The Last Podcast Episode

Here is the concept for the Project’s podcast. We wanted to know what philosophers and other academics think about the central themes of our project. So, we ask our guests three questions:

  1. What does aesthetics tell us about human nature?
  2. How does empirical research bear on their research projects?
  3. What kind of experiment would you want to run on their research projects?

For various reasons, the plan for the podcast series did not take off. Still, all is not lost. We have now, finally, the last (and first) podcast episode, featuring Jim Hamilton (Kansas State University). Professor Hamilton specializes in aesthetics, especially on theater. In this episode, he tells me–amongst other things–an exciting idea that he has on empirically investigating theater audiences’ experiences.

Check it out!


Project Review 2015: Impact

The Experimental Philosophical Aesthetics and Human Nature Project is primarily funded by the European Commission’s Marie Curie grant, which explicitly includes the aim of facilitating knowledge transfer between academics and with the public.

Hence, in addition to–and, often, in connection with–our research projects, we have also embarked on a number of outreach efforts. This post focuses on our accomplishments on the impact front. (The previous year-in-review post focuses on our accomplishments on the research front.)

In Person

As mentioned in the previous post, we have collectively given eight research talks in many different places in order to share our research widely.

Even more excitingly, we gave two public talks about coffee to members of the public that included an interactive experimental component. Aaron gave a talk and conducted an informal study on gustatory testimony. (See also Aaron’s paper on taste-imony, co-authored with Jon Robson.) I gave a talk and conducted an informal study on the interaction between moral and gustatory value. (See also our paper “Morality and Aesthetics of Food”, forthcoming in Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics.) These public talks were supported by Cultural & Creative Industries Exchange and with assistance from Amanosi Ekenimoh and Nick Watts.

In Words

In connection with the public talks about coffee, we authored two public philosophy essays, published by Food&_. First, Aaron wrote an essay on latte art that weaves together philosophy, psychology, and practice. (In fact, one of Aaron’s speculations has now been independently investigated and received empirical support!) Second, Aaron and I–with the help of Nosi and Nick–wrote an essay on the interactive experimental aspects of the two public talks.

I authored two semi-academic how-to blog posts on replication and experimental philosophy and on the use of Amazon mechanical turk in experimental philosophy. Both posts are available on the widely-read Experimental Philosophy Blog.


Strangely enough, what made me the happiest about the Project in 2015 is not done by me (or Aaron).

Back in 2014, we hosted an early career workshop that aimed to bring together four senior scholars in philosophical aesthetics (Catherine Abell and Christy Mag Uidhir) and in experimental philosophy (Florian Cova and Jonathan Weinberg) along with seven junior scholars who are interested in the intersection of the two subfields. Our goal is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas between all participants, and to help the junior scholars professionally.

So, I was most ecstatic to attend the 2015 American Society of Aesthetics Meeting, where Kris Goffin–one of the junior scholars at the workshop–presented two exciting studies that he and Florian Cova did on the phenomenon of guilty pleasures. Be on the lookout for these interesting findings to appear in print soon!

Project Review 2015: Research

Intellectual work can feel lonely, even when you are working with others. Most of the time you work on these research projects that take years to see the light of day, after countless iterations and refinements. Sometimes, the research projects never even see the light of day, for one reason or another. Where did the hours go? The loneliness comes when it feels like there’s nothing new to share.

So, it can be helpful to take a step back, to remind yourself of what you have done that can, in fact, be shared. Here is such an attempt, to remind ourselves what we, the Experimental Philosophical Aesthetics and Human Nature Project, have achieved in 2015. This post focuses on the research accomplishments. (The next year-in-review post focuses on the impact of the Project.)

Overview Phase of the Project

The first phase of the Project surveys the philosophical aesthetics literature in aesthetics for topics that lend themselves to empirical investigations. This phase has resulted in four overview articles and one bibliography.

There are two articles on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance (Miyazono and Liao 2016; Liao and Gendler 2016). There is an article on the ethical criticism of art debate, as it relates to food (Liao and Meskin forthcoming, “Morality and Aesthetics of Food”, Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics). And there is a bibliography on imagination and belief (Ichino, Miyazono, and Liao forthcoming, “Imagination and Belief”, Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy).

Most importantly, there is now an overview article that introduces the subfield of experimental philosophical aesthetics (Cova, Garcia, and Liao 2015). As I wrote in an earlier blog post, since this subfield of study is so new, my co-authors and I have chosen a somewhat unusual approach for this overview: in addition to describing the works that have been done, we are also previewing some works in progress and envisioning what the field could become.

Experiment Phase of the Project

The second phase of the Project uses methods from cognitive science to investigate topics in philosophical aesthetics. We have conducted many studies in 2014 and 2015. And this year, we have traveled to many places to share the results with diverse audiences, giving eight research talks in total.

This year also brought the first major research publication of the Project. In “Aesthetic Adjectives” (Liao and Meskin forthcomingPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research), we report four studies that investigate the context-sensitivity of aesthetic adjectives. In short, we found that aesthetic adjectives behave weirdly, in ways that are not obviously anticipated by philosophical aestheticians or philosophers of language. This work continues the discussions initiated at the Project’s language of aesthetics workshop in 2014.

Individual Accomplishments

Aaron has articles published or in press on: imagination (Wiltshire and Meskin 2016), comics (Cook and Meskin 2015), taste-imony (Meskin and Robson 2015), the concept of art (Fokt and Meskin forthcoming, “Errors in ‘The History of an Error'”, British Journal of Aesthetics), and videogames (Meskin and Robson forthcoming, “Videogames as Self-Involving Interactive Fictions”, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism).

I have an article in press on imaginative resistance (Liao forthcoming).

And James Andow, who joined us from December 2014 to January 2015 as LHRI Postdoctoral Fellow, has an impressive number of published or in press articles as well.