of most critical disputes?)

2. Near the end of Let's Talk About Love, Wilson says: "It is probably totally subjective whether you prefer Celine Dion or the White Stripes [. . .] But it seems fair to guess neither of them can rival the Beatles or Louis Armstrong" (p.158). If we assume that he is right here, might this undermine much of what came before in the book? In other words, is this comment consistent with Wilson's general analysis of taste?

(This question requires evaluation. You need to explain Wilson's analysis of taste. What does he think accounts for taste differences? You must provide some textual evidence to support your interpretation. Then consider whether his analysis is consistent with the remarks on p.158.)

II. Answer one question from 3-4. (The Paradox of Fiction)

3. Evaluate Radford's reply to the Fourth Solution (e.g., The objection featuring the mother who reads about a bus accident elsewhere and grabs her children in relief when they return from school). Is crying at movie closer to Radford's other example, that of the man who is saddened by the thought that his sister would have been unhappy had she never had children? If not, why not? If so, is this clearly irrational, as Radford claims?

(This question requires evaluation. Explain Radford's argument. Explain how the Fourth Solution is an objection. Explain Radford's reply and evaluate it. Since Carroll defends what looks like Radford's Fourth Solution, you might want to consider Carroll's argument in your evaluation, but this isn't required.)

4. Evaluate Carroll's defense of the rationality of typical emotional responses to fiction.

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the paradox. Explain why one might be lead to deny that such reactions are rational. Explain Carroll's solution to the how question. Then explain how this is supposed to solve the rationality question. Evaluate his argument. What sense of "rational" does he have in mind? What might Radford mean by "rational"?)

III. Answer one question from 5-6. (The Paradox of Painful Art)

5. Evaluate Carroll's solution to the Paradox of Horror.

(This question requires evaluation. You should motivate the paradox, explain Carroll's solution, and consider an objection or two.)

6. Defend a solution to the Paradox of Painful Art.

(Since you don't have much space, you won't be able to provide much negative argument against the opposing views. You can simply setup the problem and defend a view. If you want, you can focus on a specific artform or genre.)

IV. Answer one question from 7-8. (Humor)

7. Evaluate the Incongruity Theory of humor. Morreall argues that the Incongruity Theory fails as a theory of laughter, but does it fail as a theory of humor?

(This question requires evaluation. Explain the Incongruity Theory of Humor. Explain Morreall's objection. Here you will need to discuss the difference between humor and laughter. Then you should see if you can find any cases of humorous amusement that do not involve the perception of incongruities.)

8. In Ch.6 of Jokes, Cohen argues that it is alright to be bothered by some sexist and racist jokes even if we cannot explain what is wrong with them? He rejects several attempts to account for their immortality. He concludes that no general moral theory is forthcoming. Has he comes to this conclusion too quickly? Can you do better? Are these kinds of jokes ever wrong to tell? If not, why not? If so, can you account for what might be wrong with these kinds of jokes when they are wrong? You might want to consider the same joke told in different contexts. Might the morality of the telling depend on who is doing the telling?

Note on Order: In order to evaluate an argument, you need to build up the argument before showing where it might go wrong. To build up an argument, you must do more than merely offer a formalization. You must explain the argument. Typically, showing where an argument goes wrong will require arguing that one of the premises is false. Be sure to consider obvious, compelling replies to your objections. If you think an argument is good, then you will need to defend it against the strongest objections that you can think of.

Note on Quotations: Keep quotations to a minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations or for textual evidence to support an interpretation of a story or a complex argument.

Due Date

Saturday 12/21/2013


The exam should be in total no more than 2,400 words. This is approximately 8 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 1,800 words. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


The exam must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "course documents / writing" section on Blackboard.

Write a separate essay for each answer. Do not try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. You do not need to start a new page. Include the number of the question at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.

Include a reference list on the final page. You can use whatever citation format you prefer. I recommend the Chicago Manual.


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the answers. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood.

*Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


I do NOT need a hard copy. And please do NOT email the exam to me unless there is a problem. Instead, you should submit the exam through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is the end of the day on the due date, not to be confused with the night before.) Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <> explaining the problem. Make sure to CC me. If this happens, send me a copy of your paper as an attachment. Note: I will not accept your paper if you don't report the problem to the helpdesk.

Note on Plagiarism: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment.


Your paper should be clearly written, well-structured, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is practically impossible to get higher than a C if you start writing the night before the paper is due. The grading scale is as follows:

A = excellent {very clear; comprehensive; well-organized}

B = good {mostly clear; answers the questions; few, if any, errors}

C = minimal expectations {unclear sentences; no evaluation; some errors}

D = bad {very unclear; incomplete; messy; lots of errors}

F = awful {very unclear; doesn't answer the questions; sloppy; error ridden}


Before writing, you must read three documents under the writing section of Blackboard: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. ***Pryor's "How to Write a Philosophy Paper."