Phil/FA 310






Quiz Guides

Class Outlines


Study Questions




Phil/FA 310 Introduction to Aesthetics

Spring 2005

Instructor: Dr. Norman Lillegard   Office:  H 229    587 7384

Office Hours: 10.00 ‑11.00 a.m. and 1-2 p.m. MWF and by appointment

Texts: Puzzles about Art (ed. Battin etc.) and Basic Issues in Aesthetics by Eaton (In UC and Bradley).


Course Title: Questions about the Arts That Won’t Go Away.

Art; can you define it? Are there non-subjective standards of criticism/evaluation? Why bother with the arts? Why spend (public) money on galleries, subsidies for playwrights or orchestras, etc.? Are there correct interpretations of art works? Does interpretation depend upon the artists intentions?  Should art be “moral” in any sense? Should it be censored in any way? Is avant-garde art really art at all? What is the “ontological status” of various art works?  How do art works differ from products of the crafts, if at all? How if at all do “fine arts” differ from entertainment? Does, or should, art “imitate” life or anything else? What about “art for arts sake?”  Is art a medium of expression? Expression of what? The Artist’s soul? Her emotions? Should “works” produced by computers (or monkeys!) be counted as works of art?  Do the arts have a future or are the fine arts done for, about to be replaced by decoration, entertainment, craft? And so forth.


 The Purposes of this Course: To address the questions listed above and related questions. To become familiar with some of the principal answers that have been proposed from the Greeks to the present. To gain practice in thinking critically and with a sense of the options available about these questions.  Perhaps, to formulate some defensible views on these matters that will inform one’s own practices in the future. Perhaps, to find ways of defending civilization against barbarism (!!??).

 We will be studying the views of some major thinkers, but the aim is not that you be able to repeat their views, but that you learn to think with them.  Therefore, the ability to parrot views (whether those of an author, the instructor or anyone else's) or regurgitate information (like a quiz show participant) is of no use to you or anyone.  You will not be tested on such an ability. Exams are designed to test understanding of arguments and issues, and critical reading skills, rather than retention of information. However,  you do need to be familiar with some relevant examples and illustrations, and some terminology.


Course Requirements:

!                    Attend class and participate, do the readings, do all written assignments, pass the exams.  Two exams. (multiple choice, T/F, see sample exams on web page). First exam worth 120 pts, Final exam is comprehensive, worth 180 pts.

!                    Quizzes: there will be frequent (once a week or more) unannounced quizzes. Missed quizzes cannot be made up. Each quiz will be worth 6 – 12 points, and will consist of multiple choice and T/F questions.  Total, ca. 130 pts.

!                    A short paper (no less than 1500 words) on a topic approved by the instructor must be completed and handed in by mid-term and revised in the light of criticisms by the final. NO PAPER WILL BE ACCEPTED AFTER THE MID TERM.  100 pts.

!                    One report on a UTM art event (exhibit, theatre, concert). 25 pts.

!                    Attendance.  Regular attendance and informed participation in class are essential since (a)not everything covered in class is included in the texts (b) you will need help with this material, and that is what class sessions, and the instructor, are for. 40 points.

!                    Extra Credit:  Don’t count on much. Carefully prepared reports or other class presentations (including student prepared debates under the instructor's guidance) can earn extra points. (Max. of 30 pts.).  Presentation of actual (original) art works with discussion relating to the readings might be especially valuable.

 Total points ca. 600.  Normally %90 of total points gets you an 'A', %80 a 'B' and so forth, but significant adjustments for curve are made when necessary.


Helpful Stuff

The instructor’s web page for this course will include sample exams, lists of important terms, and outlines of classes. All quizzes will also be preserved on that page for review purposes.  Access the Phil/FA 310 page through the UTM page (click on faculty staff, then on faculty web pages) or by using and clicking on relevant link.


Class Conduct, Instructor's Role, etc.  What I Expect of Students.

1.Treat each other with respect. 2.Treat the instructor with respect. 3.Do not talk unless called on.

4. Do not leave the room without permission except in extreme emergency. 5. Be on time.

6. Be eager to learn.  The best indication of progress is engagement with the issues and ideas we deal with.

7. Do not be afraid to say "I don't understand." 8. Expect the same of me as I expect of you. (Except for  #3, and #4,  of course. You will see that I follow #7 a lot.)

NB. Any kind of cheating is a serious offense and will be dealt with accordingly. It also ought to be beneath the dignity of each and every student.

            Classes will consist of a mix of lecture, discussion, possible occasional reports, and viewing of videos,

listening to recordings, etc.  Students are expected to treat other students in a polite fashion, even though they should

 feel free to express disagreement on ANY topic or ANY claim that is advanced by anyone, including the instructor.

At the same time, each student must attempt to exercise responsibility by keeping discussion focused on the subject at

hand and by listening carefully to the responses of the instructor and other participants.

 Particular value is placed on argument, as opposed to mere expression of opinion.  Say what you believe, but be prepared to say why. The instructor will attempt to clarify difficult concepts and passages in the text, and provide relevant examples. Students are encouraged to provide their own examples. If there is an art work (painting, pot, poem etc.) by yourself or someone else that you want to discuss, bring it or describe it and some class time will be spent on it, provided there is some connection to the readings.

Students should feel free to interrupt with questions or comments, even though on occasion answers may be postponed for the sake of coherence.  The instructor is pledged to careful consideration of any view, including those which he finds unsupportable, and to critical thinking with any student who values thoughtful discussion. Students  who feel a need for individual  help should feel free to ask..


NOTE: "Any student eligible for and requesting academic accommodations due to a disability is requested to provide a letter of accommodation from P.A.C.E. or Student Academic Support Center within the first two weeks of the semester."                                                       


COURSE OUTLINE: (Approximate. Content and time periods may vary slightly.)

Week 1 (1/18)  Overview of course. Kinds of “arts.” The notion of “fine art.”  Defining art. Art criticism. Read Battin, 1-26. Be familiar with the 24 cases described.

Week 2 (1/24) Week I continued. Defining “art” and theories of art. Eaton, ch. 1.

Week 3 (1/31)  Week II continued. Creativity. Selections from Battin. Eaton, ch. 2.

Week 4 (2/7)Week 3 continued. Eaton ch. 3. Viewers, taste, emotion etc. Selections from Battin ch. 2

Week 5 (2/14) Eaton ch. 4. Languages of art.

Week 6 (2/21)    Eaton ch. 5.  Art objects. Battin selections.

Week 7 (2/28)    MIDTERM EXAM  Wed. Mar. 2  Paper due. Interpretation and criticism.  Eaton ch. 6. Selections from Battin ch. 3,4, 6.         

Week 8 (3/7) Week 7 cont.  Battin ch. 6 Forgeries, etc.

Week 9 (3/14 – 18  SPRING BREAK) 

Week 10 (3/21)  Week 8 continued. The value of Art. Eaton ch. 7. Selections from Battin ch. 5.

Week 11 (3/28)  Meaning and truth in Literature. Handouts. Art, public policy, Eaton ch. 7                                  

Week 12 (4/4) Art, ethics. Eaton ch. 7. Handouts. .

Week 13 (4/11) The end (or future) of the arts.  Handouts.

Week 14 (4/18) .  Discussions of papers, themes.

Week 15 (4/25)                           

Week 16. Classes end May 2.  FINAL EXAMS, MAY 5-11.


Article for week 13, 14.




Paper Topics

Individual writers/works:

Plato – Republic, Ion.

Aristotle – Poetics 1-15.

Mo Tzu, Hsun Tzu (On music)

Plotinus – Enneads I.6

Hume – Of the Standard of Taste

Kant – Critique of Aesthetic Judgement

Friedrich Schiller, Letters 26-27

Hegel – Intro. to Aesthetics 1-3.

Schopenhauer, World as Will and Representation

Tolstoy – On Art.

Bell – The Aesthetic hypothesis.

Coomoraswamy- The Dance of Siva

Dewey – Art as Experience

Heidegger – The Origin of the Work of Art

Collingwood – Principles of Art

Cavell – The Claim of Reason and Must We Mean What we Say (various essays).

Danto – The Philosophical Disenfranchisment of Art.

Wollheim – Art and its Objects


Particular topics:

Expression in __________  (music, painting etc.)

Censorship of the Arts


Institutional Theories

Fiction and truth.

Meaning and Intention in Literature

Tragedy and Ethical Criticism of Art

Application of selected aesthetic theories to __________  (Drama, Painting, Film etc.)

Popular Art

Art vs. Entertainment

The Aesthetics of Nature

The Historical Nature of the Arts.

Art, Propaganda, Politics.


Quizz Guides, Phil. 310


QG 1

Read                                                   Answer

Battin,  1-26                                       Questions 1 -   21    below



1. What does case 4 add to case 1 and 2 and 3, if anything?

2. What does 5 add to 1,2,3, 4, if anything?

3. What does 6 etc.

4. What does 7

5.         8

6          9

7          10

8          11

9          12

10        13

11        14

12        15

13        16

14        17

15        18

16        19

17        20

18        21

19        22

20        23

21        24


QG 2. Read Eaton, 1-13


1. What are the four general types of aesthetic theory?


2. Give some reasons for thinking aesthetic theories are not even possible.



QG #3

Read                                                               Answer

Eaton p.14-31.                                   1 -   below


1. Assuming that something is a work of art only if someone works on it in some way, be prepared to illustrate each of the following views about what kind of work is required to produce an artwork, as opposed to simply a (non-artistic) artifact:

a. art works result from the particular unique personalities of artists


b. art works result from a creative and original activity, where what makes an activity creative is either that it

i. consists in something more than following rules to produce an envisaged end

                        ii. consists in paying attention to features of things which have “artistic potential.”


c. art works result from carrying out an artistic “intention” (particular kinds of intention make certain things works of art)


d. art works result from (successful) attempts to express  something (like an emotion).


2. Give criticisms of each of a-d above, as found in Eaton.


3. How does Aristotle respond to the claim that the arts are “irrational?”


4. Be prepared to illustrate and critique each of the following views on art as expression of an emotion (E): in a work of art

            a. the artist expresses his/her own E in the work

b. the work arouses an E in the “viewer”

c. a and b combined: the artist expresses an E and the same E is aroused in the “viewer” (Tolstoy-type view of art as “communication”)    

            d. the work “depicts” an E

e. the work has in itself the properties or traits of people who feel E (Langer)

f. the work “treats something in a way that demonstrates” E (Sircello)


5. Compare and contrast Croce’s and Dewey’s views on art as an expression of the artist’s “idea.”


QG 4



Eaton, p. 34-52

Battin, p. 28-58


1. Eaton suggests that there are three sets of criteria that might be used to sort people who are having an “aesthetic experience.” What are they?

2. Taste on the Hume/Sibley view includes

            a. special sensitivity to properties objectively present in a work

            b. the idea that the perceptual faculties employed by a person with taste are different from ordinary perceptual faculties.

            c. the judgements of people with taste will converge

What are some criticisms of  a, b and c?


3. Are viewer emotional responses to works of art

            a. real ordinary? (does the viewer feel real sadness, for example)

            b. not real but special aesthetic? (Burke’s “delight”, or, metaresponse)

            c. ordinary but in a non-ordinary way? (in control etc.)


Discuss each of a-c pro and con.


4. What is the problem of “negative emotions”?


5.  What are some problems with the idea that the “aesthetic attitude” is essentially “non-practical” or involves “distancing?”


6. Explain and illustrate the Sibley/Hungerford view that non-aesthetic properties never entail any aesthetic properties (or, aesthetic properties are never “condition governed.” Mention the “looks/is not really” test)


7. Give some criticisms of the Sibley/Hungerford view.

8. According to Dickie, the aesthetic attitude is a myth: the jealous husband and the lighting technician are not attending in a different way, they are attending to different ____________.

Mention some possibilities.


QG 5

Read (carefully!!) Eaton, 53-74


Think about these examples: Hobo signs, a musical phrase (Handel), Bach’s Nun kom der Heiden Heiland, Lover’s kiss, Jan Steen’s painting, Battin 3.13, 3.15,  a poem (cf. Battin, 2.16), Dǖrer’s Melencolia I.


Ask these questions about these examples, and write down your answers:

1.Do they refer to, or contain parts that refer to, something? If so HOW is the reference achieved?


2. Do they state something? If so, HOW?


In answering 1 and 2, take account of the fact that referring and stating are usually done through language, and that actual verbal language is completely missing from most of these examples.


When you have answered 1 and 2 as FULLY as you can, note

(a)all the similarities or identities between the different cases, and

(b) all the differences.


Remember that these answers require reference to certain fundamental contrasts, such as that between conventional and the natural, between reference and resemblance, between iconic and non-iconic signs. Also keep in mind that these contrasts are not always sharp. 



QG 6.

Study Eaton 76-101.


QG 7

Eaton, 104- 123.  Battin, 60-102


QG 8.

Eaton, 125-147                       Battin, 148-178

Web article.


















Qz 1.

T or F

1. Something might seem to count as a work of art because it is displayed in a certain way.


2. One question that arises in connection with “sound sculpture” is this: are there genres of art that are constrained by the “materials” used?


Q 2.

1. Artist centered theories of art could include expression theories.


2. Weitz denies that it is possible to define (give necc and suff conditions for)the concept ‘work of art’ because

a. it is an “open concept”

b. there are no resemblances at all between some art works and others

c. there are at best family resemblances between some art works and others

d. a and c.


Q. 3.

1. According to Sircello, a painting could express a love of animals in the sense that the artist painted the animals “lovingly.”


2. If a work of art expresses sadness in the sense that it made the viewer feel sad, then it is mysterious why most people would want anything to do with it.




QZ 4

1. The idea of the “aesthetic attitude” typically includes the ideas that

(a) a special faculty is required for aesthetic perception

(b) aesthetic response is non-practical

(c) aesthetic responses are to conditioned-governed properties

(d) all of these.


2. Dickie claims that what makes a response aesthetic is what sorts of things the “viewer” responds to.


3. Twains two different responses to a sunrise on the river illustrate

(a) the difference between a practical and a non-practical response

(b) the difference between an aesthetic and a non-aesthetic response

(c) the difference between a response that shows taste and one that does not.

(d) a and b.


Qz. 5

1. An 18th century garden, like that at Stowe, that leaves certain things out (like a statue of Queen Ann) and locates certain things lower than others, seems to make various statements, including negations.


2. Both Gombrich and Goodman emphasize the conventional aspect of artistic representation.


3. The more a sign looks like or in some way resembles what it refers to, the  more “iconic” it is.




1. It is not implausible to think of Brancusi’s “lovers kiss” as referring to or representing a lover’s kiss

            (a) by resembling in some slight way two lovers

            (b) by “standing for” a lover’s kiss by the use of slightly iconic signs

            (c) by evoking feelings relating to unity, difference, bridging, inner and outer divisions, and the like

            (d) any or all of these.


2. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice could be said to

(a)communicate knowledge or understanding of human life and character

(b) be true to life

(c) be a good novel because it invites disinterested contemplation (the aesthetic attitude)

(d) all of these

(e) a and b.




1. Formalists argue that

            (a) only properties directly observed in a art work are relevant to aesthetics

            (b) the artists intention is relevant to aesthetics

            (c) such traits as shading (in a painting), thematic development (music), or structure (novel) are aesthetically relevant.

            (d) all of these

            (e) a and c.


2. Clive Bell and Roger Frye are probably the best known formalist critics.



1. Marxist aesthetics is contextual in a very broad sense.


2. The context of a work of art could include

            (a) the historical/political situation in which it was produced

            (b) the prevailing artistic traditions at the time of its production

            (c) the personal idiosyncracies of the artist

            (d)all of these

            (e) none of these.



1. Contextualists hold the view that all that matters in a work of art are its intrinsic properties.


2. According to the institutional theory of art, an object, X, becomes an art work

            (a) when the artist produces X

            (b) when art institutions confer on X the status ‘art work’

            (c) when enough people see that in fact the work is worthy of appreciation

            (d) none of these.


Qz 10.


1. Everyone would agree that since James says that The Turn of the Screw is just a ghost story, that therefore the best interpretation is one that treats it as a Ghost story.


2. There is a clear difference between interpreting a work of art and evaluating it. 


Qz 11

1. If someone interprets ‘dark satanic mills’ in Blake’s Preface to Milton to refer to sooty industrial factories, they

            (a) have not taken into account the author’s intentions

            (b) have taken into account the historical circumstances of the poem’s composition

            (c) have obviously made the poem less enjoyable

            (d) all of these.


2. Giving reasons for the belief that a work of art is a good work is not like giving reasons for believing that a breakfast is nutritious, or for believing that it is not a good idea to go 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.


QZ 11(2)

1. The case of Virgil’s and Mendelssohn’s death bed wishes respecting their masterpieces illustrates the conflict between the value placed on art works and other values.


2. Tolstoy argued that the only good art works were

            a. works that had economic value

            b. works that appealed to people with taste

            c. works that had intrinsically pleasing properties

            d. all of these.

            e. none of these.


3. Aesthetic value (the value of the arts) could, on some views, be

            a. a function of moral values

            b. in competition with economic values

            c. not in competition with any other values

            d. all of these

            e. none of these.


QZ 12

1. The 18th century revisions of King Lear illustrate

            a. a conflict between aesthetic and economic values

            b. how some people want art works to serve moral didacticism

            c. how questions of authorship can never be settled

            d. all of these.


2. The belief that “earthworks” should not be subject to the requirements of environmental protection suggests that social values and aesthetic values can conflict.


3.  It is clear that religious subject matter in an art work will make it a work of religious art.








Class Outlines    Phil/FA 310   Aesthetics


Week I. 

1. Questions 

A.What sorts of things (actions etc.) count as works of art? Or, What is the “definition” of ‘art?’  Examples:




B. Should works of art express something? Like what?  Examples:



C. Is there some right way to “interpret” works of art?  Examples:

1. q. What is the problem in (A)?

            Answ.  Deciding what features of a thing make it a work of art.

a. intention?

b. circumstances?


2. q. What is the problem in (B)?

            Answ. Same as 1?


3. Any additional feature for (C)?



1. Organizing the intuitions:

Should we focus on


I.1 The Artist                         I.2The Object

(intention,                               (Beauty, formal

Expression etc.)         properties, etc.)






I.3The Viewer                                    I.4The Setting

(“aesthetic”    (Institutions,

Experience)                            practices)


            A. aesthetic theories tend to focus on one of these. E.g. it is necessary and sufficient for x’s being a work of art, that it be produced with an “artistic” intention.


                        i. perhaps there cannot be such theories. Perhaps ‘art’ or ‘aesthetic’ or ‘beauty’ are open concepts. Weitz and Wittgenstein.

                        ii. language games and games.

“what is common to all games?”



a. family resemblances.


2. The cognitive status of evaluative

claims about art;

            A. is ‘that is a good painting’ like

‘that is a good knife’ or not?



1. (I,1)Focusing on the artist:

A. focus on the artists inner states and the EXPRESSION of those states.


B. art works result from the particular unique personalities of artists


C. art works result from a creative and original activity, where what makes an activity creative is either that it

i. consists in something more than following rules to produce an envisaged end


ii. consists in paying attention to features of things which have “artistic potential.”


D. art works result from carrying out an artistic “intention” (particular kinds of intention make certain things works of art)



E. art works result from (successful) attempts to express  something (like an emotion).


2. Exploration of E. Art as expression of an emotion (E):

in a work of art

            A. the artist expresses his/her own E in the work



B. the work arouses an E in the “viewer”



C. a and b combined: the artist expresses an E and the same E is aroused in the “viewer” (Tolstoy-type view of art as “communication”)



            D. the work “depicts” an E



E. the work has in itself the properties or traits of people who feel E (Langer)



F. the work “treats something in a way that demonstrates” E (Sircello)


3. Croce’s and Dewey’s views on art as an expression of the artist’s “idea.”


Week IV

1. Eaton on three sets of criteria that might be used to sort people who are having an “aesthetic experience.”





2. Exploration of (1,i). The idea of Taste The Hume/Sibley view of taste includes

            A. special sensitivity to properties objectively present in a work



            B. the idea that the perceptual faculties employed by a person with taste are different from ordinary perceptual faculties.



            C. the judgments of people with taste will converge




3. (Exploration of 1.ii)Viewer emotional responses to works of art. How should we describe those responses?

            A. They consist of real ordinary emotions? (does the viewer feel real sadness, for example)



            B. not real but special aesthetic? (Burke’s “delight”, or, metaresponses) (This seems to fit with 1.i)




            C. ordinary (like ‘sad’) but in a non-ordinary way? (in control etc.)





D. The problem of “negative emotions” Examples:


4.  Exploring another approach to 1.i.

            A.The “aesthetic attitude” : essentially “non-practical” or involves “distancing.”

                        i. examples: from Twain, Bullough, (caught in a fog).



B. Aesthetic attitude and The Sibley/Hungerford view that non-aesthetic properties never entail any aesthetic properties (or, aesthetic properties are never “condition governed.” ‘It is red and gold’ (non-aesthetic properties) never entails ‘it is beautiful’ (aesthetic property).

i. the “looks/is not really” test.

Can sensibly say ‘it looks yellow but is not’ but cannot say ‘it looks beautiful but is not.’



7. Exploring 1.iii. Rejection of aesthetic attitude theory. Dickie: the aesthetic attitude is a myth: the jealous husband and the lighting technician are not attending in a different way, they are attending to different _things___________. (he is referring to Bullough)

Mention some possibilities.


So, What things should we attend to in works of art? Which are important?

            A. Beardsley – regional qualities, formal unity. Lists on p. 49



                        i. examples from Battin


WEEK V The Arts and (as) Language

1. Does “getting A” (A could be any sort of non-linguistic art work) require something like learning a language?

            A. In a language, words (are used to) refer to things and sentences (are used to) say things.  Examples:


            ques. What would correspond to words (lexical items) in non-linguistic art?

            i. elements that “refer”.  cf. medieval iconlogicae


            ii. more general cases of “elements” “standing for” something.


Ques. What would correspond to sentences? cases of something (a string of elements) “saying” something.


2. Exploration of idea of elements in art works referring to something.

            Ques. How can x stand for y?

            A. by representing it? More obvious examples from painting.

Less obvious ones from music, literature.

                        i. representing and imitating.


ii. imitating by resembling.


                        iii. differences between resembling and representing. x represents a horse. Does it resemble one? Two chairs resemble each other. Do they represent each other?


                        iv. cf. examples from Hobo language, Handel.


                        v. on the other hand, a stick drawing can “represent” X.  Does it resemble it?


            B. If representation does not work through resemblance, how does it work?  Gombrich and Goodman; it works somewhat the way a regular language does. Art really is a lot like verbal language.

i. denoting by convention.


C. The ingredients of a language – signs, syntax, semantics.

            a. Signs, semantics, and natural/non-natural, or conventional, relations. Cf. ‘dog’ and a picture of a dog.  Road signs.


Now, how much knowledge of conventions do we need to see what the picture “represents?” How much to produce a representation?


i. ways to classify signs. Natural. Conventional.

Another way to classify signs – icon, index(indication), symbol. Or, iconic, iconlogical, iconographical. Is a road sign iconic?

                        i. degrees of iconicity.


            B. syntax. How the signs (“lexical items”) are arranged makes a difference to “meaning.” Cf. a sentence, a musical phrase,  Steen.


3. Gombrich – reference does not depend upon resemblance.

            A. making and matching, schema and correction.

                        i. schema are learned from the present “tradition.” Like learning a vocabulary.  Thus the arts are historically located.


                        ii. however the individual artists can “correct” or modify the schema.


                        iii. figures, shapes, are not chosen because they resemble x, but because they are good “substitutes” for x.

Even in painting, the “signs” are more like symbols, less like icons, then we usually recognize.


4. Goodman – goes even further than Gombrich in denying resemblance. Shapes in paintings are conventional denoters.

            A. Seems obviously wrong.  In painting SEEING plays a fundamental role.  Not so with “reading” a text.


            B. Goodman agrees that the “symbols” in painting are not “notational.”  You don’t “read the painting” and then produce it, the way you read a score, or a poem, and then produce it (perhaps many times many ways).

                        i. in a poem, all the identifying features of it are in the printed or spoken poem itself.  Likewise, for a piece of music, Goodman thinks.

                        ii. in a poem, etc. the features are repeatable. That is essential according to Goodman, for being language.

iii. That is NOT the case for paintings. So they are not language. But they do employ conventional signs, like language does.


            C. Goodman seems wrong about music.  Can’t tell just from the score how to reproduce or “repeat” it.


            D. In a language familiarity in varieties of contexts, grasp of syntax, is required for grasping the reference. Examples: rose, rose. Similarly in painting, music?  Historical element. Durer.


3. Problems with the art-language analogy with respect to painting, music.

                        No logical connectives

                        No negation

                        No conjoining of separate works to make more complex “statements”

                        Not clear what the lexical items in paintings, music, are.


Truth in the Arts.


1.Different ways fiction might be true.

a. Possible worlds.

b. Fiction can tell us truths about people, places. Tolstoy on families. Dickens on London etc.


2. Pictures and truth. If no language, then no truth?

a.True to life. A picture is worth a thousand words. Etc.

b. Symbols that make a statement. Polish triangles and circles.


c. Can pictures lie? Yes. In more than one way. False in relation to some particular fact.(Curtis’ photos of Indians) Or, false to “life.”


3. Music and truth. Making a statement? Lieing?

Or is music the most formal art?

Expressing and stating.




1. The ontological status of works of art: what kind of “being” do they have?  E.g. a painting, a poem, a song.


            a. spatial – non spatial (temporal)


            b. performing – non performing


            c. works that are only types – works that have tokens.


2. What is included in the work of art? Is the context part of it? Examples.


            a. Pole – the history as part of the work.



1. Context is irrelevant. 

“Message” is irrelevant (art as language?).

 Representation is irrelevant.

Artist’s intentions are irrelevant.


Intrinsic properties (presentational properties) are all that matter.

Ques. Is expression irrelevant?

            a. examples from Painting, Music, Literature, film. 

            Cf. a film remake. Content remains the same. “form” is new. Cf. p. 81


Are changes part of it?


            b. Ques. Is it possible to view (notice) ONLY the formal properties?


Answer: Different cases: Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, Braque, Brancusi, Liden, Strandqvist.  A Bach prelude. A Bach Fugue.  A Mozart sonata. A lyric. A sestina.


What are the “formal elements” in each? (goes well beyond Eaton, p. 80)

Cf. “Sonata Allegro form” – A(tonic) – B (dominant?) – repeat- Development, recapitulation A (subdominant?) – B tonic. Codas, bridges, etc. Development in bridges. Of bridges.


Fry, “the content doesn’t matter”(p. 81)

Clive Bell, religious feeling and “significant” form.

Liden and the poem.


            c. connections between formalism and “special aesthetic emotions” (see Week IV, C 3.) Connections between formalism and aesthetic attitude theories.  Connections to Plato, Kant.


NOTICE how fuzzy these distinctions actually are. One is always getting one KIND of content or another. There are lots of kinds. Eaton p. 83. Liden.



1. Kinds of context.

            a. Conventional associations (iconlogicae!)

b. artist’s life.

c. art-historical facts

d. plain old historical facts

e. including, “social” facts (political etc.)

Cf. Steen. Homer. Durer. Van Eyck (3.13). Liden. Bach’s 5th Brandenburg.


2. Marxist Aesthetics

            a. Example: Berger on oil painting vs. e.g. ink.  Possessions. The oils in English manors. (Cornwallis).

            b. problem: exceptions Rembrandt’s biblical subjects. Other kinds of counterexamples. “Ownership” and “Three Beauties.” (Ukiyo-e – pictures of the fleeting world).  Which comes first, (religious, metaphysical, ethical ) ideas or economic arrangements? Vaclav Havel.


3. Less sweeping contextualism. Walton.

            a. Which “intrinsic features” get our attention depends upon “extrinsic” information.

            b. in opposition to formalists – you cannot just stare (listen etc.) and notice certain “intrinsic” properties.

            Examples (cf. 1 c): knowing what a sonnet is (historical facts) directs our attention to the 14 line, couplet–at-the end structure. Those are standard features which determine to what category a poem belongs.

            The subject matter of the sonnet (love e.g.) is a variable feature. A poem with 13 lines could not be a sonnet, since having 13 lines is a “contra standard” feature so far as sonnets go (it disqualifies anything as a sonnet).


Other examples: how do you “hear” the opening line of Afternoon of a Faun?  Which of its formal properties stand out? Must know the genre. Suppose you were expecting a classical symphony! (What, this is no classical symphony! What gives here?). Even knowing you have an orchestra makes a difference to the “properties” of that solo. (the radical of presentation).


Week IX Break

Week X

1. Institutional theory

            a. Dickie; a work of art is

                        1. an artifact

                        2. some aspects of which have a “conferred status”

Cf. examples from Battin, avant garde art.

            a. analogies – being married, being president.  Observable features are not sufficient, or even necessary.

            b. “the art world” does the conferring. Makes something a “candidate for appreciation.”


                        1. what are the boundaries of the art world?

2. HOW does it confer (where is the “ritual”?).
            3. what counts as “appreciation”? (Many different things). Give examples.

4. not just anything could be a candidate for appreciation. Examples;

5. don’t those who confer status do so for some reason? (Wolheim)

e.g. they think X is worthy of appreciation.


2. The Art World (Danto)

            a. Art worlds are constituted by “institutions”

                        1. Danto goes beyond Dickie – there is no mystery about how certain objects get a status conferred

                        2. Works of art are constituted culturally or socially – like a language.


            b. Identifying something as a work of art requires initiation into a culture.

Cf. Seeing scribbles and seeing a sentence (something “meaningful”).


3. Eaton – art and traditions of discourse.

            a. x is a work of art iff x is discussed in such a way that audiences attend to intrinsic properties of x considered worthy of attention in aesthetic traditions (e.g. moulding in late Renaissance art).

            b. worthy? What about “bad” art?

                        1. Both bad and good art invite attention to the same sorts of properties, i.e. those that are attended to within current aesthetic traditions.

                        2. In bad art, those properties do not please (don’t please whom?).



            a. Certain basic forms or structures are found across cultures – cf. fairy or folk tales.

                        1. problem – James writes novels for sure – they fit that genre. But, THAT is not what matters most about them. What does?



            a. The “elements” that constitute art works are not fixed by any interpretation or linked to anything permanent.

                        1. the elements (e.g. words, sentences) interact with each other, with larger contexts, endlessly. Cf. the sentence on p. 99, Eaton.

                        1. Texts (etc.) as occasions for “play” which never comes to an end.

                        2. Spy the “ideological” constructions and de construct them.





Lover’s kiss

Representation? Resemblance? Convention? Iconic symbol?












Durer: Melencolia I

Denoting? Referring? Symbolizing? DEGREES of iconicity.

Reference within a system.





Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts
Oil on panel
118.5 x 88.5 cm
The Frick Collection, New York







Fan K'uan (d. after 1023)
Travelers Amid Streams and Mountains
Hanging scroll
Ink and color on silk



Franz Marc; Blue Horses



Winslow Homer     Gulf Stream






Van Gogh  - Shoes


Questions about interpretation:

















Linear (Durer)



Painterly (Ostade)

Setting works from different periods “side by side.”




Mondrian  Yellow, Red, White




Mondrian   Broadway Boogie Woogie


Using Mondrian to illustrate a distinction between “style” and “repertoire” (Wollheim)

Setting an individual artist’s works “side by side.”





          Tolstoy’s (good) question. Either get a good answer or change your lives!!!


          1. examples. The flower vase (p. 127)

                   a. economic value

                   b. sentimental value

                   c. historical value (cf. Afghanistan’s Buddhist statues)

                   d. art historical value

                   e. cultural value

                   f. ethical value

                   g. religious/ “philosophical” value (e.g. epistemic value)

                             1. c, e, f, g, as “truth” values (cf. art as “language”)


          2. what does “aesthetic value” amount to when separated from 1a-g?

                   a. inherent value?(cf. formalism, theories of “aesthetic experience”, “disinterested contemplation” etc.  Contrast with?)



                   b. consequential value? (cf. Plato –

Aristotle –

Tolstoy – (think of what he DID value)


3. Art and ethical values.

N.B. Eaton connects consequential value in the arts with consequentialist ethics.  THAT IS MOSTLY CONFUSING OR A MISTAKE.   


Illustration: Plato is certainly not a consequentialist in ethics. But he evaluates art in terms of its value for knowledge. What makes the arts bad, or suspect, is that they make people even more ignorant than they already are (i.e. it has that bad consequence). But what is bad about being ignorant is not that IT has bad consequences, but because it is an intrinsically bad condition to be in.


One other sorry defect in Eaton: she begins by trying to limit the discussion of art/ethics to “consequentialist or deontological” ethics. But it seems pretty clear that the arts connect up with ethics largely through “VIRTUES” and some of her examples even illustrate that, e.g. Putnam, Richards.

          Illustration: coming to see the world in various (richer?) ways might contribute to development of “character.”  Virtues are “character” traits.

                   a. art and violation of moral principles (examples from Battin)


                   b. art and production of bad consequences (examples from Battin)



c. Pornographic “art” as an example.

          1. moral principles

          2. bad consequences

                             3. Consider that the bad consequence might be the “stunting of growth.”


          4. Art and Public Policy

                   a. The NEA. Serrano.

b. Public art. Serra’s “Tilted arc” (v. Battin p. 181-193)

c.  Public commemoration, history ( the Vietnam memorial) and aesthetic value.



          1. aesthetic experience is –


          2. aesthetic value is –

                   a. problem with 2. The notion of “pleasure” is either too broad or too narrow.

                             1. too broad if it includes any “pro attitude.”

                             2. too narrow if construed as mere sensuous enjoyment.


          3. In fact, Eaton’s account still belongs to the “grand narrative.”



1. the (300 year old) GRAND NARRATIVE.

          It consists of these ingredients:

          a. art has now (by the 18th cent.) “freed” itself from service to anything extraneous to itself. And that is supposed to be progress! (Be able to illustrate the theoretical expressions of this idea from course content).

          b. it is progress because when it is thus freed, art “comes into it own”, finds its proper place in life. Freed art can shape our engagement with it in the proper or appropriate way.

                   1. properly, it is the object of “engrossed contemplation.”


          c. art releases us from social fragmentation, reintegrates human life into a “pristine” condition (the romanticist idea).

1. Art works as objects of transcendent worth.

2. The prophetic/messianic mission of art.

3. Art works as an avenue to “God” construed ala Bell.


          2. Give up the grand narrative!!

                             a. art works, and artists, are not the unsullied items that the grand narrative supposes. (cf. Pound)

                             b. and anyway, art works are still immersed in “uses” of all sorts.

                             1. “crafts

                             2. commemorative or public art

                             3. liturgical art

                             4. “political” art

                   c. the “mode of engagement” with such art is NOT disinterested, engrossed contemplation. (cf. kissing the Vietman memorial and kissing icons).   Consider also the mode of engagement with certain photographs.


Lillegard (yah, that’s right)

          1. A codicil to Wolterstorf. Art is not at an end. The Grand Narrative is?

Ordinary Narratives, tradition rooted in day to day contingencies, constitute art works in ways that make a great variety of modes of engagement possible.


                   a. Inta Ruka (narratives of birth, suffering, death, for remembering or memorial) Contrast to Adams, or Maplethorpe.

                   b. Gorecki – memorial, again. The virtues of remembering “roots.” History filtered consciously (rather than unconsciously!)

                   c. Rouault – memorial, protest, religion.

                   d. Kate Campbell (local history and…)

                   e.  Anselm Kiefer (ironical /serious use of mythical, architectural, literary traditions, historical memory etc.)


Rouault – Old King  - traditions of production, thought and belief, social protest, testimony to conscience, le sang du pauvre.




Anselm Kiefer

Two smaller works from the same period, principally in watercolor, combine darker themes with lush visual presentations. Your Golden Hair, Margarete (1980) quotes Romanian Jewish poet Paul Celan's poem Death Fugue, which is set in a concentration camp. Kiefer has sometimes depicted the German heroine's locks as straw adhered to the canvas; in this work, they appear in watercolor as sheaves of wheat in a field.



Winter Storm Clearing


In each of his images Adams aimed to modulate the range of tones from rich black to whitest white in order to achieve perfect photographic clarity. He also developed a knowledge of the techniques of photographic reproduction to assure that the quality of any reproduced work might approach as closely as possible the standard of the original print.

Think of Bullough in the fog!


Mapplethorpe: formalism + eroticism…not exactly a new idea! Contrast Adams and Mapplethorpe to Ruka.


Imogen Cunningham

Think Georgia O’Keefe!


Georgia O’Keefe - Jack in the Pulpit II

"A phrase O'Keeffe used in a letter to Anita Pollitzer, "Tonight I walked into the sunset". (11 September 1916), is like all of her best art: immediate, concrete, all-encompassing, with a surprising syntax. Sunset is the time when the world appears least structured, when forms tend to dissolve and are replaced by new colors and sensations. O'Keeffe acted to suspend time, producing art that would capture the transient. For example, O'Keeffe made of a flower, with all its fragility, a permanent image without season, wilt, or decay. Enlarged and reconstructed in oil on canvas or pastel on paper, it is a vehicle for pure expression rather than an example of botanical illustration. In her art, fleeting effects of natural phenomena or personal emotion become symbols, permanent points of reference.” (Jack Cowart.  Lillegard’s emphasis).  Cf. Zen flower arranging, which stresses precisely the fact of contingency, impermanence, the approach of decay.  


Where does art leave off, and decoration begin? You would never feel tempted to ask that question about Ruka’s work. It clearly is not decoration. The same cannot be said for O’Keefe (which is not to say that her art is not valuable in various ways).



Test questions:

1. According to Weitz it is not possible to define ‘art.’ Why?

2. Mention some reasons for thinking that what makes something a work of art is the intentions with which it was produced.  Some reasons against. Give an example or two.

3. ditto 2, but “circumstances in which it was produced or presented.”

4. Eaton proposes a fourfold classification of aesthetic theories: they are

5. Eaton mentions six construals of ‘X (a work of art) expresses E.’ What are they? What is a point in favor of each one? A point against?

6. If artists express emotions in their works, does that make art “irrational?” Why would anyone think so? What would Plato have said? Aristotle?

7. Give some examples of the sorts of qualities or properties that a person of “taste” attends to in art works. Give a criticism of the view that certain qualities are noticed only by a person of taste, whereas others can be noticed by just about anyone. Use Sibley on Van Gogh for examples.

8. What is meant by the “aesthetic attitude?”  Illustrate the idea from Twain and Bullough.

9. One problem with aesthetic attitude theory is that it applies equally well to ________ nature and ___ works.  It completely leaves the artist’s own activity out of the account.

10. What is the problem of negative emotions? Give some examples of art works involving negative emotions, and give an account of them that explains why people would be interested in such works. 

11. Discuss two versions of the view that art works are the result of a special kind of creative activity.

12. What might be some examples of special aesthetic emotions?

13. Describe a case of an ordinary emotion that is included in a response to an art work, but in a special way.

14. Give an illustration of Dickie’s view that what distinguishes aesthetic response is the things that are attended to, rather than the manner of the response.

15. The following are ways in which art works, or elements in them, have been thought to refer to something: they might refer by representing; imitating; resembling; being conventionally related to; standing for.  Illustrate each of these using the following examples (a single example might illustrate more than one of these); Handel’s ‘All we like Sheep;’ The bat, and the compass, in Durer’s Melecholia I ; Hobo signs and road signs; a musical phrase (Handel); Brancusi’s “The Lover’s kiss;”  The figures in Jan Steen’s painting; Battin 3.13, 3.15.

16. Discuss two ways a work of fiction might be “true.” Give examples.

17. Discuss two ways a painting or other visual art might be “true” Give examples.

18. Discuss ways in which fiction or visual art might be “false” or “lie.”

19. Various “signs” or symbols in art works vary in their degree of “iconicity;” Illustrate with reference to a piece of music, a painting or sculpture. You can use the examples from question 15 if necessary.

20. Could works of visual art, or of music, have a “syntax?”  Illustrate.

21. Give a few examples from painting, music, literature, of “formal” properties.

22. Formalism: use several examples of different sorts of art works that might suggest different answers to this question: is it possible to notice only the formal properties of an art work?

23. Give some examples of art works that exist only as types. As tokens.

24. Formalists supposedly claim that the only properties of works of art that deserve attention are those immediately present in the work. Critique this notion by connecting it  to

                a. the “grand narrative”

                b. Clive Bell’s “pantheist” religiosity


25. Mention as many different kinds of “context” of an art work that might be important to its status and significance as an art work as you can think of.

26. Give an illustration of Marxist contextualism using two of the works above.

27. Give several illustrations of Walton’s anti-formalist notion that which intrinsic features of an art work get our attention depends upon extrinsic information.

28. Explain what Dickie means when he claims that art works have features due to a “conferred status.”  Then offer three criticisms of the institutional theory.

29. Give reasons for thinking that there is no such thing as pure “factual” description of an art work.

30. Give reasons for thinking interpretation of art works is not merely “subjective.” Include a discussion of the kinds of “reason giving” involved in interpretation, and the idea of the non-transferability of critical judgments.

31. Use the cited interpretations of Winslow Homer and Gaugin (spirit of the dead watching) to illustrate “political correctness” in criticism.

32. Illustrate the idea that criticism consists in “inviting and pointing” by considering the following cases:    

                a. pointing out art-historical facts by setting Durer and Ostade side by side (what fact become noticeable?) Give another example.

                b. pointing out facts about repertoire by putting one artist’s work next to another of that same artist’s work (cf.Mondrian).

                c. pointing out various “unities” in a Tolstoy story.

                d. pointing out the fact that the early 18th cent. is an age of increasing “individualism” (cf. Bach’s Brandenburg concerto #5)

                e. pointing out

33. For each of 32 a-d, connect to question 25.

34. Illustrate Eaton’s definition of art by reference to typical reactions to Egyptian wall paintings on the one hand, a Rembrandt portrait on the other.

35. Show how interpretation of an art work can be improved or made more correct by attending to

                a. the artist’s intention

                b. art-historical facts

                c. ordinary historical facts

                d. facts intrinsic to the work.

   Illustrate each of these from Battin, Eaton or class examples.

36. a.Mention at least three “other values” that might conflict with so-called aesthetic value. Illustrate (from Battin, Eaton, class). Begin with a discussion of Tolstoy, and mention Plato, and Riefenstahl.

     b. mention at least three “other values” that might be enhanced by or communicated through art works. Illustrate. Mention Aristotle in one illustration.

37. Discuss several difficulties in separating “esthetic” value from other values. Illustrate.

38. Discuss issues of art and public policy in relation to Serrano, Maplethorpe, Serra. Sketch several positions (e.g. “there should be no public art” or “art should be constrained by moral norms”) and argue pro and con.

39. Describe the main ingredients in the “grand narrative” as Wolterstorff conceives it. Then illustrate some alternative (non-grand narrative) approaches to art works.

40. Illustrate each of the following (discussed in Wolterstorff and Lillegard) using examples from class, and point out different kinds of engagement with art works which these examples suggest;

                a. art and memorial (give several)

                b.  art and narrative (esp. keep in mind ordinary life narratives, “birth, copulation, death” ).

                c. art and morality (discuss virtues in particular. See quote 1 below)

                d. art and religion

                e. art and political statement

                f. the end of art,  decoration, and formalism.

                g. art and testimony (testifying). To what? Truisms.

Include a discussion of the photography of Adams, Maplethorpe, Ruka wherever they fit.


Inta Rukas photographs were the core of Latvia’s exhibition (of three major artists) at the 48th Venice Biennale (1999), titled “Stories, Story Tellers.”


1. A quote from “Spirit and the End of Art”

“A story, if it is going to work as a story and not just as an incidental means to the expression of an ideology, must show the unfolding of life through time.  And that in turn requires continuity in its subjects. Now virtues are precisely such formed traits as provide continuity in a life.  Our ability to appreciate a life as virtuous depends upon our grasp of the way in which existence gets form through passionate commitment and formed response. Virtues are precisely patterns of formed response, dispositions of thought, feeling and action which continue and enforce a coherent life. Vices too take on significance in relationship to possibilities of achieved continuity. We understand what it means for a life to fall apart because we understand what it means for a life to come together”


Another quote to reflect on;

2. “The photographs of Inta Ruka should be viewed as an amalgamation of images and text. . .it is a broad and clear manifestation of an ethical position. To quote Prof. Klavins; “it reconciles with reality.”  Even though people may be inscribed in some particular social context. . .for me, you and her country people there is only one life with a beginning and an end.” (Helena Demakova, in Inta Ruka: My Country People)



3.        “ In  Rilke's poem "Death Experienced," in memory of

Countess Schwerin, he writes: "when, though, you went, there broke upon

this scene/a shining segment of realities/ in at the crack you

disappeared through: green/of real green, real sunshine, real trees."3 

It is remarkable how close in spirit, even in detail, Rilke's lines are

to the following lines from a poem by Orville Kelly written to his wife

as he faced certain death from cancer: "Summer, and I never knew a

bird/could sing so sweet and clear,.. .I never knew the sky could be so

deep a blue, /Until I knew I could not grow old with you..."4 These are

characteristic expressions of the grace-filled enhancement of existence

which can only be realized in the face of my own death, fully accepted.

At this point I will enter a few remarks on cloning, as promised above. My original argument was intended  to establish the claim that what we can sensibly say and think about ourselves depends in part upon the fact that we are the kind of beings who are begotten, born, reproduce in a certain way and die. Being born contrasts with being manufactured. We count as "our kind" others brought into existence in like manner, that is, through acts of begetting which are fundamentally biological and not subject to perfect control.  Thus it is natural even for many people who are not religious believers to think of a child as in some way a "gift." These facts have, I believe, a direct relevance to what we should think about cloning of humans. In his testimony before congress the theologian/ethicist Gilbert Meilander argued that the idea of "begetting" is essentially opposed to "making" and that the fact that our children are begotten rather than made is fundamental to the conceptual background required for thinking of them as free and sharers in a common dignity, as more than just functions of our individual projects or outputs of our desires and wishes.(Meilander's statement, presented to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission on March l3th, 1997, is printed in First Things, #74 (July/August 1997), p.41-43.) The fear that cloning would alter that background is I believe well founded.

                I have accused Sennett of gnosticizing tendencies. The gnostics' distaste for earthly life is rooted in a hatred of contingency, the limitations of space, time,  mortal embodiment and our inability to control our lives, which seem to them obstacles to

"spiritual" release and realization. . .”

                (From Lillegard,  Reply to Sennett and Wildman” in CrossCurrents 1998)