Philosophy 280: Aesthetics

                                                                        (T,TH 1:40-2:55, Bell 400)

       Ned Hettinger                                                                                                      Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201

       Fall 2007                                                                                                             Office Hrs: W 10-2

       Email:                                                                               (Also, stop by my office  

       Webpage:                                                           or make an appointment) 

       Course webpage:    Office Phone: 953-5786



Course Description and Goals

This course is an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Topics include the origins, nature and value of art, the aesthetic appreciation of nature (including how it is similar and different from art appreciation), aesthetic experience and aesthetic properties, the relevance of artistic intentions, the nature of representation and expression, public art, environmental art, and animal beauty. Questions include: Is all of nature (but not all of art) beautiful? Can there be better and worse aesthetic responses to nature and/or art? Is some music (e.g., classical music) better than others? Can food be art? Are emotions directed at fiction irrational? May public art be censored? Does environmental art insult nature? Is immoral art bad art? What is wrong with being sentimental?

The course aims to acquaint you with these concepts and controversies with the goal of having each of you develop your own thinking about these issues.


Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art (2006)

       Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley, Arguing About Art (2nd ed, 2002)

Articles available on the Library’s Electronic Reserves ( and on the course web page

Course Requirements 

     Midterm exam (23%) Thursday, Oct 4

     Final exam (23%) Thursday, Dec 6, 12-3

     Paper (34%), including a one-page (minimum), typewritten paper proposal. This is a 5-8 page paper on a topic in aesthetics of your choice. Any of the course topics are appropriate (see the course schedule of assignments for ideas), but suitable topics are not limited to those we discuss. However, all papers must be significantly informed by the class readings and discussions. A paper proposal is due on Friday, Oct 26, 3pm, 14 Glebe mailbox. The paper is due on Friday, Nov 16, 3pm, 14 Glebe mailbox.

     Reading Quizzes (10%), Class Participation (5%), and Attendance (5%) (20%)

There will be brief quizzes at the beginning of class on the reading for that class period, typically one per week. There will be no make-ups for these quizzes, but you can send me an email before the class you miss briefly describing the reading for that class and that will count instead. I also offer “free quizzes” that allow students to replace missed quizzes. Class participation includes general quality of class involvement. Attendance is particularly important in this class. I want you to learn from each other. Also, developing the skill of thinking philosophically requires practice and following examples. These can't be adequately done on your own. Poor attendance will lower your grade; extremely poor attendance (missing over two weeks of class) is sufficient grounds for failing the course. If you have a good reason for missing class, please write it on a piece of paper (with the date missed and your name) and give it to me. I give assignments and distribute an attendance sheet at the beginning of class. Please come to class on time. It is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet.