Autumn 2022


seminar INformation:

PHIL 24283
Professor Shields
Seminar Meetings: W 9.15-12.00

Office Hours and Contact Information:

Office: Marian Kennedy Fischer Hall 4.15
Office hours: Tu 14.00-16.00  and by appointment

N.b. I prefer e-mail to telephone as a manner of student contact. I make an effort to answer student e-mails promptly, but please be aware that I measure promptness in this domain in days rather than hours or minutes.



Gaut, B. and Lopes, D. edd, The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, 3rd ed. (Routledge: 2013)

 An etext is available for this work. You are most welcome to use that or the print copy, as you prefer. 



Requirements and Protocol:

Students will sit two examinations, one preliminary and one final, and write two essays, in the neighbourhood of 1,500 words each.

We will pursue our theme in a London-centric sort of way, availing ourselves of the astonishing range of cultural offerings throughout the city. In addition to seminar visits to galleries, performances, and buildings of various sorts, each student will make an excursion to a suitable location in London (gallery, theatre, concert, opera, building. . . ) and report back to the seminar regarding his or her experiences, as they relate to the dominant themes of the class, namely, again, definition, interpretation, and evaluation.

More fully, each student will be asked to lead a session on what we might call Applied London Aesthetics. That is, students will need to head out into the field, to explore London’s bountiful offerings in the arts, and then discuss the work experienced in relation to the topics investigated in our seminar. N.b. your presentation should not take the form of a simple critical review, but should rather make an effort to determine how the work experienced illuminates some selected theme of the course. Individual topics are to be negotiated with the instructor, but one natural place to begin would be to survey the discussions of the individual arts in The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics Part IV. 

Please note that standard London Undergraduate Program attendance policies apply. Students are expected to be present at every class. In case of illness, please contact the Undergraduate Program Office straightaway. Unexcused absences will result in academic penalties, usually in the form of a reduction in your final grade for this course. 


Dates for the examinations:

Preliminary Examination: 12 October 
Final Examination: 30 November


Due dates for the Essays:

Essay One: 17 October 
Essay Two: 5 December

I will suggest topics for each of the essays. You are, however, welcome to ignore these suggestions and write on a pertinent topic of your own choosing, but only if that topic is approved by me at least one week in advance of the due date.

These essays are to be submitted electronically in a mainstream word-processing format or (if you use something non-standard) as .pdf documents, to the address given above. Papers will be accepted until 17.00 on their due dates.


Attendance is expected at all seminar meetings.


All members of this seminar will be Understood to have read and endorsed Notre Dame’s UnderGraduate Academic Code of Honor.



Broadly speaking, philosophical aesthetics breaks into three distinct areas: (i) definitional questions about what what makes art art, where this includes the prior question of whether art, as a general category, admits of a definition; (ii) questions of interpretation, concerning canons and protocols for understanding artworks, whether, e.g., an artist’s intentions are relevant to the meaning of an artwork produced by that artist; and (iii) questions of value, concerning the nature of aesthetic experience, the character of beauty, and the general question of the objectivity or subjectivity of value in the domain of art.

These three questions divide into many subquestions, some overlapping with one another and some not; further, they play out differently across different media of art: drama, music, opera, painting, sculpture, film, photography, architecture, and so on. We will certainly investigate (i) and (ii), but our primary focus will be the questions raised under (iii). 

Reading Schedule:

Please adhere to reading schedule. Please note: some readings will be discussed directly, while others will merely be assumed as background for lectures; all are, however to be read before the lecture for which they are assigned. It is good practice to reread them after the lecture as well. (RCA = The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics)

Week One
      • Davies, ‘Definitions of Art,’ RCA 213
Week Two
      • Davies, ‘Categories of Art,’ RCA 224
      • Fisher, ‘High Art versus Low Art,’ RCA 473
Week Three
      • Rohrbaugh, ‘Ontology of Art,’ RCA 235
      • Stalker, ‘Fakes and Forgeries,’ RCA 462
Week Four
      • Carroll, ‘Formallism,’ RCA 87
      • De Clercq, ‘Beauty,’ RCA 299
      • Shelley, ‘The Aesthetic,’ RCA 346
Week Five
      • Shelley, ‘Empiricism: Hutcheson and Hume,’ RCA 36
      • Korsmeyer, ‘Taste,’ RCA 257
      • John, ‘Art and Knowledge,’ RCA 384
Week Six:
      • Dutton, ‘Aesthetic Universals,’ RCA 267
      • Graham, ‘Art and Religion,’ RCA 509
Week Seven:
      • Matthen, ‘Art and Evolution,’ RCA 278
      • Boden, ‘Creativity,’ RCA 432
Week Eight:
      • Crawford, ‘Kant,’ 46
      • Preliminary Examination 
Week Nine: Mid-semester Break
Week Ten:
      • Hanson, ‘Feminist Aesthetics,’ RCA 499
Week Eleven:
      • Stecker, ‘Interpretation,’ RCA 309
Week Twelve:
      • Gilmore, ‘Criticism,’ RCA 375
Week Thirteen:
      • Davies, ‘Fiction,’ 330
      • Lamarque, ‘Literature,’ RCA 521
Week Fourteen:
      • Gaut, ‘Art and Ethics,’ RCA, 394
      • Carlson, ‘Environmental Aesthetics,’ RCA 485
Week fifteen
      • Final Examination 
Keynote presentations
An Introduction to Aesthetics
Defining ARt
Ontology and Art
Aesthetic Value and Beauty
Universal Art
Art and evolution
Feminist Aesthetics
Fiction And Literature
Art and Morality