Kant’s approach to art
A good essay will demonstrate an understanding of the issues raised in the prompt by offering a
concise explication of pertinent arguments, concepts, and opposing views.
Your essay should also include direct use of But is it Art?; you must include direct quotations
and/or close paraphrases of the text. Do not include any additional research material.
Most importantly, your essay should be a critical analysis of an issue, not an overview of
material covered in the text. It is not enough simply to rehearse the arguments of other
philosophers; I want to see that you’ve thought about the issues. There is no correct answer
for any of the questions, so it is up to you to convince me that yours is a good answer.
Some advice (from a person who’s written and graded hundreds of papers)
This is a chance to demonstrate your critical thinking and writing skills, so don’t hold your
ideas back. I want to see a strong thesis, logical structure, and good use of the material we’ve
covered so far.
There is no correct answer, but some answers are better than others. I am not looking for an
essay I can agree with; I want to see an argument that demonstrates your ability to think
critically and independently.
You need not agree with the argument you make. This might sound strange or disingenuous,
but I think it’s just practical. If you find an argument that works, go with it. Page 2 of 3
The most common mistake students make with this assignment is to turn in an essay lacking an
argument, which amounts to an overview of the material. As I said above, I want more than
an overview. Your work on the discussion board has demonstrated that you have good ideas;
take this as a chance to expand those ideas.
To be sure that you’re making an argument and not just giving an overview you might ask
yourself these questions. You should be able to answer affirmatively in each case.
Could someone make an argument that contradicts what I’ve said in my essay?
Does everything I’ve included in this essay contribute to my thesis?
Does my essay include my own opinion?
Is my opinion supported by textual references and analyses?
Does my essay include a fair and accurate reading of the text (But is it Art?)?
When citing the text be sure to distinguish Freeland’s own arguments from the arguments of
the artists, philosophers, and social theorists she references. (I’ve noticed a few of us
misattributing arguments in our discussion board posts.)
There is no need for a lengthy introduction to your essay. It’s a short paper, so just get straight
to your argument.
Don’t turn in an essay that is too short. This is an easily avoidable mistake. Don’t turn in an
essay that is too long, either. I want to see a concise argument.
Start early, even if it’s just getting your notes together and making an outline.
You can email me with questions. The sooner you start, the sooner I can
answer your questions. It is unlikely that I will be able to help the night before the essay is
due, so be sure to give me time to respond.
You can also come to my office hours or, if my hours don’t fit your schedule, email me to set
up a time that works for both of us.
Don’t forget about the Writing Center. It can’t hurt to consult them about your work.
Be confident in yourself as a writer and as a student. This is a chance to try new ideas, think
about things differently, and to start to build your own philosophical orientation to the world.
A few technical matters:
Each essay should be between 500 and 750 words (about 2 to 3 pages double spaced).
Please use twelve point Times New Roman font, double spacing, and one inch margins.
Include the text of the question to which you are responding.
Papers should use a standard citation and writing style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago.
The paper is due
I can only accept essays in .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .odt formats. Page 3 of 3
Choose only one of the following prompts. Respond as best you can to all and only the issues
raised in the prompt. If you’re stuck and can’t find a prompt that interests you just be practical.
Respond to the prompt with which you are most comfortable.
1. Generally speaking, Kant argued that the beauty of art lies in the work itself, so, for Kant,
beauty is not (entirely) in the eye of the beholder. Freeland gives us several reasons to
disagree with Kant’s approach to art, but there seem to be some benefits as well. For
instance, if we could identify objective, universal, or cross-cultural standards of beauty we
might be able to settle some disputes over what is a part of the canon in art (See Chapter 5).
Given these conflicting positions, is Kant’s theory a productive way to approach the canon in
art? Does an objectivist theory inhibit the canon by excluding those artworks which it cannot
explain, or does it provide a stable theory for establishing a canon? Is there a middle ground?
2. Many of you have argued for what is often called the ‘expression theory of art’; namely, that
art should either produce an emotional response in the spectator or be the product of an
artist’s emotion. Freeland openly disagrees with this theory of art (though she gives it a fair
treatment), favoring instead a cognitive theory of art. If you hold the expression theory how
can you address Freeland’s criticisms? In your response use Freeland’s criteria for
interpretation (Chapter 6, p. 150) to explain why the expression theory of art an apt
interpretive tool. NB: You don’t have to address all of the criticisms Freeland offers; choose
one or two to deal with.
3. Many of the theories Freeland deals with incorporate social, historical, and political issues into
a theory of art, but many philosophers have argued for considering artworks out of those
contexts. Do we need to include culture in our discussion of an artwork, or can we consider
an artwork on its own? Of these two theoretical approaches which is a better approach to
developing a canon in art? What specifically makes your theoretical approach superior? NB: I suggest that you use one theoretical approach from the book and discuss whether it has merit as a theory of art.