Aesthetics

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This is the page where daily questions will be posted.

For 3/3: How does Socrates define poetry/art in the Republic, and what are his objections to it? Which of his arguments is the most compelling, which is the weakest, and why?

For 3/6: What is Socrates' argument about the relation of poetry to knowledge in Ion? What connections do you see between Socrates' arguments against poetry in the Republic and his arguments in Ion? Do you think Ion could have answered Socrates' arguments differently or more effectively so that he would not have made the absurd claim, for example, that he is a war general as well as a rhapsode?

For 3/10: Read the New York Times article from Feb 2006, "Made-to-Order Artwork to Fit a Corporate Budget":(click on link here) [1]. Now consider the work made by Novoarts in light of the readings by Tolstoy and Bell. Would Tolstoy's theory of art permit the possibility for corporate artwork to be art, under his definition? Would Bell consider it logically possible for it to be art? Use brief quotes from Tolstoy and Bell as evidence for your answer.

For 3/13: In what respects does Collingwood's theory of art respond to Tolstoy's? That is, on what key points is C. in agreement with T., and in which respects does he differ from Tolstoy? Which theory do you find more plausible and why?

Due 3/17: (See cartoon handed out in class). In the cartoon, a man and a woman are leaving the theater after a show. The man says to the woman, "I never said it wasn't good. I merely said I hated it." Is such a statement compatible with Hume's theory of aesthetic judgment? Why or why not? Give an account of Hume's theory in support of your answer, and use short quotes from the text as evidence.

A Few Words about Kant's Critique of Judgment: As we saw with Hume, our experience of beauty seems highly paradoxical. We speak about beautiful objects as though this were a quality that the objects themselves possess, and yet what we really mean when we say "X is beautiful" is that I experience a pleasant mental sensation whenever I experience X. So, the experience of beauty is subjective--it is a private sensation, just like tasting food, and yet--unlike tasting food--when we say that something is beautiful, we expect others to agree with us. When we say that something is beautiful, it is as if our judgment had universal validity, and yet we cannot "prove" that something is beautiful in the same way that we can demonstrate that it weighs 5 pounds, or is 6 feet tall, or has 3 legs, or is an elephant. Those are all judgments we could make about an object which we could prove or disprove. Judgments of taste have to do with beauty. Kant formulates the paradox concerning taste roughly as follows:

Thesis: Judgments of taste are not statements of fact that can be true or false, because if they were, then we could prove other people wrong when they make mistakes about taste (in the way that you could demonstrate to someone who makes an error in math that they have erred).

Antithesis: Judgments of taste are statements of fact that can be true or false, because if they weren’t, we could not quarrel about them, and we would not demand that others agree with us when we judge something to be aesthetically pleasing.

So this is the problem that Kant is wrestling with. When we talk about beauty, we speak as though it were a quality in the object, and we thus demand that other people agree that the object has this quality. And yet, at the same time, our judgment of beauty is based on a feeling of pleasure that we get when we look at the object, a subjective feeling. You can't take someone's word for it that something is beautiful: in order to know whether it is beautiful, you have to experience it yourself.

Due 3/24: Focus on sections 1-8 of the reading (pages 98-106), and look at the ways in which Kant distinguishes among judgments that something is 1) Pleasant 2) Good 3) Beautiful. Look for the following terms in the reading, and try to use them in your answer: faculty of desire, taste, pure judgment of taste, contemplative, gratifies, esteemed, disinterest, interest, satisfaction, subjective, objective, universal.

Note on "a priori" and "a posteriori": Kant uses these terms a lot, and they are very important for his philosophical project. For our purposes, it is enough to know that "a priori" means "before experience" and "a posteriori" means "after experience". The distinction has to do with kinds of knowledge claims (judgments). A priori truths are logically necessary truths. A posteriori truths are gained empirically, from experience.

Due 3/27: sections 31-38 plus "Remark", pp 120-127 and sections 56,57,59 pp 133-138. What is the role of exemplary models in judging beauty? Why, according to Kant, is the judgment of taste the one that "most needs examples of what has in the progress of culture received the longest approval, that it may not become again uncivilized and return to the crudeness of its first essays [attempts]" (123)?

Due 3/31: According to Kant, what is the difference between the beautiful and the sublime? Within the sublime, what is the difference between the mathematically and the dynamically sublime? P.S.: even though the response question is about Kant, it is important that you read all three pieces for assigned for tuesday.

Due 4/3: What, according to Danto, determines the difference between an art object and a mere real thing?

Due 4/7: Five questions for Dan Cameron, based on both of the readings. Please bring them written down to class on tuesday.

Due 4/10: Hegel says that "beauty acquires a totality of particular stages and forms" (148). What are the stages, what kinds of art are associated with each, and what is the reason behind that ordering--that is, what's the logic of the unfolding?

Due 4/14: "What is Wrong With A Forgery?" (Lessing) and "Artistic Crimes" (Dutton). Explain the point at issue in this debate between Lessing and Dutton. That is, what exactly do they disagree on concerning forgery? Briefly summarize the argument of each. Whose argument do you find more persuasive?

Due 4/24: "Food as Art". Explain Telfer's reasons for regarding food as a minor art form, and give a critical response to her argument. Notice her argument has at least two steps: first, she has to show that food can be art, and second, she has to show that even though it is art, it is a minor rather than a major art. You might find one of her steps more convincing than the other. Can you think of any objections to her argument that she hasn't sufficiently addressed?

Due 4/28: Kant passages on Genius, two newspaper articles in CP: In what way do Smith and Johnson draw upon Kant's understanding of the genius artist to make their arguments in support of Christoph Buechel in the Mass MoCA controversy?

Due 5/1: How do Battersby and Nochlin explain the fact that there have been few or no female artistic geniuses? Are their theories compatible with Kant’s definition of artistic genius, or not?

Due 5/8: Rear Window, Mulvey, and Carroll: Explain Mulvey's theory of visual pleasure in narrative cinema. How does Hitchcock's Rear Window exemplify her theory? Can you think of other details from the film that support her theory? Are you persuaded by her reading? Can you think of alternate interpretations or other details from the film that do not fit her interpretation?

Due 5/12: Two essays in the AS book about art from other cultures: Why do we collect things, including art objects, and what is problematic for these authors about the practice?

Due 5/15: [Bourdieu, Distinction]: What does Bourdieu mean when he says that “taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier” (6)? How does he use the surveys to demonstrate this?

Due 5/19: What are the critical perspectives that Lippard, in the Art in America article, and the US Sentate, in their comments, use to understand and evaluate Serrano's work? What do you think is at stake for Lippard and for the Senators, respectively?

Due 5/22: What is "aura"? In your answer, explain the difference between "cult value" and "exhibition value." What is Benjamin's attitude toward the loss of "aura" in art? (Use evidence from the text in your answer).

Due 5/26: This is Not a Pipe—first half up to page 35. What is a calligram? And what does Foucault mean when he says that Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe is an “unraveled calligram”?

For 6/2: [last response paper!]: Identify the "seven seals of affirmation" that Foucault presents in the penultimate chapter. Number them, in the order in which they appear (since Foucault does not give them to you in a numbered list, you have to read carefully). Why are they affirmations? What do they affirm?