Philosophy of Art

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 2245
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will present students with an opportunity to think philosophically about the nature of human creativity and to discuss specific works of art in music, painting and literature. The course provides students with an introduction to the main issues concerning the nature of art and of art works, including consideration of the question, “What is art?”, as well as inquiry into competing theories of art, such as art as expression, art as representation, and art as historical and/or institutional artifact. Some consideration may also be given to theories of aesthetic criticism which focus upon issues such as beauty, taste, personal experience, meaning and truth. The course may include analysis of the aesthetic theories developed by thinkers found within the history of philosophy, such as selections from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Dewey, and/or selections from the writings of more contemporary philosophers, such as Benjamin, Danto, Gadamer, Derrida, Adorno, and Goodman.
Course Content

The course may include thematically materials which pertain to either Art Theories or Art Criticism or both. 

Said materials may include themes such as the following:


Theories of Art

  1. Art as imitation:  the mimetic conception of art and its relation to notions of truth.
  2. Art as the communication of emotion and feeling:  art is the expression of inspiration, rapture, frenzy, divine intoxication.
  3. Art as the expression of imagination:  why art is not limited to the real and to verisimilitude.
  4. Art as the expression of symbolic form and metaphor:  the capacity of art to transcend the literal in favour of what possesses symbolic yet shared meaning.
  5. Art as social criticism:  the relation of art to society, and the thesis that the work of art conflicts with socially accepted values, that the function of art is social criticism.
  6. Art as palliative and metaphysical solace:  art is the attempt to respond creatively and so to overcome the emptiness and futility of any existence.


Art Criticism

  1. Art and sensation:  the experience and criticism of art as a specific kind of pleasure.
  2. Art criticism and the concept of “taste”:  aesthetic judgement as a disinterestedness and art as purposeless purposiveness.
  3. Art criticism and beauty as the ideal of art:  the aesthetic experience of order and form as perfection.
  4. Art criticism and the experience of the irrational:  the impossibility of cognitive or epistemological criteria in the response to art.
  5. Art criticism and the problem of interpretation:  the hermeneutical circle and the role of tradition in artistic self-conception and art criticism.
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  any combination of lecture and seminar.  Parts and/or entire classes may be devoted to formal lectures or to informal discussions.  Usually some combination of both is employed to ensure that assigned readings are explained and discussed.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.

Any possible combination of the following which equals 100%:

   Percent Range           Example  
Tests, Quizzes, Short Written Assignments    30% – 60% Five 10% Tests  50%
Written Class Presentations, Argument  Analyses, Exams    20% – 50% Two 20% Analyses   40%
Instructor’s General Evaluation 
(may include attendance class participation,
group work, homework, etc.)
   0%– 20% Attendance/
 Total     100%

(No one evaluation component within each category may exceed 40%)

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:


  1. Explain and in other ways demonstrate an understanding of the main aesthetic theories that are covered within the course.
  2. Critically analyze essays that pertain to art and the criticism of art, including the ability to demarcate objective criteria employed in the assessment of art works.
  3. Apply basic reasoning skills to the topics covered within the course, including the ability to reason from evidence to conclusions.
  4. Develop some philosophical appreciation of the significance of art works and understand the basis of aesthetic experience, such as the experience of beauty.
  5. Contrast and compare the different theories about art and the competing accounts of art criticism.
  6. Formulate their own thinking with respect to the main topics covered within the course.
Textbook Materials

Texts will be updated periodically.  Typical examples are:

  • Carroll, Noel.  (2001). Theories of Art Today.  London:  Routledge.
  • Cooper, D.  (Ed.).  (1992).  A Companion to Aesthetics.  Oxford: Blackwells
  • Dickie, G. & Sclafani, R. (Eds.).  (1998).  Aesthetics:  a Critical Anthology.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press
  • Galt, Berys & Lopes, D.M. (Eds.).  (2001).  The Routledge Companion to AestheticsLondon: Routledge.
  • Goldblatt, D. & Brown, L. (Eds.).  (1996).  Aesthetics.  New Jersey:  Prentice Hall.
  • Hofstaeder, A. (Ed.).  (1996).  Philosophies of Art and BeautyChicago:  University of Chicago.
  • Maynard, P. & Feagin, S. (Eds.).  (1997).  Aesthetics: an Oxford ReaderOxford:  Oxford University Press.
  • Ross, S. (Ed.).  (2000).  Art and its SignificanceNew York:  SUNY.




Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 2245
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 2XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PHIL 2XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PHIL 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PHIL 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PHIL 1XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 2XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC AHVS 1XX (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023

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New Westminster - North Bldg.
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