OU student begins a PhD at the Royal College of Art

David Johnson, who did his MA with us, has received funding to do his PhD at the Royal College of Art. He will be working on his dissertation, ‘Blind Aesthetics-Memory, Materiality and the Tactility of the Senses’. In the project he will test the idea that blindness can provide radical new insights into our understanding of the world and that the plastic arts can be a powerful way for blind people to express these insights. David is himself blind.

Many congratulations to David!

John Shand on Martha Nussbaum

John Shand, a long-standing tutor and research associate of the department, has published a review of Martha Nussbaum’s new book, The Monarchy of Fear in the Times Higher Education Supplement. The review is available here.

To read it, you have to register with the THES, but doing that does not commit you to anything.

Ex-OU student success!

Henry Pollock, who did his MA with the OU (2013-2015), and who then went on to do his PhD in Leeds, has had his first paper published. It is called ‘Parfit’s Fission Dilemma: Why Relation R Doesn’t Matter’ and is now open access in Theoria.

Click here to find the paper.

Congratulations to Henry!

Inaugural lecture: Professor Derek Matravers (July 17 2018)

Open University Inaugural Lecture

(A live video-link to this event is now available via the official event page.)

Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm

Derek Matravers, Professor of Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tuesday 17 July
6:00 – 7:00 pm
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

We are delighted to invite you to Professor Derek Matraver’s inaugural lecture on: Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm.

Derek Matravers is Professor of Philosophy at The Open University. Before joining the OU, he was a research fellow at Darwin College Cambridge. He is the author of Art and Emotion (OUP: 1998), Introducing Philosophy of Art In Eight Case Studies (Routledge: 2012), Fiction and Narrative (OUP: 2014), and Empathy (Polity: 2017). He has also published on aesthetics, ethics, mind, and politics.

In his inaugural lecture, Professor Matravers, will explore whether we should risk lives to protect historical buildings. He will go on to assess the values of buildings and our deeper obligation to not kill human beings. As the UK recently ratified the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the UK Military are now bound by the articles of this convention. As a result, failing to protect cultural property, or damaging it unless there is a military necessity to do so, is a war crime. Professor Matravers will explore the ethical dilemma around this which is bound up with ‘just war theory’, which goes back at least to medieval times.

Event programme:
18:00-18:45 Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm
18:45-19:00 Q&A
19:00-19:45 Drinks and canapes

Can’t join in person? Watch the event live online (link will be live before the event). If you are viewing the event by livestream, please do take the opportunity to have your questions answered by our speakers LIVE during the event by posting in the COMMENTS BOX
There will be time for questions and comments. We very much hope you will be able to attend what promises to be an inspiring event and have your say.

In a perfect world, what would we do?

Open University Philosophy PhD student Christopher Yorke was interviewed recently by the blogsite Philosophical Disquisitions. You can hear him in an interview with John Danaher, in which he talks about utopias, games, and the relation between the utopias and games. If we lived in a world in which all our instrumental needs were met – a world in which we had no need to do anything describable as ‘work’ – what would we do? Play games, perhaps? Chris is not convinced…

Raamy Majeed’s new paper on Gestalt Effects and Aesthetic Perception is out now in Analysis

Raamy Majeed’s paper, ‘Do gestalt effects show that we perceive high-level aesthetic properties?’ is out now in Analysis.

ABSTRACT: Whether we perceive high-level properties is presently a source of controversy. A promising test case for whether we do is aesthetic perception. Aesthetic properties are distinct from low-level properties, like shape and colour. Moreover, some of them, e.g. being serene and being handsome, are properties we appear to perceive. Aesthetic perception also shares a similarity with gestalt effects, e.g. seeing-as, in that aesthetic properties, like gestalt phenomena, appear to ‘emerge’ from low-level properties. Gestalts effects, of course, are widely observed, which raises the question: do gestalt effects make it plausible that we (sometimes) perceive high-level aesthetic properties? Contra Stokes (forthcoming), this paper argues that they don’t. This is interesting in its own right, but it also points to a more general lesson, namely we should resist the temptation to appeal to gestalt effects to argue for high-level perception.

You can access the full article here

Luca Sciortino’s book

Luca completed a PhD in the philosophy of science with us in 2014. As well as being a philosopher he is a journalist and writer. And, it turns out, a traveller. He has just published a book, Oltre e un cielo in più. This documents his four-month journey from Skye to Japan. It is in Italian (he is Sicilian) but you can read a google-translated review from the newspaper La Repubblica here (original review here).

Sophie-Grace Chappell on ‘Virtue Ethics and Climate Change’

Our seminar speaker next week, February 7th, will be our very own Sophie-Grace Chappell. Details below.

‘Virtue Ethics and Climate Change’

This paper is more about virtue ethics than climate change. It discusses two possible virtue-ethical approaches to climate change and similar issues in “emergency ethics”, one that takes virtue ethics to be a systematic moral theory of the usual sort, the other that takes virtue ethics to be a broader and looser approach to ethics–an ethical outlook. It considers two objections, the timescale objection and the authority objection. To the former of these, either version of virtue ethics seems more vulnerable than other approaches in ethics, but I suggest remedies from McDowell and Aquinas. To the latter objection, I suggest that the general moral scepticism that underlies it is better outflanked than attacked directly. I aim to outflank it by proposing what I call enchanted realism, which is a metaethics which I think goes particularly well with virtue ethics, and which is also highly pertinent to the issue of climate change.

It will run from 2-4pm in CMR15. All welcome!