Paul Cezanne, Curtain, Jug, and Fruit Bowl

Art and Philosophy: an Introduction to Aesthetics

Instructor: Zach Fruit
A Novel Idea
1726 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148

What are aesthetics? Is aesthetic theory a system for understanding art or a system for understanding beauty? Is ugliness an aesthetic or it’s opposite? Are aesthetic evaluations free from political judgment, or are aesthetic evaluations actually at the heart of politics? How do we decide what is beautiful and what is ugly, and why?

In this course, we’ll attempt to answer these questions by examining the major themes and thinkers that figure in the long story of aesthetic theory—from Aristotle and Plato to Enlightenment thinkers such as Immanuel Kant to contemporary theorists such as Theodor Adorno, Sianne Ngai, and Fred Moten. In each session, we’ll pair two combative readings and apply the concepts discussed to a major work of art. Is aesthetic judgment, as Kant suggests, a particular faculty under the larger category of universal truth? Or do aesthetics mask more sinister material relations? At different moments and in different places, how have geography, race, and gender been theorized in relation to art? Does the idea of a “political aesthetic” only have meaning under the material conditions of capitalism, or does art always participate in the regulation of society? Inversely, can art help us to imagine new political futures or can it only illuminate the limits of our current political reality?

Readings will include Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Ranciere, Fred Moten, and Sianne Ngai. Artists will include Adrian Piper, Gerhard Richter, Diego Velázquez, Barbara Kasten, Gustave Courbet, Félix González-Torres, and more.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:00-9:00pm
April 29 — May 20, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open

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