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

Davies, Ch. 1: Evolution and Culture

Davies, Ch. 2: Defining Art

Serra's Tilted Arc (TA), Lin's Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and the Horowitz and Kelly articles

Davies, Ch. 3: Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

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" and
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.