What is art? Is a work of art an object? What is it for something to be a “picture” “narrative,” “song” “film”? What is it for something to be beautiful? ugly? harmonious? How, why do we apply these ideas to art but also to things other than art? Why do we seek out works of art that are “beautiful” but also those we deem horrifying, tragic, or terrifying? Does a work of art have meaning and if so, is it possible to be right or wrong about what a work of art means? Is making judgments about art simply a matter of personal preference or can an evaluation of a work of art be justified? Does art matter—what is its value? How does a work of art come to be considered a “masterpiece” –or dangerous?
Aesthetics is the philosophical examination of art, a consideration of these and other questions about the nature of art, genres, aesthetic experience, criteria for evaluating works of art, and the relationship of the aesthetic to other values, to ethical, social, political, economic, and even environmental concerns. Our course readings draw from historical as well as contemporary sources and our discussions of the readings will occur in the context of specific works of art. In addition to questions about the ontology and value of art, we will also consider more recent concerns about meaning and interpretation, the politics of identity and culture in art, and art that is considered dangerous, controversial, and even “anti-art.”
This course will ask you to formulate and analyze your individual responses to works of art in ways that reflect theoretical decisions about your answers to these fundamental questions and your understanding of aesthetic theory. Your work in this course will help you develop a coherent articulation of your own aesthetic theory and the identification, understanding, development, and application of your own critical standards.
Aesthetics by Nina Mikhalevsky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at aesthetics.umwblogs.org.