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What is Art?

Join Zephyr for this exploration of philosophical questions about the nature, purpose, and value of art. We will be reading R. G. Collingwood's "Principles of Art" (1938).

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What is Art?
What is Art?

Time & Location

May 08, 2024, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Zephyr House, 2345 Dartmouth St, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

About the Event

Join Zephyr this Spring in exploring one of the most fundamental questions of philosophical aesthetics: what is art, and what distinguishes it from what is not art? The question is not merely one of classification: how we conceive of art is closely tied to questions about the purpose and value of artwork. Is there, for instance, a fundamental difference between pseudo-art designed merely to amuse our vacant hours and true artwork that has some higher purpose?

We will explore these fundamental questions through reading and discussing one of the 20th century’s most influential works of aesthetics: R. G. Collingwood’s Principles of Art (1938). More particularly, we will focus on the first part of Collingwood’s study, in which he attempts to distinguish genuine art from four kinds of pseudo-art: art as craft, art as representation, art as magic, and art as amusement. Having rejected these as misconceptions, Collingwood proffers his own conception of art as a certain kind of expression. Is Collingwood right in rejecting rival conceptions as pseudo-art? And is his alternative philosophically compelling? We will tackle these and related questions as we read through this classic work together.

Dinner will be provided, so please RSVP so that Zephyr can have an accurate headcount.

Collingwood’s Principles of Art can be found in its entirety here.


3 April (6:00–8:00pm): Chapters I–II

10 April (6:00–8:00pm): Chapters III–IV

8 May (6:00–8:00pm): Chapter V

22 May (6:00–8:00pm): Chapters VI–VII

About the speaker

Landon Hobbs is Research Fellow and Director of Academic Programming at the Zephyr Institute. His research area is Ancient Greek philosophy, with a focus on Aristotle’s metaphysics, especially Aristotle’s understanding of causality and his use of causal principles. Landon came to Zephyr in 2023 after completing his PhD in Philosophy at Stanford.


All Stanford students and young professionals (35 and under) are welcome to participate.

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