Research

Research Statement

How should we think of our relationships with aesthetic objects? Are artworks simply objects that bring us pleasurable experiences? Or are our relationships more significant: Do we have ethical responsibilities towards these objects? How might they shape our practical identity? How might they put us in touch with other persons? A major through-line of my research is the notion that we can make progress on answering these kinds of questions by comparing our relationships with aesthetic objects with other normatively significant relationships—specifically with interpersonal relationships and commitments to personal ideals. As such, my research sits at the intersection of a number of different philosophical conversations, including ethics, metanormativity, aesthetics, and the philosophy of art.

For more detailed information about my research, click here.

Papers

Art Criticism as Practical Reasoning

The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 57, Issue 3, 7 November 2017, Pages 299–317, https://doi.org/10.1093/aesthj/ayx016

Most recent discussions of reasons in art criticism focus on reasons that justify beliefs about the value of artworks. Reviving a long-neglected suggestion from Paul Ziff, I argue that we should focus instead on art-critical reasons that justify actions—namely, particular ways of engaging with artworks. I argue that a focus on practical rather than theoretical reasons yields an understanding of criticism that better fits with our intuitions about the value of reading art criticism, and which makes room for a nuanced distinction between criticism that aims at universality and criticism that is resolutely personal. Penultimate draft available here.

Obligations to Artworks as Duties of Love

Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics. 54 (2017): 85–101.

It is uncontroversial that our engagement with artworks is constrained by obligations; most commonly, these consist in obligations to other persons, such as artists, audiences, and owners of artworks. A more controversial claim is that we have genuine obligations to artworks themselves. I defend a qualified version of this claim. However, I argue that such obligations do not derive from the supposed moral rights of artworks – for no such rights exist. Rather, I argue that these obligations are instances of duties of love: obligations that one incurs in virtue of loving some object, be it a person or, in this case, an artwork. Penultimate draft available here.

The Animal is Present: The Ethics of Animal Use in Contemporary Art

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 76: 519-528. doi:10.1111/jaac.12587

This paper focuses on the ethical responsibilities of artists using live animals in artworks. I explore the ways that encountering an animal in a gallery can restructure our relationships with animals more generally, and argue that sometimes incorporating an animal into an artwork can function as both an ethical and an artistic good. At the same time, I argue that many artists fail to realize such goods in using animals in their works—and thereby fail in their ethical responsibilities to the animals in question.The jumping-off point is the Guggenheim's 2017 animal rights fiasco; along the way, I discuss artworks featuring genetically modified rabbits, goldfish in blenders, and horses stabled in a gallery. The paper wraps up by comparing the value of encountering animals in a gallery to encountering them on the one hand in nature; and on the other hand in a zoo. Penultimate draft available here.