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Philosophy, Art and Literature (Level 5)


Module description

This module will explore philosophical questions about art and literature, focusing on a selection of such topics as: Why are art and literature valuable to individuals and societies? Do they improve us cognitively or ethically? Can artworks be moral or immoral? Why do we value works that prompt painful emotions, such as tragedy, often more highly than those that do not? Should art and literature play a political role in society, or should they be autonomous from everyday concerns? We address these questions from both a historical perspective - considering answers by such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Schiller, Nietzsche, Shaftesbury and Rousseau - and in relation to contemporary debates in the philosophy of art.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Ethical and aesthetic value of art and literature
  • Political implications of art and literature
  • Enjoyment of negative emotions
  • The beautiful and sublime
  • Disinterested satisfaction and autonomy
  • Aesthetic education
  • Taste and objectivity
  • Imitation
  • Art and knowledge
  • Genius and originality
  • Heautonomy and schematising without schemata

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of different historical and contemporary philosophical approaches to art and literature
  • demonstrate an awareness of different ideas, contexts and frameworks deployed by contributors to debates about the values - ethical, political, cognitive, aesthetic and social - of art and literature, and recognise some of their strengths and weaknesses
  • analyse and compare different philosophical theories of the values of art and literature and their roles in society
  • select appropriate criteria to evaluate philosophical accounts of tragedy, ethical criticism, aesthetic education and the beautiful and sublime.