Second Art & Ethics Publication Published

Nils Stear’s ‘Meriting a Response: the Paradox of Seductive Artworks’ has been published in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy. The paper considers the ‘Merit Principle’, according to which artworks that attempt to elicit an unmerited response (such as attempting to elicit laughter at something unamusing, or fear of something unfrightening) are to that extent aesthetically flawed. It then shows that this principle leads to paradox once combined with ‘seductive’ works—works that elicit an unmerited response in order to make audiences reflect upon and repudiate that unmerited response. On the Merit Principle, seductive works are necessarily aesthetically flawed, which the paper argues is counter-intuitive. The paper considers a number of ways to save the Merit Principle before recommending an alternative principle that preserves the original’s ambitions while avoiding paradox.

A shorter, less technical introduction of the paper’s main ideas was published by the Aesthetics for Birds blog earlier this year.


Art & Ethics Secures Second Conference Grant (Belated News)

In May, the Art & Ethics project secured over £4,200 from the British Society for Aesthetics to help finance the conference, ‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’, organized by Adriana Clavel-Vázquez, Panos Paris, and Nils-Hennes Stear.

The speaker line-up of eight speakers over two days will be advertised shortly. In addition to covering typical expenses, the funds will support up to four early career researchers to attend, as well as each speaker, and support additional accessibility arrangements where needed. The conference takes place on the 19th and 20th September, 2019.

The conference brings ethicists and aestheticians together to make contributions to each other’s sub-disciplines; to advance ethicists’ understanding of issues in aesthetics, and aestheticians’ understanding of issues in ethics; to foster collaboration between otherwise siloed philosophers; and contribute further to an already thriving research environment in normativity at the University of Southampton.

Art & Ethics Workshop #2

Workshop participants talk over lunch.

In order to bring more voices into conversation with the Art & Ethics project, academics across the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Humanities were invited to present work at a workshop organized as part of the project. The workshop, which spanned over two days (23rd and 30th May), included five papers from anthropology, digital media, English, music, and philosophy.

On the first day, Andrew Pinnock (music) presented a paper arguing against the current allocation of arts funding in the UK on grounds of elitism based in spurious justifications of intrinsic value. Nils-Hennes Stear (philosophy) presented work co-written with Robin Zheng (Yale-NUS) arguing that certain forms of imagining are ethically criticizable when conducted in contexts of oppression.

On the second day, Will May (English) discussed the notion of whimsy and in particular its use as a defence against ethical criticism as, for instance, with respect to the poetry of Ezra Pound. Megen De Bruin-Molé’s (digital media practice) paper analyzed the recent phenomenon of ‘Gothic Remix’ art as part of a broader trend of repurposing, cannibalizing, and resurrecting former artistic modes and how doing this is itself a Gothic trope. Finally, Laura Lewis (modern languages/anthropology) discussed the ethics of ethnographic photography, in particular by reflecting on stereotyped, for-profit photography of Afro-mexicans living around Mexico’s Costa Chica.

The event was a great success stimulating excellent and far-reaching discussion and attracting numerous participants beyond the speakers.

Workshop participants pose for the camera.

Intramural Arts & Humanities Workshop

Spectacles resting on an opened book.

The Art & Ethics project has organized a workshop for research on the project theme conducted across the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities. We are pleased to announce that the workshop schedule has now been finalized.

The event spans two days, with two papers on the 23rd May, and three on the 30th. A full schedule is given below. All are welcome.

The workshop is pre-read, meaning papers will be distributed beforehand, read, and discussed at the workshop. Potential participants should email us ( in order to receive copies of the papers. Papers will be distributed around the 10th May.


All events in the Confucius Boardroom (Parkes Building 65, Room 2123). Access information here.

Thursday, 23rd May

13:00 – 14:15: Andrew Pinnock (Music)
The Menace of Meritocracy: Unmasking Inequality in the Creative and Cultural Industries

14:30 – 15:45: Nils-Hennes Stear (Philosophy)
Imagining in Oppressive Contexts, or, ‘What’s Wrong with Blacking Up?’ (co-written with Robin Zheng)

Thursday, 30th May

11:00 – 12:15: Will May (English)
Sinister Whimsy: Poetry, Politics & Poor Form

13:00 – 14:15: Megen De Bruin-Mole (Digital Media)
The Gothic and Remix Culture

14:30 – 15:45: Laura Lewis (Anthropology)
Modesty and Modernity: Photography, Race, and Representation on Mexico’s Costa Chica (Guerrero)

Call for Abstracts: ‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’

‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’

University of Southampton, 19th and 20th of September, 2019

This two day conference is a collaboration between the European Commission-funded research project Art and Ethics and the Aesthetics and Ethics Research Group. It will take place on the 19th and 20th of September 2019 at the University of Southampton.

The conference’s aim is to get ethicists to think about issues in aesthetics and aestheticians to think about those in ethics, or something in between the two sub-disciplines, in the hope of setting a precedent of mutually beneficial exchanges. Possible issues the conference may address include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between aesthetic and ethical value in the arts
  • Similarities and differences between virtue theoretic approaches to both fields
  • The role of aesthetic considerations to living well, doing good, or right action
  • Meta-normative questions about the (dis)unity of the different values

Our confirmed keynote speakers are Prof Paul C. Taylor and Prof Heather Widdows.

We are pleased to invite abstracts sufficiently in keeping with this aim of no more than 1,000 words. Abstracts should:

  • Outline the paper’s principal argument(s)
  • Give a good sense of the paper’s philosophical contribution(s).
  • Be anonymized.

Papers should be suitable for a 35-minute presentation, followed by 30 minutes for discussion.

Please submit your abstract to with the subject heading ‘Beauty and Goodness’. The deadline is the 7th June, 2019. Potential applicants with doubts about the suitability of their paper may contact us at

We will cover the cost of travel for authors without access to relevant research funds, and up to three nights’ accommodation where the cost of this would be otherwise prohibitive. We will also aim to provide and pay for authors’ childcare, should it be required, through the University of Southampton’s Early Years Centre. Applicants should inform us of their eligibility for support once their papers have been accepted. Authors who are unable to participate in person, will be invited to participate remotely via video-conferencing software.

We sincerely encourage participants from groups whose voices are disproportionately excluded from philosophical discourse to submit abstracts.

The conference is being organized in accordance with the BPA/SWIP’s Good Practice Scheme and their Guidelines for Accessible Conferences.

Accessibility Information

We aim to make this conference as accessible as possible, in line with the SWIP/BPA guidance for accessible conferences. While the precise venue is yet to be confirmed, we anticipate that the event will take place in Building 65, Avenue Campus, Highfield Road, Southampton, SO17 1BF, and that…

  • We will be able to provide a hearing loop if it is required.
  • We will be able to permit service animals to attend.
  • The venue will be wheelchair accessible.
  • The venue will have nearby accessible toilets.
  • We will be able to provide a quiet room if it is required.
  • The venue will have available seating.
  • There will be nearby parking to all venues.
  • There will be at least a 15 minute break between each 70 minute session.
  • We will be able to permit written, rather than spoken, questions during discussion.

Accessibility information about the building (Building 65) can be found here:

Upcoming Art & Ethics/AERG Conference

Art & Ethics has finalized plans for its final event, ‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’, a two day conference taking place on the 19th and 20th of September 2019 at the University of Southampton.

The conference will feature eight speakers in total, including two keynote speakers: Profs. Heather Widdows and Paul C. Taylor. A Call for Abstracts will be announced here, as elsewhere, soon.

The conference’s motivation is to get ethicists to think about issues in aesthetics and aestheticians to think about those in ethics, or something in between the two sub-disciplines, in the hope of setting a precedent of mutually beneficial exchanges.

The conference forms a capstone to the Art and Ethics project and is supported in part by a generous grant from the Thought Trust. It is also a collaboration with the newly founded Aesthetics and Ethics Research Group (AERG) for whom it represents the inaugural event.

The conference is open to the public and has been organized according to both the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme and their Guidelines for Accessible Conferences. We have allotted up to £800 to cover accommodations (such as intepreters) relating to disability or similar.

The conference also provides speakers funding for childcare for the duration of the conference, as well as covering their travel and accommodation costs. Additionally, four travel subventions of up to £100 are available for postgraduates or other ECRs who wish to attend and who do not have access to research funding.