Philosophy 544: Aesthetics Carolyn Korsmeyer Spring, 2009

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Philosophy 544: Aesthetics Carolyn Korsmeyer

Spring, 2009 Park 110, 645-0144
Arthur Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace

Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art

Matthew Kieran, ed., Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

Larry Shiner, The Invention of Art (optional purchase; highly recommended)

Additional readings noted below.
This seminar is designed to introduce advanced students to contemporary aesthetics. The first meetings will be devoted to some of the historical background that frames concepts of the aesthetic. (Shiner’s Invention of Art and Davies’ The Philosophy of Art, provide general background as well as positions to be discussed.) Thereafter, topics to be covered include: 

  • The concept and ontology of art.

  • The nature of aesthetic properties. (Are they “subjective”? Rule-governed? Relational?).

  • Cultural objects and properties.

  • The nature and (un)importance of authenticity. (Are replicas aesthetically equivalent to genuine works?)

In addition to the books noted above, several articles will come from JSTOR and other online sources. It is recommended that students keep a file or notebook for these materials.

This course satisfies a breadth requirement in contemporary philosophy for Philosophy PhD students. Following the schedule for writing the paper will also satisfy the First Year Writing Requirement.
Office hours: Monday and Friday 1-2 and by appointment.
1. Attendance at all seminar meetings and participation in discussion.
2. Research paper written in stages: a. prospectus; b. first draft; c. final draft. Deadlines noted below.
3. Presentation of a portion of your research paper. Length of presentation will depend on numbers of people in the class, but likely length is 15 minutes.
Students taking the course “extensively” are required to do everything except the research paper. Their presentation should amplify a topic appropriately ancillary to those discussed during the semester.
Schedule of Readings, Presentations, and Requirements

[Readings noted in square brackets are recommended but optional]

Background – the Aesthetic and the Concept of Taste
Jan. 14 Introduction to course. The development of theories of the “aesthetic.”
Jan. 21 The Concept of “Taste”

● Enlightenment theories of taste: Hume, “Of the Standard of Taste” (1757),

widely available, including at

● Kant, “The Analytic of the Beautiful,” Critique of Judgment, widely available, including at

Look at the “Four Moments of Beauty,” esp. §1-11, §16-§19.

● [Shiner, The Invention of Art Part II.]

Jan. 28 Taste and the Discernment of Aesthetic Properties

● Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic Concepts” Philosophical Review 68 (1959) 421-50. JSTOR.

● Goldman, “There Are No Aesthetic Principles,” in Kieran, Contemporary Debates.

● Dickie, “Iron, Leather, and Critical Principles,” in Kieran.

● Davies, The Philosophy of Art, chapter 3, “Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art.”

Feb. 4 Aesthetic “Experience” – Fact or Philosophical Fiction?

● Carroll, “Aesthetic Experience: A Question of Content” in Kieran.

● Iseminger, “The Aesthetic State of Mind” in Kieran.

● Gaut, “Art and Cognition” in Kieran.

● Lamarque, “Cognitive Values in the Arts” in Kieran.

● [Korsmeyer, “Terrible Beauties,” in Kieran.]

● [Peter de Bolla, “Toward the Materiality of Aesthetic Experience,” Diacritics 32:1 (2002) 19-37. Available through UB Libraries at]

Theories of Art: Definability, Discernibility, and Cultural Properties
Feb. 11 ● Davies, Philosophy of Art, chapters 1-2, “Evolution and Culture,” Chapter 2, “Defining Art,”, and Chapter 4, “Varieties of Art.”

● Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, chapter 1.

● [Shiner, Parts IV and V.]
Feb. 18 ● Danto, chapters 4-6

● Danto, “The End of Art: A Philosophical Defense,” History and Theory: 37:4

(1998) (JSTOR)

● Nelson Goodman, from Languages of Art (UBLearns)

Feb. 25 ● Joseph Margolis, “Farewell to Danto and Goodman” British Journal of

Aesthetics 40:3 (1998) (ProQuest UB Libraries)

● Danto, “Indiscernibility and Perception: a Reply to Joseph Margolis” BJA 39:4 1999)

● Margolis, “A Closer Look at Danto’s Account of Art and Perception,” BJA 40:3

Aesthetic Qualities, Originality, and Authenticity

March 4 ● Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

● Kendall Walton, “Categories of Art” Philosophical Review 79 (1970) 334-67 and JSTOR.

Shiner, Part IV.

March 18 ● Graham, “Aesthetic Empiricism” in Kieran.

● D. Davies, “Against Enlightened Empiricism” in Kieran.

● Kieran, “Originality and Artistic Expression, from Revealing Art, UBLearns.
Intention, Expression, and Interpretation
March 25 ● Davies, Chapter 5, “Interpretation.”

● Stecker, “Interpretation and the Problem of the Relevant Intention,” in Kieran.

● Nathan, “Art, Meaning, and Artist’s Meaning,” in Kieran.
April 1 ● Hopkins, “The Speaking Image,” in Kieran.

● Lopes, “The Domain of Depiction,” in Kieran.

● Davies, Chapter 7, “Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts”


April 8 ● S. Davies, “Artistic Expression and the Hard case of Pure Music,” in Kieran.

● Levinson, “Musical Expressiveness as Hearability-as-Expression,” in Kieran.

● Davies, Chapter 6, “Expression and Emotional Responses.”
April 15 Presentations


April 22 Presentations
Final research PAPER due by Wednesday, May 6. (Please submit hard copy only.)

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