539 aesthetics

Spring 2007
Thursdays 12:00 - 15:00
Buchanan D306

Dominic McIver Lopes

This seminar examines recent philosophical work in aesthetics and epistemology. Four topics are surveyed during the first eight weeks of term. The first is aesthetic empiricism. What role does experience play in aesthetic value? In particular, what is the relationship between the value of a work and the value of an experience of the work? Second is the epistemic value of works of art. Can works of art convey knowledge? If not, have they some other kind of epistemic value? In any case, how is their epistemic value related to their artistic or aesthetic value? The third topic covered is generalist versus particularist theories of aesthetic judgement. Does reasoning to aesthetic judgements include general principles? For example, does reasoning that this painting is good because it is provocative imply that being provocative is a merit in paintings? The final topic is the status of aesthetic testimony. Does my telling you that the new building by Calatrava is beautiful warrant your judging it to be beautiful? If not, why not? All readings represent the most recent research on these topics in the analytic tradition. In addition, Gary Iseminger, author of The Aesthetic Function of Art, will give a seminar on some of his recent work on experience and aesthetic value. The readings for the final third of the seminar are to be determined by members of the seminar to address their own research interests or to build on the three topics listed above. Students with a background in the history or theory of any of the arts are welcome to join the seminar.


Photocopy package available from the instructor at cost. Students who are new to aesthetics and wish to do do some background reading are advised to peruse the Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, edited by Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (London: Routledge, 2005). Get it at [amazon.ca].


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 one 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.


January 11 Aesthetic Empiricism
January 18 Aesthetic Empiricism
Gary Iseminger, "Experiential Theories of Artistic Value" [DOWNLOAD]
Gary Iseminger, The Aesthetic Function of Art, ch. 3 [DOWNLOAD]
Dominic McIver Lopes, "Review of The Aesthetic Function of Art" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Gary Iseminger
January 25 Aesthetic and Epistemic Value I
Noel Carroll, "Moderate Moralism" [DOWNLOAD]
Berys Gaut, "The Ethical Criticism of Art" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Lopes
February 1 Aesthetic and Epistemic Value II
Daniel Jacobson, "In Praise of Immoral Art" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Julie Wetterwald
Dominic McIver Lopes, "Drawing Lessons" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Lopes
February 8 Generalism Versus Particularism in Aesthetic Reasoning I
Arnold Isenberg, "Critical Communication" [DOWNLOAD]
Frank Sibley, "General Criteria and Reasons in Aesthetics" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Josh Johnston
February 15 Generalism Versus Particularism in Aesthetic Reasoning II
James Shelley, "Critical Compatibilism" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Yuichi Amitani
Robert Hopkins, "Critical Reasoning and Critical Perception" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Lopes
March 1 Aesthetic Testimony I
Robert Hopkins, "Beauty and Testimony" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Jill Fellows
March 8 Aesthetic Realism
Philip Pettit, "The Possibility of Aesthetic Realism" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Lopes
Aesthetics and Interactive Works
Nicolas Bourriaud, "Relational Aesthetics" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Zoe McDougall
March 15 Aesthetic Testimony II
Aaron Meskin, "Aesthetic Testimony: What Can We Learn from Others About Beauty and Art?" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Brian Laetz
March 22 Depiction
Robert Hopkins, "The Speaking Image" [DOWNLOAD]
Dominic McIver Lopes, "The Domain of Depiction" [DOWNLOAD]
April 12 Fiction
David Lewis, "Truth in Fiction" [DOWNLOAD]
Presented by Jill Isenberg
April 14 Seminar Mini-Conference
9 am to 6 pm, Buchanan Penthouse

10:00Bence Nanay, Keynote: "The Problem of Imaginative Resistance: A Banal Solution"
11:00Jill Fellows and Joshua Johnston, "Moderate Moralism, Moderate Autonomism, and the Morally Defective Perspective"
12:00Setareh Betani, "Disregarding Prescriptions"
2:00Gerda van de Windt, "Aesthetic Experience, Cognition and Imagination: An Addendum to Guyer's Reply to Matravers"
3:00Sandro Pignocchi, "Motor Perception: Evaluating Pictures as Works of Art"
4:00Elizabeth Keeler, "Novel Performance: A Look at Jane Austen's Persuasion and Peter Kivy's The Performance of Reading"
5:00Yuichi Amitani, "The Modal Flexibility of Photographic Artworks"


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