ART 225 Introduction to Aesthetics • 5 Cr.


Explores the nature of art and the aesthetic experience. Students analyze the artistic theories and aesthetic principles underlying Eastern and Western art. Format includes several field trips during class time. Same as PHIL 225. Either ART 225 or PHIL 225 may be taken for credit, not both.


After completing this class, students should be able to:

  • In a timed, in-class situation, successful students will be able to accurately identify a series of key terms using one sentence definitions. Maximally successful students will be correct in 100% of their definitions. Examples of terms to be defined include: rasa, wabi, expressionism, aesthetic emotion.
  • In a timed, in-class situation, successful students will be able to accurately identify the author of quotes from philosophers, at critics, or artists studied in class. The quotes may or may not have been heard or read previously; students will recognize them on the basis of their content. For example, successful students will recognize "Do you think [the painter] tries to imitate the thing itself in nature or the works of a craftsman?" as coming from Plato, as a question asked in the context of a Socratic dialog, and as an illustration of the Representationalist theory of art.
  • In a timed, in-class situation, successful students will be able to write short essays of one to two pages accurately explaining various art theories (e.g., Plato's Representationalism). Successful essays will (a) use all relevant new vocabulary (e.g., "imitation of particulars," (b) offer a complete description of the theory, and (c) offer a sound or cogent argument either for or against the reasonableness of the theory (e.g., in the case of Plato's theory, successful students will point to counterexamples of art works that do not imitate particulars and point to counterexamples of non-artworks that do imitate particulars).
  • In a timed, in-class situation, successful students will be able to write short essays of up to one page each accurately explaining Kantian, Marxist, Feminist, and Post-modern analyses of artworks. They will also be able to view an artwork they have never seen before and be able to analyze it from one of these four frameworks. For instance, if they are shown a picture of a Dutch still life and are asked to analyze it in Marxist terms, they should address (a) use of oil paint, as opposed to tempera, (b) the content's association with capitalism, and (c) the intended audience.
  • In a take-home, 6-8 page essay, successful students will be able to identify key features of specified Asian art practices (e.g., Indian temple sculpture) as manifesting an art principle (e.g., rasa, in the case of the Indian temple sculpture). For example, successful students will define the term 'rasa' correctly, point out, say, that a sculpture of Shiva standing affectionately next to his wife Parvati can, according to rasa, bring forth the intended emotion in the viewer only if the viewer knows the story behind the couple. Successful students will then go on to write what the intended emotion is (i.e., that the implied sexual union is an illustration of the ultimate "oneness" between all things).
  • In an oral, one-on-one test with the instructor, successful students will be able to physically show how to correctly perform basic aspects of specified Asian aesthetic practices, and to accurately explain how the practices they are performing illustrate one or more principles of beauty or art. For example, a successful student will be handed a small cup. She will accept it correctly by picking it up. Placing it in her left palm, turning it in three 1/6 turns, sip from it three times, make the appropriate comments about its beauty, and return the cup to the instructor in the correct manner. She will then explain orally how what the cup itself and what she has just done illustrates suki, sakui, wabi, and/or sabi.