Animated Explainer Published

As part of the Art & Ethics project, Nils Stear collaborated with producer Jacob Brookman, Signature Pictures, and Battlecat Studios on a short animated explainer video. The video introduces viewers to Kendall Walton’s influential theory of fiction through a dialogue between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It is designed to be accessible, educational, and entertaining. The hope is that it will interest academics and non-academics working around, or interested in, the representational arts, and serve as a nimble pedagogical aid to students and instructors in philosophy.

You can watch the video without subtitles here:

and with subtitles here:

We are extremely keen to hear how the video has been used (e.g. in studying, teaching, otherwise), what people liked or disliked about it, whether it inspired any interest in aesthetics, philosophy, or indeed anything else. To that end, we invite viewers to share their thoughts and experiences, however minor, with us by email:

Further Reading:

Walton’s theory is fully developed in his book, Mimesis as Make-Believe.


Animated Explainer Video Soon to be Released

Nils Stear teamed up with Jacob Brookman, Signature Pictures, and Battlecat Studios to produce a video as part of the Art & Ethics project. It is due to be released very soon.

The video features Sherlock Holmes giving Dr. Watson a quick-and-easy introduction to Kendall Walton’s influential theory of fiction. As well as being designed for the art- and philosophy-inclined to learn from and enjoy, the video is intended to aid professional philosophers looking to quickly get a rough sense of the theory, or to use as a pedagogical aid in undergraduate instruction.

Here is a cryptic trailer.

Call for Registration: Beauty and Goodness Conference

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

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

‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’ is a collaboration between the European Commission-funded research project Art and Ethics and the Aesthetics and Ethics Research Group. 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 is funded by generous grants from the Thought Trust and the British Society of Aesthetics.

We are pleased to have keynote talks by Prof. Paul C. Taylor and Prof. Heather Widdows.

Our confirmed speakers are:

  • Dr. Jonathan Gingerich

  • Dr. Britt Harrison

  • Dr. Brian McElwee

  • Dr. Peter Shiu-Hwa Tsu

  • Prof. Samantha Vice

  • Dr. Alan Wilson

Registration is now open! This event is free and open to the public. If you are interested in attending, please fill out this form.

We have funds to offer travel bursaries up to £100 for four early career researchers. Please indicate whether you would like to be considered for these bursaries when registering. Funds will be awarded on a first come, first served basis; in the event that there are more applicants than funds, awardees will be chosen by lottery.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at:

Accessibility Information

We aim to make this conference as accessible as possible, in line the BPA/SWIP’s Good Practice Scheme and their Guidelines for Accessible Conferences. To that end:

  • We can provide a hearing loop if it is required.
  • We permit service animals to attend.
  • The venue is wheelchair accessible.
  • The venue has nearby accessible toilets.
  • We can provide a quiet room if it is required.
  • The venue will have available seating.
  • There is nearby parking to all venues.
  • There will be at least a 15 minute break between each 90 minute session.
  • We will permit written, rather than spoken, questions during discussion.

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)