Imaginative resistance refers to a phenomenon in which people resist engaging in particular prompted imaginative activities. Philosophers have primarily theorized about this phenomenon from the armchair. In this paper, we demonstrate the utility of empirical methods for investigating imaginative resistance. We present two studies that help to establish the psychological reality of imaginative resistance, and to uncover one factor that is significant for explaining this phenomenon but low in psychological salience: genre. Furthermore, our studies have the methodological upshot of showing (...) how empirical tools can complement the predominant armchair approach to philosophical aesthetics. (shrink)
We refine a line of feminist criticism of pornography that focuses on pornographic works' pernicious effects. A.W. Eaton argues that inegalitarian pornography should be criticized because it is responsible for its consumers’ adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in the same way that other fictions are responsible for changes in their consumers’ attitudes. We argue that her argument can be improved with the recognition that different fictions can have different modes of persuasion. This is true of film and television: a (...) satirical movie such as Dr. Strangelove does not morally educate in the same way as a realistic series such as The Wire. We argue that this is also true of pornography: inegalitarian depictions of sex are not invariably responsible for consumers' adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in reality. Given that pornographic works of different genres may harm in different ways, different feminist criticisms are appropriate for different genres of pornography. (shrink)
The problem of imaginative resistance holds interest for aestheticians, literary theorists, ethicists, philosophers of mind, and epistemologists. We present a somewhat opinionated overview of the philosophical discussion to date. We begin by introducing the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. We then review existing responses to the problem, giving special attention to recent research directions. Finally, we consider the philosophical significance that imaginative resistance has—or, at least, is alleged to have—for issues in moral psychology, theories of cognitive architecture, and modal epistemology.
In the past decade, experimental philosophy---the attempt at making progress on philosophical problems using empirical methods---has thrived in a wide range of domains. However, only in recent years has aesthetics succeeded in drawing the attention of experimental philosophers. The present paper constitutes the first survey of these works and of the nascent field of 'experimental philosophy of aesthetics'. We present both recent experimental works by philosophers on topics such as the ontology of aesthetics, aesthetic epistemology, aesthetic concepts, and imagination, as (...) well as research from other disciplines that not only are relevant to philosophy of aesthetics but also open new avenues of research for experimental philosophy of aesthetics. Overall, we conclude that the birth of an experimental philosophy of aesthetics is good news not only for aesthetics but also for experimental philosophy itself, as it contributes to broaden the scope of experimental philosophy. (shrink)
This chapter explores the interaction between the moral value and aesthetic value of food, in part by connecting it to existing discussions of the interaction between moral and aesthetic values of art. Along the way, this chapter considers food as art, the aesthetic value of food, and the role of expertise in uncovering aesthetic value. Ultimately this chapter argues against both food autonomism (the view that food's moral value is unconnected to its aesthetic value) and Carolyn Korsmeyer's food moralism (the (...) view that moral flaws can only make food aesthetically worse). Instead, it argues for the position of food immoralism: sometimes a moral flaw can make an item of food aesthetically better. This chapter concludes by drawing out broader implications of this position for discussions on the ethics of food and discussions on the interaction between the moral and aesthetic values of art. (shrink)
One aim of this essay is to contribute to understanding aesthetic communication—the process by which agents aim to convey thoughts and transmit knowledge about aesthetic matters to others. Our focus will be on the use of aesthetic adjectives in aesthetic communication. Although theorists working on the semantics of adjectives have developed sophisticated theories about gradable adjectives, they have tended to avoid studying aesthetic adjectives—the class of adjectives that play a central role in expressing aesthetic evaluations. And despite the wealth of (...) attention paid to aesthetic adjectives by philosophical aestheticians, they have paid little attention to contemporary linguistic theories of adjectives. We take our work to be a first step in remedying these lacunae. In this paper, we present four experiments that examine one aspect of how aesthetic adjectives ordinarily function: the context-sensitivity of their application standards. Our results present a prima facie empirical challenge to a common distinction between relative and absolute gradable adjectives because aesthetic adjectives are found to behave differently from both. Our results thus also constitute a prima facie vindication of some philosophical aestheticians’ contention that aesthetic adjectives constitute a particularly interesting segment of natural language, even if the boundaries of this segment might turn out to be different from what they had in mind. (shrink)
The goal of this short paper is to show that esthetic adjectives—exemplified by “beautiful” and “elegant”—do not pattern stably on a range of linguistic diagnostics that have been used to taxonomize the gradability properties of adjectives. We argue that a plausible explanation for this puzzling data involves distinguishing two properties of gradable adjectives that have been frequently conflated: whether an adjective’s applicability is sensitive to a comparison class, and whether an adjective’s applicability is context-dependent.
To imagine is to form a mental representation that does not aim at things as they actually, presently, and subjectively are. One can use imagination to represent possibilities other than the actual, to represent times other than the present, and to represent perspectives other than one’s own. Unlike perceiving and believing, imagining something does not require one to consider that something to be the case. Unlike desiring or anticipating, imagining something does not require one to wish or expect that something (...) to be the case. // -/- Imagination is involved in a wide variety of human activities, and has been explored from a wide range of philosophical perspectives. Philosophers of mind have examined imagination’s role in mindreading and in pretense. Philosophical aestheticians have examined imagination’s role in creating and in engaging with different types of artworks. Epistemologists have examined imagination’s role in theoretical thought experiments and in practical decision-making. Philosophers of language have examined imagination’s role in irony and metaphor. // -/- Because of the breadth of the topic, this entry focuses exclusively on contemporary discussions of imagination in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. (shrink)
David Lewis argues that centered worlds give us a way to capture de se, or self-locating, contents in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. In recent years, centered worlds have also gained other uses in areas ranging widely from metaphysics to ethics. In this paper, I raise a problem for centered worlds and discuss the costs and benefits of different solutions. My investigation into the nature of centered worlds brings out potentially problematic implicit commitments of the theories that employ (...) them. In addition, my investigation shows that the conception of centered worlds widely attributed to David Lewis is not only problematic, but in fact not his. (shrink)
Responding to recent concerns about the reliability of the published literature in psychology and other disciplines, we formed the X-Phi Replicability Project to estimate the reproducibility of experimental philosophy. Drawing on a representative sample of 40 x-phi studies published between 2003 and 2015, we enlisted 20 research teams across 8 countries to conduct a high-quality replication of each study in order to compare the results to the original published findings. We found that x-phi studies – as represented in our sample (...) – successfully replicated about 70% of the time. We discuss possible reasons for this relatively high replication rate in the field of experimental philosophy and offer suggestions for best research practices going forward. (shrink)
Imaginative immersion refers to a phenomenon in which one loses oneself in make-believe. Susanna Schellenberg says that the best explanation of imaginative immersion involves a radical revision to cognitive architecture. Instead of there being an attitude of belief and a distinct attitude of imagination, there should only be one attitude that represents a continuum between belief and imagination. -/- We argue otherwise. Although imaginative immersion is a crucial data point for theorizing about the imagination, positing a continuum between belief and (...) imagination is neither necessary nor sufficient for explaining the phenomenon. In addition, arguing against Schellenberg’s account reveals important but underappreciated lessons for theorizing about the imagination and for interpreting boxological representations of the mind. (shrink)
Imaginative resistance refers to a phenomenon in which people resist engaging in particular prompted imaginative activities. On one influential diagnosis of imaginative resistance, the systematic difficulties are due to these particular propositions’ discordance with real-world norms. This essay argues that this influential diagnosis is too simple. While imagination is indeed by default constrained by real-world norms during narrative engagement, it can be freed with the power of genre conventions and expectations.
Narrative representations can change our moral actions and thoughts, for better or for worse. In this article, I develop a theory of fictions' capacity for moral education and moral corruption that is fully sensitive to the diversity of fictions. Specifically, I argue that the way a fiction influences our moral actions and thoughts importantly depends on its genre. This theory promises new insights into practical ethical debates over pornography and media violence.
There has been a long history of arguments over whether happiness is anything more than a particular set of psychological states. On one side, some philosophers have argued that there is not, endorsing a descriptive view of happiness. Affective scientists have also embraced this view and are reaching a near consensus on a definition of happiness as some combination of affect and life-satisfaction. On the other side, some philosophers have maintained an evaluative view of happiness, on which being happy involves (...) living a life that is normatively good. Within the context of this debate we consider how people ordinarily understand happiness, and provide evidence that the ordinary understanding of happiness reflects aspects of both evaluative and descriptive views. Similar to evaluative views, normative judgments have a substantive role in the ordinary understanding of happiness. Yet, similar to descriptive views, the ordinary understanding is focused on the person’s psychological states and not the overall life they actually lived. Combining these two aspects, we argue that the ordinary understanding of happiness suggests a novel view on which happiness consists in experiencing positive psychological states when one ought to. This view, if right, has implications for both philosophical and psychological research on happiness. (shrink)
Children sometimes lose themselves in make-believe games. Actors sometimes lose themselves in their roles. Readers sometimes lose themselves in their books. From people's introspective self-reports and phenomenological experiences, these immersive experiences appear to differ from ordinary experiences of simply playing a game, simply acting out a role, and simply reading a book. What explains the difference? My answer: attention. -/- [Unpublishable 2007-2017. This paper was referenced in Liao and Doggett (2014).].
Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines' research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and (...) of recognizing pretense, the cognitive capacities involved in imaginative engagement with fictions, and the real-world impact of make-believe. In the final section, we discuss more briefly a number of other mental activities that arguably involve imagining, including counterfactual reasoning, delusions, and dreaming. (shrink)
Some philosophers have criticized experimental philosophy for being superfluous. Jackson implies that experimental philosophy studies are unnecessary. More recently, Dunaway, Edmunds, and Manley empirically demonstrate that experimental studies do not deliver surprising results, which is a pro tanto reason for foregoing conducting such studies. This paper gives theoretical and empirical considerations against the superfluity criticism. The questions concerning the surprisingness of experimental philosophy studies have not been properly disambiguated, and their metaphilosophical significance have not been properly assessed. Once the most (...) relevant question is identified, a re-analysis of Dunaway and colleagues’ data actually undermines the superfluity criticism. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy offers an alternative mode of engagement for public philosophy, in which the public can play a participatory role. We organized two public events on the aesthetics of coffee that explored this alternative mode of engagement. The first event focuses on issues surrounding the communication of taste. The second event focuses on issues concerning ethical influences on taste. -/- In this paper, we report back on these two events which explored the possibility of doing experimental philosophical aesthetics as public (...) philosophy. We set the stage by considering the significance and current state of efforts in public philosophy, and by introducing the emerging sub-discipline of experimental philosophical aesthetics. Then, we discuss the research and outreach aspects of the two events on the aesthetics of coffee. Finally, we conclude by reflecting on the prospects and potential pitfalls of experimental philosophy as public philosophy. (shrink)
Where is imagination in imaginative resistance? We seek to answer this question by connecting two ongoing lines of inquiry in different subfields of philosophy. In philosophy of mind, philosophers have been trying to understand imaginative attitudes’ place in cognitive architecture. In aesthetics, philosophers have been trying to understand the phenomenon of imaginative resistance. By connecting these two lines of inquiry, we hope to find mutual illumination of an attitude (or cluster of attitudes) and a phenomenon that have vexed philosophers. Our (...) strategy is to reorient the imaginative resistance literature from the perspective of cognitive architecture. Whereas existing taxonomies of positions in the imaginative resistance literature have focused on disagreements over the source and scope of the phenomenon, our taxonomy focuses on the psychological components necessary for explaining imaginative resistance. (shrink)
Methodologically, philosophical aesthetics is undergoing an evolution that takes it closer to the sciences. Taking this methodological convergence as the starting point, I argue for a pragmatist and pluralist view of aesthetic explanations. To bring concreteness to discussion, I focus on vindicating genre explanations, which are explanations of aesthetic phenomena that centrally cite a work's genre classification. I show that theoretical resources that philosophers of science have developed with attention to actual scientific practice and the special sciences can be used (...) to make room for genre explanations in aesthetics. In turn, making room for genre explanations also demonstrates the plausibility of the pragmatist and pluralist view of aesthetic explanations. (shrink)
It has been widely reported that women are underrepresented in academic philosophy as faculty and students. This article investigates whether this representation may also occur in the domain of journal article publishing. Our study looked at whether women authors were underrepresented as authors in elite ethics journals — Ethics, Philosophy & Public Affairs, the Journal of Political Philosophy, and the Journal of Moral Philosophy — between 2004-2014, relative to the proportion of women employed in academic ethics (broadly construed). We found (...) that women are indeed underrepresented overall in prestigious ethics journal publishing. Though this is not our focus, we discuss possible causes for this finding, such as top ethics journals’ tendency not to publish much feminist philosophy; the impact of women’s lesser professional status or rank within philosophy on their prospects for, and success in, journal publishing; and the review process itself, which may disadvantage or discourage women authors — perhaps especially when their gender, rank, and affiliation are known to the editor or reviewer, or if their work is explicitly feminist. We discuss possible avenues for future research on the "woman problem" in philosophy, noting how our study relates to existing research on this issue. (shrink)
Two lines of investigation into the nature of mental content have proceeded in parallel until now. The first looks at thoughts that are attributable to collectives, such as bands' beliefs and teams' desires. So far, philosophers who have written on collective belief, collective intentionality, etc. have primarily focused on third-personal attributions of thoughts to collectives. The second looks at de se, or self-locating, thoughts, such as beliefs and desires that are essentially about oneself. So far, philosophers who have written on (...) the de se have primarily focused on de se thoughts of individuals. This paper looks at where these two lines of investigations intersect: collective de se thoughts, such as bands' and teams' beliefs and desires that are essentially about themselves. There is a surprising problem at this intersection: the most prominent framework for modeling de se thoughts, the framework of centered worlds, cannot model a special class of collective de se thoughts. A brief survey of this problem's solution space shows that collective de se thoughts pose a new challenge for modeling mental content. (shrink)
The present studies investigate morality’s influence on aesthetics and one potential moderator of that influence: genre. Study 1 finds that people’s moral evaluation positively influence their aesthetic evaluation of an artwork. Study 2 and 3 finds that this influence can be moderated by the contextual factor of genre. These results broaden our understanding of the relationship between morality and aesthetics, and suggest that models of art appreciation should take into account morality and its interaction with context. [Unpublishable 2010-2017.].