Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to a growing body of research that seeks to unite themes in the philosophy of aesthetic experience and art with recent work in art history and art criticism, in order to encourage an in-depth understanding of the central concerns debated in these two neighbouring academic disciplines.
  • To introduce topics, debates and concepts that are central to these fields of academic research through structured group discussion of relevant and influential literature on the topics.
  • To promote an advanced critical understanding of different conceptions of philosophical-artistic interaction so as to encourage students to develop innovative treatments and interpretations of the issues at hand.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills required to pursue self-directed research on a specific topic, under the direction of a member of staff.
  • To enable students to critically reflect upon different views as to how research in philosophical aesthetics and theory of art should be pursued.
  • To enable students to participate in disciplined philosophical reflection and to critically examine descriptions of the structure of artistic and aesthetic experience that others have offered.
  • To introduce students to debates at the cutting edge of philosophical research with a view to encouraging PhD research in the field.


  • The first seminar will provide students with an overview of recent work in philosophical aesthetics in its relation to artistic criticism and art history, discussing what is meant by the terms 'aesthetics' and 'theory of art'. In subsequent seminars, questions and debates central to the field of philosophical aesthetics will be addressed, focussing on six topics that have been the focus of considerable recent attention:
  • Aesthetics, Art and the Art World.
  • The Boundaries of the Aesthetic: Art & Nature
  • Kantian Aesthetics
  • Criticism and Taste: Interpretation, Intention, and Sensibility.
  • Adorno and Modernism
  • Art and Emotion
  • One-to-one supervisions will provide more focused teaching on one of these topics, which students will explore in depth through their formative and summative assignments.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • Acquire an appreciation of contrasting views regarding how research in aesthetics and theory of art ought to be pursued
  • Understand several broad issues that comprise a context for all recent research on aesthetics and theory of art.
  • Relate some of these issues to a more specific research question.
  • Acquire an advanced, in-depth knowledge of recent research.
  • Recognise both the importance of philosophical research and some of the difficulties it involves.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify key issues, questions and debates examined in the relevant academic fields.
  • Identify and make use of relevant literature.
  • Critically review some recent work on philosophical aesthetics and theory of art in a clear, structured fashion.
  • Identify a philosophical problem, formulate a philosophical position and employ advanced critical skills and conceptual knowledge to address the problem and defend the position.
  • Write an essay with an appropriately focused research question, a clear, knowledgeable discussion of the topic area, and a structured argument. Essays will display evidence of critical understanding and innovative philosophical thought.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify and locate research materials.
  • Write in a clear, rigorous, argumentative style.
  • Manage their time effectively.
  • Pursue interdisciplinary research.
  • Use their own initiative to choose a research topic.
  • Exercise self-discipline, responsibility and autonomy in pursuing a research project.
  • Engage in disciplined reflection upon the nature of their experiences.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars provide structured group teaching, addressing issues that are central to recent research on philosophical aesthetics and art theory. Seminars also provide the opportunity for group discussion, allowing students to clarify points and refine their views, through interaction with the seminar leader and their peers. Through seminars, students will further develop their argumentative abilities and learn to put forward their views in a clear, structured manner.
  • One-to-one supervisions are tailored specifically to the research projects of individual students, providing a valuable opportunity for them to clarify and discuss ideas. One-to-one supervisions will also assist students in locating relevant library resources, formulating appropriate and concise essay topics, and working out argument structures. Supervision sessions are also used to offer critical feedback on draft summative essays, prior to submission.
  • Students are required to attend the weekly student-led Taught MA in Philosophy Work-in-Progress Seminar, where they will be encouraged to present their ideas to peers and seek feedback about their work. They are also encouraged to attend EIDOS (postgraduate philosophy society) talks and departmental Research Seminars.
  • Students will write a formative essay, which will aim to review a key text or philosophical position discussed in seminars, make some of its presuppositions explicit and outline the main objections to that position. Feedback on the formative assignment will assist students in preparing the summative assignment.
  • For the summative essay, students will be required to focus on a specific research question, demonstrate advanced knowledge of the relevant literature, develop a critical understanding of relevant ideas and arguments and put forward a philosophical position in the form of a clear, structured philosophical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
One-to-one Supervisions 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
Preparation and Reading 282
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

An essay of 2000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University