Aaron Smuts Rhode Island College
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About me
I'm an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rhode Island College. My current research interests range across a wide variety of topics in theoretical ethics, the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of emotion, such as: well-being, love, humor, pleasure, the value of art, and the normative assessment of emotional reactions.
My works
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  1. Aaron Smuts, A Life Worth Living.
    Theories of well-being tell us what makes a life good for the one who lives it. But there is more to what makes a life worth living than just well-being. We care about the worth of our lives, and we are right to do so. I defend an objective list theory of the worth of a life: The most worthwhile lives are those high in various objective goods. These principally include welfare and meaning. By distinguishing between worth and welfare, we (...)
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  2. Aaron Smuts, Five Theses About Caring.
    I defend five theses about caring: Thesis 1: Animals can care. Thesis 2: Care is not an emotion. Thesis 3: To care is to value. Thesis 4: Caring cannot be reduced to belief. Thesis 5: Caring cannot be reduced to desire. These five theses do not amount to a full-fledged theory of care, but they get us much closer to a workable analysis. They help sketch some of the contours of the concept and close off a few false starts. This (...)
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  3. Aaron Smuts, How Much Should We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?
    It is widely assumed that we can meaningfully talk about emotional reactions as being appropriate or inappropriate. Much of the discussion has focused on one kind of appropriateness, that of fittingness. An emotional response is appropriate only if it fits its object. For instance, fear only fits dangerous things. There is another dimension of appropriateness that has been relatively ignored — proportionality. For an emotional reaction to be appropriate not only must the object fit, the reaction should be of the (...)
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  4. Aaron Smuts, In Defense of the No-Reasons View of Love.
    Although we can try to explain why we love, we can never justify our love. Love is neither based on reasons, nor responsive to reasons, nor can it be assessed for normative reasons. Love can be odd, unfortunate, fortuitous, or even sadly lacking, but it can never be appropriate or inappropriate. We may have reasons to act on our love, but we cannot justify our loving feelings. Shakespeare's Bottom is right: "Reason and love keep little company together now-a-days." Indeed, they (...)
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  5. Aaron Smuts, Pleasurably Regarding the Pain of Fictional Others.
    Is it ever bad to take pleasure in the suffering of fictional characters? I think so. I attempt to show when and why. I begin with two powerful objections to my view: (1) engaging with fiction is akin to morally unproblematic autonomous fantasy, and (2) since no one is harmed, it is morally unproblematic. I reply to the objections and defend a Moorean view on the issue: It is intrinsically bad to enjoy evil, actual (past, present, or future) and merely (...)
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  6. Aaron Smuts, Love and Free Will.
    Many think that love would be a casualty of free will skepticism. I disagree. I argue that love would be largely unaffected if we came to deny free will, not simply because we cannot shake the attitude, but because love is not chosen, nor do we want it to be. Here, I am not alone; others have reached similar conclusions. But a few important distinctions have been overlooked. Even if hard incompatibilism is true, not all love is equal. Although we (...)
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  7. Aaron Smuts (forthcoming). Cognitive and Philosophical Approaches to Horror. In Harry Benshoff (ed.), Blackwell Companion to the Horror Film. Blackwell.
    Four main issues have occupied center stage in the analytic-cognitivist work on horror: (1) What is horror? (2) What is the appeal of horror? (3) How does it frighten audiences? and, (4) is it irrational to be scared of horror fiction?
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  8. Aaron Smuts (forthcoming). How Not to Defend Response Moralism. Journal of Aesthetic Education.
    Response moralism holds that audience reactions to works of fiction can be morally bad. This position might appear implausible: How could it be bad to enjoy fictional suffering? It's just fiction. My goal is to sketch the most compelling argument in support of the theory. I show both how and how not to defend response moralism. First I argue that the best defenses in the literature fail. Then I offer a suggestion for how to support the theory. Finally, and most (...)
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  9. Aaron Smuts (forthcoming). Is It Better to Love Better Things? In Tony Milligan, Christian Maurer & Kamila Pacovská (eds.), Love and Its Objects.
    It seems better to love virtue than vice, pleasure than pain, good than evil. Perhaps it's also better to love virtuous people than vicious people. But at the same time, it's repugnant to suggest that a mother should love her smarter, more athletic, better looking son than his dim, clumsy, ordinary brother. My task is to help sort out the conflicting intuitions about what we should love. In particular, I want to address a problem for the no-reasons view, the theory (...)
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  10. Aaron Smuts (forthcoming). Philosophy of Film: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge.
    Philosophy of Film: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge) provides a critical overview of the literature on eleven different issues in the philosophy of film, from "What is Film?" to "Can Film Do Philosophy?" It aims to provide an objective overview of the principal arguments on each side of the issues. The set of issues includes all of the most important topics as well as some that are less well represented in the discipline, such as whether the power of cinema derives from (...)
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  11. Aaron Smuts (2014). Cinematic. Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 23 (46):78-95.
    Is cinematicity a virtue in film? Is lack of cinematicity a defect? Berys Gaut thinks so. He claims that cinematicity is a pro tanto virtue in film. I disagree. I argue that the term “cinematic” principally refers to some cluster of characteristics found in films featuring the following: expansive scenery, extreme depth of field, high camera positioning, and elaborate tracking shots. We often use the word as a term of praise. And we are likely right to do so. We are (...)
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  12. Aaron Smuts (2014). Normative Reasons for Love, Part I. Philosophy Compass 9 (8):507-517.
    Are there normative reasons for love? More specifically, is it possible to rationally justify love? Or can we at best provide explanations for why we love? In Part I of this entry, I discuss the nature of love, theories of emotion, and what it takes to justify an attitude. In Part II, I provide an overview of the various positions one might take on the rational justification of love. I focus on the debate between defenders of the no-reasons view and (...)
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  13. Aaron Smuts (2014). Normative Reasons for Love, Part II. Philosophy Compass 9 (8):518-526.
    Are there normative reasons for love? More specifically, is it possible to rationally justify love? Or can we at best provide explanations for why we love? In Part I of this entry, I discuss the nature of love, theories of emotion, and what it takes to justify an attitude. In Part II, I provide an overview of the various positions one might take on the rational justification of love. I focus on the debate between defenders of the no-reasons view and (...)
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  14. Aaron Smuts (2013). The Ethics of Singing Along: The Case of 'Mind of a Lunatic'. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (1):121-129.
    In contrast to film, theater, and literature, audiences typically sing along with popular songs. This can encourage a first-person mode of engagement with the narrative content. Unlike mere spectators, listeners sometimes imagine acting out the content when it is recited in the first-person. This is a common mode of engaging with popular music. And it can be uniquely morally problematic. It is problematic when it involves the enjoyment of imaginatively doing evil. I defend a Moorean view on the issue: It (...)
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  15. Aaron Smuts (2013). Five Tests for What Makes a Life Worth Living. Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (4):1-21.
    I evaluate four historically precedented tests for what makes a life worth living: (1) The Suicide Test (Camus), (2) The Recurrence Test (Schopenhauer and Nietzsche), (3) The Extra Life Test (Cicero and Hume), and (4) The Preferring Not to Have Been Test (Job and Williams). I argue that all four fail and tentatively defend the heuristic value of a fifth, The Pre-Existence Test for what makes a life worth living: (5) A life worth living is one that a benevolent caretaker (...)
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  16. Aaron Smuts (2013). Painful Art and the Limits of Well-Being. In Jerrold Levinson (ed.), Suffering Art Gladly. Palgrave/ Macmillan.
    In this chapter I explore what painful art can tell us about the nature and importance of human welfare. My goal is not so much to defend a new solution to the paradox of tragedy, as it is to explore the implications of the kinds of solutions that I find attractive. Both nonhedonic compensatory theories and constitutive theories explain why people seek out painful art, but they have troublesome implications. On some narrow theories of well-being, they imply that painful art (...)
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  17. Aaron Smuts (2013). Reply to Elliott: In Defense of the Good Cause Account. Film and Philosophy 17:47-57.
    Jay Elliott raises an important objection to the central claim of my paper "It’s a Wonderful Life: Pottersville and the Meaning of Life.” There I defend the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. GCA holds that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one is causally responsible for objective good. Elliott argues that although GCA correctly implies that George Bailey lives a meaningful life, it might also imply that Potter's life is meaningful. But this is absurd. (...)
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  18. Aaron Smuts (2013). To Be or Never to Have Been: Anti-Natalism and a Life Worth Living. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (4):1-19.
    David Benatar argues that being brought into existence is always a net harm and never a benefit. I disagree. I argue that if you bring someone into existence who lives a life worth living (LWL), then you have not all things considered wronged her. Lives are worth living if they are high in various objective goods and low in objective bads. These lives constitute a net benefit. In contrast, lives worth avoiding (LWA) constitute a net harm. Lives worth avoiding are (...)
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  19. Aaron Smuts (2013). The Good Cause Account of the Meaning of Life. Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (4):536-562.
    I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible for the (...)
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  20. Aaron Smuts (2013). The Salacious and the Satirical: In Defense of Symmetric Comic Moralism. Journal of Aesthetic Education 47 (4):45-62.
    A common view holds that humor and morality are antithetical: Moral flaws enhance amusement, and moral virtues detract. I reject both of these claims. If we distinguish between merely outrageous jokes and immoral jokes, the problems with the common view become apparent. What we find is that genuine morals flaws tend to inhibit amusement. Further, by looking at satire, we can see that moral virtues sometimes enhance amusement. The position I defend is called symmetric comic moralism. It is widely regarded (...)
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  21. Aaron Smuts (2012). It's a Wonderful Life: Pottersville and the Meaning of Life. Film and Philosophy 16 (1):15-33.
    It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra, 1946) presents a plausible theory of the meaning of life: One's life is meaningful to the extent that it promotes the good. Although this theory is credible, the movie suggests a problematic refinement in the Pottersville sequence. George's waking nightmare asks us to compare the actual world with a world where he did not exist. It tells us that we are only responsible for the good that would not exist had we not existed. I argue (...)
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  22. Aaron Smuts (2012). Less Good but Not Bad: In Defense of Epicureanism About Death. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (2):197-227.
    In this article I defend innocuousism– a weak form of Epicureanism about the putative badness of death. I argue that if we assume both mental statism about wellbeing and that death is an experiential blank, it follows that death is not bad for the one who dies. I defend innocuousism against the deprivation account of the badness of death. I argue that something is extrinsically bad if and only if it leads to states that are intrinsically bad. On my view, (...)
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  23. Aaron Smuts (2012). Popular Art. In The Continuum Companion to Aesthetics. Continuum.
    The common assumption is that works of popular are less serious, less artistically valuable. Popular art is driven by a profit motive; real art, high art, is produced for loftier goals, such as aesthetic appreciation. Further, popular art is formulaic and gravitates toward the lowest common denominator. High art is innovative. It enriches, elevates, and inspires; popular art just entertains. Worse, popular art inculcates cultural biases. It is a corporate tool of ideological indoctrination, making contingent social and economic arrangements seem (...)
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  24. Aaron Smuts (2012). The Power to Make Others Worship. Religious Studies 48 (2):221 - 237.
    Can any being worthy of worship make others worship it? I think not. By way of an analogy to love, I argue that it is perfectly coherent to think that one could be made to worship. However, forcing someone to worship violates their autonomy, not because worship must be freely given, but because forced worship would be inauthentic—much like love earned through potions. For this reason, I argue that one cannot be made to worship properly; forced worship would be unfitting. (...)
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  25. Aaron Smuts (2011). Grounding Moralism: Moral Flaws and Aesthetic Properties. Journal of Aesthetic Education 45 (4):34-53.
    My goal in this article is to provide support for the claim that moral flaws can be detrimental to an artwork's aesthetic value. I argue that moral flaws can become aesthetic flaws when they defeat the operation of good-making aesthetic properties. I do not defend a new theory of aesthetic properties or aesthetic value; instead, I attempt to show that on both the response-dependence and the supervenience account of aesthetic properties, moral flaws with an artwork are relevant to what aesthetic (...)
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  26. Aaron Smuts (2011). Immortality and Significance. Philosophy and Literature 35 (1):134-149.
    Although I reject his argument, I defend Bernard Williams’s claim that we would lose reason to go on if we were to live forever. Through a consideration of Borges’s story "The Immortal," I argue that immortality would be motivationally devastating, since our decisions would carry little weight, our achievements would be hollow victories of mere diligence, and the prospect of eternal frustration would haunt our every effort. An immortal life for those of limited ability will inevitably result in endless frustration, (...)
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  27. Aaron Smuts (2011). Rubber Ring: Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs? In John Gibson & Noel Carroll (eds.), Narrative, Emotion, and Insight. Penn State UP. 131.
    In this essay, I discuss a few ways in which songs are used, ways in which listeners engage with and find meaning in music. I am most interested in sad songs—those that typically feature narratives about lost love, separation, missed opportunity, regret, hardship, and all manner of heartache. Many of us are drawn to sad songs in moments of emotional distress. The problem is that sad songs do not always make us feel better; to the contrary, they often make us (...)
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  28. Aaron Smuts (2011). The Feels Good Theory of Pleasure. Philosophical Studies 155 (2):241-265.
    Most philosophers since Sidgwick have thought that the various forms of pleasure differ so radically that one cannot find a common, distinctive feeling among them. This is known as the heterogeneity problem. To get around this problem, the motivational theory of pleasure suggests that what makes an experience one of pleasure is our reaction to it, not something internal to the experience. I argue that the motivational theory is wrong, and not only wrong, but backwards. The heterogeneity problem is the (...)
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  29. Aaron Smuts (2010). 'Pickman's Model': Horror and the Objective Purport of Photographs. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4:487-509.
    It is commonly held, even among non-Bazinians, that photographs are typically perceived as more objective than other forms of depiction. The implications of this putative feature of photographic reception for the fiction film have been relatively ignored. If photos do have an objective purport, it would explain the power of a common device used in horror movies where a monster is selectively revealed through a degraded image, usually an amateur video recording. However, I argue that a better explanation is forthcoming. (...)
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  30. Aaron Smuts (2010). The Ethics of Humor: Can Your Sense of Humor Be Wrong? Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (3):333-47.
    I distill three somewhat interrelated approaches to the ethical criticism of humor: (1) attitude-based theories, (2) merited-response theories, and (3) emotional responsibility theories. I direct the brunt of my effort at showing the limitations of the attitudinal endorsement theory by presenting new criticisms of Ronald de Sousa’s position. Then, I turn to assess the strengths of the other two approaches, showing that that their major formulations implicitly require the problematic attitudinal endorsement theory. I argue for an effects-mediated responsibility theory , (...)
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  31. Aaron Smuts (2010). The Ghost is the Thing: Can Fiction Reveal Audience Belief? Midwest Studies in Philosophy 34 (1):219-239.
    Can fictions sometimes reveal important information about what beliefs audience members hold? I argue that a case can be made that emotional responses to some horror fictions can reveal that audiences harbor beliefs in the supernatural, beliefs that audience members might otherwise deny holding. To clarify the terms of the discussion, I begin with an overview of two leading theories of belief: the representational and dispositional accounts. I explore the role of belief in the production of emotional responses by posing (...)
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  32. Aaron Smuts (2009). Art and Negative Affect. Philosophy Compass 4 (1):39-55.
    Why do people seemingly want to be scared by movies and feel pity for fictional characters when they avoid situations in real life that arouse these same negative emotions? Although the domain of relevant artworks encompasses far more than just tragedy, the general problem is typically called the paradox of tragedy. The paradox boils down to a simple question: If people avoid pain then why do people want to experience art that is painful? I discuss six popular solutions to the (...)
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  33. Aaron Smuts (2009). Do Moral Flaws Enhance Amusement? American Philosophical Quarterly 46 (2):151-163.
    I argue that genuine moral flaws never enhance amusement, but they sometimes detract.I argue against comic immoralism--the position that moral flaws can make attempts at humor more amusing.Two common errors have made immoralism look attractive.First, immoralists have confused outrageous content with genuine moral flaws.Second, immoralists have failed to see that it is not sufficient to show that a morally flawed joke is amusing; they need to show that a joke can be more amusing because of the fact that it is (...)
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  34. Aaron Smuts (2009). Film as Philosophy: In Defense of a Bold Thesis. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67 (3):409-420.
    I argue for a position close to what Paisley Livingston calls the bold thesis of cinema as philosophy. The bold thesis I defend is that films can make innovative, independent philosophical contributions by paradigmatic cinematic means. I clarify the thesis before presenting what Livingston thinks is a fatal problem for any similar position—the problem of paraphrase. As an example in defense of the bold thesis, I offer the "For God and Country" sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s October (1928). I argue that (...)
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  35. Aaron Smuts (2009). Story Identity and Story Type. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67 (1):5-14.
    Although it seems plausible to say that the same story can be retold in different media, it is difficult to say exactly what this would entail. The primary difficulty is in coming up with an acceptable theory of story identity. In this article I present several theories of story identity and explore their weaknesses. I argue that in the end we are left with two unattractive options: a strict theory that implies that the same story can almost never be retold (...)
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  36. Aaron Smuts (2009). The Paradox of Suspense. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2009 (6.1):1-15.
    The ultimate success of Hollywood blockbusters is dependent upon repeat viewings. Fans return to theaters to see films multiple times and buy DVDs so they can watch movies yet again. Although it is something of a received dogma in philosophy and psychology that suspense requires uncertainty, many of the biggest box office successes are action movies that fans claim to find suspenseful on repeated viewings. The conflict between the theory of suspense and the accounts of viewers generates a problem known (...)
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  37. Aaron Smuts (2009). What is Interactivity? Journal of Aesthetic Education 43 (4):pp. 53-73.
    I argue that the term "interactive" should be considered a general-purpose term that indicates something about whatever it is applied to, whether that is art, artifact, or nature. I base my definition in the notion of "interacting with" something. First, I look for essential features of this relation, and then using these features, I develop a notion of interactivity that can help distinguish the interactive from non-interactive arts. Although I am skeptical of the benefits interactivity affords, interactive artworks are significant (...)
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  38. Aaron Smuts (2008). Horror. In Paisley Livingston & Carl Plantinga (eds.), Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film.
    Three questions have occupied much of the philosophical literature on cinematic horror: What is horror? How is it able to frighten and disgust? Why do we seek out horror if it horrifies? Although there are numerous other important topics, this entry will focus on these three general questions, since they motivate the overwhelming majority of the philosophical writing on cinematic horror.
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  39. Aaron Smuts (2008). The Desire-Frustration Theory of Suspense. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 66 (3):281-291.
    What is suspense and how is it created? An answer to this question constitutes a theory of suspense. I propose that any theory of suspense needs to be able to account for three curious features: (1) Suspense is seldom felt in our daily lives, but frequently felt in response to works of fiction and other narrative artworks. [Narrative Imbalance] (2) It is widely thought that suspense requires uncertainty, but we often feel suspense in response to narratives when we have knowledge (...)
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  40. Aaron Smuts (2008). 'The Little People': Power and the Worshipable. In Lester Hunt & Noel Carroll (eds.), The Twilight Zone and Philosophy. Blackwell.
    Philosophers and social scientists have explored the ritual practices and the experience of worship, but there has been relatively little discussion of what makes something worthy of worship.However, we find a characteristically sophisticated examination of the issue by Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone episode "The Little People" (3rd Season, March 30, 1962). By considering the example of “The Little People” and a few variations, we can clarify the role power plays in making something worthy of worship. The episode presents (...)
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  41. Aaron Smuts (2008). Wings of Desire: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality. Film and Philosophy 13 (1):137-151.
    The question Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987) forces us to answer is whether we too would be willing to renounce immortality? Or, to put it conversely, would we be wise to exchange our current mortal existence for immortality? If a state of senseless, inefficacious existence is undesirable, the question of the value of immortality becomes one of the conceivably of an alternative to the angels' form of existence. By contemplating the existence of the angels in Wings of Desire, we (...)
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  42. Aaron Smuts (2007). Review: Hitchcock as Philosopher by Yanal, Robert J. [REVIEW] Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65 (3):339–341.
    In Hitchcock as Philosopher, Robert Yanal argues that not only can we find illustrations of philosophical ideas in Hitchcock's films, but that Hitchcock does philosophy through his movies. This is a bold claim. It would be ambitious to merely assert that there are elements in Hitchcock's movies that can support rich philosophical interpretations. This sets the bar high and forces the interpreter to prove the point by supplying productive readings of the films. But Yanal accepts an even more ambitious challenge (...)
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  43. Aaron Smuts (2007). The Joke is the Thing: 'In the Company of Men' and the Ethics of Humor. Film and Philosophy 11 (1):49-66.
    Any analysis of "In the Company of Men" is forced to answer three questions of central importance to the ethics of humor: (1) What does it mean to find sexist humor funny? (2) What are the various sources of humor? And, (3) can moral flaws with attempts at humor increase their humorousness? I argued that although merely finding a joke funny in a neutral context cannot tell you anything reliable about a person's beliefs, in context, a joke may reveal a (...)
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  44. Aaron Smuts (2007). The Paradox of Painful Art. Journal of Aesthetic Education 41 (3):59-77.
    Many of the most popular genres of narrative art are designed to elicit negative emotions: emotions that are experienced as painful or involving some degree of pain, which we generally avoid in our daily lives. Melodramas make us cry. Tragedies bring forth pity and fear. Conspiratorial thrillers arouse feelings of hopelessness and dread, and devotional religious art can make the believer weep in sorrow. Not only do audiences know what these artworks are supposed to do; they seek them out in (...)
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  45. Aaron Smuts, Humor. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    According to the standard analysis, humor theories can be classified into three neatly identifiable groups:incongruity, superiority, and relief theories. Incongruity theory is the leading approach and includes historical figures such as Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and perhaps has its origins in comments made by Aristotle in the Rhetoric. Primarily focusing on the object of humor, this school sees humor as a response to an incongruity, a term broadly used to include ambiguity, logical impossibility, irrelevance, and inappropriateness. The paradigmatic Superiority theorist (...)
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  46. Aaron Smuts (2006). V. F. Perkins' Functional Credibility and the Problem of Imaginative Resistance. Film and Philosophy 10 (1):85-99.
    Echoing Beardsley's trinity of unity, complexity, and intensity, Perkins develops three interrelated criteria on which to base an evaluation of film: credibility, coherence, and significance. I assess whether Perkins criteria of credibility serves as a useful standard for film criticism. Most of the effort will be devoted to charitably reconstructing the notion of credibility by bringing together some of Perkins' particular comments. Then I will briefly examine whether Perkins has successfully achieved his goal of developing standards of judgment by holding (...)
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  47. Aaron Smuts (2005). Anesthetic Experience. Philosophy and Literature 29 (1):97-113.
    While working to build his aesthetic theory from the qualities of normal, healthy experience, John Dewey diagnoses a rarely recognized experiential ailment -- what might be called the anesthetic malady. This illness generally results when experience is deprived of meaning due to the poverty of the predominant forms of activity available in one's environment. In Dewey's theory of aesthetic experience lies an easily overlooked social/political approach that predates, by almost half a century, recent social theoretical concerns in phenomenology and everyday (...)
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  48. Aaron Smuts (2005). Are Video Games Art? Contemporary Aesthetics 2.
    I argue that by any major definition of art many modern video games should be considered art. Rather than defining art and defending video games based on a single contentious definition, I offer reasons for thinking that video games can be art according to historical, aesthetic, institutional, representational and expressive theories of art. Overall, I argue that while many video games probably should not be considered art, there are good reasons to think that some video games should be classified as (...)
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  49. Aaron Smuts (2005). Video Games and the Philosophy of Art. American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter.
    The most cursory look at video games raises several interesting issues that have yet to receive any consideration in the philosophy of art, such as: Are videogames art and, if so, what kind of art are they? Are they more closely related to film, or are they similar to performance arts, such as dance? Perhaps they are more akin to competitive sports and games like diving and chess? Can we even define “video game” or “game”? We often say that video (...)
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  50. Aaron Smuts & Jonathan Frome (2004). Helpless Spectators: Suspense in Videogames and Film. Text Technology 1 (1):13-34.
    The most surprising conclusion of our analysis is that videogames can be most effective in generating suspense not by highlighting their unique ability to be interactive, but, to the contrary, limiting interactivity at key points, thereby turning players into helpless spectators like those that watch films. Discovering this technique in video games allows us to turn our attention back to film, where we are able to highlight a previously ignored feature of viewer film interaction, namely, helplessness.
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  51. Aaron Smuts (2003). Film Theory Meets Video Games: An Analysis of the Issues and Methodologies in 'ScreenPlay'. [REVIEW] Film-Philosophy 7 (54).
    "ScreenPlay" is the first collection of essays devoted to exploring the relationship between cinema and video games. It attempts to introduce the field of video game studies while also increasing our understanding of the two artforms. Although not all of the essays are models of clear thinking on the subject, the volume will be a valuable resource for those working in film, philosophy, new media, and video game studies. Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska have brought together a diverse collection of (...)
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  52. Aaron Smuts (2003). Haunting the House From Within: Disbelief, Mitigation, and Spatial Experience. In Steven Jay Schneider & Daniel Shaw (eds.), Dark Thoughts: Philosophic Reflections on Cinematic Horror. Scarecrow Press. 158--173.
    I attempt to explain the lasting effectiveness and critical success of Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) by roughly sketching the role that spectator belief might play in a revised version of the so-called “Thought Theory” of emotional response to fiction. I argue that The Haunting engages viewers in a process of “disbelief mitigation”—the sheltering of nontrivial, tenuously held beliefs required for optimal viewer response—that helps make the film work as horror, and prevents it from sliding into comedy. Haunted house films (...)
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  53. Aaron Smuts (2003). Multiple Inheritance and Film Identity: A Reply to Dilworth. Contemporary Aesthetics 1:1-3.
    I argue that Dilworth has not shown the type / token theory of film identity to be non-viable, since there is no reason to think that a single object cannot be a token of two types. Even if we assume a single inheritance view of types, Dilworth's argument runs into other problems. Dilworth does not provide any convincing argument as to why intentions are necessary for identifying film and why production history alone will not suffice for identifying hardly conceivable forgeries. (...)
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  54. Aaron Smuts (2003). Review of Simon Critchley, On Humour. [REVIEW] Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 61 (4):414-416.
    The highlight of Simon Critchley's small book On Humor (2002) is the inclusion of seven beautiful prints by Charles Le Brun at the start of each chapter. Le Brun's captivating drawings are zoomorphic studies of the human face, each in relation to a different animal.
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  55. Aaron Smuts (2002). Sympathetic Spectators: Roman Polanski's Le Locataire (The Tenant, 1976). Kinoeye 2 (3).
    Le Locataire ("The Tenant"), one of Polanski's lesser-known films, uses both an unreliable narrator and manipulates an unreliable audience to achieve its horror effect.
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  56. Aaron Smuts (2000). The Metaphorics of Hume's Gendered Skepticism. In Anne Jaap Jacobson (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of David Hume. Penn State UP.
    In "Of Scepticism with Regard to the Senses" (Treatise I.IV.II) David Hume begins by saying that he will attempt to trace the causes of our belief in a mind-independent world, "a belief we must take for granted in all our reasonings". Yet the causes arrived at – namely natural inclination or imagination - are presented as so untrustworthy as to cast doubt on the credibility of the inescapable belief itself. However, in the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Hume presents a radically (...)
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  57. Aaron Smuts, Devil Simulation: Why We Couldn't, Shouldn't, and Wouldn't.
    In this paper I critically evaluate the Devil Simulation Argument for cognitive immoralism—the position that moral flaws with a work of art can be cognitively virtuous, and thereby artistically valuable. I focus on Matthew Kieran's version of the argument. Kieran holds that by simulating the attitudes of fictional devils we can come to gain important moral insights. In response, I argue that we have no reason to believe that we can effectively adopt immoral attitudes, that any successful narrative artworks ask (...)
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