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Topics in Philosophy and the Arts (PH9F7-20/30)

This module introduces students to a range of topics, both general and particular, in the philosophy of particular art forms.

The first half poses some broad methodological, procedural and substantive questions about approaching the arts philosophically. What is it to study the arts philosophically? Is a common core of philosophical questions and concerns relevant to every art form, or do we need a distinctive approach for painting, for film, for literature, et cetera? Should we understand the philosophy of art as a descriptive or normative endeavour—does it try to make sense of existing first-order creative and critical practices, and the conceptual repertoires they draw on, or does it seek to intervene, normatively, by proposing and defending constitutive and critical principles? What is the relation between artistic and other forms of value—aesthetic, theoretical, moral? We will also be interested in how art and philosophy are related—what do they share, what distinguishes them, in relation to projects of inquiry and understanding?

With these foundational questions in view, in the second half of the module we turn to a range of specific case studies across the arts—cases focused around particular authors and artists, works or genres. These will help us address general issues, but will also give us a chance to explore the philosophical interest and challenge of individual cases. While cases studied will vary from year to year, an indicative list might include literary works by authors such as Herman Melville, Lydia Davis, and JM Coetzee; film genres such as film noir, futuristic sci-fi, or Hollywood ‘comedies of remarriage’; painting and/or photography by Edouard Manet, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Wall, or James Welling; and a range of conceptual works and artistic practices that either have no perceptible properties or are difficult to discriminate from everyday objects or events. Time permitting we may also consider whether philosophy of art needs to take account of recent experimental work in empirical science, including neuroscience.

Students will be asked to give a presentation during the course of the term.

Module Director

Diarmuid Costello

Timing and CATS

This module is worth 20/30 CATS and will run in the Autumn Term of the 2016/17 academic year.