Syllabus for The Origins of Art: Nature or Culture?

Konstens ursprung: natur eller kultur?


  • 7.5 credits
  • Course code: 5ES073
  • Education cycle: Second cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Aesthetics A1N

    Explanation of codes

    The code indicates the education cycle and in-depth level of the course in relation to other courses within the same main field of study according to the requirements for general degrees:

    First cycle

    • G1N: has only upper-secondary level entry requirements
    • G1F: has less than 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G1E: contains specially designed degree project for Higher Education Diploma
    • G2F: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G2E: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements, contains degree project for Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science
    • GXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

    Second cycle

    • A1N: has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1F: has second-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (60 credits)
    • A2E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (120 credits)
    • AXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2020-05-06
  • Established by:
  • Revised: 2021-03-08
  • Revised by: The Department Board
  • Applies from: Autumn 2021
  • Entry requirements:

    Fulfilment of the requirements for a Bachelor's degree within the humanities

  • Responsible department: Department of Philosophy

Decisions and guidelines

The course is offered to C level students and students at advanced level. For students at advanced level, the examination requirements are higher than for students at C level.

Learning outcomes

After completing the course students are expected to have acquired an in-depth understanding of the main questions relating to the origins of art, and be able to:

  • use the concepts and distinctions that are necessary for a critical examination of, and positioning in relation to, the theories and arguments studied
  • show a broader understanding of the origins of art and its evolution
  • account for and give a systematic analysis of central questions within empirical aesthetics
  • show good knowledge of philosophical aesthetics
  • analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the theories studied
  • use methods and tools to argue for and against central theories about aesthetic value, art, and artistic experience.


The main aim of this course is to examine the extent to which art can be said to be a socio-cultural product, and the extent to which it is the instinctive expression of our human nature. We approach the central questions from an inter-disciplinary perspective, that is to say not only from the point of view of philosophy, but also with the help of anthropology, evolutionary theory, psychology and neurology. How, if at all, can empirical data add to our understanding of why art exists and plays an important part in our life? Does art have a distinct cognitive function or is it a so-called by-product? What can cave art teach us about the development of our ability to think symbolically?


Instruction is provided through lectures and seminars. The language of instruction is English.


The course is assessed through written and oral assignments.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Syllabus Revisions

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: Autumn 2021

Some titles may be available electronically through the University library.

Reading List

Course readings are announced here or in Studium at the latest five weeks before the start of the course.