KUN2232 – Philosophies of the Visual

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Philosophy has historically had a vexed and ambivalent relationship with making and spectating images. For Plato, the question about the image is imperative to understanding the connection between the sensible world of appearances and permanent and ideal being. Ever since Plato, Western philosophy has been tackling the paradoxical status of images as situated between being and nonbeing, truth and illusion, essence and appearance. The history of philosophy abounds in debates about what images can do to us; whether they merely deceive their beholders, or are able to disclose the real and the authentic. Philosophers have questioned the relationship between image and language, between showing and telling: can images articulate and analyse the world like language does, and are their epistemic possibilities more limited? Most recently, arguments have emerged that we should consider images as forms of thought in their own right, endowed with their own agency.

This course investigates such philosophical debates about the image, starting from the questions posed in ancient Greek philosophy and spanning both modern philosophy and recent discussions in art history and visual studies. The course focuses on three areas: 1) the relationship between image and truth; 2) the relationship between image and language; 3) the notion of “pensive images,” the idea that can images act as conditions, rather than as mere supports, of thinking. The course invites students to engage in close-analysis of both philosophical texts and artistic and others kinds of images from a range of historical periods.

Learning outcome

After completion of the course students will:

  • Be able to analyse, contextualise, historicize and theorize philosophical discussions about the nature and power of images
  • Have comprehensive understanding of key philosophical debates about the relationship of image and truth as well as image and language
  • Be able to perform in-depth analysis of philosophical discourses about images
  • Prepare and deliver clearly argued and informed work


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

It is recommended that you have passed 60 studiepoeng (equal to ECTS) in Art History, Aesthetics, Philosophy and/or Media studies before taking this course.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with KUN4232 – Philosophies of the Visual


Classes consist of combined lectures and seminars (one session per week). Classes will primarily be held at Blindern Campus.

Students are required to be regularly present in classes, to actively participate in seminar discussion, and to give short presentations on assigned topics/texts.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


The examination is a three-day digital home exam.

The length of the assignment should be 6-7 pages with 2,300 characters without spaces on each page and not including bibliography and notes. The exam can be answered in English, Norwegian, Danish or Swedish.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

The Department's assessments of courses are available at our web-pages, but generally only in Norwegian

Facts about this course






Every other spring starting 2019


Every other spring starting 2019

Teaching language



Spring 2021: Teaching will follow the guidelines for preventing the spread of Covid-19. There may be changes in teaching, compulsory assignments and examination. Check Canvas regularly for information about the course and its teaching.