Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


What is art? What is an artwork? Do all types and examples of (what are traditionally classed as) artworks have identifying features in common? If so, what are they? Or, are there such interesting differences between works of literature, pieces of sculpture and the like, that searching for a definition of art is a futile task and this type of question misguided? Do avant-garde works count as art? Can anything count as art, such as food, if it’s presented in the right way or made with the right sort of intention? What does all of this tell us about the nature of definition generally?
These are some of the questions that we will explore at the start of this course. After that we will consider other issues and questions. What is the relation of art to beauty and other aesthetic qualities? What is it for a performance to be ‘authentic’ and is this sort of performance to be privileged in any way? Why is rock music such a part of our lives? Is there anything aesthetically wrong with a forgery? What is the nature of aesthetic experience and of our emotional responses to art? Why do we care so much about the fate of fictional characters? Is there any difference between pornography and erotica? Are artists subject to a different moral code? And what on earth is the point of public art? What is public art?


Contact hours

Weekly 2-hour class for 10 teaching weeks


Also available under code PL610 (Level 5)

Method of assessment

100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The seminar readings will all be taken from:
Arguing About Art (eds.) Neill and Ridley (Routledge: London, 2007)

Suggested further reading for essays will be taken from this work also, with additions supplied by the convenor. In addition, a list of websites of the world’s great galleries, museums, etc. is distributed.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The aims of the course are:
1. to provide students with an overview of contemporary work in philosophical aesthetics and an understanding of the central issues which this work addresses;
2. to enable students to engage critically with this work, and to develop their own ideas and responses to it;
3. if students are doing a joint degree with literature, drama, film or the history and philosophy of art, to provide them with the opportunity to bring their philosophical study to bear on their other subject.

By the end of the course students should:
4. understand central issues in contemporary philosophical aesthetics such as the nature and definition of art, the relation of the arts to society and morality, the supposed problems that fakes and forgeries pose;
5. have engaged in specific and in-depth analysis of these issues;
6. have developed their skills in critical analysis and argument through an engagement with these issues;
7. have developed their ability to speak effectively in public and make complex philosophical ideas clear and understandable;
8. have developed their ability to work autonomously, alone and in groups, and to take responsibility for their learning.

This module will contribute to the aims of the Philosophy Programme by enabling students to find out about and discuss one of the central areas of philosophy – namely aesthetics. The module will allow students to practise their analytical and critical skills whilst considering some of the most interesting material in philosophy. It will also give them practise of working on their own and in groups, thus enabling them to take their analytical and critical skills to situations that they will encounter once they have left the University.

In addition, Level 6 students will approach the material in this module at a higher level and in a more critical fashion than Level 5 students. Level 6 students will be expected to write and discuss whilst paying attention to articles, books and ideas, commensurate with advanced undergraduate study.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.