Suggested Courses for SMFA Students

Philosophy Courses for the Aspiring Artist

The Tufts University Department of Philosophy has a reputation for its strengths in several branches of philosophy, including philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, but it also provides avenues for exploring the arts from new perspectives. The Department opens these opportunities to students both through course subject matter and through faculty guidance.

A variety of Tufts University philosophy courses may be of exceptional interest to students of the arts. Below are just a few of the most noteworthy courses of potential relevance to the aspiring artist:

  • Aesthetic Psychology
  • Aesthetics
  • History of Modern Philosophy
  • Kant and the Philosophy of Mind
  • Knowing and Being
  • Nothingness
  • Philosophy & Film
  • Philosophy of Mind

Aside from these courses, a number of philosophy faculty members are actively interested in the arts and share an appreciation for the creativity and originality of thought brought by artists. Though all philosophy faculty have unique perspectives to offer, arts students may be particularly interested in studying with Dean Nancy Bauer, Prof. Stephen White, Prof. Dan Dennett, Prof. Mario De Caro, Prof. Avner Baz, Prof. Lydia Amir, or Prof. David Denby.

Dean Nancy Bauer:
Nancy Bauer is currently serving as the inaugural dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. She is also Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences, a position to which she was appointed in 2012. In all of her roles, she is interested in thinking about what philosophy is and what role it plays, or should or might play, in everyday human life. Her writing explores these issues, especially as they arise in reflection about gender and philosophy, the history of philosophy, and philosophy and film. She is the author of the books How to Do Things With Pornography (Harvard University Press, 2015) and Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism (Columbia University Press, 2001). Bauer received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard after majoring in Social Studies as an undergraduate, working as a reporter and a medical writer, and attending divinity school. She enjoys hanging out with her family, wrestling with the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle, lifting heavy weights, and listening to all things rock and roll. She's also never without her knitting.

Prof. Lydia Amir:
Prof. Amir is an expert in the history of modern philosophy, contemporary European philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. She writes about humor and the good life. She is a leader in the "philosophical counseling" movement. She has a broad intellect, a cosmopolitan perspective, and a special ability to relate philosophy to culture and the arts.

Prof. Avner Baz:
Prof. Baz is in engaged in research on perception, which some might say is the sine qua non of any art. His work on perception connects to questions of motivation, which may inform an understanding of the creative process. For instance, in his most recent paper, he argues that since the perceived world is indeterminate—in the sense that it could always be perceived in different ways—and since we are motivated by that world, it follows that our motivation is itself indeterminate: contrary to what many in contemporary ethical theory and the philosophy of action presuppose, there is no unique true and full answer to the question why we did or said (of thought, or felt) this or that.

Prof. Mario De Caro:
Prof. De Caro is versed in a wide range of philosophical and historical topics. He regularly teaches a course that focuses on film as a means of exploring and communicating these problems. This fall he will teach a course on the history of modern philosophy, in which he will also discuss the Renaissance and some aesthetics issues. His classes regularly involve the use of videos and movie clips.

Prof. David Denby:
Prof. Denby teaches on a rich variety of philosophical topics, from questions about the nature of reality (metaphysics) to questions of how to live ethically. Prof. Denby's breadth of knowledge and distinguished approach to teaching provide a unique learning opportunity for students of the arts.

Prof. Dan Dennett:
Prof. Dennett is well known both for his work in philosophy of mind and his appreciation of the arts. Together, these facets offer students the chance to creatively engage with questions about the nature of consciousness and how human minds relate to the world.

Prof. Stephen White:
Prof. Stephen White did his undergraduate work in philosophy and mathematics at Berkeley. He did a second BA in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford. He studied filmmaking briefly at UCLA before returning to Berkeley for his Ph.D. in philosophy. His current interests outside philosophy include film and photography.