Philosophy 280: Aesthetics
Midterm Exam Study Questions, Fall 2004

Chapter 1: Fisher, Weitz, Gans, Hume

Chapter 3: Aesthetic Value

Chapter 8: Art and Entertainment

Chapter 2: Fisher, Tolstoy, Public Subsidies for Art

Chapter 4: Art and Morality, Wilde, and Gass

Ch. 5, Avant-Garde Art, Dickie's institutional theory of art

Chapter 9: Art as Representation

Chap 10: Formalism

  1. Explain the idea of those who claim that art is (or should be) an autonomous realm.
  2. Explain the ideas behind the slogan "art for art's sake."
  3. Does viewing art as representational compromise the autonomy of art?
  4. Does a formalist interpretation of art compromise the autonomy of art?
  5. Does a commitment to art's autonomy lead one to formalism? Why or why not?
  6. Discuss the distinction between form and content of an artwork. Give examples in which the same form holds two different contents and where the same content is embodied in two different forms. Why is Fisher skeptical about the independence of form and content?
  7. Define formalism as a philosophy of art. According to formalism what roles do representation, expression, and form play in an artwork, understood as art?
  8. According to Clive Bell's version of formalism, art provokes aesthetic emotions. How are aesthetic emotions different from "the emotions of life?" According to Bell, what about an artwork provokes aesthetic emotion?
  9. Why does Bell think that formalism (unlike the representational and expressive theories of art) explains how great art appeals to viewers in widely divergent cultures?
  10. Why does Bell think that the best observes don't understand the subject matter/content of artworks?
  11. How does Fisher use Francesca's Flagellation of Christ (p. 254) to criticize formalism?
  12. What is "media formalism?"

Chap 11: Expression Theory

  1. Explain the expression theory of art. What makes something art according to this theory?
  2. How might the institutional theory of art and the expression theory of art disagree on whether or not something is art?
  3. State and then explain Tolstoy's "causal-communication" theory of art as expression. What are its three key features? Discuss problems with each of these.
  4. What would Tolstoy's theory of art say about the following example? Dana is angry at his friend Tony, so he slaps Tony in the face in order to make him angry.
  5. According to Tolstoy, what is required for an artwork to be successful?
  6. In what way is Tolstoy's theory of art egalitarian and anti-elitist?
  7. Does Tolstoy accept the traditional masterpieces of art (e.g., the works of Shakespeare and Bach) as genuine art? Why or why not?
  8. Does Tolstoy's expression theory of art view an artwork as of intrinsic value or merely of instrumental value? Explain.
  9. According to Tolstoy, how is art similar to and different from speech?
  10. Explain the expressive property theory of art. How, if at all, are emotions of the audience or the artist relevant to this theory?
  11. Using examples, explain how the similarity theory accounts for art's expressive properties.
  12. Fisher raises two objections to the similarity theory of the expressive properties of art, both of which use the contrast between art and nature. Explain these objections and evaluate them from your own perspective.
  13. What point is Collingwood making when he criticizes Tolstoy's theory of art as promoting "psychological craft" rather than the expression of emotions?
  14. Explain Collingwood's "formulation theory of expression."
  15. What are "negative emotions"? What is the problem of negative emotions? How might one solve this problem?
  16. How could a formalist like Bell respond to the problem of negative emotions?