I specialise in analytic aesthetics. My research explores the nature and rational structure of aesthetic appreciation by addressing the question: what are the different mental states involved in this valuing activity, and how do they relate or interfere with each other? My work draws on and contributes to work on the philosophy of emotions, moral psychology, and theories of rationality.

My main research project to date concerns the normativity of aesthetic coherence. I also have an interest in the ethics and aesthetics of art  collections.  Below you can find a list of publications.


Opponent: Keren Gorodeisky. Committee: Michael Brady, Eileen John, Daniela Dover.

Link to abstract here

Selected Publications

There is a dimension of rationality, known as structural rationality, according to which a paradigmatic example of what it means to be rational is not to be akratic. Although some philosophers claim that aesthetics falls within the scope of rationality, a non-akrasia constraint prohibiting certain combinations of attitudes is yet to be developed in this domain. This essay is concerned with the question of whether such a requirement is plausible and, if so, whether it is an actual requirement of aesthetic rationality. Ultimately, this paper defends the view that aesthetics is no different from other domains in that it requires coherence between a subject’s mental states (in the aesthetic case, between what is judged and what is aesthetically liked).

Two common strategies have dominated attempts to account for the nature of taste. On the one side, we have an affectivist understanding of taste where aesthetic attribution has to do with the expression of a subjective response. On the other side, we find a non-affectivist approach according to which to judge something aesthetically is to epistemically track its main aesthetic properties. Our main argument will show that neither emotion nor perception can explain the nature of aesthetic taste single-handedly. In this paper, our principal aim is to examine the relationship between perceptual discernment and emotional sensibility as we find it in the process of ascribing aesthetic qualities. Is it the nature of the specific aesthetic property in question which determines the way in which perception and emotion are balanced in aesthetic attribution, or is it, rather, something about how our sensory skills operate? One of the notions we would like to explore in greater detail in this context is the idea of attunement, or the way in which aesthetic agents can align themselves to the content of an artwork o in order to better grasp its content and significance. According to our proposed picture, the exercise of taste involves an adjustment of one’s emotional sensibility to the aesthetic character of o. From here, we will posit both emotional and perceptual training as part of an agent’s aesthetic education in her use of aesthetic terms.

For cognitivist accounts of aesthetic appreciation, appreciation requires an agent (1) to perceptually respond to the relevant aesthetic features of an object o on good evidential grounds, (2) to have an autonomous grasp of the reasons that make the claim about the aesthetic features of o true by pointing out the connection between non-aesthetic features and the aesthetic features of o, (3) to be able to provide an explanation of why those features contribute to the overall aesthetic value of o. In this framework, aesthetic emotions have traditionally been confined to the level of aesthetic perception (1) and dismissed from the process of reason- giving (2, 3). I argue that this dismissal is due, firstly, to a questionable perceptual reading of the connection between emotional experience and value, and, secondly, to a narrow focus on the basic emotions. My argument will reveal that the non- standard or ‘intellectual’ emotions, the emotions which are in fact most important to appreciation, can play a significant epistemic role in our appreciative practices. They can do this because they (a) help us to deliberately focus our attention and (b) place the appreciator in a state of second-order awareness of their mental states. I conclude the paper by showing how these two epistemic tools (a, b) can help the appreciator to meet the explanatory/justificatory conditions (2) and (3).  

Jenefer Robinson believes that feelings can play an important role in the critical evaluation of artworks. In this paper, I put some pressure on two important notions in her theory: emotional understanding and affective empathy. I do this by focusing on the nature of self-conscious emotions. My strategy will be, firstly, to demonstrate the difficulty that Robinson’s two-step theory of emotions has in accommodating higher cognitive emotional responses to art. Second, I will discuss how the tight connection to the ‘self’ involved in self-conscious emotions makes it difficult to take the emotional perspective of another person, as empathy requires. From here, I suggest that Peter Goldie’s feeling-towards and his critique of perspective-shifting may give a better understanding of the role of emotions in the appreciation of art, particularly in the case of reflective emotions. This issue will be explored through a discussion of the expression of autobiographical nostalgia in the work of the avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

In preparation

By turning to Schiller’s essay ‘On Grace and Dignity’ (1793), this paper offers a model of mental coherence in which grace is understood as the result of the agreement between one's moral principles and inclinations. However, it is normal for agents to act contrary to their principles. In such akratic-like situations, one must act with dignity. Following Schiller, one acts with dignity by deliberately trying to overcome the discrepancy between one's principles and inclinations. Although Schiller's interpreters have mainly focused on the aesthetic aspects of moral conduct of this essay (see Beiser 2005), I propose a complementary reading of this essay in which Schiller's beautiful soul can be read as an ideal of rationality.

BSA Annual Conference 2018 (Oxford)

Photo by Eleen Deprez

ASA Annual Conference 2018 (Toronto)

Photo by John Gibson