Faculty of Arts

PHIL 212

Philosophy of the Arts

Please note: this is archived course information from 2021 for PHIL 212.


This course considers questions such as: Is art purely cultural or partly biological? Is art old or an invention of eighteenth-century Europe? What definitions are plausible and if none are, how does the concept cohere? How does the philosophy of art differ from aesthetics as traditionally conceived? In what manner do artworks exist? Are they created or discovered? What constraints are there on the interpretation of art? Do artistic evaluations always contain a personal element? How does an abstract art form express emotion? Why are we moved by the fate of characters we know to be fictional? Why are we drawn to tragedies when we know the experience of them is unpleasant? How do paintings represent what they picture? How do art paintings differ from drawn advertisements and photographs? Can we learn from art truths about the actual world? Are ethical faults in art also artistic demerits?

At the end of the course you should have an appreciation of the representative theories and arguments presented by philosophers who have addressed these questions. You should be able to explain these theories and arguments in your own words and in a way that shows good familiarity with the prescribed readings.


Coursework + exam

Availability 2021

Summer School


Coordinator(s) Distinguished Professor Stephen Davies


Stephen DAVIES. The Philosophy of Art. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. 2nd ed. ISBN: 978-1-119-09165-3. (Available as an e-book via the library.)

Recommended Reading

Theodore Gracyk, The Philosophy of Art: An Introduction, (Cambridge: Polity, 2012)


Robert Stecker, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: An Introduction, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, 2nd ed.)


Coursework + exam


PHIL 212: 15.0 points


30 points in Philosophy, or 90 points


PHIL 332

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