Spring 2016 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Bambach, Charles
Discipline and Number
PHIL 4380 Section 001
TR Time 11:30 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Philosophy of Art

Description of Course:

Within the history of philosophy, traditional metaphysics has defined the work of art as a beautiful “object;” as a re-presentation of the ideal (mimesis); as an instantiation of the “good”, the “true” or the eternally valid; as the culmination of the ideal forms of perception that involve both the senses and the the mind in a unity that affords us a pathway into an eternal order of harmony, grace, and the sublime. Modern German philosophy has, however, offered its own transformative critique of this metaphysical tradition and has understood the work of art less in terms of “perception,”“mind,” or “representation” than as “performance”---one that involves us in a hermeneutic relation to the world. And it is in terms of art as an engaged, performative enactment of our interpretation of the world that this course is organized. Art happens, Heidegger tells us, not as a form of “re”-presentation, but as a founding leap that opens up a world, one where being emerges out its concealment into the openness of originary truth.

Our focus this semester will be on how this metaphysical tradition breaks down under the assault of the Nietzschean-Heideggerian critique of metaphysics. Yet one of the essential questions I which to raise in this seminar is the ethical significance of the work of art. In what sense can we speak of art as an ethical act?

We shall begin our readings with the great German idealists-- Kant-Hegel-Schelling-Hölderlin-- in an effort to lay the groundwork for modern philosophical aesthetics. As a rejoinder to this kind of “classical” aesthetic theory we will next read Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art” (1935), Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility”(1935) and Jean-Luc Nancy’s "Uncanny Landscape" (2006).

Required Texts:

Kant, Critique of Judgement
Hegel, Aesthetics ("The End of Art")
Schelling, "Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism" # 10
Hölderlin, "The Earliest System Program of German Idealism"
Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
Heidegger "The Origin of the Work of Art"
Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility
Jean-Luc Nancy, "Uncanny Landscape"

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be expected to write three five-page essays,one short proposal and one in-class Protokoll delivered orally to the whole class.

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