539 aesthetics

Spring 2005
H 2-5 pm Buchanan D302

Dominic McIver Lopes

An examination of recent philosophical work in aesthetics and metaphysics. The primary focus of the seminar is the ontology of art, with special attention to the implications of views in the ontology of art for views about the appreciation of art works. Specific topics include theories of the relationship between performances and works performed, monist and pluralist ontologies of art, Platonism about multiple-instance art works, categories of art, and the necessity of art works' origins. We will also read some related literature on the existence of fictional characters. All readings represent the most recent research on these topics in the analytic tradition. In addition, two philosophers who have made important contributions to these topics will visit the seminar to discuss their current work. Students with a background in art history or art theory are especially welcome.


Photocopy package available from the instructor for a modest fee.


Each member of the seminar will normally make at least one presentation. A mark for the presentation constitutes one quarter of the final course mark. Another quarter of the final course mark reflects general participation in the seminar. The remaining half of the final mark will be awarded for written work.

There is no set format for written work. Members of the seminar may opt to submit a fully researched term paper or any number of shorter non-research papers, in consultation with the instructor and taking into account their background and their goals for the course. The total length of material submitted for evaluation should normally fall near five thousand words, but this is only a rough guideline.


September 8 Introduction: An Overview of Aesthetics and Metaphysics
September 15 Literature as Performance
Peter Kivy, The Performance of Literature (manuscript)
Presentation: Dominic Lopes
September 22 Pluralism + Structuralism: Autographic and Allographic Works
Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1976) 99-123
Presentation: Josh Johnston
September 29

Anti-Platonism + Contextualism
Jerrold Levinson, "What a Musical Work Is," Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980) 5-28
Presentation: Jenn Neilson

October 6 Platonism
Julian Dodd, "Musical Works as Eternal Types," British Journal of Aesthetics 40 (2000) 424-40
Presentation: Hugh Hunter

Ben Caplan and Carl Matheson, "Can a Musical Work Be Created?" British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (2004) 113-34
Presentation: Dominic Lopes
October 13

Monism: Works as Actions
David Davies, Art as Performance (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) 127-76
Presentation: James Kelleher

October 20 TBA
October 27

Necessity of Art Works' Origins
Guy Rohrbaugh, "I Could Have Done That," British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (2005) 209-28
Presentation: Yuichi Amitani

Pragmatist Ontology
Amie Thomasson, "The Ontology of Art and Knowledge in Aesthetics," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (2005) 221-9
Presentation: Nola Semczyszyn

November 3

Fictional Characters
Amie Thomasson, Fiction and Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) chs 2, 8
Presentation: Joseph Topornycky

Gregory Currie, "Characters and Contingency," in Arts and Minds (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 28-42
Presentation: Gemma Celestino

November 10

Categories of Appreciation
Kendall Walton, "Categories of Art," Philosophical Review 79 (1970) 339-67
Presentation: Patrick Edwards

Dominic McIver Lopes, "True Appreciation" (manuscript)
Dominic McIver Lopes, "The Medium Is the Medium" (manuscript)

November 17 No class
November 24 Seminar Led by Amie Thomasson on Artifacts
December 1

Presentations of Work in Progress
Reza Memarsadeghi
Michaela Woolley


This syllabus may be amended by the instructor at any time.