PHI 3800 U02: Aesthetics – Fall 2017 Philosophy

Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Scarbrough

Class: Wednesdays 2-4:45

Location: Academic Health Center 3

Office Hours: T/Th 11:20-12:20, W 1-2, DM340B


Below is an abbreviated syllabus. Your full syllabus can be found here in pdf form (PHI 3800 Fall 2017)

Course Description:

This class is an introduction to aesthetic theory. While we will spend a considerable amount of time discussing paintings and other objects you would see at a museum, we will also discuss the aesthetics of film, nature, and human beauty. Some of the many questions that will be asked in this class include:

  1. Beauty: What is beauty? Is beauty objective reality, or is it merely “in the eye of the beholder” — i.e. a subjective psychological response that reveals nothing about the real world?
  2. Art: What is art? How do we distinguish an art object from other artifacts? What role does/should art play in society? Who should get to choose public art? Why do fakes and forgeries bother us so much?
  • Emotions/ Film: What’s the role of the emotions in art? In film? Why do we get scared when we watch a horror movie (if we know it is fake)? Why do we still find these movies scary after multiple viewings? Why do we enjoy feeling scared, repulsed, etc.?
  1. Nature: Is our aesthetic experience of nature different in kind than our experience of art? Do we do something (morally/aesthetically) inappropriate if we view nature the way we view a beautiful landscape painting? Can aesthetic arguments be made to protect nature?
  2. Human Beauty: When we say a person is beautiful, what do we mean? Physical beauty? A beautiful soul? How is our perception of human beauty shaped by our culture? By erotic desire? How does gender, race, and sexual orientation inform our concept of human beauty? Is our concept of beauty historically contingent or evolutionarily based.

Required Texts:                Arguing about Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates, 3rd Edition, Neill & Ridley editors

Recommended Text:          Scruton, Roger. Beauty: A Very Short Introduction



WEEK 1: August 23rd

TOPIC: Introductions, On Beauty

Scruton Beauty Chapter 2 (pdf)

Plato’s Symposium selections (in class)


WEEK 2: August 30th

TOPIC: Concepts of beauty

Selections from Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment


Hume, Of the Standards of Taste (


WEEK 3: September 6th

TOPIC: The sublime

Burke, Selections from A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (

Kant, Selections

Donald Crawford, “Art & Nature: Some Dialectical Relationships” (pdf)


WEEK 4: September 13th

TOPIC: Aesthetics of Natural Environments

Allen Carlson, “Aesthetic appreciation of the natural environment” (AA)

Noel Carroll, “On being moved by nature” (AA)


WEEK 5: September 20th

TOPIC: What makes something a work of art? Week 1

Shiner, “Western and Non-Western Concepts of Art” (AA)

Tolstoy, What is Art? ((


WEEK 6: September 27th

TOPIC: What makes something a work of art? Week 2

Clive Bell,

Arthur Danto, “The Artworld” (


WEEK 7: October 4th

TOPIC: Food As Art?

Tefler, “Food as Art” (AA)

Korsmeyer, “The Meaning of taste and the taste of meaning” (AA)


WEEK 8: October 11th

TOPIC: Midterm and Catch-up day


WEEK 9: October 18th

Topic: Music

Scruton, “The Decline of Musical Culture” (AA)

Gracyk, “Music’s worldly uses, or how I learned to top worrying and to love Led Zepplin” (AA)


WEEK 10:  October 25th

TOPIC: Horror Films

Carroll, “Why Horror?” (AA)

Gaut “The paradox of horror” (AA)


WEEK 11: November 1st

TOPIC: Problems in art – public art

Hein, “What is public art? Time, place, and meaning” (AA)

Kelly: “Public art controversy: the Serra and Lin cases” (AA)


WEEK 12: November 8th

TOPIC: Human Beauty

Anne Eaton, “Bodily Taste and Fat Oppression” (PDF)

Sheila Lintott and Sherri Irvin, “Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects: A Feminist Reclamation of Sexiness” (PDF)


 WEEK 13: November 15th

TOPIC: Human Beauty / Draft Day

Ted Cohen, “Personal Style” (PDF)



WEEK 14: November 22nd (Wednesday before Thanksgiving)

TOPIC: Fakes and Forgeries

Watch: F for Fake in class


Week 15: November 29th

TOPIC: Fakes and Forgeries

Lessing, “What is wrong with a forgery?” (AA)

Dutton, “Artistic Crimes” (AA)