Aesthetics, Study Questions for Final Exam, Fall 09

Students: There are lots of questions here. But often one question is followed by others that elaborate on the first question and sometimes even provide answers to it. Typically the questions go sequentially through the notes on the reading that I have posted, so it should be quite easy to find answers to each. I have also put a * next to questions I think are particularly important (for those of you who feel you don’t have time to think about them all). (There will be questions on the exam from the non-starred study questions as well.)

Davies, Ch 5: Interpretation

1.         *Does Davies think there are better or worse interpretations of artworks? Does he think some interpretations of art are plain wrong? Does he think there is one correct interpretation of an artwork and any other interpretation is incorrect? What do you think about these questions? Give an example of a clearly unacceptable interpretation of a work of art.

2.         *Identify the five theories of interpretation that Davies discusses and, using examples, explain the differences between them. What is the 6th theory that I proposed?

3.         What is actual intentionalism? What are unrealized intentions? (Give an example.) How are the two related? Using an example, explain a plausible objection to actual intentionalism.

4.         What is the “value maximization” theory of interpretation? Explain it using an example. What is one objection to this view?

5.         What is the “meaning constructivism” theory of interpretation? Explain it using an example. Does Davies accept this view? Why or why not?

6.         If one thinks goal of interpretation is to understand the work as a communication from the author to the audience, then what theory of interpretation will one accept? If one thinks goal of interpretation is to achieve the appreciative satisfactions art can bring., what theory of interpretation will one accept?

7.         Explain Davies distinction between a work’s significance and its meaning. How does his help him support his view that all properties of an artwork crucial to its identity/content are fixed when it is created? Does Davies think the meaning of artworks change over time?

8.         Explain the implications (and problems) of using intentionalism to interpret the U.S. constitution. Is value maximization more plausible?

Alex Neill, Fiction and the Emotions

9.         *Neill argues that some emotions directed at fiction are possible (and rational) and some not. Give examples of each and explain why he thinks they are (or are not) possible and rational. Consider fear for oneself, fear for others, jealousy, envy and pity.

10.       How does Neill account for fear one sometimes feels in response to fiction, given that he does not believe one can be afraid for oneself?

11.       Explain how the “cognitive theory of emotions” creates trouble for the idea that emotional reactions to fiction are possible.

12.       Does Neill think that we really believe that “Harry Potter was courageous?” If so, how does he understand the meaning of this belief? Or is this just a pretend belief? Does he think we really feel pity for Harry Potter or is this a pretend/fictional emotion?

13.       Does Neill think that for pity to be rational/possible we must believe that someone is actually suffering? Does he think that fictional suffering can move us to pity? If not, why not? And if so, explain how this is possible. (Hint: Consider our ability to imaginative adopt a perspective.)

14.       *Does Neill (and does Davies) think that emotional responses to fiction are always of shorter duration and less intense than emotional responses to real happenings?

15.       *Explain how enjoying the suffering of fictional characters creates problems for the idea that we really pity them. How does Neill solve this problem?

16.       *How does Neill respond to the claim that pity involves the desire to help and since we have no desire to help people in fiction, we do not pity them?

17.       Explain the “desire for the story to change objection” and how Neill responds to it.

Davies, Ch 6: Expression and Emotional Responses Study Questions

18.       Give an example where the emotions/attitudes of a work of art differ from the emotions/attitudes of its protagonist (the main character).

19.       *Does Davies think musical expressiveness is objective or subjective? Explain these terms. How does his view on this related to the issue of whether or not music is fine grained in its expressiveness? If one person hears music as sad, another says it expresses grief, do they disagree (according to Davies)?

20.       *Explain and contrast the following accounts of how it is that abstract music (w/o words) can be expressive: Associative account, expression theory, emotivism/arousal theory, expressiveness is in the music itself without it being any person’s emotions. What are some problems with each of these theories?

21.       Must a composer of music feel the emotion the music expresses while she composes the music? (Expression theory)

22.       Is it because a piece of music is sad, that it makes people sad, or is it sad because it makes people sad? What is the difference? What is Davies view on this? (Emotivism/arousal theory)

23.       Explain how the idea of resemblance might help explain how music can express emotions. (Expressiveness is in the music itself theory.)

24.       What does it mean to say that emotional responses to music are non-cognitive? What does it mean to say we get emotions from music by contagion or osmosis, and why is this a non-cognitive account of how music moves us?

25.       *In terms of being cognitive or not (that is, do they involve beliefs or not), does Davies believe the emotional responses to abstract music and emotional responses to fiction are similar? Why or why not? What are his views about the cognitivity of emotional responses to fiction and to music?

26.       What is Davies criticism of the idea that emotional responses to fiction are irrational?

27.       *What is Davies response to the “paradox” of tragedy? Why does he think it is worthwhile to appreciate tragedy even though the experience is often saddening, harrowing, or unpleasant?

28.       In what way does Davies think appreciating difficult art (e.g., tragedy) is like life?

29.       Does Davies think it is pleasure alone that explains our interest in art? Explain why or why not.

Berys Gaut, The Paradox of Horror

30.       *What is the paradox of horror/tragedy? How does Gaut respond to the paradox? Is it a version of the “enjoyment theory” (describe this theory).

31.       Explain and give examples of “negative emotions.” For Gaut, what makes a negative emotion negative? Hint: It is not that it feels bad to have it.

32.       *Describe some of the other solutions to paradox of horror that Gaut considers (e.g., Carroll’s positive outweighs negative solution, the expressivist/catharsis solution, the control thesis). Explain one of Gaut’s objections to each of these theories.

Davies, Ch 7: Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts

33.       Give an example of picture that is not representational. Now give an example of a pictorial representation that is not an artwork.

34.       Explain how Davies uses the concept of style to distinguish between pictorial representations that are art from those that are not art. Does Davies accept the idea that only pictorial representations that are art have style and that non-art pictorial representations lack style?

35.       How might style affect content? (E.g., Moore vs. Giacometti)

36.       Using examples, explain the difference between indirectly seeing something and seeing a representation of something

37.       According to Davies, are photographs representations of their subjects (like paintings) or are they more like a kind of indirect seeing (like looking through binoculars or seeing a live broadcast of a President’s speech on T.V.)? What are the considerations on either side of this issue?

38.       Explain Roger Scruton’s reasons for thinking photography is inferior to painting. What are Davies’ responses to these claims? Can photography have style?

Allen Carlson, Is Environmental Art and Aesthetic Affront to Nature?

39.       What is Carlson’s definition of environmental. art? Is any piece of art that is located in nature, env. art? Was Tilted Arc environmental art?

40.       Explain what Carlson means when he says that his criticism of environmental art is not a moral or ecological criticism, but rather an aesthetic one.

41.       What is Carlson’s response to the claim that nature cannot be aesthetically affronted since it is can not realize that it is being affronted?

42.       *Does Carlson accept the argument that since some environmental art looks identical in appearance to the eyesores of industrial use of nature that this explains why it is an aesthetic affront to nature? Explain. Evaluate this claim from your own and Carlson’s view: If two things look the same, do they have the same aesthetic qualities. How would Davies respond to this question?

43.       Why does Carlson think LHOOQ and Monty Python’s David constitute aesthetic affronts and how does he think this shows that some environmental art is also an aesthetic affront to nature?

44.       Explain Carlson’s response to the objection that environmental art is often temporary and thus it will not constitute an aesthetic affront to nature.

Andy Goldsworthy

45.       Describe Andy Goldsworth’s art. Apply Carlson’s criticisms to it. Do Carlson’s criticisms make sense with respect to Goldsworth’s art? Why or why not?

Kendall Walton, Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality

46.       Does Walton believe that imagining believing something might get one to actually believe it? Why or why not? What are his examples. Do you agree?

47.       *We distinguished between three positions concerning the relation between morality and aesthetics: Apartheid, autonomy, and integration/interaction. Using the example of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, explain each position and show how they are different.

48.       Can a racist joke be funny? Explain how this question can be explored by using the above three positions.

49.       Walton provides a argument against apartheid. State, explain and assess this argument.

50.       *Waton (and Davies) give examples explaining how a moral defect in an artwork might also constitute an aesthetic defect. Explain the most plausible of these examples.

51.       Are pollution sunsets beautiful?

52.       Should one ignore the moral failings of a work of art in order to appreciate that work of art aesthetically? Using examples, argue for each response to this question. What does Yuriko Saito think about this?

53.       *Walton argues that there is an “asymmetry” in our reactions to a work of fiction that gets the morals wrong (slavery is good) when compared to a work of fiction that gets the facts wrong (people can fly). Do you think he is right that this asymmetry exists. How does he propose to explain this asymmetry? Walton argues that humor and morality work the same way in terms of this asymmetry. Explain what he has in mind. Do you agree with him?

54.       *How does this asymmetry provide evidence for anti-intentionalism about the meaning of art?

Davies, Ch 8: The Value of Art

55.       Explain the difference between valuing art intrinsically and extrinsically.

56.       Give an example of an “extrinsic value” of art that Davies thinks is not relevant to valuing art as art and then give an example of an extrinsic value of art that Davies thinks is a value of art as art (identified and appreciated as art).

57.       *Explain Davies views on the degree of universality and objectivity in the assessment of art’s value. Explain both the cultural relativist and the experts disagree objections to Davies view. How does Davies respond to each? (Consider the medical analogy he uses in response to the experts disagree objection).

58.       Describe what an ideal art expert (one whose judgment of the value of an artwork is reliable) would be like, according to Davies and Hume.

59.       *What is Davies’ view of the following: Art lovers are interested in art because of the pleasure it brings them.

60.       *Give examples of cases where Davies argues the immorality associated with an artwork is irrelevant to its identity and content (and explain why it is). Now give examples where he thinks such immorality is relevant to the artwork’s content and identity.

61.       *Using examples, explain the distinction between immoral material being depicted by art and the point of the view of the artwork (e.g., film) toward what is depicted itself being immoral.

62.       *What is Davies view on whether the immorality of an artwork is an artistic defect or not?

63.       What is “immoralism?” What does Davies say about the film The Accused that suggests a possible example of immoralism?

64.       Identity and explain Davies examples of art genres that he argues endorse immoralities but that are not such that this endorsement leads to artistic defects.

65.       **Give a plausible example of how a moral defect in a work of art can also be (or leads to) an artistic defect. (I recommend using one of Davies or Walton’s examples.) Explain why this is the case.

66.       According to Davies, why will an artist inevitably fail is she tries to get us to believe that evil is good (e.g., that cutting up people for fun is right)?

67.       Davies embraces some moral requirements for artworks (and great artworks). What are they? (Both pornography and Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will violate these requirements, according to Davies.)

Allen Carlson, Aesthetic Appreciation of the Natural Environment

68.       *Describe Carlson's position on what is involved in the appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature and compare and contrast it with his view of the appropriate appreciation of art. Do you agree with his position?

69.       Why is the issue Carlson addresses with his talk of the “what and how question” with regard to nature appreciation. Does he think it easier to answer these questions for art or for nature? Why? Use examples. How does he propose to answer these questions for nature?

70.       *Identify three of the four models of nature appreciation that Carlson considers and rejects and explain one of his reasons for rejecting (criticizing) each.

71.       Identify and explain the two “ramifications” of Carlson’s natural environmental model (NEM) for the appreciation of nature.

Noel Carroll, On Being Moved By Nature

72.       Describe Carroll’s model of nature appreciation, giving examples.

73.       *What is Noel Carroll's major objection to Carlson's theory of the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Does Carroll reject the type of aesthetic appreciation of nature that Carlson is advocating? Why or why not?

74.       What is the problem of "aesthetic focus" (“the what and how question”)? How does Carlson address this problem? How does Carroll address it?

75.       Does Carroll think an uninformed emotional arousal is acceptable in both art and nature appreciation? Do you think he is right?

76.       Does Carroll think one can be appropriately emotionally aroused by a natural object about which one has false beliefs? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Use examples.

77.       *Given Carroll's account of aesthetic appreciation of nature as emotional arousal, explain how he accounts for the presence (or lack) of objectivity in nature appreciation.

78.       *How does Carroll respond to the objection that being moved by nature is not a deep kind of nature appreciation, whereas Carlson’s scientific knowledge based appreciation of nature is deep.

Holmes Rolston, Is All Beauty in Nature?

79.       What is the thesis of positive aesthetics (for nature)? Distinguish between several different versions of this thesis. (E.g., Rolston’s holism and Carlson’s and Hargrove’s individualism).

80.       *Explain the sense in which Rolston does and does not accept positive aesthetics. Does Rolston think anything in nature is ever ugly? Does he think nature is perfectly beautiful? Does he think it uniformly (equally) beautiful?

81.       Do you accept positive aesthetics (for nature)? Why or why not? Is the thesis of positive aesthetics more plausible for nature than for art? Explain why or why not? Does a clear cut forest undermine the thesis of positive aesthetics for nature?

82.       *Does Rolston think a rotting elk carcass filled with maggots is aesthetically positive? Why or why not?

Saito, The Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature

83.       Give examples of scenic and unscenic nature.

84.       How does Saito criticize the “entertainment seekers who pursue any path to get their aesthetic kicks, no matter how misguided” including appreciating a oak tree as if it were a maple tree.

85.       *What is (are) Saito’s criticism(s) of the way in which Rolston suggests we should aesthetically appreciate unscenic nature?

86.       *Does Saito believe that everything in nature is aesthetically appreciable? Why or why not? Explain her reasons. Do you agree with her reasoning?