Rob van Gerwen's | Welcome | Teaching | Research | Contact | Weblog | Sitemap | Consilium Philosophicum

Courses | Index | Guest lectures | Inleiding kunstfilosofie (UU) | Kunst en het kwaad (UU) | Wetenschapsfilosofie in contex (UU) | HUM291 Reason, Truth and Beauty (UCU)
Extra-curricular Blackboard | UCU-Workspace | Tutoraat | Academische Master | Scripties | Leeronderzoek esthetica | Mind and Art | Art and morality | Capita Selecta Aesthetics

Rob van Gerwen

Beauty Workspace How To ...

UC HUMMET21. Reason, Truth & Beauty.
Spring 2012

Floris van der Burg, Rob van Gerwen, Gaetano Fiorin

This edition now defunkt. Check the menu above (Courses) for a more recent edition of this course, if available.



'If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.'
Lewis Carroll

This course provides both the possible destinations and routes to solve Lewis Carroll's dilemma. It intends to give students an overview of the goals of inquiry in the humanities, as well as training in the methods that allow these goals to be achieved.

It is necessary to recognize that many of the methodologies that are used in the different disciplines that make up the humanities are specific to those disciplines, and it would go beyond the scope of this course to deal with them all in an exhaustive manner. That said, there are areas of attention that would appear to be common to all the disciplines in the humanities and as such can count as representative for the methods of the humanities at large. These are beauty, truth and reason. The themes are dealt with in three modules that provide training in the methods associated with them, explicitly connect the methods to the disciplines in the humanities and raise awareness of the need for methodological rigor in the humanities. The three modules are

1. Truth and Logic (formal logic and theories of truth) - 4 1/2 weeks.
2. Aesthetics (beauty, judgment and philosophy of art) - 5 weeks.
3. Rhetoric (interpretation, plausibility and historiography) - 5 weeks.


This course aims to raise awareness of the need for methodological rigor in the humanities by means of the treatment of several of these methodologies in the context of specific examples from the humanities.
At the end of the course students are able to assess the quality of argument in texts, construct and analyze interpretations of theories, assess the plausibility of a theoretical interpretation (gauge the truth) and connect these methodological approaches to the individual disciplines in the humanities.


At least one course in the humanities.

Required for:

A major (minor?) in the Humanities.

Course Proceedings

Timeslot: B1 Tuesday 9:00-10:45 and Thursday 13:45-15:30


Three essays each worth 25%.
Serious participation in the discussion of the readings worth 25%.

Course Material

Graham Priest Logic: A very Short Introduction OUP, 2000. For the middle part on aesthetics: separate articles (See Workspace/Library). Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld In Praise of Doubt Harper-Collins, 2009.

Part Two. Beauty. Introducing Philosophy of Art


Would you rather write one paper (max. 2000 words) or two shorter ones (max. 1200 words)?
* If you decide to write only one paper of maximal 2000 words, the deadline is Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 23.59 hrs.
* You may, however, also decide to write two papers, each maximal 1200 words. If you do, then the deadline for the first paper is Thursday, March 29, 2012, 23.59 hrs. The deadline for the second of these two papers is Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 23.59 hrs.
You cannot get an extension for the first paper. So, if the first paper is not submitted in time, you automatically opt for the one larger paper


You can find the handouts of the lectures on Art and Aesthetics in the Workspace Library, when possible at least one hour before the relevant class.

Students should keep track of the website devoted to the aesthetics part of the course. Here, they can find more elaboration on the contents and goals of individual meetings, explanatory texts, and deadlines. Through the weblog developments and irregularities are announced as and when they occur.

01. Thursday, March 1, 2012
Introduction to Philosophy of art

What are the peculiarities of Humanities research, and hence of Humanities methods? What role is played within the Humanities by art, and how, with the Humanities do we choose to categorise, analyse or assess art? Is art perhaps particularly apt for connecting us with the lives human lead? If hermeneutics is the philosophical method of interpreting conscioulsy produced cultural objects, such as works of art, then perhaps art apreciation is not merely an example of interpretation, but its most exemplary instance.

Philosophy of art is a philosophical discipline in its own right, concerning itself with questions such as these. Up until the 1750s no coherent discipline concerning itself with art existed. In the 1750s this changed radically, as did the nature of what we now call art. When we speak of art, we mean something vastly different from what counted as art in classical times, or in the Middle Ages, or in Africa. What is so specific about the modern western system of the arts? What is the difference between philosophical thought about human beauty or natural beauty as opposed to artistic beauty? Or: what is the difference between aesthetics and philosophy of art? Can art disciplines do without answers to the issues philosophical aesthetics discusses?

Compulsory reading:

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1976. “Aesthetics and Hermeneutics.” In Philosophical Hermeneutics, edited by D.E.Linge, 95–104. Translated by D.E.Linge. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Dempster, Douglas J. 1985. “Aesthetic Experience and Psychological Definitions of Art.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 44:153–65. Kristeller, Paul Oskar. 2008. “The Modern System of the Arts.” In Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, 3–15. Oxford: Blackwell. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 2001. “Esthetica en Hermeneutiek.” Feit & fictie V:111–19. »  (101K)

02. Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An identical copy of a painting most certainly is a forgery. What is wrong with a forgery? Is it less beautiful than its original? Perhaps, our interest in forgeries is to do with a central assumption in our concept of art: that a work of art is made by the artist's hand, and that this "hand"'s perceivability in the work accounts for its aesthetic value?
Can a work of music likewise be forged? A perfect copy of Beethoven's Fifth is called a performance, not a forgery of Beethoven's Fifth. How should we conceive of these differences? And what do we hear in music: do we hear the composer or the musician, or both (though surely not in the same way or for the reasons, nor caused by the same processes)?
Lastly, forgery, we think, tells us about its counterpart (that which is forged), authenticity. What is authenticity?

Compulsory reading:

Lessing, Alfred. 1965. “What is Wrong with a Forgery?” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 23 (4): 461–471. Dutton, Dennis. 1979. “Artistic Crimes: The Problem of Forgery in the Arts.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 19:302–314. online

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Goodman, Nelson. 1978. “When is Art?” In Ways of Worldmaking, 57–70. Indianapolis: Hackett.

03. Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Authentic Performance of Music

Should Old music be performed on old instruments? Surely, the composer had old instruments in mind when he composed the music? But aren't we used to listening to more modern, often better instruments---doesn't that count? Can we know what the composer meant? Or should we simply strive to get the best out of a composition, as if the score descibes a Platonic eternal piece which performers must seek to match.

Compulsory reading:

Davies, Stephen. 1987. “Authenticity in Musical Performance.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 27 (1): 39–50. Young, James O. 1988. “The Concept of Authentic Performance.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 28 (3): 228–238.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

04. Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Popular Music

Music seems to be representationally poor. We can name a handful examples of music that supposedly represents a scene but most music is abstract, one could say, and present an acousmatic space that has nothing to do with the space where people interact with objects.
To appreciate music, Scruton argues, we require a listening culture which teaches us to treat music as in that acousmatic space, and to judge it with taste. Popular music, in contrast, is not appreciated aesthetically but for its expression of a life style. In contemporary democratic popular listening we listen to anything that does no immediate harm, and through it we identify with the band. Is that a problem?

Compulsory reading:

Scruton, Roger. 2008. “The Decline of Music Culture.” In Arguing about art. Contemporary Philosophical Debates. Third edition, edited by Alex Neill and Aron Ridley, 121–36. London: Routledge. Gerwen, Rob van. 2012. “Hearing Musicians Making Music. A Critique of Roger Scruton’s notion of ‘Acousmatic Experience’.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 70:1 Spring (In Press).

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Graham, Gordon. 2005. “Music and Sonic Art.” In Philosophy of the Arts. An Introduction to Aesthetics. Third edition, 76–102. London: Routledge. Levinson, Jerrold. 1996. “Musical expressiveness.” In The Pleasures of Aesthetics, 90–128. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Scruton, Roger. 1997. The Aesthetics of Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

05. Thursday, March 15, 2012
Photography as an Art

What is the difference between photography and painting, and between film and painting? Do not all of these art forms depict the world? Well, one might wonder what existential proof is at stake in each of these art forms. A photograph seems to prove what it shows but does it tell much about its subject matter? A shot in a film seems to tell some more about the things it shows, but the majority of what it says depends on the images preceding and following the shot, on editing. In addition, film show actors playing fictional characters who do not exist at all. Yet, film and photography both relate causally to what is presented in them. A painting can never boast such causal dependence: what we see in a painting is what the painter has decided to render on his canvas, in a lengthy process of sometimes several days.
How to think about these differences? Today we look at photography.

Compulsory reading:

Scruton, Roger. 1981. “Photography and Representation.” Critical Inquiry 7:577–603. Lopes, D. M. 2003. “The Aesthetics of Photographic Transparency.” Mind 112:433–448.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Barthes, Roland. 2000 (1980)a. Camera Lucida. Translated by Richard Howard. London: Vintage. Graham, Gordon. 2005. “The Visual Arts.” In Philosophy of the Arts. An Introduction to Aesthetics. Third edition, 103–126. London: Routledge.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
No class -- Break

Thursday, March 22, 2012
No class -- Break

06. Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Art history classifies works of art along lines developed within the theory, using taxonomic categories like Classical, Baroque; period styles like Renaissance, and school styles like Rembrandtesque or Carravaggesque, or Cubism, Impressionism, etc. Attributing such styles does not require one to be in the know about the intentions of the artist. Anti-intentionalists argue that we don't need the artist's intentions to find out what a work means, as this depends on its properties. But knowing some of the artist's intentions may lead one to look differently, and to succeed in seeing their realisation on the canvas: thus, the nature of the work on the canvas may be seen to depend on artist's intentions as far as they are realised on the canvas.
This is where the concept of individual style helps one to see the work as a particular painter's work, refelcting his art-relevant thoughts, his personal choices and the movements of his body while making the work.

Compulsory reading:

Wollheim, Richard. 1993. “Pictorial Style: Two Views.” In The Mind and its Depths, 171–184. Cambridge (Mass.), London (England): Harvard University Press.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Feagin, Susan L. 1995. “Paintings and their Places.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 73. Goodman, Nelson. 1985. “Reality Remade.” In Languages of Art, 3–44. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Lessing, Gotthold. 2008. “Laocoon.” In Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, 123–30. Oxford: Blackwell. Tilghman, Benjamin R. 1988. “Picture Space and Moral Space.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 28:317–326. Wollheim, Richard. 1993. “Pictures and Language.” In The Mind and its Depths, 185–192. Cambridge (Mass.), London (England): Harvard University Press. ____________. 2001. “On Pictorial Representation.” In Richard Wollheim on the Art of Painting. Art as Representation and Expression, edited by Rob van Gerwen, 13–27. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.

07. Thursday, March 29, 2012
Hockney on the use of lenses by painters

We watch a documentary by David Hockney on the use of lenses by painters since approx. the 1420s. We discuss the methods Hockney uses. Hockney treats the paintings before him as evidence for certain technologies used.

Compulsory reading:

In preparation, search the internet for the latest criticisms of Hockney's approach, and prepare to discuss your findings in class.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

08. Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Can we see fictional characters in films even though they do not exist (as they are fictional)? Or do we, rather, see real-life persons, actors, interacting in studios? We discuss Gregory Currie's view that we see real actors and imagine them to be fictional characters, as well as Kendall Walton's view that looking at a fiction film is like watching the events depicted in them. Currie thinks perception is always of the real; Walton argues we play a game of make-believe with the representation as a whole, we play along with the film, playing watching fictional worlds.

Compulsory reading:

Gerwen, Rob van. 2012. “Film's Reality. Perception or Imagination?” ms.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Allen, Richard, and Murray Smith, eds. 1998. Film Theory and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Currie, Gregory. 1998. “The Film Theory that Never Was: A Nervous Manifesto.” In Film Theory and Philosophy, edited by Richard Allen and Murray Smith, 42–59. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gaut, Berys. 1998. “Film authorship and Collaboration.” In Film Theory and Philosophy, edited by Richard Allen and Murray Smith, 149–172. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Livingston, Paisley. 1998. “Cinematic authorship.” In Film Theory and Philosophy, edited by Richard Allen and Murray Smith, 132–148. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lopes, Dominic McIver. 1998. “Imagination, Illusion and Experience in Film.” Philosophical Studies 89:343–353. Walton, Kendall L. 1998. “On Pictures and Photographs: Objections Answered.” In Film Theory and Philosophy, edited by Richard Allen and Murray Smith, 60–75. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

09. Thursday, April 5, 2012
Art's Autonomy and Implication Art

Art is an autonomous domain in western culture: in art's name almost anything can be done. First, we discuss that autonomy and its ethical roots. Secondly, we look at a contemporary development in art practice, of introducing immoral behaviour in art works, and discuss this as a new loot at the tree of art: Implication Art. For this, we must seek a way to conceive of revolutionary new art: why is it art?
A historical definition of art, such as Levinson's defines something as a work of art if and only if it resembles in some specifiable manner art previously accepted as such. Such a definition has, by definition, trouble with incorporating something entirely new, i.e. something which does not in the required manner resemblance its predecessors. We discuss the historical definition in light of a new art form: Implication Art.

Compulsory reading:

Gerwen, Rob van. 2012. “Implication Art. A Post-Script to Ethical Autonomism.” ms. ____________. 2004. “Ethical Autonomism. The Work of Art as a Moral Agent.” Contemporary Aesthetics, vol. 2.

Suggested further reading (for preparation of the paper):

Dickie, George. 1964. “The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude.” American Philosophical Quarterly I:54–64. Kemp, Gary. 1999. “The Aesthetic Attitude.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 39:392–399. Davies, Stephen. 1991. Definitions of Art. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Levinson, Jerrold. 1990. “Defining Art Historically.” In Music, Art & Metaphysics, 3–25. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Danto, Arthur. 2008. “The Artworld.” In Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, 417–25. Oxford: Blackwell. Dickie, George. 2008. “What is Art? An Institutional Analysis.” In Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, 426–37. Oxford: Blackwell. Weitz, Morris. 1956. “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 15:27–35.

14. Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Deadline final paper for this second part

Please submit a paper of approx. 2000 words. Send it as an attachment (preferably in Word) by email.
Discuss one of the issues we discussed in class. If you see an opportunity to reflect on a coherent set of empirical methods relevant to the issue, please do so in the light of arguments developed and discussed in the literature we studied, and in class. Pay particular attention to the typical problems of the Humanities, as discussed in our first meeting.

Need any further advise? Check this page.