Journal Articles

The Selectivity of Aesthetic Explanation, forthcoming in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

It is widely agreed that an artwork’s having certain non-aesthetic properties explains its having a certain aesthetic property. One interesting feature of such an explanation is its selectivity—it cites only some of the non-aesthetic properties on which the presence of the aesthetic property depends. Hence a question arises as to what distinguishes the selected non-aesthetic properties from the unselected ones. I answer this question by proposing a selection principle modeled on Laura Franklin-Hall’s selection principle for causal explanation, according to which an explanation selects a package of factors that maximizes the ratio of delivery (the degree to which the factors cited in an explanation make what is explained modally robust) to cost (the amount of information an explanation contains).

Aptness of Fiction-Directed Emotions, British Journal of Aesthetics, 60(1): 45-59. 2020.

I argue that the criteria governing the aptness of emotions directed towards fictional entities, such as characters and events in fiction, are structurally identical to the criteria governing the aptness of emotions directed towards real entities in the following sense: in both cases, aptness is characterized in terms of fittingness, justification, and being salience-tracking, and each of these notions is understood in an analogous way across reality- and fiction-directed emotions. The only differences are that, in the case of fiction-directed emotions, fictional truth rather than truth is relevant to fittingness, and salience in the context of engaging with the fiction replaces salience in the real context. Other asymmetries between the aptness criteria of fiction- and reality-directed emotions that seem to conflict with this claim are reducible to these two differences or stem from the failure to distinguish between emotions directed towards the content of a fiction and the fiction itself.

The Nature of the Interaction between Moral and Artistic Value, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 76 (3): 285-295. 2018.

This article aims to advance our understanding of the interaction between moral and artistic value by asking what it means that an artwork’s moral virtue or defect is an artistic virtue or defect and how we can prove or disprove such a claim. I approach these questions first by distinguishing between intrinsic and contextual value interactions and then by examining two strategies commonly used to establish claims about contextual value interaction: (1) appealing to the counterfactual dependence of the work’s artistic value on its moral virtue or defect and (2) arguing that the work is artistically valuable (or defective) and morally valuable (or defective) for the same reasons. I argue that these strategies fail. I then propose new directions for research on the interaction between moral and artistic value.

Book Chapters

Distinguishing between Ethics and Aesthetics, invited contribution to Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Art, James Harold (Ed.), manuscript in preparation.

The recent debate on the relationship between aesthetics and ethics has mostly focused on how the two realms interact with one another. This chapter addresses the question that lies behind this interaction debate but has received less attention—are aesthetics and ethics distinct in the first place? The chapter begins by disentangling different issues involved in this question. The question of whether aesthetic value is distinct from moral value is separable from the question of whether artistic value is distinct from moral value, and whether aesthetic (or artistic) value is distinct from moral value is in principle a different issue from whether aesthetic (or artistic) judgment is distinct from moral judgment. Thus, the initial question of whether aesthetics and ethics are distinct should be divided into these more specific questions. The first half of the chapter surveys different answers to each of these questions, while also examining what it means that two kinds of values or judgments are distinct. The second half of the chapter then zooms in on one of the specific questions that has the most significant implication for the interaction debate, namely, the question of whether moral and artistic values are distinct, and more specifically, whether the moral value of a work of art is a constituent of the work’s artistic value. This question has not been in the foreground of the interaction debate, where most arguments for interaction between moral and artistic values require an intermediate link between them. The possibility of a work’s moral value directly constituting its artistic value has not been closely examined in the debate. The second half of the chapter explores what arguments could be given for and against this possibility.