PL 4340: Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art


G.W.F. Hegel called his course on the philosophy of art “Lectures on Aesthetics.” Yet he began his lectures with an apology, explaining why he thought his title was inappropriate. “Aesthetics,” Hegel says, “means more precisely the science of sensation or feeling.” Hegel objected to this conception of aesthetics, which had been introduced in the eighteenth century by Alexander Baumgarten, because he thought philosophy should try to “ascertain scientifically what art is” instead of analyzing the “sense” and “feeling” for beauty. Although Hegel’s approach proved enormously influential in the twentieth century, when modern art challenged traditional conceptions of the artwork, there is still a great deal of disagreement about the proper object of philosophical “aesthetics.” Is aesthetics concerned with the sense and feeling for beauty? Is it synonymous with the philosophy of art? Or does it refer to particular (“aesthetic”) kinds of judgments, attitudes, and experiences? This course will provide students with an introduction to the debates surrounding these questions.


-Tanke, Joseph and McQuillan, Colin. The Bloomsbury Anthology of Aesthetics. (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012).


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