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Study information


Module titleAesthetics
Module codePHL2045
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Tom Roberts (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will examine core philosophical problems in Aesthetics. You will begin by examining the debate over the nature of beauty and ugliness, and whether it is possible to offer a theoretical analysis of these central aesthetic concepts. Then, you will focus on how to understand the value of art, art-making, and art-appreciation, and the relation between these values and other sources of human value, such as the ethical and the intellectual. You will consider, for example, whether the value of art is exhausted by its perceptible, formal qualities; whether the virtuous character of an artist can make her art better; and whether we have any aesthetic obligations (as we have moral obligations). Lastly, the module will investigate philosophical problems concerning individual art-forms such as music and film.

There are no pre-requisite or co-requisite modules. The module is suitable for non-specialists and those from interdisciplinary pathways who have an interest in the nature and value of art. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • You will learn about current debates in Aesthetics, and come to understand how these are related to topics from elsewhere in the discipline of Philosophy.
  • You will learn to think critically about your own aesthetic tastes and judgements, and to articulate your philosophical conclusions with care and precision.
  • You will develop your capacities for philosophical analysis and reasoning, by reading and researching contemporary literature on Aesthetics.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Explain and evaluate key philosophical problems surrounding topics in Aesthetics, and existing responses to these problems.
  • 2. Explain in an informed way how problems in aesthetics are connected to issues in other philosophical domains, including ethics and metaphysics.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Critically analyse philosophical texts, both recent and historical.
  • 4. Begin to consolidate philosophical concepts from other modules and begin to convey a sense of the unity of philosophy as a discipline.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Illustrate and explain difficult ideas in writing and orally.
  • 6. Analyse, critically engage with, and report accurately upon, existing written material while articulating it within a structured and cogent argument.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The nature of beauty and ugliness
  • the value of art
  • the sublime
  • art and morality
  • high and low art
  • music and the expression of emotion
  • everyday aesthetics

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity2211 x 2 hours per week comprising of lectures and seminars
Guided Independent Study45Weekly assigned readings
Guided Independent Study10Preparation for class discussion
Guided Independent Study23Preparation for essay
Guided Independent Study50Preparation for final examination

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short essay on a selected reading5001-5Verbal and Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1501500 words1-6Written Feedback
Essay 2501500 words1-6Written Feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 11500 words1-6August/September reassessment period
Essay 21500 words1-6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Lamarque, P. & Olsen, S.H. (2004) Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition, Blackwell.

Robinson, J. (1994), ‘The Expression and Arousal of Emotion in Music’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 52(1).

Cohen, T. (1993), ‘High and Low Thinking about High and Low Art’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 51(2).

Leddy, T. (2015), ‘Experience and Awe: An Expansive Approach to Everyday Aesthetics’, Contemporary Aesthetics 13.

Cochrane, T. (2012), ‘The Emotional Experience of the Sublime’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 42(2).

Kieran, M. (2010), ‘The Vice of Snobbery: Aesthetic Knowledge, Justification, and Virtue in Art Appreciation’, Philosophical Quarterly, 60(239).

Gaut, B. (2002), ‘Cinematic Art’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 60(4).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Aesthetics; Art; Beauty; Music; Value.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date