Aesthetics module (PI22006)

Explore art’s philosophical depths from ancient Greek nudes to the impact of generative artificial intelligence on the art world.

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In this module, we will delve into the fascinating world of art and aesthetics, exploring why some philosophers have sought to defend the value of beauty in the modern world, and why some argue good art without being beautiful is in fact one of the great achievements of 20th century art.

Using concepts derived from European Philosophy, you will explore the value of beauty in art as well as how art can function as a critique of society in its present state. We will thus explore how aesthetics deepens our understanding of art and its place in the world, fosters critical thinking, and enriches our appreciation of given artworks.

In the first half of the course we examine the status of beauty, focusing on the philosophical dimensions of the nude, from ancient Greek sculpture to modern-day nude photography.

The second half will focus on how art functions as a critique of society, emphasising the impact of modern technology on art and politics, whether through mechanical reproduction or generative artificial intelligence.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • explore different philosophical perspectives on art
  • examine key concepts in aesthetics, such as the nature of beauty or how art can criticise the society in which it is produced
  • analyse artworks across various media and understand how they convey meaning
  • engage in interdisciplinary approaches to aesthetics, drawing insights from art theory, political theory, science and technology studies, and the history of art
  • develop critical thinking skills by debating the philosophical implications of various artworks

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • evaluate artworks and apply philosophical concepts to analyse their aesthetic value
  • appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of aesthetics and its relevance to various academic fields
  • engage in thoughtful discussions about the ethical dimensions of art and creativity
  • demonstrate research skills by learning how to compose an analysis of a single image and the writing of a philosophical essay that has a larger scope
  • reflect on your own experiences with art and aesthetics and articulate your insights with clarity and depth

Assignments / assessment

  • 2,000 word essay (60%)
  • 1,000 word image analysis (30%)
  • weekly tutorial questions (10%)

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • speaking in tutorials and drafting weekly tutorial questions
    • this gives you a hands-on and proactive learning experience


This module is available on following courses: