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PPR.301: Aesthetics

Tutor: Professor Alison Stone
Term: Lent

Course Description

This module introduces central issues, problems and theories in philosophical aesthetics by critically examining specific topics in the philosophy of art and by examining the theories of major figures who have contributed to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics. The course uses concrete examples from most of the arts, including painting, literature, film, and music, to illuminate theoretical debates and issues.
Topics and major aesthetic theorists covered may include the following (note this list is indicative and not all topics or theorists will be covered each year):•  Aesthetics in the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy  •  The aesthetic theories of Plato, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Frankfurt School  •  Definitions of art  •  What is tragedy and what is its aesthetic significance?  •  Beauty and its definition  •  The relations between art, religion and philosophy  •  The connections between art and morality: Can or should ethical evaluations affect aesthetic evaluations?  •  The changing historical context and circumstances of art, including in the ancient world and in modernity  •  The ‘culture industry’ and its impact on our responses to art  •  Can aesthetic judgements ever be objective? If so, how?  •  Disinterestedness  •  The relations between aesthetics and politics: Should art be politically committed? If so, in what ways?

Learning Outcomes:    

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a solid grasp of some central issues in philosophical aesthetics.
  • Show understanding of how these issues are connected to other issues in philosophy.
  • Be able to present this knowledge and understanding in a systematic written form.


40% coursework and 60% exam.
Coursework: 1 essay of 3000 words.  Exam: 2 hours. 

Teaching Method:

Lecture (1.5 hours) and seminar (1 hour) weekly.

Introductory Reading

Bowie, A                                                   From Romanticism to Critical Theory, Routledge 1997
Cazeaux, C                                               The Continental Aesthetics Reader, Routledge 2000
Hammermeister, J                             The German Aesthetic Tradition, Cambridge University Press, 2002
Lamarque, P & Olsen, S H (eds)                       Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition, Blackwell 2003
Neill, A &  Ridley, A (eds)             Arguing about Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates, Routledge 2001.


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