A copy may be downloaded here.

TuTh 2:30-3:45 p.m., Tarbutton 106
Office Hours: Mo. 1-2, Tu. 1-2, Bowden 313 and by appointment

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This course will examine various questions relating to art from a philosophical perspective. In the first part of the course, we will ask questions about the nature of art, such as What is art?  Does art differ from craft? Must art be beautiful? Is art universal or the same across cultures? In the second part of the course, we will ask questions about the judgment and interpretation of art, such as What is taste? Are there standards for judgment? Can art be true? How is art interpreted? Is art merely “subjective”? In the final part of the course, we will examine art’s larger context, asking Does art relate to culture, politics, religion, and technology? How? Do artists have certain responsibilities regarding content? Toward the end of the semester, each student will give a presentation using a work of art to explain and discuss one of the theories covered in the course.


At the end of the course, students will be able to

  • identify, explain, and pose thoughtful questions of several philosophical theories of art,
  • articulate and argue well for a position in class, online, and in written assignments, and
  • demonstrate an understanding of theoretical content through oral presentations.


  • Art and Interpretation: An Anthology of Readings in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, edited by Eric Dayton. Orchard Park: Broadview Press, 1999. ISBN 978144111902
  • All other texts will be posted on ReservesDirect.


  • Three 3-5 page papers, 30%
  • Three exams, 30%
  • Art Blog, 15%
  • Presentations, 15%
  • In-class Participation and Discussion, 10%
  • Attendance is mandatory.
  • No extra credit will be awarded.

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Papers: There will be three shorter critical analysis papers of 3-5 typed, double-spaced pages. They are worth 10% each. The papers provide you the opportunity to demonstrate familiarity with the texts by answering a particular prompt, which will be distributed a week before the deadline. We will discuss in class how to write a philosophical paper. You must cite sources for both direct quotations and paraphrases. Please use the MLA parenthetical style. A guide to this can be found online at the Writing Center or OWL. When it comes to citation, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Correct grammar, style, and usage are important for expressing yourself clearly, so please see the Writing Center if you need help in these areas. If you have further questions, please consult me.

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Papers should be submitted via email to by the start of class on the day it is due. Late papers will be marked down one grade step for each day late, e.g. a “B” paper one day late will be a “B-,” unless prior arrangements have been made.

Grading Scale for Written Assignments
A+       99-100
A          93-98               clear, concise, excellent grasp of the material, free of errors
A-        90-92
B+       88-89
B         83-87               mostly clear, good understanding, mostly well-written
B-        80-82
C+       78-79
C         73-77               somewhat clear, basic understanding, several errors or issues
C-        70-72
D+       68-69
D         60-68               unclear, lack of understanding, significant number of errors
F        59 and below   very unclear, little to no grasp of the material, plagued by errors

Exams: 30%. There will be three exams. Each will be in-class and will be made up of true and false, short answer, and essay questions. A study guide will be provided before the exams.

Art Blog: 15%. There is a blog component to this class, which is located at Students may opt to make their posts private to be shared only with other member of the class or public for everyone to see. More details will be given in class. Each student is responsible for writing 300 words per week in some combination of comments and posts. Students have from Monday until Saturday by 5 p.m. of each week to complete this requirement.

You may:

  • write a post that summarizes and discusses some part of the readings, e.g., “In this reading Plato says that art is thrice-removed from the truth, but I do not think this is the case. Here is my objection…”
  • write a post that expands on a discussion that came up in class or on the blog, e.g., “Last week we talked about the role of the spectator in art, but here Kant is arguing for disinterestedness. I don’t really understand what he means by this. I think he might mean…. What do you all think?”
  • write a post that applies the readings to a work of art or art genre, e.g., “Savedoff suggests that an object’s status as art has more to do with the object than a theory. Here I would like to see whether the table at Starbucks would count as art according to her analysis.”
  • write long comments on posts, e.g., “I had a similar objection to Robinson’s discussion of personality. However, I think it might be solved in this way…”, or
  • write multiple comments on multiple posts.

Remember that your contributions should be taken seriously and be seen just as that, contributions. Thus a comment such as “I liked this post” is not much of a contribution. Please also be aware that the same level of respect and consideration is expected online as in class. If you would not make a particular comment to a person’s face, do not make it on the blog. Outside of these requirements, students are welcome to post or comment as frequently as desired.

Four times during the semester, students must write a 300-word post that is a critical summary and response to the reading. Do not try to summarize the entire reading, but rather focus on one argument or line of reasoning in the text. These posts will be due either by Monday at 7pm or Wednesday at 7pm and will be written on the readings for the following class session. We will develop a schedule in class.

Presentations: 15%. Toward the end of the semester, each member of the class will be required to present a work of art, such as a painting, sculpture, brief video clip of dance, or brief audio clip of music to the class.  Students should give some background on the work, such as the artist, style, and historical context, and then discuss and evaluate the work based on ideas and language that have been developed in the course. For example, you might emphasize the formal qualities of a work and link this to Clive Bell’s formalist theory or provide an interpretation of a work based on Gadamer’s discussion of hermeneutics.  Presentations should be 10-15 minutes long. Students are also welcome (and encouraged!) to post their presentations to the course blog.

Participation and Discussion: 10%. Participation in class is important. I expect students to come to class having completed the assigned readings and with the texts in hand. Participation means not simply speaking for the sake of speaking, but contributing to the development of class discussion on comments or questions. As a fairly shy person, I understand that it can be difficult to participate verbally. I urge you to try anyway and I will also make a special note of active listening. Please also remember that participation includes respect, so disruptive behavior such as talking out of turn, arriving late or leaving early, and the use of cell phones will not be tolerated.

Attendance will be taken each class. Because we will be covering material in class that is not necessarily in the readings, it is to your definite advantage to attend each session. Unexcused absences will negatively affect your final grade. Three late arrivals will count toward an absence. When you miss class, it is your responsibility to inquire about the material covered or assignments missed.

All students are expected to follow the Emory College Honor Code. You may consult your peers when working on papers or studying for exams, but all work and wording must be your own. All work that is not your own must be cited, as outlined above. I will submit all cases of suspected academic dishonesty to the Honor Council. If you have any questions, please contact me or consult the Honor Code.

It is the policy of Emory University to provide accommodations for students with documented disabilities. You may contact and register with the Office of Disability Services, Administration Building, Suite 110 and at (404) 727-9877. If you require any particular accommodations, please meet with me by Sept. 10th so we can work together to make optimal arrangements.  Please bring your letter of accommodation to our meeting.