Final Exam Study Questions
Aesthetics, Fall 07
Students: There are lots of questions here, I know. 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). But let me warn you, there will be questions on the exam from the non-starred study questions as well.
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.
Davies, Ch 5: Interpretation
9. According to Davies, when is interpretation necessary? Answer this question by giving examples of when it is and is not needed.
10. *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.
11. *Identify the five theories of interpretation that Davies discusses and, using examples, explain the differences between them.
12. What is actual intentionalism? What are unrealized intentions? (Give an example.) How are the two related?
13. Identify two distinct plausible objections to actual intentionalism and explain them using examples.
14. *What are the two alternatives to intentionalism in art interpretation (that is, the idea that the author’s intentions fixe the meaning of the work of art)
15. What is the “value maximization” theory of interpretation? Explain it using an example. What is one objection to this view?
16. What is the “meaning constructivism” theory of interpretation? Explain it using an example. Does Davies accept this view? Why or why not?
17. Identify the theory of interpretation that sees the goal of interpretation as being to: (1) understand the work as a communication from the author to the audience; (2) achieve the appreciative satisfactions art can bring.
18. 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?
19. 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
20. *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.
21. *Explain why Neill thinks that jealousy directed at fictional characters is not possible while envy is. Now consider fear.
22. *Does Neill think it is rational to be afraid (for oneself) of fictional? Why or why not? How does he account for fear one sometimes feels in response to fiction?
23. Explain how the “cognitive theory of emotions” creates trouble for the idea that emotional reactions to fiction are possible.
24. Using the example of pity, identify and explain one way “to explain away the supposed pity directed at fictional characters.” That is, give one alternative to the view that emotions in response to fiction are genuine emotions directed at fictional characters.
25. Does Neill think that we believe that “Harry Potter was courageous?” If so, how does he understand the meaning of this belief?
26. *Does Neill think our beliefs about fiction are “fictional beliefs” or actual beliefs? What is the difference?
27. 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? How?
28. Give examples of an emotion that result from imaginatively placing ourselves in the position of others and then an example of an emotion that does not result from this mechanism.
29. Explain the potential problem that arises from enjoying fictional suffering of characters that we pity? How does Neill solve this problem?
30. 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?
31. What problem does Neill identify from noting that pity requires that we desire for the suffering to end when our pity is aimed at fictional characters? How does he resolve this problem?
32. How does Neill respond to the objection that pitying fictional characters implies that we want the author to have written the story differently (so that the fictional characters do not suffer), but in fact we don’t want the story to be written differently? (Hint: iced buns example).
33. Are our emotional response to fiction typically shorter and less intense than our responses to similar real-life situations? If you think so, what accounts for this difference?
Davies, Ch 6: Expression and Emotional Responses
34. Using examples, explain Davies distinction between the internal and external perspectives on a work of fiction.
35. Explain what it means to say that Davies thinks emotions are a varied lot.
36. Give an example where the emotions/attitudes of a work of art differ from the emotions/attitudes of its protagonist (the main character).
37. *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).
38. *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?
39. Must a composer of music feel the emotion the music expresses while she composes the music?
40. 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?
41. Explain how the idea of resemblance might help explain how music can express emotions.
42. What does it mean to say that emotional responses to music are cognitive? Does this suggest that we get emotions from music by contagion or osmosis?
43. *In terms of being cognitive or not (that is, do they involve beliefs or not) , does Davies believe the emotional responses to music and emotional responses to fiction are similar? Why or why not? What are his views about the cognitivity of emotional reposes to fiction and to music?
44. Why might someone think emotional responses to fiction are irrational? Does Davies? Why or why not? Is it rational to pity dead people?
45. Why do Davies (and others) think the appreciation of tragedy is in need of explanation?
46. *What is one explanation of why we seek out tragedies that Davies rejects? (Hint: It has to do with wether or not the experience of tragedies is unpleasant). Why does he reject it?
47. *What is Davies response to this “paradox” of tragedy? In other words, what is his account of why it is worthwhile to appreciate tragedy even thought the experience is often saddening, harrowing, or unpleasant?
48. In what way does Davies think appreciating difficult art (e.g., tragedy) is like life?
49. Does Davies think it is pleasure alone that explains our interest in art? Explain why or why not.
Ned Hettinger, Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation
50. What is aesthetic protectionism/preservationism?
51. What are the two objections to using animal beauty for aesthetic preservationism that Hettinger address in his paper?
52. What are some reasons for thinking it morally problematic to value and treat people differently based on their aesthetic merit? Does Hettinger think these reasons apply to valuing and treating animals based on aesthetic merit?
53. Is beauty a trivial value in humans, according to Hettinger? Explain the distinction between physical beauty and deeper beauty.
54. Is a sole focus on human physical beauty demeaning? Is a sole focus on animal physical beauty demeaning? What does Hettinger think about these issues?
55. Does Hettinger accept, apartheid, autonomy or integrationism? What are the differences between these three views?
56. Does Hettinger think pollution sunsets are beautiful? Why or why not? Defend your own view of the matter.
57. What are the disvalues involved in predation? What are the positive values involved in predation?
58. *Does Hettinger believe predation is aesthetically negative? Why or why not?
59. Is it sick to aesthetically appreciate the infliction of suffering and death on a sentient animal?
60. *How might the suffering of the prey in predation deepen the aesthetic experience of predation?
Allen Carlson, Is Environmental Art and Aesthetic Affront to Nature?
61. *What is Carlson’s definition of env. art? Is any piece of art that is located in nature, env. art? Was Tilted Arc environmental art?
62. *Explain what Carlson means when he says that his criticism of env. art is not a moral or ecological criticism, but rather an aesthetic one.
63. *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?
64. Does Carlson accept the argument that since some env. art looks identical in appearance to the eyesores of industrial use of nature that 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, they have the same aesthetic qualities.
65. Why does Carlson think LHOOQ and Monty Python’s David constitute aesthetic affronts and how does he think this shows that some env. art is also an aesthetic affront to nature?
66. *Explain Carlson’s response to the objection that env. art is often temporary and thus it will not constitute an aesthetic affront to nature.
Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers and Tides
67. Describe the type of art that Goldsworth produces. Is it environmentally friendly or not? Present as strong an argument as you can for both sides of this dispute. What would Allen Carlson say about Goldsworthy’s art? Tie your answer into the details of his article.
Davies, Ch 7: Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts
68. Give an example of picture that is not representational. Now give an example of a pictorial representation that is not an artwork.
69. *Explain how Davies uses the concept of style to distinguish between pictorial representations that are art from those that are not art.
70. Does Davies accept the idea that only pictorial representations that are art have style and that non-art pictorial representations lack style?
71. Using examples, explain the difference between indirect seeing something and seeing a representation of something
72. 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.)?
Kendall Walton, Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality
73. *I 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.
74. Can a racist joke be funny? Explain how this question can be explored by using the above three positions.
75. Walton provides a argument against apartheid. State, explain and assess this argument.
76. *Waton gives some examples explaining how a moral defect in an artwork might also constitute an aesthetic defect. Explain these examples. Are they plausible?
77. 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.
78. Walton gives an argument to explain why we might be worried about “imagining believing in a moral perspective we find offensive.” What is this argument and is it a strong one?
79. *Walton argues that there is an “asymmetry” in our reactions to a work of fiction getting the morals wrong and to it getting factual matters wrong. Using concrete examples, describe this asymmetry. 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?
80. How does this asymmetry provide evidence for anti-intentionalism about the meaning of art?
Davies, Ch 8: The Value of Art
81. What is an example of an “extrinsic value” of art? Does Davies agree with the advocates of “art for art’s sake” that such extrinsic values are never relevant to the value of art as art?
82. *Explain Davies views on the degree of universality and objectivity in the assessment of art’s value. Identify and explain the two objections that Davies considers to the view on this matter that he takes, and then explain Davies responses.
83. Describe what an ideal art expert (one whose judgement of the value of an artwork is reliable) would be like, according to Davies and Hume.
84. Does Davies accept the cultural relativist account of judgements of art’s value? Does Davies think any dimensions of artistic goodness will be culturally localized?
85. Does Davies think that ideal art experts can disagree about art’s value?
86. Let’s assume that such experts do sometimes disagree, does Davies think “subjective relativism” follows (i.e., that all opinions about art’s value are equally worthy and that such opinions are simply unsupported expressions of idiosyncratic preferences)? Why or why not? How does Davies use a medical analogy to support his case?
87. Explain why some have argued that photography is artistically inferior to painting. Does Davies agree with this idea? Explain why or why not.
88. *What is Davies’ view of the following: Art lovers are interested in art because of the pleasure it brings them. Make sure you discuss the issue of the relationship between art and the identity of the art lover and the analogy between a mother’s relationship with her children and the art lovers relationship to art.
89. *Give examples of cases where the immorality associated with an artwork is irrelevant to its identity and content (and explain why it is). Now give examples where such immorality is relevant to the artworks content and identity.
90. Assume that it was immoral for Van Gogh to cut off his ear. Is that immorality relevant to the identity and content of the painting he painted right before he did this? Why or why not?
91. *Using examples, explain the distinction between immoral material depicted by art and the point of the view of the art work (e.g., film) toward what is depicted itself being immoral
92. *What is Davies view on whether the immorality of an artwork is an artistic defect or not?
93. What is “immoralism.” What does Davies say about the film The Accused that suggests a possible example of immoralism?
94. Identity and explain Davies examples of genres the he argues endorse immoralities but that such endorsement does not lead to artistic defects.
95. *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.
96. Explain Davies objections to (some) pornography. Explain his objections to Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Make sure you use the distinction between documentaries and fiction in your explanations.
97. 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.)
98. 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)?