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Aaron Smuts
Rhode Island College
  1. Gestural Communication in Olive Baboons and Domestic Dogs.Barbara Smuts - 2002 - In Marc Bekoff, Colin Allen & Gordon M. Burghardt (eds.), The Cognitive Animal: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal Cognition. MIT Press. pp. 301--306.
     
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  2. The Ethics of Humor: Can Your Sense of Humor Be Wrong?Aaron Smuts - 2010 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 13 (3):333-347.
    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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  3. The Good Cause Account of the Meaning of Life.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - 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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  4. Immortality and Significance.Aaron Smuts - 2011 - 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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  5. The Feels Good Theory of Pleasure.Aaron Smuts - 2011 - 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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  6.  21
    Male Aggression Against Women.Barbara Smuts - 1992 - Human Nature 3 (1):1-44.
    Male aggression against females in primates, including humans, often functions to control female sexuality to the male’s reproductive advantage. A comparative, evolutionary perspective is used to generate several hypotheses to help to explain cross-cultural variation in the frequency of male aggression against women. Variables considered include protection of women by kin, male-male alliances and male strategies for guarding mates and obtaining adulterous matings, and male resource control. The relationships between male aggression against women and gender ideologies, male domination of women, (...)
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  7. Are Video Games Art?Aaron Smuts - 2005 - 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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  8. Less Good but Not Bad: In Defense of Epicureanism About Death.Aaron Smuts - 2012 - 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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  9. Normative Reasons for Love, Part II.Aaron Smuts - 2014 - 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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  10. In Defense of the No-Reasons View of Love.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    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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  11. Art and Negative Affect.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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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  12. A Life Worth Living.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    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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  13. Normative Reasons for Love, Part I.Aaron Smuts - 2014 - 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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  14. What is Interactivity?Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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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  15. Wings of Desire: Reflections on the Tedium of Immortality.Aaron Smuts - 2008 - 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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  16. The Paradox of Painful Art.Aaron Smuts - 2007 - 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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  17.  80
    The Evolutionary Origins of Patriarchy.Barbara Smuts - 1995 - Human Nature 6 (1):1-32.
    This article argues that feminist analyses of patriarchy should be expanded to address the evolutionary basis of male motivation to control female sexuality. Evidence from other primates of male sexual coercion and female resistance to it indicates that the sexual conflicts of interest that underlie patriarchy predate the emergence of the human species. Humans, however, exhibit more extensive male dominance and male control of female sexuality than is shown by most other primates. Six hypotheses are proposed to explain how, over (...)
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  18. Emergence in Social Evolution: A Great Ape Example.Barbara Smuts - 2006 - In P. Davies & P. Clayton (eds.), The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis From Science to Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 166.
     
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  19. Do Moral Flaws Enhance Amusement?Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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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  20. Humor.Aaron Smuts - 2006 - 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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  21. Grounding Moralism: Moral Flaws and Aesthetic Properties. Smuts - 2011 - 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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  22. Five Tests for What Makes a Life Worth Living.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - 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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  23. Horror.Aaron Smuts - 2008 - 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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  24. Story Identity and Story Type.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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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  25. Video Games and the Philosophy of Art.Aaron Smuts - 2005 - 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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  26.  86
    How Not to Defend Response Moralism. Smuts - 2015 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 49 (4):19-38.
    The bulk of the literature on the relationship between art and morality is principally concerned with an aesthetic question: Do moral flaws with works of art constitute aesthetic flaws?1 Much less attention has been paid to the ways in which artworks can be morally flawed. There are at least three promising contenders that concern aesthetic education: Artworks can be morally flawed by endorsing immorality, corrupting audiences, and encouraging responses that are bad to have. When it comes to works of fiction, (...)
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  27. The Joke is the Thing: 'In the Company of Men' and the Ethics of Humor.Aaron Smuts - 2007 - 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: What does it mean to find sexist humor funny? What are the various sources of humor? And, 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 great deal about (...)
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  28.  4
    Holism and Evolution.Jan Christiaan Smuts - 1926 - N & S Press.
  29. 'Pickman's Model': Horror and the Objective Purport of Photographs.Aaron Smuts - 2010 - 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. To Be or Never to Have Been: Anti-Natalism and a Life Worth Living.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - 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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  31.  34
    Encounters with Animal Minds.Barbara Smuts - 2001 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 8 (5-7):5-7.
    In this article I draw on personal experience to explore the kinds of relationships that can develop between human and nonhuman animals. The first part of the article describes my encounters with wild baboons, whom I studied in East Africa over the course of many years. The baboons treated me as a social being, and to gain their trust I had to learn the troop's social conventions and behave in accordance with them. This process gave me a feeling for what (...)
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  32. The Power to Make Others Worship.Aaron Smuts - 2012 - 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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  33. It's a Wonderful Life: Pottersville and the Meaning of Life.Aaron Smuts - 2012 - 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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  34. Film as Philosophy: In Defense of a Bold Thesis.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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. Love and Free Will.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    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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  36. Rubber Ring: Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?Aaron Smuts - 2011 - In John Gibson & Noel Carroll (eds.), Narrative, Emotion, and Insight. Penn State UP. pp. 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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  37. Cognitive and Philosophical Approaches to Horror.Aaron Smuts - forthcoming - 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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  38.  86
    Love and Death: The Problem of Resilience.Aaron Smuts - forthcoming - In Michael Cholbi (ed.), Immortality and the Philosophy of Death. Rowman & Littlefield.
    The strongly resilient are able to quickly get over the loss of their beloved. This is not an entirely attractive capacity. In this paper, I argue that it is appropriate to be distressed about the fact that we might, quickly or slowly, get over the death of our loved ones. Moller argues that the principal problem with resilience is that it puts us in a defective epistemological position, one where we are no longer able to appreciate the significance of what (...)
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  39.  55
    The Ethics of Singing Along: The Case of 'Mind of a Lunatic'.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - 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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  40. The Origins of Patriarchy: An Evolutionary Perspective.B. B. Smuts - 1995 - Human Nature 6:1-32.
     
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  41.  77
    The Ethics of Imagination and Fantasy.Aaron Smuts - forthcoming - In Amy Kind (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Imagination.
    The "ethics of imagination" or the "ethics of fantasy" encompasses the various ways in which we can morally evaluate the imagination. This topic covers a range of different kinds of imagination: (1) fantasizing, (2) engaging with fictions, and (3) dreaming. The clearest, live ethical question concerns the moral value of taking pleasure in undeserved suffering, whether willfully imagined, represented, or dreamed. Much of this entry concerns general theoretical considerations and how they relate to the ethics of fantasy. In the final (...)
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  42. The Desire-Frustration Theory of Suspense.Aaron Smuts - 2008 - 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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  43.  12
    Dominance: An Alternative View.Barbara Smuts - 1981 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 (3):448-449.
  44. The Salacious and the Satirical: In Defense of Symmetric Comic Moralism. Smuts - 2013 - 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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  45. Painful Art and the Limits of Well-Being.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - In Jerrold Levinson (ed.), Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotions in Art. 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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  46.  10
    Film as Philosophy: In Defense of a Bold Thesis.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67 (4):409-420.
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  47. The Paradox of Suspense.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - 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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  48.  79
    Five Theses About Caring.Aaron Smuts - manuscript
    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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  49.  77
    Anesthetic Experience.Aaron Smuts - 2005 - 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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  50.  69
    Is It Better to Love Better Things?Aaron Smuts - 2015 - 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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