Description: Description: IMG_0561.JPGDescription: Description: cropped4.jpgDescription: Description: Developmentdetail1 copy.jpgDescription: Description: untitledbigwheeldetail2.jpgDescription: Description: keigwin2.jpg

Philosophy of Art

Philosophy 227

Bates College

William Seeley



What is Art? What makes a photograph on the wall at the Museum of Modern Art different from the one on the front page of the Daily News? What makes a landscape painting more (or less!) interesting than a snapshot? Our commonsense understanding of art tells us that artworks are in some way special. Art is often beautiful. It is sometimes provocative and controversial. But it is notoriously difficult to identify just what it is that makes artworks unique. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to understand why particular artworks are considered special at all. Philosophy of Art is a branch of philosophy concerned with answers to just these types of questions. In this course we will examine four broad issues that have defined philosophical aesthetics: What is the relationship between art and representation? What does it mean to say that an artwork expresses an emotion? What role does the formal structure of artworks play in explanations of art? What is an aesthetic experience, and what role, if any, does our knowledge of a culture play in shaping these experiences? We will also discuss a range of philosophical issues associated with particular art forms. Finally, despite disagreements about the nature of art most would agree that art must be experienced to be understood. Therefore, throughout the course we will both make art and look at particular artworks as illustrations of the views discussed.


2012 Syllabus

2010 Syllabus

2009 Syllabus

2008 Syllabus

The Power of Art (FYS 382)

Art, Meaning, and Perception (FND 182)

Cognitivist Theories of Film (S24a) 

Aesthetics and Cognitive Science


Group Installation Work

The Collaborative Drawing Project

Constrained Views, Natural Vistas, and the Constructed Landscape