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Nine Artworks, Nine Philosophical Problems - PHI00146H

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Owen Hulatt
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Artworks have frequently surprised or confounded philosophers, forcing them to reconsider the nature of and limits of art itself, as well as broader philosophical issues (like creativity, emotion, and imagination). In this module we will look at nine artworks which still have the power to raise these questions, and the attempts philosophers have made to answer them. We will consider a different artwork each week, including works of music, visual art, sculpture and literature.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aim of this module is to familiarize students with key issues in the Philosophy of art across various media, and with specific artworks which have perplexed philosophers over the years. Students will become acquainted both with advanced discussion in the philosophy of art, and with how these discussions relate to and enrich our appreciation of specific works of art.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Present and explain a range of key topics in the philosophy of art.
  • Explain in detail how these topics relate to particular pieces of art.
  • Articulate and defend informed opinions about the module material in an extended piece of writing.
  • Engage in critical but supportive discussions with peers about the module material.

Module content

An indicative list of artworks and their associated philosophical issues –

Andy Warhol – Brillo Boxes (Danto and Hegel on The End of Art)

Michelangelo’s Pieta (The Ethics of Art Restoration)

Han van Meegeren’s forged Vermeers (Forgery and Originality)

The Japanese Tea Ceremony (Everyday Aesthetics, and the limits of the Aesthetic)

Caravaggio - Judith Beheading Holofernes (The Paradox of Aesthetic Enjoyment of Representations of the Disgusting )

Leni Riefenstahl – Triumph of the Will (Moralism vs Autonomism)

John Cage’s 4’33 (Silent Music and the limits of Music)

Beethoven’s Pathetique (Profundity in music)

Henri Cartier-Bresson Behind the Gare Saint Lazare (Photographs, Representation, and Aesthetic Value)


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessment will take the form of tutorial feedback. Summative assessment will be returned within current guidelines for turnaround.

Indicative reading

“Profundity in Instrumental Music”.Stephen Davies - 2002 - British Journal of Aesthetics 42 (4):343-356.

Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics.Carolyn Korsmeyer - 2010 - New York: Oxford University Press.

“On Restoring and Reproducing Art”.Mark Sagoff - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (9):453-470.

Everyday Aesthetics.Yuriko Saito - 2010 - Oxford University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.