Paper Assignment, Philosophy 280: Aesthetics (Spring 06)

Write a 5-8 page paper on a topic of your choice in aesthetics (this includes, the philosophy of art, environmental aesthetics, and the aesthetics of the everyday). Your paper must focus on philosophical dimensions of the topic you choose and it must tie in with the ideas explored in this course in a significant way. (It must be clear that the writer of the paper was in this course.) Within these constraints, you are free to choose any topic. The paper should do two-equally important--things: Clearly explain (and analyze) what (some) others have said about the topic you choose and develop your own ideas, thoughts, and arguments about this topic. To insure that your discussion is grounded in the preexisting literature on your topic, you are required to use at least one "outside" philosophical article (or book) in your paper. The "own ideas" dimension of your paper might include criticizing (or supporting with your own reasons) the ideas of others or comparing or synthesizing them.

A one-page, typewritten description of the proposed paper is due on Thursday, March 16, 3pm, 16 Glebe Mailbox.These paper proposals should identify the topic of the paper and give a synopsis of its expected content (as much as possible). Describe the major arguments, reasons, or perspectives on the issue that the paper will explore. Try to identify and consider possible objections to the line of thinking you plan to pursue. Identify a major thesis and possible conclusion to the paper. Issues or questions that you would like help with should also be mentioned. Additionally, your paper proposal should identify and briefly summarize your outside philosophical article and explain how you will use it for your paper.

Journals in the library that are good places to look for supporting philosophical material include The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and The British Journal of Aesthetics (both of which are in the library on 2nd floor). There are also philosophical articles in The Journal of Aesthetic Education (also on 2nd floor of library). You can search the above journals on line (in some cases by keyword and in others by looking at titles). Aesthetics on line (see course webpage) has a page with links to aesthetics bibliographies. See also the aesthetics encyclopedias listed on the course webpage.

I have put an aesthetics bibliography of mine that is mainly (thought not exclusively) dedicated to environmental aesthetics on our course website as well.

One simple way to find you outside philosophical article would be to choose one of the articles from Arguing about Art that we will not be reading.

The paper is due on Thursday, April 6th, 3pm, 14 Glebe, mailbox

Possible topic areas: Any of the course topics are appropriate subject matter (but others are okay as well). In addition to the list below, look at the course schedule and the midterm study questions to stimulate your choice of a topic. Don't ignore topics we will be covering during the second half of the course. You might also write a paper that consists in an explication and critical analysis of a philosophical article in the area of aesthetics, including one we have read (though your will have to work harder for originality if you choose one of these).

  • Relation of ethics and aesthetics; is ethics relevant to aesthetics?
  • The moral evaluation of art
  • The (im)possibility of beautiful but harmful nature
  • Are moral concerns relevant to the aes app of nature? Is it wrong to aesthetically appreciate an atom bomb mushroom cloud or a pollution sunset? Is it aesthetically inappropriate or only morally so (or is it aesthetically inappropriate because it is morally inappropriate)?
  • Stecker's distinction between artistic value and aesthetic value
  • Exploration of one of the conceptions of the nature of art: representation, formalism, expression theory, the Dickie's institutional theory, Danto's historical account
  • Avant-garde art and definitions of art
  • True beliefs and appropriate aesthetic appreciation
  • If a person's aesthetic appreciation is based on a false belief, does that mean that appreciation is deficient? Suppose one believes that the lakes in Minnesota were created by Paul Bunyan's blue ox Babe and that one has a powerful aesthetic response to those lakes because of this belief. Is this an appropriate appreciation of nature? Is it as appropriate as an equally powerful aesthetic response based on knowledge of glaciation and how kettle ponds form?
  • The aesthetic appreciation of nature
  • Carroll versus Carlson
  • "Emotions versus Cognition" in the aes app of nature: The Carroll/Carlson debate
  • Criticize or defend positive aesthetics for nature (and for art?)
  • Objectivity vs subjectivity in aesthetics
  • Is the aesthetics of art more objective than the aesthetics of nature?
  • Food as art
  • Are the Beatles as good as Beethoven?
  • A defense or critique of contemporary rock music
  • The nature of aesthetic properties
  • Realism vs anti-realism about aesthetic properties
  • Art forgeries: Philosophical issues
  • How important is artistic intention to art interpretation?
  • How can we be moved emotionally by fiction?
  • Public art
  • Public Subsidies for art: for and against
  • Censorship of art: for and against
  • Is environmental art an aesthetic affront to nature?
  • What is sentimentality and what is wrong with it?
  • Philosophical dimensions of architecture (or music)
  • Below is a list of paper topics that mainly focus on env. aesthetics