De Gustibus: Arguing about Taste with Peter Kivy


•    Professor Peter Kivy (Rutgers)  
•    Professor Emily Brady (Edinburgh) 
•    Assoc. Professor Eileen John (Warwick) 
•    Professor Peter Lamarque (York)

With the support of: The British Society of Aesthetics

Emily Brady, Peter Lamarque, Peter Kivy, Eileen John: our esteemed panel discussing De Gustibus.

This one-day symposium focuses on (and takes its title from) Peter Kivy’s new book De Gustibus: Arguing About Taste and Why We Do It (Oct 2015, OUP). Kivy will be joined by Emily Brady, Eileen John, and Peter Lamarque, who will respond to Kivy’s book in an ‘author meets critics’ format.
Peter Kivy is a pre-eminent figure in Anglo-American philosophy of art. His numerous monographs and essays constitute a sustained and significant contribution to aesthetics, and in particular to the fields of aesthetics of music and literature. Kivy’s new book, De Gustibus, turns to meta-aesthetic issues about the assumptions and purposes underlying disputes about matters of taste.
In it he casts light on a new problem in aesthetics: who do we dispute about taste when there are no ’actions’ we wish to motivate? He asks, “whether I think Bach is greater than Beethoven and you think the opposite, why should it matter to either of us to convince the other?” Kivy’s claim is that we argue over taste because we think, mistakenly or not, that we are arguing over matters of fact.


Anne Eaton – Propaganda, Pornography, Pictures, and Persuasion

Monday 12th: Propaganda, Pornography, Pictures, and Persuasion

It is a curious fact about the philosophical literatures on both propaganda and pornography that they tend to talk about these phenomena as if they were primarily linguistic. Yet by far most pornography today is pictorial and most propaganda has a significant pictorial component. This paper aims to shift the focus in the conversations to pictures and begins to think through some of the implications of this shift singulair dosage. In particular, I’ll be developing a peculiarly pictorial model of persuasion that better suits the work that pornography and propaganda can do. Along the way, I’ll use some examples of highly persuasive pictures from the Italian Renaissance.

Just A Game? The Aesthetics and Ethics of Video Games

Kendall Walton
Katherine Thomson-Jones


24-25 June 2016

A philosophical conference on the aesthetics and ethics of video games. 24-25 June 2016, University of Kent, Canterbury.

Video games have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. Many of them possess a wide array of artistic and aesthetic qualities and there is growing consensus now that they constitute an emerging new art form. At the same time, video games have raised important ethical questions and the debate on their moral status and impact has now gone well beyond the traditional academic context and community.

This international conference, organised by the Aesthetics Research Centre, will seek to explore relevant connections between the ethics and aesthetics of video games, thereby also drawing on insights from the philosophy of mind, philosophy of information, and feminist philosophy.


Day one

9.15 – 9.45 Registration (coffee & tea provided)

9.45 – 10.00 Welcome

10.00 – 11.00 Shelby Moser, University of Kent. Can My Avatar Teach Me?: VR Gaming and Empathy.

11.00 – 12.15 Jon Robson, University of Nottingham, The Beautiful Gamer? On the Aesthetics of Videogame Performances.

12.15 – 2.00 Lunch (not provided)

2.00 – 3.30 Paper Sessions

2.00 – 2.30  C. Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University. Games and the Aesthetics of Instrumentality.

2.30 – 3.00  Jack Davis, UCL. Fictional Immorality.

3.00 -3.30 Stephanie Patridge, Otterbein University. Where Are All the Women? On Videogames, Gender, and Invisibility.

3.30 – 4.00 Break (coffee & tea provided)

4.00 – 5.15 Mari Mikkola, Humboldt-Universität (Berlin). Objectification and video games: A Feminist Examination.

5.15 – 6.30 Aaron Meskin, University of Leeds. Videogames and Creativity.

7.30   Conference dinner at The Parrot

Day two

10.00 – 12.00 Paper Sessions

10.00 – 10.30 James Camien McGuiggan, University of Southampton. Manipulation and Indeterminacy in Video Games.

10.30 – 11.00  Kathryn Wojtkiewicz, City University of New York Graduate Center. More than Moral: Sexism as an Aesthetic Flaw in Video Games.

11.00 – 11.30 Al Baker, The University of Sheffield. The Extra Credits Machine: Videogame ontology and the role of the player

11.30 – 11.45 Break (coffee & tea provided)

 11.45 – 12.15  Nicolas Olsson-Yaouzis, UCL. Should feminists play Grand Theft Auto V?

12.15 – 12.45 Richard Woodward & Nathan Wildman, University of Hamburg. Video Games, Interactivity, and Fictional Incompleteness.

12.45 – 2.15 Lunch (not provided)

2.15 – 3.30   Katherine Thomson-Jones, Oberlin College. Understanding Interactivity in Art, Videogames, and Art Mods.

3.30 – 4.45 Kendall Walton, University of Michigan. Me, Myself and My Avatar.

 5.00 Wine reception (complimentary)


Jenefer Robinson – Empathy through/with/for Music


Jenefer Robinson teaches and writes on topics in aesthetics and philosophical psychology, especially the theory of emotion. Her book, Deeper than Reason (OUP 2005) applied recent advances in emotion theory to issues in aesthetics, such as the expression of emotion in the arts, how music arouses emotions and moods, and how the emotional experience of literature and music in particular can be a mode of understanding and appreciation. Jenefer is Past President of the American Society for Aesthetics. She is currently writing a book on emotion for OUP.

Richard Allen – The Passion of Christ and the Melodramatic Imagination

CFMR and ARC research seminar: 

Professor Richard Allen, Dean, School of Creative Media, City University, Hong Kong and Chair Professor of Film and Media Art

Wednesday 30th March 2016, 5-7pm, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2 (GLT2), University of Kent

Melodrama has been defined as a secular mode of dramaturgy that begins in late 18th century France. This research project argues that the paintings and enactments of Christ’s Passion in the Middle Ages create the modern vocabulary of melodrama, thereby inviting us to re-conceive the relationship between the spiritual and the secular in modernity.

Before the Medieval period, The Passion of Christ was interpreted as the stage of a conflict between God and the Devil over the fate of man in which man played little role. In the Early Middle Ages, Christ’s passion was reconceived as the story of a suffering human, stoically bearing the beating and torments of his villainous persecutors, and lamented by women, Mary, his mother, and Mary Magdalene, who model the viewer’s response to his suffering. I propose that the medieval representation and enactment of Christ’s passion brings into being “the melodramatic imagination” which Peter Brooks identified with the emergence of the modern self in the secular world of the late 18th century. In medieval passions an essentially cosmic, theological drama, is given a human expression and heightened emotional response yields ethical recognition of God’s incarnation and martyrdom as a man. In sensational 19th century theatre and 20th century film, ordinary men and women are martyred to implacable forces of social injustice personified in the villain. Though ordinary, they suffer like Christ, and their audience, by responding with heightened emotion, is attuned to their singular virtue. In this way, in 19th and 20th century melodrama, Christian modes of affective piety are transformed into secular modes of storytelling and dramaturgy.

Richard Allen is Dean, School of Creative Media, City University, Hong Kong and Chair Professor of Film and Media Art. He is author of, among other books, Projecting Illusion and Hitchcock’s Romantic Irony and he is currently completing a book entitled Bollywood Poetics. This paper forms part of his new research.

Confined Projections

Confined Projections is a curatorial design project by Eleen Deprez, postgraduate research student in History and Philosophy of Art.

As part of the International Festival of Projections (March 2016) we built six contemporary Mutoscopes with work of contemporary artists and filmmakers. A mutoscope is an early motion picture device. The device is hand-operated by one person at a time showing a reel of 1000 images. This project investigated the conjunction of public/private, visibility/invisibility, and proximity/distance in the film experience. The Mutoscope dominated the coin-in-slot peep-show business in Britain during the turn of the century. Operating on the same principle of a flipbook —showing a reel of 1000 images— the device is hand-operated by one person at a time. The viewer is thus able to influence the cinematic temporality of the film, creating his/her own unique viewing experience in a tactile relationship with the cinematic apparatus.

With work by:

Photography by Perpetua Ajuma Abalaka

Andrew Huddleston – Why I Am Not an Intentionalist

Why I Am Not an Intentionalist

Dr Andrew Huddleston, Birkbeck, University of London

Wednesday 9th March, 5pm – 7pm, Keynes Lecture Theatre (KLT2), University of Kent

Whereas half a century ago, proclamations of authorial intentionalism would have met with an incredulous stare, the tables have turned, and intentionalism, of one form or another, seems to have become the dominant view, at least in analytic aesthetics. I have no complaint about the unobjectionable view that recovering intentions (or developing best hypotheses about them) and interpreting works accordingly are appropriate and important goals of critical inquiry. However, the intentionalists I oppose (potentially forms of both “modest actual” and “hypothetical,” in the current lingo) are those who want to go further, so as to have grounds for indicting people who are allegedly misinterpreting works of art by contravening the author’s intentions. These restrictive intentionalists want to use intention (or the best hypothetical reconstruction thereof) as a strong interpretive constraint, so that an interpretation which contravenes a successfully realized intention (or a hypothesis thereof) is thereby inappropriate. The view that I will defend in this paper is non-intentionalist. There are, I will maintain, good and legitimate interpretations of works of art that contravene the author’s realized intentions (or our best hypotheses thereof). The restrictive hermeneutical policy that the intentionalist champions is unwarranted, but we need to oppose it in a pluralistic spirit, by recognizing that there are a number of different worthwhile critical projects. In this paper, I seek to defuse several arguments given by intentionalists, and to give positive argument for non-intentionalism.


Symposium on Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Pornography

Thursday 3rd March 2016, 9:30am – 4pm, Darwin Lecture Theatre 3, University of Kent

Clarissa Smith – Professor of Sexual Cultures in the Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies University of Sunderland
Clarissa Smith – Professor of Sexual Cultures in the Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies University of Sunderland

Petra van Brabandt – Lecturer at the St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp “Wet Aesthetics and Queer Pornography”
Petra van Brabandt – Lecturer at the St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp
“Wet Aesthetics and Queer Pornography”

Eliza Steinbock “Look! But also, Touch! Theorizing Images of Trans Eroticism Beyond a Politics of Visual Essentialism”
Eliza Steinbock
“Look! But also, Touch! Theorizing Images of Trans Eroticism Beyond a Politics of Visual Essentialism”

Panel Discussion

This one-day symposium focuses on the intimate relationship between cinema, embodiment, and pornography. By bringing together an interdisciplinary range of speakers, originating from disciplines such as philosophy of art, film and media studies, and cultural studies we investigate the relationship between cinema and the senses. From investigating the “cinema of attractions” in early cinema, to the “haptic visuality” apparent in intercultural and feminist film, and “body genres” such as horror, melodrama, and pornography; in very different ways film scholars have argued against the conventional emphasis on vision and visibility and in favour of an understanding of embodied spectatorship. In relation, recent research in analytic aesthetics has focused on the multimodality of perception as well as definitions of erotic art and pornography. This symposium explores in what ways different pornographies engage with the sensate, tactile, and visceral experience of sexuality. By instigating a dialogue between scholars from different approaches we hope that this symposium will advance scholarly engagement with the “carnal aesthetics” of pornography.



9.30am – 9.45
Opening remarks by Dr Hans Maes, Senior Lecturer, History of Art, University of Kent

9.45 – 10.45
Clarissa Smith – Professor of Sexual Cultures in the Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies University of Sunderland
“More Than Just Flesh: The Porn Performer’s Body in Action

10.45 – 11.45
Ingrid Ryberg – Filmmaker and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Media Studies of Stockholm University 
“Feeling Wasteland: Utopianism and Backwardness in Queer Porn

11.45 – 12.00
Coffee and tea

12.00 – 13.00
Petra van Brabandt – Lecturer at the St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp
“Wet Aesthetics and Queer Pornography”

13.00 – 14.00
Lunch (not provided)

14.00 – 15.00
Eliza Steinbock – Assistant Professor and postdoctoral researcher at the Film and Literary Department of Leiden University
“Look! But also, Touch! Theorizing Images of Trans Eroticism Beyond a Politics of Visual Essentialism”

15.00 – 16.00
Panel Discussion with Eliza Steinbock, Petra van Brabandt, Ingrid Ryberg, Clarissa Smith, and Pandora Blake.

The symposium and film screening are two of the components that make up the cross-disciplinary project Confined Projectionswhich is part of the International Festival of Projections taking place at the University of Kent 18-20 March 2016. The project also includes the exhibition of six custom-made mutoscopes, showing work by national and international artists and filmmakers. Taking the mutoscope as leitmotiv, this project investigates the tension between public and private, visibility and invisibility, and proximity and distance in the film experience, revealing interesting connections between this early form of cinema and more recent developments in erotic filmmaking.

With the generous support of:

The British Society of Aesthetics
The Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent
The Centre for Film and Media Research, University of Kent

Further information and registration

Berys Gaut – The Value of Creativity

Wednesday 24th February, 5pm – 7pm, Grimond Lecture Theatre 2 (GLT2), University of Kent 

The Value of Creativity

Creativity is generally regarded as an invariably valuable trait. But is that true? There seem to be cases of ‘dark’ creativity: for instance, a torturer may be creative, but his creativity makes the world a worse place. I develop a definition of ‘creativity’ in terms of an agential disposition to produce new things that are valuable of their kind, and employ this account to show that creativity has instrumental value, final value (value as an end), but only conditional value, i.e., it is valuable only under some circumstances. I also argue for a constitutive connection between creativity and spontaneity and show how spontaneity contributes to the value of creativity. An upshot of the argument is that sometimes enhancing creativity is a bad thing.


Julian Hanich: I, You and We


Ideas for a Phenomenology of the Collective Cinema Experience

Isn’t watching a film with others in a cinema crucially different from watching a film alone? When we laugh together, this amplifies the enjoyment. When we watch a film in communal rapt attention, this can intensify the experience. When annoyed by talking neighbors, we are distracted. Attending a film in a cinema implies being influenced by others – an influence that is particularly noticeable once affective responses play a role. Film scholars have almost always taken the relation between individual viewers and films as default. However, this is an artificial abstraction click here to investigate. Without considering the effects of collective viewing our understanding of the cinema experience remains incomplete. This talk tries to sketch some ideas toward a phenomenology of the collective cinema experience.


Professor Julian Hanich is Assistant Professor of Film Studies at the University of Groningen. From 2009 to 2012 he held a position as postdoctoral research fellow at the interdisciplinary research center “Languages of Emotion” at the Freie Universität Berlin. He studied North American Studies and Film Studies in Berlin, Berkeley and Munich and was a visiting researcher at UCLA and the University of Amsterdam. In 2010 he published a monograph on the phenomenology of fear at the movies, entitled Cinematic Emotion in Horror Films and Thrillers. The Aesthetic Paradox of Pleasurable Fear (Routledge). He also co-edited a volume of the German online journal Nach dem Film on Laughter in the Movie Theater and a book on filmic suggestion and the viewer’s imagination entitled Auslassen, Andeuten, Auffüllen. Der Film und die Imagination des Zuschauers (Fink). His articles have appeared in ScreenProjectionsNecsus, Cinema Journal (forthcoming), Film-Philosophy,Movie, Jump CutThe New Review of Film and Television StudiesPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts,Montage/AVZeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft and Amerikastudien/American Studies.