Midterm Study Questions for Aesthetics
(This is the final list. I've added questions on music and on a couple of class readings from the web)
Telfer, Food as Art
- Give examples of aesthetic experiences that might be considered negative (and explain why). Distinguish them from non-aesthetic experiences (and explain why they are non-aesthetic). Give examples of positive aesthetic experience that involve pleasure. Now give examples of positive aesthetic experiences that don't involve pleasure (and explain in what way they are positive).
- Do all aesthetic experiences involve pleasure? Why or why not? Are all aesthetic experiences positive? Why or why not?
- Using an example, explain the difference between the two sense of a work of art that Telfer discusses (the classifying and evaluative senses).
- According to Telfer, what is the difference between an art and a craft? How does she use this criterion to determine when food is art and not craft?
- According to Telfer, who is the composer and who is the performance artist when it comes to cooking?
- Cooking involves at least two works of art: What are they?
- Does Telfer believe the state should subsidize the art of food and provide education so that people can be knowledgeable about this art? Why or why not?
- What are Telfer's reasons for thinking the art of food is a minor rather than major art form?
- What would Telfer's reaction be the the following claim. Since there are to taste symphonies or taste sonatas, food is way too simple to be a major art form.
- On your own view, is food an art form? Why or why not? In answering this question, evaluate at the strongest arguments both for the claim it is and for the claim it is not (look at at least three different considerations on each side of this dispute). Make sure you look at this question from both the classifying and evaluative dimensions.
Davies, Ch. 1: Evolution and Culture
- Describe the biological account of the origin of art (as Davies explains it). What are some reasons/arguments for this account? How is it different from the cultural account?
- Explain the genetic story behind the view that art has a biological origin. How might art be adaptive (responsible for reproductive success)?
- Describe the cultural account of the origin of art (as Davies explains it). What are some reasons/arguments for this account? How is it different from the biological account?
- Which account of the origin of art (biological or cultural) do you think is most persuasive (if either) and why?
- Explain the distinction between art and craft. Give clear examples of each and explain how they illustrate the differences between what makes something art and what makes it craft.
- Explain the concept of disinterestedness and how it relates to art and art appreciation. Use examples in your explanation.
- Explain why someone might think that ancient “art” is not art. What would the cultural view of art say about this?
- As forcefully as you can, explain the criticism of art museums that Davies discusses. Do you think there is any merit in these criticisms? What can be said in favor of putting art in museums?
- Explain Davies’ worry about the double standard in tourist art.
Davies, Ch. 2: Defining Art
- Using examples, explain the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Can something be necessary without being sufficient? Can something be sufficient without being necessary?
- Explain the difference between the definition and the extension of the term “art.
- Give a clear-cut example of something that any definition of art must include under the category of art and then a clear-cut example of something that a definition of art must exclude from that category.
- What is anti-essentialism about art? Explain one of Weitz’s reasons for his anti-essentialism.
- Must artworks be artifacts (made by humans) or could they be found ready-made in nature? What about a piece of driftwood in a museum?
- Describe the “warehouse test/example” and explain how it relates to the issue of defining art. Why does people’s agreement or disagreement about what is art matter to the warehouse test?
- Explain the “family-resemblance” view of art’s nature and explain two of the weaknesses/problems with this view that Davies identifies.
- Explain “radical stipulativism’s” account of the nature of art. How is this view different from the view that says: “Whatever anyone says is art is art for them” (subjectivism about art)? How is radical stipulativism different from the institutional theory of art?
- Explain why Davies thinks radical stipulativism “gets things backwards.”
- What is the difference between defining art by its intrinsic as opposed to its relational properties? Give examples. How are aunts and uncles defined by their relational properties?
- What account of art is given by “aesthetic functionalism.”
- Why does Davies think that aesthetic functionalism can’t account for some of Duchamp’s ready-mades?
- Explain the institutional theory of art. Use the golf example to explain this theory. How is it different from aesthetic functionalism?
- What is the “historicism’s” account of art. Explain how historicism would view the claim that if something can be art at one time it can be art at other times. Identify and explain one weakness of historicism.
- Using examples, explain and evaluate the following: Arthur Danto argues that what can become art and the significance it has depends on when and where it is offered and by whom.
Serra's Tilted Arc (TA), Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and the Horowitz and Kelly articles
- Describe the details of the case of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc.
- Present the strongest arguments you can both for and against the claim that what happened in the Tilted Arc case was democratic (using both Horowitz's and Kelly's discussion of the case). What is your own view on this specific question. Was removing TA censorship?
- Present the strongest arguments you can both for and against the claim that removal of Tilted Arc would destroy it. Make sure you address both Serra's arguments on this issue as well as Kelly's arguments. Do you think removing it destroyed it?
- Do you think Tilted Arc should have been removed? Why or why not?
- What was Horowitz's response to the claims that Tilted Arc destroyed the beauty of the plaza and blocked the ordinary walking patterns of the users of the plaza?
- Describe and discuss the interpretations (possible meanings) of Tilted Arc, considering Serra's, Horowitz's and Kelly's ideas. Make sure you address the political interpretations of the sculpture. Explain how the debate between intentionalism and anti-intentionalism (the author's intention is or is not important for a work's meaning) fits into this discussion. How does your own view of Tilted Arc fit or not fit with these accounts?
- Should there be public subsidies for art? Why or why not? Make sure you consider strong reasons on each side of this debate.
- Why is public art a more controversial type of publicly supported art that are other types of publicly subsidized art?
- Respond to the following criticism of Tilted Arc: It looks like "an abandoned piece of construction material" and since construction waste is an aesthetic blight, so is tilted arc.
- According to Horowitz, why did TA become controversial?
- Explain why Kelly thinks that Tilted Arc was not public art. Do you agree with him?
- Explain Kelly's argument that Tilted Arc was not site specific because it lacked a kind of "reciprocity" that is needed for being site specific.
- Describe the case of Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. Was this piece of public art vastly more controversial than Serra's TA? Why might one think it should have been (and perhaps was)?
- Explain what Kelly believes Maya Lin's did with the VVM that Serra did not do in TA case. How does the case of the VVM do a better job than TA in "negotiating the controversies surrounding public art" at least according to Kelly? Do you agree with him? Why?
- Evaluate: The TA and VVM cases show that for public art to succeed it must submit to the desires, tastes, and beliefs of the public, rather than educating or challenging them about their taste, desires, and/or beliefs.
Davies, Ch. 3: Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
- Describe the views of those who embrace what Davies calls “aesthetic theories of art.”
- Describe the views of those (“contextualists”) who reject aesthetic theories of art.
- What is an aesthetic property? Give 5 examples of different aesthetic properties. Give an example of a positive and then a negative aesthetic property. Using an example, explain what it means to say that aesthetic properties are higher-order properties that are based on lower-level non-aesthetic properties.
- What is an artistic property? Give examples of 3 or 4 artistic properties of a work of art and explain why they are artistic and not aesthetic properties.
- Explain the difference between aesthetic properties and artistic properties.
- Are the artist’s intentions relevant to the artworks aesthetic properties? Why or why not?
- What does Davies think about the relative importance of artistic and aesthetic properties to the identity and content of artworks?
- Explain the “aesthetic attitude” and relate it to Mark Twain’s experience of the Mississippi after he learned to “read the water.” Do you think that adopting the “aesthetic attitude” is important for aesthetic experience? What does Davies think about the importance of appreciating art with a distanced and disinterested attitude?
- Explain how Davies attempts to show that aesthetic theory is internally inconsistent with the example of Bruegel’s Landscape with Fall of Icarus.
- Explain how Davies criticizes aesthetic theory using Lin’s Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. How would the defender of aesthetic theory respond to this criticism. Who do you think is right?
- Using three example, explain why Davies thinks aesthetic theory has trouble accounting for perceptually equivalent objects.
- Is forgery a problem for aesthetic theory? Why or why not?
- What does Davies think about the person who “delights in the gleaming whiteness of Duchamp’s Fountain”?
- Are all external, contextual, or relational properties of an artwork relevant to its artistic appreciation? Discuss using examples of such properties that are arguably not relevant to the artistic or aesthetic appreciation of an artwork.
- Should the fact that a work was created (e.g., painted) by a female rather than a male effect our appreciation of it? What does Davies think about this? Do you agree with him?
- Is Davies a “cognitivist?” Does he think that gut level responses are sufficient for aesthetic appreciation? Does Davies think appropriate appreciation of rock music involves a gut level response or thought-filled interaction?
- Identify and describe the following: Duchamp’s Fountain, LHOOQ, and LHOOQ SHAVED; Picasso’s Guernica; Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ; Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, ca 1612; Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII; Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes (1964); Chris Burden’s Shoot and Transfixed; Sherrie Levine’s photography.
(New questions) Scruton, The Decline of Musical Culture
• Explain the difference between aesthetic relativism, aesthetic subjectivism, and aesthetic objectivism. Which does Scruton embrace? What is a dogmatist? Is Scruton a dogmatist? Must an aesthetic objectivist be a dogmatist? Why or why not? Can an aesthetic objectivist agree that "everyone is entitled to his or her own tastes?" Why or why not?
• What are some of Scruton’s criticism of popular music? State them as forcefully as you can. Why does Scruton think fans of pop music do not listen to the music?
• Does Scruton reject all popular music as musically unsophisticated and equally deficient? Why or why not? Give examples.
• Does Scruton think music is relatively important or unimportant? Explain his reasons. Would Scruton support public funding of art? Why or why not?
• As forcefully as you can, explain the connection between music, dance, social character, and morals that Scruton defends. Do you agree with him? What is absolute music? Why might making Scruton’s case for these connections be more difficult with absolute music?
• Why does Scruton object to "democratic egalitarian culture?"
(New Questions) Baugh, "Prolegomena to Any Aesthetics of Rock Music"
Davies, "Rock vs. Classical"
• Explain Baugh’s ideas about the differences between how one should evaluate and appreciate rock music versus classical music. How does Davies respond to each of these suggestions? Do you think his responses are successful? Do you side more with Davies or Baugh in this debate, if either. Explain your reasoning.
• Contrast Baugh and Davies on whether or not rock music has different aesthetic standards than what govern classical music. Do you agree with one more than the other? Why or why not? Does Davies think useful generalizations can be made between these two types of music? Why or why not?
• Describe what Baugh means by "classical formalist aesthetics." What is involved in appreciating and evaluating music with these standards?
• Explain Baugh’s distinction between the form and matter of music. What are the three elements of matter that Baugh thinks are central to rock music? (For example, what is "expressivity of tone?")
• Explain Davies response to the Baugh’s form/matter distinction and to Baugh’s use of it.
• According to Baugh, what sort of intellectual skills, if any, are involved in paying attention to rock music. What role, if any, does the body play in appreciating rock?
• Where do Davies and Baugh stand on the claim that rock is a performance oriented tradition, while classical is focused on the music as specifically notated? Does either think that the primary art work in rock (or classical) is the recording? What considerations are brought to bear on this issue?
• Baugh argues that matter and performance do count in classical, but in a derivative sort of way. Explain how.
• What would Baugh’s response be to the claim that rock music is for the most part formally simple and thus musically insignificant?
• Explain the difference Baugh claims exists in classical versus rock concerning how dance is related to music. What does Davies think about this claim?
• What is Baugh’s view of the importance of faithfulness to the music/score in rock music and the importance of avoiding missing the notes the score dictates? What is Davies response to the position Baugh takes on this issue.
• Explain what Baugh might mean when he claims some rock singers are technically not very good, but nonetheless great singers. How is this possible? Give an example.
• Does Davies think that perceptions of musical expressiveness are non-intellectual? Why or why not? Does convention and socialization play a large role in hearing the expressiveness of music or are emotional responses to music built-in to human nature? What does Davies think about this? What do you think? Use examples.
• What do you think of Davies claim that Baugh’s view is that the person who appreciates rock music does not listen to it but rather has a physiological reaction to the noise it makes? Explain the difference between listening to music and responding with emotion on the one hand and having a physiological reaction to the music on the other.
• Explain Davies distinction between music that is either thick or thin with constitutive properties and give examples. Is a recording of music thick or thin? Is Jazz thick or thin? Why?
• What are some reasons Davies considers for why some might have doubts about the quality of the musicianship in rock music? Are these doubts legitimate in your mind?
(New Questions) Questions on extra class reading on the "Class Readings" column on our class webpage
• Describe the Goldfish in a Blender and Artist Leaves Dog To Die on Exhibition readings and evaluate the relevant art objects from your own perspective.
• Explain some of the aesthetically important issues that arise from the article "Is It Art or Just a Toilet Seat?" Describe the origin of the supposed art object in this case.
Davies, Ch 4: Varieties of Art
1. *What does Davies mean by “ontological contextualism,” “ontological idealism,” and “ontological Platonism?” Which view does Davies hold and why?
2. What are Davies arguments against ontological Platonism, that is, the view that artworks are abstract formal patterns (like “the square”) that can neither be created nor destroyed?
3. *Davies argues that there are two (ontological) kinds of artworks: works that can have multiple instances and singular pieces: Give examples of each and explain how they are examples of these kinds.
4. If we could make an identical copy of the Mona Lisa, should we care if the original was destroyed? What does Davies say about this? Hint: Consider his ontological contextualism. What do you think?
5. *Does Davies believes that artworks change in important ways when they are given new interpretations and new meanings by audiences? That is, does the work’s changing context continue to affect its identity after it has been created?
6. List 4 or so (changing) contextual features of an artwork that don’t affect its identity and content (according to Davies). Now mention (contextual or relational) factors Davies does think are central to the identity of artworks.
7. Davies thinks that all properties of an artwork crucial to its identity are fixed when it is created. Explain how the existence of literary trilogies (like Tolkien’s the Fellowship of the Ring and the Hobbit) support or cause trouble for this view.
8. According to Davies, does colorizing a movie involve “messing around with a given artwork” or does it involve creating a new artwork? Use examples to discuss this issue.