Friday, December 7, 2018
Philosophies of art & beauty
This past semester's classes went exceptionally well. In particular I have to commend the students in my Philosophies of Art & Beauty class who did extremely well in handling what was for many of the students in that class their first philosophy class! This was the second time I've taught the course while at Moravian and I stuck to the plan utilized so successfully the first time I taught it. In essence I basically followed the layout of the course that was taught to me when *I* was an undergraduate - topics, philosophers, textbook, and all.
Hofstadter and Kuhn's Philosophies of Art & Beauty knows of no comparison both in depth and breath if one is selecting a premier aesthetics text. While historically oriented it nevertheless provides students with clear fundamental concepts in a way that is also fresh and engaging with respect to young people and their views about art today. I even decided to show the same rendition of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex that my professor showed to our class when I took the course and was so moved by it.
When teaching the course I begin with Plato on the good and the beautiful, discuss his theory of form, his theory of beauty found through the unity of variety, and his views on symmetry, order, harmony, measure, balance, and proportion. Next comes Aristotle on tragedy, techne' and technique in craft, the theory of form and matter with respect to creativity and the vision of the artist, and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. Then was David Hume on taste and the role of the critic - asking whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder (a favorite question that students love to pose). Then was Kant's four moments of the beautiful from The Critique of Judgment (by far the most important part of the course). We then read and discussed Schopenhauer on music, and ended with Nietzsche on tragedy, distinguishing Nietzsche's views from Aristotle's. What worked particularly well was using Nietzsche's The Dionysian Vision of the World in addition to The Birth of Tragedy, the former of which resonated with students in its clarity and audacity.
I have to say that along with courses like Continental Philosophy, Existential Philosophy, and Philosophy of Human Experience (Phenomenology) this course is certainly one of my favorites to teach because it provides more than ample opportunity for students to find a topic that genuinely interests them and they then pursue that topic working out how it is relevant in their lives.
This semester's class went really well and I am very proud of the students who worked so hard and learned so much.