RESEARCH

Most of my research to date has been at the intersection of Moral Philosophy (and especially Moral Psychology & Environmental Ethics), the Philosophy of Mind, Psychology & Cognitive Science, and Philosophical Aesthetics.

Broadly speaking, my research is concerned with characterising certain emotions, and understanding the role that these emotions play in our lives in various ways, particularly with respect to our perceptual, moral and aesthetic capacities.

Aesthetic Animism (Major Revisions, Philosophical Studies, feel free to email me for a copy)

Abstract: I argue that the main existing accounts of the relationship between the beauty of non-animal environmental entities and their moral standing are mistaken. Beauty does not, as has been suggested by optimists about beauty, confer intrinsic moral standing. Nor is it the case, as has been suggested by pessimists about beauty, that beauty at best provides an anthropocentric source of moral standing that is commensurate with other sources of pleasure. I present arguments and evidence that show that the appreciation of beauty tends to cause a transformational state of mind that is more valuable than mere pleasure, but that leads us to falsely represent beautiful entities as being sentient and, in turn, as having intrinsic moral standing. Beauty is not, then, a source of intrinsic moral standing; it’s a source of a more important anthropocentric value than has hitherto been acknowledged.

Thick and Perceptual Moral Beauty (Accepted, Australasian Journal of Philosophy)

Abstract: Which traits are beautiful? And is their beauty perceptual? It is argued that moral virtues are partly beautiful to the extent that they tend to give rise to a special emotion—ecstasy—and that compassion tends to be more beautiful than fair-mindedness because it tends to give rise to this emotion to a greater extent. It is then argued, on the basis that emotions are best thought of as a special, evaluative kind of perception, that this argument suggests that moral virtues are partly beautiful to the extent that they tend to give rise to a certain kind of evaluative perceptual experience.ere suggests that moral virtues are partly beautiful to the extent that they tend to give rise to a certain kind of evaluative perception.

Ugliness Is in the Gut of the Beholder (Forthcoming, Ergo)

Abstract: I offer the first sustained defence of the claim that ugliness is constituted by the disposition to disgust. I advance three main lines of argument in support of this thesis. First, ugliness and disgustingness tend to lie in the same kinds of things and properties (the argument from ostensions). Second, the thesis is better placed than all existing accounts to accommodate the following facts: ugliness is narrowly and systematically distributed in a heterogenous set of things, ugliness is sometimes enjoyed, and ugliness sits opposed to beauty across a neutral midpoint (the argument from proposed intensions). And third, ugliness and disgustingness function in the same way in both giving rise to representations of contamination (the argument from the law of contagion). In making these arguments, I show why prominent objections to the thesis do not succeed, cast light on some of the artistic functions of ugliness, and, in addition, demonstrate why a dispositional account of disgustingness is correct, and present a novel problem for warrant-based accounts of disgustingness (the ‘too many reasons’ problem).

Sullying Sights: Disgust, the cognitive contamination system and the maternal impression theory of teratology (2021, Philosophical Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2021.1956447)

Abstract: In this article, an account of the architecture of the cognitive contamination system is offered, according to which the contamination system can generate contamination representations in circumstances that do not satisfy the norms of contamination, including in cases of mere visual contact with disgusting objects. It is argued that this architecture is important for explaining the content, logic, distribution, and persistence of maternal impression beliefs—according to which foetal defects are caused by the pregnant mother’s experiences and actions—which in turn provide important evidence of the architecture of the cognitive contamination system. 

Moral beauty, inside and out (2021, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1080/00048402.2020.1778757)

Abstract: In this article, robust evidence is provided showing that an individual’s moral character can contribute to the aesthetic quality of their appearance, as well as be beautiful or ugly itself. It is argued that this evidence supports two main conclusions. Firstly, moral beauty and ugliness lie on the inside, and beauty and ugliness are not perception dependent as a result; and second, aesthetic perception is affected by moral information, and thus moral beauty and ugliness lie on the outside too.

Beauty and Sublimity: A Cognitive Aesthetics of Literature and the Arts British Journal of Aesthetics, 2020 (author proof, please see published version).

Art and the Emotions: Debating the Work of Jenefer Robinson (with Shelby Moser) Debates in Aesthetics, 2019 14, 1: 1-14.

Restorative aesthetic pleasures & restoring the unity of pleasure Australasian Philosophical Review, (2017), 1, 1: 73-78. https://doi.org/10.1080/24740500.2017.1296399

Abstract: I argue, contra Mohan Matthen, that at least some aesthetic pleasures arising from the appreciation of aesthetic features of artworks are what he calls ‘r-pleasures’ as opposed to ‘f-pleasures’—and moreover, that the paradigm aesthetic pleasure (arising in response to beauty) appears to be an r-pleasure on Matthen’s terms. I then argue that talk of r- and f-pleasures does not distinguish different kinds, but two different features of pleasure; so this supposed distinction (at least) cannot be used to characterize a sui generis aesthetic pleasure.

Expression, Evolution and Ontology: Debating the Work of Stephen Davies (with Shelby Moser) Debates in Aesthetics, 2017 13, 1: 1-10.