Discussion Question – Philosophy and Art Toolbox Discussion Topic

After looking through all of the materials in the Week 1 Learning Resources about philosophy and art, please use them, without relying on any outside resources, to address the three points below. Make sure to cite any of the learning resources you use in your answer in MLA format.

  1. Using your own words and using the Learning Resources, compose a one sentence definition of philosophy.
  2. Using your own words and using the Learning Resources, compose a one sentence definition of art.
  3. In two additional sentences, briefly explain how you understand the relationship between philosophy and the arts based on the Learning Resources.

Please limit your post to 4-5 sentences.








“Art and Epistemology,” from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is a concise introduction to several important themes, including the question of what, if anything, we can learn from the arts.


A brief summary of the main branches of philosophy.


MOMA’s glossary of art terms pairs common terminology from the study of art with sample works and helps provide vocabulary to help in the interpretation of visual art.


Audi, Robert. “Philosophy.” Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Donald M. Borchert, 2nd ed., vol. 7, Macmillan Reference USA, 2006, pp. 325-337. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

This reading offers an overview of the field of philosophy and its traditional subdivisions.


Pagan Philosophy by Arthur Dove

Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access “The Met Collection”

People seeking to answer this question—really, the question of how to live a meaningful life—may turn to cultural traditions, common sense, religion, and personal feelings. Is this adequate? Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks have answered “no.”

The reason our normal understanding of the meaning of our lives can fall short is illustrated by one of the most famous stories in Western philosophy. The Allegory of the Cave is a kind of myth, a story filled with symbolic elements and complex meanings. The author, Plato, attributed the story to Socrates, his teacher, although we can’t know if Socrates told the story, or if Plato was simply honoring his instructor. The allegory suggests that we live in a twilight world, plagued by illusion, confusion, and error. To apprehend the true nature of reality, Plato suggests, we need a better approach, and this is the task of philosophy.

The word philosophy comes from two Greek roots, philos and sophos—love and wisdom. In its broadest sense, philosophy is the search for wisdom and truth motivated by desire. But how one seeks wisdom and truth has changed over the past two thousand years. In the old days, philosophers might aim to know everything that could be known. Plato’s student Aristotle was known for his wide-ranging curiosity about the human and natural worlds. Today, the search for knowledge is highly specialized and disciplined. If you’re curious about plants and animals, you start with the discipline of biology; to learn about society, you study sociology. Today’s philosophers are intellectual clarifiers, seeking insights into the human condition, including what people do and don’t know, in the hope of cutting through confusions. These skills of careful, rigorous, systematic thinking can be useful in many contexts.

Traditional philosophy has several main branches.

  1. Epistemology which is the study of what we can know and how we achieve knowledge.
  2. Ethics which studies how to make morally sound decisions.
  3. Logic which addresses reasoning and argumentation to help people think more clearly and systematically.
  4. Metaphysics which studies the fundamental nature of reality. Ontology, or the study of being, becoming, and ultimate reality, is a subdivision of metaphysics.
  5. History of Philosophy which studies the historical and philosophical origins of philosophy.
  6. Aesthetics which asks questions about the purpose and function of the arts, the nature of beauty etc. and which is most relevant to this course.

Modern philosophers also focus on topical issues, including science, politics, language, and religion.

This course is an introduction to classic fields in the humanities: the visual arts (painting, drawing, photography, sculpture), architecture, music and dance, poetry and fiction, theater and film, religion and myth. Much of this will involve questions of aesthetics—judgments on the creation, representation, and expression of individual and collective meaning. Before delving into the exciting world of arts and letters, we’ll explore the questions of art as representation and the interpretation of symbols through Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

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