What Price Art? Philosophical Perspective Valuing Contemporary Artwork


Modern art, or Modernism, which emerged and developed at the start of the 20th century, was a response to the urbanization that followed the industrial revolution. While seen as both an art and philosophical movement at the time of its emergence, it confronted the traditional concepts associated with realism.

As well as examining and contemplating a variety of different styles and techniques within this movement, we will focus on this course on the challenges facing what can be described as erotic art. Can erotic art be defined? Some of the most famous fine art paintings depict sexual themes. Correggio’s Leda and the Swan (1531-2), which depicts the story of the seduction of Leda by Zeus, is one example. Are these works, necessarily, a kind of erotic art? And how about our aesthetic experiences? Is erotic experience or art a kind of aesthetic experience? Is there a meaningful and helpful distinction between the nude and the naked? We will also consider one of the big challenges facing erotic art and how it may want to distinguish and dissociate itself from pornography. One of the reasons may be because pornography is often considered harmful and exploitative. Some of us may disagree.

The course will provide an overview of current philosophical debates on erotic art, encouraging the participants to engage in an ethical discussion about the way and extent in which erotic art may be comparatively less vulnerable to moral criticism of this sort.

Programme details

Course starts: 20 Sep 2022

Week 0: Orientation

Week 1: Introduction to modern art: should we redefine art?

Week 2: Ways of seeing (Berger)

Week 3: What is erotic art?

Week 4: Emotions, judgement and art

Week 5: Can art be harmful?

Week 6: Distinguishing between art and pornography

Week 7: Can pornography be art?

Week 8: The erotic and the pornographic in different cultures

Week 9: Art, pornography and censorship

Week 10: Reflections on the value of erotic art


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Amna Whiston

Dr Amna Whiston is a philosopher specialising in ethics and the philosophy of mind and have a particular interest in the normativity of emotions. I currently work as a philosophy tutor at the University of Oxford, Department for Continuing Education, where I teach a range of online and in-class courses.

Course aims

To introduce the participants to the contemporary debate on erotic art to the question about whether it can be clearly distinguished from pornography and the value we place on both.

Course Objectives

1. To familiarise the participants with the key issues in the current debate about the value of contemporary, including erotic, art.

2. To encourage the participants to express their own views about this topic.


Teaching methods

PowerPoint presentations/inter-active Seminars.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. engage competently in the discussion about modern art; and

2. understand the difference between erotic art and pornography.

Assessment methods


One essay (1,500 words) to be completed before the end of the course, feedback to be given by the end of week 10. 


Three-four (500) word essays throughout the course (questions to be given at the start of the course), feedback given a week after submission.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)