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PH9F7 - Topics in Philosophy and the Arts

  • Module code: PH9F7
  • Module name: Topics in Philosophy and the Arts
  • Department: Philosophy
  • Credit: 20, 30

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

This module introduces students to a range of topics that involve philosophical engagement with the arts, addressing questions about art in general, particular art forms and individual works. 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, and so on? 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, cognitive, moral? We will also be interested in how art and philosophy are related—what do they share, what distinguishes them, as projects of inquiry and understanding? With these foundational questions in view, the second half turns 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. At the end of the term we will consider the role of empirical and experimental science, as a resource for philosophical study of the arts. Throughout the term, we hope that students will draw on their own experience and expertise in relation to the arts, to test claims on offer and to enrich our collective discussion of the issues

Principal learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should... • Develop a good sense of the general methodological and substantive issues raised by approaching art philosophically • Show an advanced conceptual grasp of issues that link different art practices, that drive the philosophy and theory of specific art forms and that bring philosophical concerns into dialogue with the arts and their criticism • Develop advanced expertise in interpreting and analysing complex texts and critiquing their ideas and arguments • Articulate and defend their own views on relevant issues, drawing on autonomously initiated and conducted research

Timetabled teaching activities


Departmental link

Other essential notes

Note: this is a core module for Philosophy and the Arts MA students, but is available to MA students in general as an option.

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
20 CATS (Module code: PH9F7-20)
A (Assessed work only) 7500 word essay 100%
VA (Visiting students only) 100% assessed (part year) visiting 100%
30 CATS (Module code: PH9F7-30)
A (Assessed work only) 7500 word essay 100%
VA (Visiting students only) 100% assessed (part year) visiting 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core
  • Postgraduate Taught Continental Philosophy (V7P2) - Year 2
  • Postgraduate Taught Philosophy and the Arts (V7PN) - Year 2
  • Postgraduate Taught Philosophy and Literature (V7P7) - Year 2
  • Postgraduate Taught Philosophy (V7PM) - Year 2