Philosophy 66 Introduction to Aesthetics

Robert Irwin garden Los Angeles


Aesthetics explores such issues as: What is beauty? What is ugliness? Is there such a thing as good taste? Can we prove that one work of art is better than another? What is art, and can it ever be defined? How are the various art forms (painting, music, photography, architecture, video art) related to each other? What is the meaning of a work of art? How does art relate to emotion? Does art give us knowledge? What does our experience of art tell us about the nature of reality? What is the creative process in art? What significance does aesthetics and art have for our lives? Is there a proper way to appreciate natural beauty? What is the relation between art and everyday life?

This course will look at these questions, and others, from various philosophical perspectives as well as other perspectives including art criticism and the history of art. Art forms discussed will include painting, sculpture, dance, architecture, photography, music, and to some extent, literature. (Since this is an Arts class in G.E., and since the literary arts are covered in the Letters area of G.E., we will not emphasize literature as much here.) We will read writings by philosophers and other theorists in these fields. Then we will apply our knowledge to individual works of art. You will be expected to have one art field experience which will involve visiting a visual art exhibit (museum, art gallery, etc.). You will describe, analyze and interpret this event using the concepts you have learned from the various readings and from class lecture and discussion. Illustrations of painting, sculpture, photography, public art, architecture, and other visual art forms will be used in class. There will also be musical examples.

Typical class sessions will involve lecture, general discussion, small group discussion, and in-class writing. We will also take at least one excursion to see art works or works of architecture near or on campus.




Course Documents

Many of the files on this page are outlines for readings we are doing in the class.  You are not responsible for the ones referring to readings we are not covering in your class.  For one or two philosophers we are covering there will be no notes.  My lectures are mainly based on the notes offered here.  I recommend that you print the relevant notes and bring them to class on the day the reading is due, or have an electronic copy available.  These notes will help you to understand the readings. They are listed under the last name of the philosopher to be read. Some of the notes are labeled "PP Content." or "PP notes." PP means Powerpoint.  These are the notes as they appear in class lectures. However they are somewhat strange looking and you might prefer the ones that are not labeled PP.