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Philosophy of Art (Non-credit)

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 17th April 2024 (Code PH077-312) Wednesdays from
17th April 2024 11:10am - 1:00pm • (10 classes)
LG46 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: John Gordon BA PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

A historical approach to the philosophical problems which are presented by art: its production and its appreciation. Commencing with the ancient Greeks, the course proceeds, via the 18th and 19th centuries, to key 20th century ideas on the nature and role of art.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

All that is required is an interest in the arts, the history of ideas, and philosophy generally. Those concepts and methods which are required for a sound grasp of the texts and philosophers being studied will be taught.

Content of Course

1. Plato's Republic Book X.

2. Aristotle's Poetics.

3. Hutcheson's An Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design.

4. Hume's Essay on the Standard of Taste.

5. Kant's Critique of Judgement.

6. Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena.

7. Nietzsche: Birth of Tragedy.

8. Tolstoy: What is Art?

9. Sartre: The Psychology of the Imagination.

10. Barthes: The Death of the Author.

Teaching method(s)

Each class will be based on an extract: a short explanatory lecture will be followed by general discussion of questions which the text raises.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Provide an overview of some key developments in aesthetics, from the ancient Greeks to the present day;

  • Identify key debates, and to adopt and defend a position with regard to these;

  • Evaluate arguments presented by theorists working in the field of aesthetics.


Core Readings

Extracts from the texts studied will be provided to students.

Optional background reading:

  • Beardsley, M.C., 1966. Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present - A Short History. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

  • Cazeaux, C., ed., 2000. The Continental Aesthetics Reader. London: Routledge.

  • Kearney, R. and Rasmussen, D., eds., 2001. Continental Aesthetics - An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Dickie, G., Sclafani, R. and Roblin, R., eds., 1989. Aesthetics - A Critical Anthology. 2nd ed. New York: St Martin's.

  • Rice, P. and Waugh, P. 2001. Modern Literary Theory. 4th ed. London: Arnold.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.