Program for a dreamed class

This program for a class was inspired in part by an interview to professor of philosophy Jesse Prinz published on May 2015 by the podcast series Philosophy Bites.

This course combines art criticism, aesthetic theories, and philosophy to try to answer what art is. Students will put to the test the universal validity and success of different artistic works by discussing and challenging concepts such as mimesis, the sublime, aesthetic and non-aesthetic perceptions, emotional saturation, realists and anti-realists views, and modern institutional theories. As final assignment for the course, students will formulate their own aesthetic and philosophical criteria to define art accompanied by a report on the concepts and thinkers that were most influential to them.

ANCIENT AESTHETICS. “Art is imitation,” mimesis. Plato’s forms or ideas (art as poor imitation), social responsibility of artists. Aristotle’s universal essence of things, art as reality and detachment. Reading: Allegory of the Cave, excerpts from Book VII of The Republic, and Ion and Symposium (Plato), and Poetics (Aristotle).

THE SUBLIME. How art can produce reward on repeated experience? Reading: excerpts from essays on Longinus and the subject of the sublime.

ARTISTS IN THE RENAISSANCE. Aspirations of painters, development of style, creating wonderment through imitation. Reading: excerpts from Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

THE EYE OF THE BEERHOLDER. People have different ideas about what is beautiful. The problem of beauty according to Kant: pleasure is individual, beauty is universal. Reading: excerpts from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment.

ANALYTIC AESTHETICS. A tree as a tree, a tree as art (aesthetic object). Complexity vs. simplicity, unified nature of the experience. Reading: Arnold Schopenhauer’s aesthetics, Book 3, World as Will and representation.

ART OF THE MYSTERIOUS & OBSCURE. Terror in art, art that bewilders. Reading: excerpts from Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.

WHAT IS ART? The rejection of beauty, art as emotion. Reading: Leo Tolstoy’s What is Art?

THE CREATIVE ACT. Role of artists and spectators. Artist’s intention and realization. Art coefficient, audio: Marcel Duchamp (1957). Reading: Marcel Duchamp: Meditations on the Identities of Artists (Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge).

TRANSFIGURATION OF THE COMMON PLACE. Recontextualization of familiar objects (Pop Art). Reading: Arthur C. Danto’s The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art.

THE END OF ART. Art in a post-historical fashion. Reading: Arthur C. Danto’s The End of Art.