Scottish Aesthetics Forum

Hans Maes (Kent): Portraits of Philosophers and the Philosophy of Portraits
6th April 2017 – 4:00 pm, University of Edinburgh,
G.009, Richard Verney Health Centre
7 Bristo Square

This paper presents a close analysis of Steve Pyke’s famous series of portraits of philosophers. By comparing his photographs to other well-known series of portraits and to other portraits of philosophers we will seek a better understanding of the distinctiveness and fittingness of Pyke’s project. With brief nods to Barthes, Baudrillard, Berger, Hegel, and Schopenhauer and an extensive critical investigation of Cynthia Freeland’s ideas on portraiture in general and her reading of Steve Pyke’s portraits in particular this paper will also aim to make a contribution to the philosophical debate on portraiture.

Dinesh Wadiwel talk

The Institute of Geography invites you to a talk ‘Animals as Labourers? Marx, Work and Nonhumans’ by Dr. Dinesh Wadiwel, University of Sydney

Date and time: Friday, 3rd February 2017; 1.00 pm – 2.30 pm

Venue: G10 Drummond Library, Institute of Geography, Drummond Street

Abstract: The recent ‘political turn’ in animal rights theory has also opened up possibilities for conceptualising animals as a social justice issue within the context of social and political institutions. This paper explores the potential of using theory from Karl Marx to think about animal labour under capitalism. In Capital Marx draws a fundamental distinction between constant capital and variable capital (comprising the so called “organic composition of capital”). In this account, it is the latter category of capital that is reflective of human labour, and only variable capital is capable of producing surplus. Against this view a range of scholars – such as Ted Benton, Jason Hribal, Kendra Coulter, Alasdair Cochrane, and Barbara Noske – have proposed animals as labouring subjects. In addition, a range of other recent scholars – such as Melinda Cooper and Jason Moore – have provided new grounds for rethinking Marxist thinking on labour, and moving this discussion beyond the human. This paper seeks to extend on this work. Drawing on Marx, I will argue in a technical sense that animals labour as variable capital to both produce surplus and simultaneously to reproduce themselves as constant capital to be exchanged at the next phase of a value chain. I will examine live animal transport as a way to demonstrate this dynamic. I will further argue that this perspective offers some novel ways to consider the exploitation of animals, and offers animal advocates some different ways to argue for change.

Dr. Dinesh Wadiwel is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. His research interests include violence, race, disability rights and critical animal studies. He is author of the monograph The War against Animals (Brill, 2015).

SAF Lecture

Aaron Meskin (Leeds)

“Aesthetic Testimony: An Experimental Investigation”

4:00 pm, Tuesday 31st January 2017

Room G04, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh


Ordinary testimony transmits knowledge. But aestheticians have been sceptical of whether aethetic testimony  transmits aesthetic knowledge. Although the debate in the philosophical  literature focuses largely on normative and conceptual questions,  empirical claims about folk resistance to aesthetic testimony play a significant role in that debate. Our studies explore folk attitudes towards aesthetic testimony. We argue that experimental results do not support pessimism about the epistemic value of aesthetic testimony.

For further information click here.

Prof A.W. Eaton – SAF Lecture

The *Scottish Aesthetics Forum *is delighted to announce its next lecture:
*Professor A.W. Eaton (University of Illinois, Chicago)*

*“Propaganda, Pornography, Pictures, and Persuasion”*

*Monday, 5 December, 2016, 4:15 – 6:00pm*

*Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, *

*University of Edinburgh*
*The lecture is free and open to all!*
*Abstract:* It is a curious fact about the philosophical literatures on
both propaganda and pornography that they tend to talk about these
phenomena as if they were primarily linguistic. Yet by far most pornography
today is pictorial and most propaganda has a significant pictorial
component. This paper aims to shift the focus in the conversations to
pictures and begins to think through some of the implications of this
shift. In particular, I’ll be developing a peculiarly pictorial model of
persuasion that better suits the work that pornography and propaganda can
do. Along the way, I’ll use some examples of highly persuasive pictures
from the Italian Renaissance.
*About the speaker:* A.W. Eaton is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the
University of Illinois, at Chicago, where she is also affiliated with the
Gender and Women’s studies and the Department of Art History. A.W. Eaton
received her Ph.D. from The University of Chicago in both philosophy and
art history in 2003. She works on topics in feminism, aesthetics and
the philosophy of art, value theory, and Italian Renaissance painting.
Her special interests include the epistemological and ontological status
of aesthetic value, the relationship between ethical and artistic
value, feminist critiques of pornography, representations of rape in the
European artistic tradition, and artifact teleology. A.W. Eaton was a
Laurence Rockefeller Fellow at Princeton’s Center for Human Values in
2005-6. She is the editor of the Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art section of
Philosophy Compass. For more details and for a list of publications, see
her website at
*Additional information: *The lecture will be followed by a dinner with our
speaker. If you would like to attend the dinner, please contact the
organisers by Thursday, 5 December.

*** *There are limited funds to cover dinner expenses for two students,
offered on a first-come-first-served basis. ****
– To contact the organisers:

– For more information:

– Or find us on Facebook:
SAF* is generously supported by the *British Society of Aesthetics*.*

Aaron Gross seminar

The School of Divinity and the Cultural and Historical Geography
Research Group invite you to a talk “The Question of the Animal and
Religion” by Dr. Aaron Gross, Associate Professor, University of San

Aaron S. Gross is a historian of religions at the University of San
Diego who specializes in Jewish traditions and has a sub-specialty in
South Asian traditions.

Date and time: 3rd November 2016; 16.00 – 17.30
Venue: New College, Mound Place , Edinburgh EH1 2LX
Further details and registration available at:

All welcome.



Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor for Channel 4 News*


DATE: Thursday 12 May 2016

TIME: 16:30

PLACE: George Square Lecture Theatre, George Square, EH8 9LH

Tickets can be reserved on Eventbrite (by 28 April 2016).


Lindsey is a renowned TV journalist and writer. Recently she reported the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and Lebanon and the Paris terror attacks, as well as conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Mali. She covered the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the genocide in Rwanda, as well as witnessing the Arab Spring uprisings in Libya and Egypt. From 2006-8 she was based in China. She is the author of Sandstorm; Libya in the Time of Revolution, which was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and is currently writing a biography of Marie Colvin, the war correspondent who was killed in Syria in 2012.

She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Essex in 2004, and has won several awards including the Royal Television Society Journalist of the Year, James Cameron Award, One World Broadcasting Trust Award, Voice of the Viewer and Listener, and the Charles Wheeler Award. In 2015, Lindsey Hilsum was awarded the Mungo Park Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society by HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

The lecture will be a first-hand account of war reporting. Lindsey will discuss the new ways refugees and reporters try to overcome restrictions on movement and information. Governments and rebel groups use increasingly brutal methods to stop journalists from seeing what’s really going on while, under the pressure of mass migration, Europe has re-imposed borders that had melted away. In reponse, new virtual geographies are being created as citizen journalists send videos by Youtube and refugees resort to smugglers and move cash through cyberspace.

The Wreford Watson Lecture series commemorates the life and work of James Wreford Watson (1915-1990), the distinguished geographer and poet, who held a chair at the University of Edinburgh (from 1953 to 1983) and who served as Chief Geographer to the Canadian Government.




Professor David Davies at SAF

David Davies (McGill): Descriptivism and its Discontents
28th April 2016 – 4:00 pm, Edinburgh

For more information, or to contact us, please visit:

Julian Dodd has recently argued against what he terms ‘local descriptivism’ as a meta-ontological principle in the philosophy of art. Dodd distinguishes local descriptivism from another meta-ontological view, ‘folk-theoretic modesty.’ The two views differ as to the relationship between the folk-theoretic beliefs about artworks implicit in our practices and the correct ontology of art for particular art forms. The local descriptivist thinks that the folk-theoretic beliefs in some way determine the ontological characters of artworks, whereas proponents of folk-theoretic modesty think that properly rigorous philosophical inquiry in accordance with the demands of “mainstream metaphysics” can lead us to rightly conclude that our folk ontology of art is seriously in error. Dodd takes his objections to descriptivism as counting equally against the idea that the ontology of art is by its very nature constrained by artistic practice. I argue, against Dodd, that according a grounding role to artistic practice in the ontology of art need not conflict with the demands of meta-ontological realism and can allow for both practices and folk beliefs about those practices to be revised. Practice, I argue, must ground our ontological inquiries into the nature of artworks of various kinds because the ontologist’s task is to make sense of the practices into which such artworks enter. But neither the practices themselves nor our folk beliefs about those practices are sacrosanct. In taking ontology of art to be reflectively accountable to artistic practice, I also reject Thomasson’s global descriptivism in the ontology of art. My objection, however, is independent of the merits of Thomasson’s ‘easy view’ in metaphysics more generally. Rather, I argue, she misunderstands the nature of the questions that ontologists of art are asking. Ontology of art is by its very nature reflective and potentially revisionary of certain aspects of our practice. It involves not conceptual analysis but the codification of a practice in a way that clarifies the role played by certain things in that practice.

About the speaker
David Davies is Professor of Philosophy at McGill University where he has taught since 1987. His research and publications span a wide range of topics in aesthetics including film, literature, music, performance, and the visual arts, as well as issues in metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophy of mind and language. He is the author of three monographs: Art as Performance (Blackwell, 2004); Aesthetics and Literature (Continuum, 2007); and Philosophy of the Performing Arts (Blackwell, 2011). For more information, please visit Professor Davies’ website:

Additional information
The lecture will be followed by a dinner with our speaker. Please inform the organisers by Sunday, 24th April if you would like to join us for dinner.
There are limited funds to cover dinner expenses for two students, offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

Professor Berys Gaut at SAF

The Scottish Aesthetics Forum is delighted to announce its third lecture:

Professor Berys Gaut (St Andrews)

Cinematic Art and Technology

Wednesday, 22nd April, 2015, 4:15 – 6:00pm

Dugald Stewart Building, 3.10-3.11,

University of Edinburgh


The lecture is free and open to all!

Abstract: “Cinema was born as technology and rapidly grew into an art. What is the relation of its artistic to its technological properties? In this paper I develop an argument to show that the proper artistic appreciation of cinematic artworks is partly dependent on their technological features. I also illustrate and defend this claim by comparing how digital films can solve certain filmmaking problems with how non-digital films can do so. I then discuss whether the argument shows that digital films are, other things equal, lesser artistic achievements than are non-digital ones.”

About the speaker: Berys Gaut is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, President of the British Society of Aesthetics, and an Editorial Consultant to the British Journal of Aesthetics. His research interests and publications span both aesthetics and moral theory, and especially the relationship between aesthetics and ethics, the philosophy of film and film theory, and the philosophy of creativity. He is the author of two monographs, Art, Emotion and Ethics (OUP 2007) and A Philosophy of Cinematic Art (CUP 2010), and is currently working on a new one, Exploring Creativity: A Philosophical Inquiry.

 Additional information: The lecture will be followed by a dinner with our speaker. If you would like to attend the dinner, please contact the organisers by Friday, 17th April. There are limited funds to cover dinner expenses for two students, which will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis.

To contact the organisers:

 For more information, please visit:

Or find us on Facebook:

SAF is generously supported by the British Society of Aesthetics and the Scots Philosophical Association.

Prof Elisabeth Schellekens at SAF

Professor Elisabeth Schellekens (Uppsala/Durham) will be giving a lecture, ‘On Sensible and Intelligible Beauty’, 4.15-6pm, Thurs 12th March at the University of Edinburgh, 7 Bistro Square, Lecture Theatre 1. This promises to be a very interesting lecture – perhaps extending some of her recent work on conceptual art.

Open to all, this is the second in a series of lectures by the newly formed Scottish Aesthetics Forum. You can find more information and upcoming lectures here.