I am Professor of Environment and Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. A philosopher by discipline and training, I work within an interdisciplinary department, the Institute for Geography and the Lived Environment, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh.
My research interests span aesthetics and philosophy of art, environmental ethics, eighteenth-century philosophy, environmental humanities, and critical animal studies. The philosophical approach I take moves between the historical and contemporary, as I seek to reinterpret past thinking about nature, environment and the arts for a contemporary context. I’m especially interested in trying to understand how aesthetic and moral values interact, the character of aesthetic experience and judgment, and the role of imagination in that experience.
In my most recent book, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature (2013), I argue that far from being an outmoded concept, the sublime is a distinctive aesthetic category which reveals an important, if sometimes challenging, aesthetic-moral relationship with the natural world. I reassess historical ideas of the sublime, especially the Kantian sublime, bringing them into conversation with recent concerns in aesthetics, the arts, and environmental ethics. You can find a review of the book here.
I have a BA degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Middlebury College in Vermont, an MSc in Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD in Philosophy from Glasgow University. Before coming to Edinburgh, I was an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University (1992-1993), Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Lancaster University (1994-2004), and an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College-CUNY (2004-2005). From 2010-2013, I was President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics (and Vice-President 2007-2010). I have also served as Secretary, Treasurer, and Executive Committee Member of the British Society of Aesthetics. I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, on the Advisory Board of the Centre for Animal Ethics, and as a Trustee of the American Society of Aesthetics. I have been an Associate Editor and Co-Editor of the journals, Environmental Values and Society and Space, and I sit on the editorial boards of Environmental Values; Environmental Ethics; Ethics, Policy, and Environment; and Philosophical Quarterly.
I have held visiting positions in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania (2010); as a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values (2011-2012); and as a Sabbatical Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (2015). My publications have been translated into Chinese, French, Finnish, Icelandic, German, and Spanish.