Courses

For the master's degree, a student must take 30 course credits, i.e., the equivalent of 10 courses. These should be chosen from the following list, which will be revised from time to time; of the 30 credits six can be independent study. In addition, three credits are to be earned by registering for an MA Thesis, to be directed by a Stony Brook Philosophy Faculty Member.

The following courses constitute the required core of the concentration; except for one of them, which will be offered on the main campus, they are offered at Stony Brook Manhattan.

PHIL 505 Aesthetic Theory. An immersion in the most challenging philosophical theories of art from the Greeks to the current moment. Authors to be considered include Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, Kant, Schiller, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, Collingwood, Cassirer, Langer, Adorno, Heidegger, Greenberg, and Danto. Readings will be chosen from several of these figures, with the selection varying from year to year.

PHIL 506 Art and its Problems. A consideration of basic problems in the creation and appreciation of art: What is the creative process? Who is the artist? How is art to be compared with other symbolic forms (e.g., language, science, technology)? What does art offer that philosophy does not, and vice-versa? In what ways does the gender or racial identity of the artist affect the creation of the work? What are the cultural, social, and political dimensions of the art work and its reception? Each time the course is offered attention will be given to a set of such questions.

PHIL 507 Aesthetic System. A concentrated reading of a single major work, with attention both to its detailed structure and to its larger significance. Candidates for such reading include Aristotle's Poetics, Kant's Critique of Judgment, Hegel's lectures on The Philosophy of Art, Adorno's Aesthetic Theory, Collingwood's Principles of Art, Langer's Feeling and Form, Dewey's Art as Experience, Heidegger's "The Origin of the Work of Art," and Danto's Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

PHIL 508 Contemporary Matters. With an eye on art works available in the public sphere -- current exhibitions, installations, concerts, readings, performances, etc. -- philosophical queries will be pursued: Why these works now? How do they compare with their predecessors? What do they portend for the future of art? Visits to the original places and/or performances of these works will be integrated into an ongoing discussion of the questions they raise within the context of aesthetic theory, especially that of postmodern thinkers such as Lyotard and Deleuze, Heidegger and Derrida.

The Problem of Representation. Taking a close look at visual works (paintings, film, sculpture), long-standing questions of representation will be pursued. How are we to understand representation: as an epistemological or a semiological matter? To what degree, and in what form, is likeness necessary for representation? Is representation an undisputed good or is it a corrupting influence, or something else quite different? How is representation to be compared with expression as an ideal of visual art? Do the successive revolutions of Dada, op art, conceptual art, installations, and earthworks displace the representational impulse, or do they call for its reinstatement in other guises? Exemplary texts from artists as well as philosophers will be studied; on-site viewings of works under discussion are to be undertaken.

Science and Beauty. Science and art each seek to discover fundamental new truths about nature and the way humans inhabit it. In neither case is this process cold and emotionless. The practitioners of each field are persons, not bare brains, meaning that the pursuit of inquiry affects them personally and not just professionally. One important sign of it is the experience of beauty.

We examine traditional theories of beauty (including those of Plato, Collingwood, Kant, and Heidegger) and their significance for science, as well as writings by scientists (including Faraday, Hardy, Einstein, and Feynman) about beauty. We analyze experiments and theories famously renowned for their beauty, noting the role of depth, clarity, and definitiveness. We investigate historical episodes such as the romantic poets’ response to Newton’s “unweaving” of the rainbow. We study the strategies by which some philosophical accounts of science deny a role for beauty in science. We consider the implications for science, if it can be beautiful, and the implications for beauty, if science can possess it.

Independent Study. Up to six hours of credit will be granted for independent study with a faculty member of the program or a practising artist.

Written Thesis. An essay of 40-50 pages that treats a topic chosen by the student is required; it will be written under the supervision of a faculty member or an artist who has been approved for this role.

For further information, consult Ed Casey, Founding Director of the Program: Edward.Casey@stonybrook.edu.

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