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Meaning of the Arts (PHIL 0847 Section 005)

W 5:30-8:00pm
Anderson Hall 721

Professor: Sam Wezowicz

Office: 735 Anderson Hall
Office Hours: Tuesdays 4-5, Wednesdays 4:30-5:30, or by appointment

Course Description: The Meaning of the Arts is a general education course that will fulfill your arts
requirement. It undertakes central questions in philosophy of art and aesthetics concerning the nature of
art and its value, and the ways to understand, evaluate and interpret works of art. We will explore various
philosophical perspectives on the arts. The course involves close reading of philosophical arguments and
art theory, evaluating and responding to them in discussion and writing.
Philosophical investigation calls not just for clearly stating your position on a certain problem,
but also for thinking about what support there is for it in the face of possible objections. That is, to think
philosophically is to think an issue through so that you can explain to others (as well as to yourself) what
strikes you as sensible about having those views as opposed to having other views. After all, anyone can
say that a painting is beautiful or that one play is better than another, so we will be going deeper to
discover what support, if any, such claims have.
Art is often considered a universal form of human expression and communication that interprets,
reflects, and at times, criticizes the world that we live in. It also expresses a wide variety of human
experiences, such as love, fear, and freedom. The aim of this course will be to examine art and the ways
in which it gives and reflects the meaning (or possibly meaninglessness) of our lives. We will begin by
looking at historical perspectives about art and beauty, to provide a foundation for our course discussion.
In particular, this historical section of the course will focus primarily on tragedy. For tragedys themes
and questions regarding the human predicament persist throughout history, and as we will see, are still
present today. From this point we will proceed to looking at art and how it shapes our experiences of life
and beliefs about the world through both an existential and social perspective. These will provide us the
tools to examine particular realms and kinds of art, such as contemporary music, horror movies, street art,
and pop-culture in general.
Course Objectives:
(1) Cultivate an ability to critically analyze and evaluate philosophical texts, ideas, problems and
(2) Obtain proficiency writing an academic philosophy paper in which students critique and analyze
philosophical problems.
(3) Become familiar with different aesthetic theories and be able to apply them to different situations.
By the end of this course, students should have an understanding of key historical texts and
theories. Also, students should comprehend contemporary aesthetic debates. However, what is more
crucial is that students develop the ability to ask questions and think critically. Ultimately, the goal is to
walk out of this class having seriously considered questions regarding art, beauty, experience, and culture.
Assigned Readings:
There are no required texts. All readings will be posted on Blackboard. These will be made
available to you at least a week prior to their due date. The date listed on the syllabus for each reading is
the day the reading is due, not the day it is assigned. Also, it is recommended that you print out the
readings before hand. This allows you to underline or make notes in the margins. Not only will this save
you time when writing your papers and studying, you are also more inclined to read more critically.
Course Requirements: The evaluation for the course will consist of 7 items (totaling 200 points):
(1) Short Paper 1- 30 points
(2) Short Paper 2- 30 points
(3) Short Paper 3- 30 points
(4) Reflections/Group Activities- 30 points
(5) Final Paper- 60 points
(6) Participation/Attendance- 20 points

Numeric-To-Letter-Grade Scale:
A 93-100 C 73-76
A- 90-92 C- 70-72
B+ 87-89 D+ 65-69
B 83-86 D 55-64
B- 80-82 D- 50-54
C+ 77-79 F 0-49

Short Papers: These papers will be 2-3 pages and must relate to the topics either being discussed or what
has been discussed already. The particular essay question for each of these will be assigned two weeks
ahead of their due dates. Hard copies will be due in class on the due date. PLEASE STAPLE YOUR

Reflections/Group Activities: There will be 12 graded assignments throughout the semester, each worth
three points. Assignments are given in class and cannot be made up. Reflections can be assigned to
provoke class discussion or to assess your understanding of the text. There will also be small group
activities in class that test the application of learned knowledge or are intended to stimulate debate.

Final Paper: The final paper will be 5-7 pages, 12 point font, double spaced, and in Times New Roman.
This paper will be due on the date specified on the syllabus. The prompt and more details concerning this
paper will be given about a month before it is due.

Participation: Please come to class prepared to discuss readings and ask questions. This class will be
almost entirely discussion based. This means that you all must come to class able to participate in a group
conversation about the materials assigned. With this in mind, I will absolutely not tolerate disrespectful
behavior or commentary in this class. Your participation will be determined by how well you engage in
class. Moreover, All cell phone use is banned from class. This extends to tablets and laptops, unless I
give you prior permission. Using cell phones and other devices in class is extremely disrespectful and
distracting to the whole class. If you are expecting an important phone call, inform me at the beginning of
the class. If there is an emergency, please quietly excuse yourself from class. Anyone caught using his or
her cell phone in class will be marked as absent for the day.

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. I will allow three unexcused absences. If you exceed three
unexcused absences, I will deduct 5% off of your final grade each time. That is, a B+ will become a B
after the third unexcused absence. If you cannot attend for some legitimate reason you must notify me by
email before class. Excuses after the fact will not be accepted unless they come with some form of official
documentation that explains your absence (e.g. a doctors note, police citation, etc.). Since quizzes will be
unannounced and cannot be made up, it is in your best interest to have as perfect attendance as possible.
Tardiness: If you come to class more than 20 minutes late or more than once without a legitimate excuse,
I reserve the right to deduct from your final grade as if your tardiness were an absence. Each subsequent
such tardy will be counted as an absence and follow the grading rules set above.

Late Work: All papers are due in class, on the date indicated on the syllabus, and in the form of a hard
copy (with the exception of the final paper). For every day that a paper is late, I will deduct 5% off your
grade. As for extensions, they will be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, you must contact me
at least three days before the due date or have written documentation (e.g. a doctors note). PLEASE, do
not email me a long drawn out story about why you cannot submit your work on time. A quick and
concise email or conversation after class will be sufficient. I am being reasonable granting extensions
occasionally. Thus, do not take advantage of this.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism is claiming authorship for any material that is not ones own without proper
citation or attribution. All sources must be cited, even those that are included in course materials. If you
are caught plagiarizing, you will fail the course. I cannot stress this enough. It wont be a warning. It
wont be simply failing the assignment. You wont be able to redeem yourself. You will fail the course.
Take the late paper grade deduction instead. Plagiarizing is wasting both your time and effort as well as
mine and I will not do you any favors.
If you have questions regarding citations, please ask me prior to handing in an assignment or seek
help through the writing center.
Disability Statement: This course is open to all students who met the academic requirements for
participation. Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should
contact the instructor privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Contact Disability
Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with
documented disabilities.
Statement on Academic Freedom:
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The University has
adopted a policy on Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities (Policy # 03.70.02) which
can be accessed through the following link:
Class Schedule: Please note that the dates listed are when readings are due, not that they will be assigned
on that day. This schedule is tentative and subject to change depending on class discussion. I will
inform you if/when the schedule changes both in class and via email.

Week 1 (Aug. 30th):

- Introduction/Syllabus
- Platos Book 10 of Republic

Week 2 (Sept. 6th):

- Platos Symposium

Week 3 (Sept. 13th):

- Aristotles Poetics
- Humes Of the Standard of Taste

Week 4 (Sept. 20th):

- Humes Of Tragedy
- Watch a Tragedy

Week 5 (Sept. 27th):

- Nietzsches The Birth of Tragedy (Selections)
- Nietzsches Attempt at Self-Criticism
- Nietzsches later writings (Selections)

Week 6 (Oct. 4th):

- What is Existentialism by Diane Raymond
- Sartres Existentialism and Human Emotions (Selections)
- SHORT PAPER 1 DUE in class
Week 7 (Oct. 11th):
- Sartres On Being a Writer
- Camus Absurd Reasoning from The Myth of Sisyphus

Week 8 (Oct. 18th):

- Camus Absurd Creation from The Myth of Sisyphus
- The Absurd by Thomas Nagel

Week 9 (Oct. 25):

- Authenticity, Literature and Irony by Jacob Golomb
- Sartres The Wall

Week 10 (Nov. 1st):

- Authenticity Revisited: The Rock Critic and the Changing Real by Hans Weisethaunet and Ulf
- Acting Naturally Unnaturally: The Performative Nature of Authenticity in Popular Music by
Michael Mario Albrecht
- SHORT PAPER 2 DUE in class

Week 11 (Nov. 8th):

- Why Horror? by Noel Carroll
- The Paradox of Horror by Berys Gaut
- Why We Crave Horror Movies by Stephen King

Week 12 (Nov. 15th):

- Street Art: The Transfiguration of Commonplaces by Nicholas Riggle
- Watch Exit Through the Gift Shop

Fall/Thanksgiving Break: November 20th- 26th

Week 13 (Nov. 29th):

- Street Art and Consent by Sondra Bacharach
- Transformations: Urban Imagination in the Public City by Alison Young
- SHORT PAPER 3 DUE in class

Week 14 (Dec. 6th):

- Debate

Week 15 (Dec. 13th):

- No Class- Study Days
- FINAL PAPER DUE through SafeAssign on Dec. 15th