What is the course about?
The course explores two questions that are central to aesthetics: (1) Does it make sense to argue about
whether someone ought to like something (a painting, a poem, a film, etc.) or is it all a matter of personal
taste? (2) Is there any real difference between high-brow and low-brow art, or more generally between art and
‘mere’ entertainment? The course starts by looking at philosophical answers to these questions, then moves
on to anthropological and sociological theories of taste and art.
What will we cover?
We will be discussing the theories of Immanuel Kant, Alfred Gell, Pierre Bourdieu, Theodor Adorno, and Hans Gadamer. These theories all address questions that are raised in and by modernist and postmodernist art: How do artworks differ (if they do) from ordinary artefacts? Does art have a function, or is the point of art that it has no function at all? Does the artist have a role in society, or are artists basically drop outs? Should art provoke thought, so as to challenge our assumptions about ourselves and conventional social life? Or is it wrong to burden art and artists with purpose?
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Identify problems that arise in distinguishing judgments of taste from other sorts of judgments
- Identify problems that arise in attempting to define art
- Distinguish between philosophical and anthropological/sociological theories of taste and art
- Distinguish between the theories examined on the course.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No knowledge of philosophy, social science, or high-brow art assumed. However, a critical mind
as well as an ability to read and comment upon philosophical extracts will enhance your enjoyment and
benefit from the course.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
There will be a mix of lecture-style presentations and structured discussion activities.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
All course materials will be provided by the tutor or available free of charge online.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please check our website at www.citylit.ac.uk to see what other philosophy courses are on offer.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details