Course Instructor


Third-year course, McGill University

A general introduction to philosophical aesthetics focused on answering the question “What is art?” The first half of the course examines a number of key attempts to define ‘art’ throughout its history: the mimetic theory, definitions focusing on aesthetic attitudes and disinterest, theories that hold that art is the result of artistic expression or the communication of feelings, and the rise of contextualist theories of art. The second half of the course explores various sources of skepticism about attempts to define ‘art,’ from neo-Wittgensteinian criticisms to ‘cluster’ theories, the exclusivity of the artistic canon and gendered conceptions of artistic genius, the  (surprisingly late) origins of our concepts of "art" and "works," and the difficulty of accounting for the art of non-Western cultures.