Art and Ethics Workshop

Workshop participants

On Friday, 18th January, the Art and Ethics project’s first workshop took place. The well-attended event featured presentations by Moonyoung Song (University of Maryland), Adriana Clavel-Vázquez, James Harold (Mount Holyoke College), and Becca Rothfeld (Harvard University).

Song presented ‘The Ambiguity of ‘Moral Defect’ and Its Implications’, in which she points out that theorists in the debates surrounding aesthetic moralism have failed to distinguish between higher- and lower-level moral defects. As such, some arguments in this debate talk past each other rather than offering meaningfully opposed positions. Moreover, only those theories appealing to higher-level moral virtues and defects establish an interesting interaction between the aesthetic and the ethical.

Clavel-Vázquez’s paper, ‘The Case for Contextual Autonomism’, argues for the bold view that fictions are not ethically evaluable qua fictions. Roughly, fictions fail to meet the necessary conditions to be properly ethically assessed because the attitudes they prescribe appreciators to adopt towards their representations, if any, are quarantined from the actual world. As such ethical criticism or praise purportedly directed at works of fiction are actually (or ought to be) directed at something external to the work, such as the author of the work or its context of creation.

Workshop participants

Harold presented ‘Alain Locke and the Aims of the Artist’. In it, he explores some of the writings of Alain Locke, particularly those in response to WEB Dubois’ view of art as necessarily propagandistic, and their implications for contemporary discussions of how ethical and aesthetic values interact in artworks. Harold argues that Locke’s unique value system offers a ‘third way’ between views that deny any interaction and those that affirm it. Neither value is fully determinate; it is the function of art to offer new visions for how to apply our value concepts.

Becca Rothfeld closed the workshop with ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ in which she reverses the normal order of inquiry. Instead of asking how ethical properties affect aesthetic ones, she considers how aesthetic properties (specifically, those picked out by ‘thick’ aesthetic concepts) affect ethical ones, arguing that sometimes the former partially ground the latter. Her arguments focus on cases of works that adopt a precious attitude towards important or sensitive subject matters, citing the lack of fit between the attitude and subject matter as explanatory of the moral failing.

We greatly enjoyed all the presentations, the excellent questions and discussion, and the warm company. We wish our participants luck with their papers and further projects.


Call for Registration: Art and Ethics Workshop #1

Friday, 18th January, 2019, University of Southampton

As part of the European Commission-funded research project Art and Ethics, the University of Southampton’s department of philosophy is hosting a one-day workshop at its Avenue Campus.

The workshop is designed to maximize the benefit to the authors presenting their work. Papers will therefore be circulated at least a week in advance and participants asked to pre-read them. Discussions will last around 90 minutes per paper.


Registration Form

We are inviting any interested parties who plan to attend to register by filling in this form by Friday the 11th January at the very latest. The event is free and open to the public.

Besides general planning, registration is necessary for the timely distribution of papers to participants before the workshop.



10:00 – 11:30   Moonyoung Song (University of Maryland)

The Ambiguity of ‘Moral Defect’ and Its Implications

11:45 – 13:15   Dr. Adriana Clavel-Vázquez (University of Sheffield)

The Case for Contextual Autonomism

13:15 – 14:45   Break for lunch

14:45 – 16:15   Prof. James Harold (Mount Holyoke College)

Alain Locke and the Aims of the Artist

16:30 – 18:00  Becca Rothfeld (Harvard University)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Accessibility Information

The event will take place at the following address:

Building 65, Avenue Campus, Highfield Road, Southampton, SO17 1BF

We aim to make this conference as accessible as possible, in line with the SWIP/BPA guidance 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.

One of two rooms will be used for the event, depending on the number of registered attendees. Basic information about the rooms can be found here:

Room 1173:

Room 1175:

Both rooms are on the ground floor, wheelchair accessible, less than 50 metres from an accessible women’s bathroom, and less than 100 metres from an accessible men’s bathroom.

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

Here is a floorplan:

Floor plan of Building 65 at the University of Southampton.

Art & Ethics Secures Conference Grant

The Art & Ethics project has secured over £4,200 from the Thought Trust to help finance a conference at the University of Southampton. The conference, ‘Beauty and Goodness: Exploring the Intersection’, is being organized by Adriana Clavel-Vázquez, Panos Paris, and Nils-Hennes Stear.

The conference aims to bring ethicists and aestheticians primarily from analytic philosophy 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. It will feature roughly eight speakers over two days and makes funds available for  up to four early career researchers to attend, in addition to funding for each speaker. It will take place in September, 2019.

Speaker Schedule for First Art & Ethics Workshop

The first Art & Ethics Workshop will take place at the University of Southampton’s Avenue Campus on Friday the 18th January, 2019. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees and speakers will discuss speakers’ pre-read papers according to the following schedule:

10:00 – 11:30    Moonyoung Song (University of Maryland)

11:45 – 13:15    Dr. Adriana Clavel-Vázquez (University of Sheffield)

14:45 – 16:15    Prof. James Harold (Mount Holyoke College)

16:30 – 18:00    Becca Rothfeld (Harvard University)

A Call for Registrations will be announced in due course. Attendees must register to receive papers before the workshop.