Philosophy of Art

Dec 2016

Lydia's course Philosophy of Art begins with essentialist questions (what is art? what is beauty?) and ends with sociological and political questions (how does art figure in the political realm? how does the institutional art world wield its power to decide on questions of taste? why are there no great women artists?), using selected philosophical texts as markers. The readings are very enjoyable as are Goehr's lectures. Sometimes, however, her lectures are winding and discursive, in large part because she takes questions. So this class is part seminar, part lecture. I think Goehr is a very visual and abstract thinker. She often draws large abstracted maps of argument and history. And she is clearly very spiritually invested in art too; this makes sense as she comes from a family of artists, a fact she will make sure you know about her. The problem with this course is a lack of direction re writing and argumentation. You will be asked to write on a number of highly open-ended questions--to "make an argument," and yet spend most of your time "in exposition." TAs are open and helpful enough. However, it seems like they keep their standards intentionally esoteric which I don't approve of.

Nov 2010

I can't believe that Lydia is only listed as "silver." She is the most brilliant, engaging, and wonderful professor I have had at Columbia. Her classes are always interesting and captivating, no matter the subject being discussed. She relates the material in the most accessible way. Lydia, if you ever read are worth a million gold ratings!! For the rest of you, your Columbia experience would be incomplete without taking a class with Lydia!!

Dec 2007

This was one of the best classes I have taken at Columbia. Professor Goehr is a fantastic teacher. She is engaging, funny, and informative. Her style for this class was to intersperse discussion with lecture. It keeps you completely engaged with the material. The material is sometimes difficult, but in class she is able to make clear even the most difficult concepts. She puts so much energy into each class that you cannot help but respond. The TA’s were always there to help answer questions, though their office hours were often a little crowded. Nobody really took advantage of Professor Goehr’s hours, but if you do she is always welcoming and willing to help even if your problem has nothing to do with her class. Class participation is essential, but don’t just throw your hand up and hope that you have an interesting point. If you’re wrong she isn’t afraid to tell you in no uncertain terms. If you’re close to right, but a little unfocused, she’ll push you (in a good way) until your argument is clear and well reasoned. Unlike other professors she is perfectly willing to hear ideas and opinions that counter her own. Her only stipulation is that you present a clear, well supported argument. Whatever your intended major, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t take at least one class with this professor while you are at Columbia.

Mar 2007

Professor Bell was a great professor, and the phil-art class is a good class for anyone who is interested in philosophy or art, and doesn't want a terribly demanding philosophy class. Her teaching style is a little simple, just reads her powerpoints right off the projector, but she showed a few films as well. That being said, you definitely learn a lot about aesthetics, and you can hold your own in a conversation with someone about "what exactly is art" after the class is done.

Jan 2007

Great course, great professor. She designed the course, and this was the first time it was taught (at Columbia, she's taught elsewhere before). It is an intro level course, so no background in philosophy needed. The positive side to this is, well, if you've never done philosophy before, you can still take this course and not be left in the dark. The downside is that most people tended to be freshmen or sophmores, so the rigour of the the ideas and level of discussion in class was never very deep, and sometimes even a little frustrating for those who did have some background or were upperclassmen. But, seeing as it was an intro level course, it's hard to complain about that. Everything else about the class was great. The readings were overall awesome, very interesting. Lectures were well organized, and usually didn't spend as much time on the less interesting readings. Discussion, though often obvious and superficial, was forthcoming, so class never dragged and there were few awkward pauses. The professor was great as well. She was super-organized, and knew her stuff very well. The one time she forgot her lecture notes, she did the lecture extemporaneously, and you could hardly tell the difference. What was most surprising to me, was that in a class with over 40 people showing up every day, she managed to both generate a decent discussion with pretty good participation, and not let the discussion override her lecture and keep the class moving. The clear interest she showed in getting her student's opinions was refreshing, and made her very approachable. She was very open to talk during her office hours, so when people had questions that went deeper than the class covered, she was very willing to discuss an idea outside of class. Overall great class, great professor. Highly recommed both.

Jan 2007

Professor Bell is amazingly friendly. She's very organized and spent a lot of time preparing for each lecture, which showed in her powerpoints and prepared comments. The great thing about the class (30 person+ lecture) was that she was still able to elicit helpful dicussion from such a large group. She effectively handled everyone's comments and knew whether to move to the next point in order to finish on time, or to save a few points for the next lecture. I never went to her office hours or emailed her for help, but I expect that, given her continuous in- class offers of help, she would be more than willing to spend some time with students on an individual basis. I highly recommend her for any class: she kept teaching despite a hacking cough and near-death illness!!!! As for the material itself, the class is based on a series of readings from two anthologies of essays on aesthetics and art. It covers the basics: what is art, who decides, etc. but also delves into some more fun and interesting stuff: the art of food, horror, photography, public art, etc. We watched some war movies and Moulin Rouge (she even gave away an extra copy she had..she LOVES this movie for some reason). In short, take this class if it's offered. If not, take another class with her. She's reallllllllllly nice.