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Aesthetics PY3130

In Aesthetics we turn to questions about the nature of art, values in art and the appreciation of nature as art. Wide reading in the history of aesthetics is necessary for a proper approach to the course. Issues in contemporary aesthetics are illuminated by their treatment throughout history, and the understanding and assessment of the views of past thinkers is facilitated by reflection on the problems they deal with.

Topics covered

Aesthetics, done properly, is as hard and as rewarding as any branch of philosophy. It is philosophy turning its attention to the nature of aesthetic experience and judgement, and to questions about art, the different art forms, how they relate to the world and to the mind, and what value they may have. Some questions in aesthetics also form part of philosophy of mind or metaphysics, for example. It is not an easy subject to study. One does best by using as material one’s own experience of artworks and of aesthetic situations, but one has to use the tools of philosophy as carefully as possible in order to think about them relatively dispassionately and in a disciplined way. There are no fixed starting points in the course, which is why, again, wide reading in the history of aesthetics is especially recommended.


One three-hour unseen written examination.

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