Philosophy of Art (Fall 2013) - First Exam

Philosophy of Art - First Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer three (3) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 1,800 words. (There is a 1,500 word minimum.)

Answer question 1. (The Aesthetic Definition of Art)

1. Evaluate Beardsley's discussion of Duchamp's Fountain. Why doesn't he think that Fountain is a counterexample to the aesthetic definition of art? Is his reply plausible?

(This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain Beardsley's aesthetic definition of art. Then show how Fountain could be used as a counterexample. Then explain Beardsley's reply. Finally, evaluate his reply. You might want to look back at what Carroll says about Beardsley's argument.)

Answer question 2. (Open Concept Theories)

2. Evaluate Weitz's argument for the claim that it is logically impossible to find any necessary conditions for art (p.16).

(This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: Explain Weitz's argument. You should discuss the key passage on page 16. Provide some textual evidence to support your interpretation of the argument. Then evaluate the argument. You might want to consider Davies's objections.)

Answer one question from 3-4. (The Massification Argument)

3. Evaluate the second premise in Carroll's formalization of MacDonald's argument.

(This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: You should explain MacDonald's argument. There is no need to copy all 10 premises in Carroll's formalization. Explain the second premise. Although Carroll accepts this premise, we raised some serious problems in class. Evaluate the premise. Explain whether the problems with the premise undermine MacDonald's argument.)

4. Evaluate Carroll's "hard core porn" objection to MacDonald's lowest common denominator argument.

(This question requires evaluation. Suggested plan: You should explain MacDonald's argument. There is no need to copy all 10 premises in Carroll's formalization. Then explain Carroll's objection. How might MacDonald reply? You might want to see if premise 8 follows from premise 7.)

Note: 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: Keep quotations to an absolute 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

Tuesday 10/15/2013


The exam should be in total no more than 1,800 words. This is approximately 6 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 1,500 words. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


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.


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 "writing" section on the course Blackboard page.

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.

If you have citations, include a reference list on the final page. You can use whatever citation format you prefer.


You are required to hand in a paper copy at the start of class on the due date. In addition you must submit the midterm through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is after class, 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: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment. I recommend that you not use any outside sources. If you do, you must cite them even if you don't quote them. You must attribute all ideas to their proper sources.


Before writing, you must read three documents under the writing section of the course Blackboard page: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "Writing Philosophy Papers."