Skip to main content
Volume 17

Debates in Aesthetics, Vol. 17, No. 1

Table of Contents

Sarah Kiernan and Claire Anscomb
Read online | Download Pdf

Harry Drummond
* Winner of Debates in Aesthetics Essay Prize 2021 *
Read online | Download Pdf

Guillaume Schuppert
Read online | Download Pdf

Marta Risco Ruiz
Read online | Download Pdf

Matija Rajter
Read online | Download Pdf

Sarah Kiernan and Claire Anscomb

↑ Back to top ↑

It is our great pleasure to introduce a new editor of Debates in Aesthetics (DiA), Sarah Kiernan, and the 2021 general issue. In this issue there are three original articles that explore a multitude of topics including: the nature of architectural value (Drummond); whether there can be authorless works of fiction (Schuppert); and the relation between light art and somaesthetic experience (Risco Ruiz). There is also an interview with Rafe McGregor, where he discusses his recent book, Narrative Justice (Rajter).

In his article, ‘Architectural Value and the Artistic Value of Architecture’, Drummond seeks to demarcate architectural value from artistic value. He motivates the necessity of this project by claiming that, within philosophical discussion of architecture as an artform, architectural value and artistic value are often referred to interchangeably with no explicit differentiation between them. Nevertheless, a convergence between these two values is seldom supported or argued for overtly, so Drummond refers to the assumption of their equivalence as the implicit claim. Drummond argues against this implicit claim with the goal of showing that architectural value has an independent significance that extends beyond what is attributed to architecture by virtue of its classification as a subgenre of the arts.

Importantly, the article maintains that architecture can possess artistic value despite some controversy regarding its status as an artform; in fact, Drummond identifies this as a source of confusion between architectural and artistic value and even declares it to be an origin of the implicit claim. He analyses three potential reasons for upholding the implicit claim. These three reasons are: the categories argument, which holds that architecture is a different category from ‘mere buildings’ (2021, 17) solely because of its artistic value; the attributive argument, which is based on the idea that both artistic and architectural value are an attributive goodness; and the constitution argument, which highlights the similarities between the properties which denote artistic and architectural value. Drummond goes on to argue convincingly that, on the contrary, each of these apparent motivations for the implicit claim can in fact provide evidence for a clear distinction between architectural and artistic value.

Due to the lack of explicit endorsements for the implicit claim, it could be objected that it is less prevalent than Drummond’s paper supposes. However, Drummond is cautious not to misrepresent or make assumptions regarding the views of previous commentators. Moreover, the contribution of clarity and terminological certainty that Drummond’s paper offers should not be undervalued. His paper presents an approach to this topic that is exceptional in the transparency with which it discusses the distinction between architectural value and the artistic value of architecture.

Drummond’s position is very much aligned with the views of other philosophers cited in the paper such as Stephen Davies and Larry Shiner. Drummond agrees with Stephen Davies (2007) that some but not all works of architecture are works of art and a distinction between architectural value and artistic value is compatible with Davies’ assertion that architecture is not an artform but that works of architecture can also be artworks. The same can be said for Larry Shiner’s cited work on function in architecture (2011). Furthermore, Drummond builds upon recent literature from Louise Hanson (2017) which argues that artistic value is attributive goodness rather than predicative goodness and applies this principle separately to architectural value. By utilising Hanson’s distinction, Drummond’s paper brings freshness and contemporary relevance to the topic of architectural value.

Drummond concludes that architectural value and artistic value are distinct because they are constituted by different components and that the difference between architectural value and artistic value is fundamentally related to function. The various potential components of artistic and architectural value are listed by Drummond, but there is ample potential for further discussion of these factors in future papers. In particular, the importance of function as a distinguishing factor between architectural and artistic value would benefit from greater specificity and development. It would be intriguing to investigate how the role of function in differentiating artistic value and architectural value could relate to the Kantian notions of adherent beauty and free beauty.

As a final point, Drummond highlights the plausibility of examples that are perceived to have more architectural value than artistic value or vice versa, because of how they succeed or fail at fulfilling an architectural function. In future work, it would be excellent to see Drummond demonstrate this point through the discussion of further real-world examples. It would be fascinating to see if the author believes the architecture of Antoni Gaudi has artistic value that exceeds its architectural value or if the distinctive skyscrapers of London’s skyline have an architectural value beyond their artistic value.

In his article, Schuppert explores the question of whether, in addition to works and readers, fictions require authors. As he outlines, this question has caused division among theorists, including Gregory Currie and Kendall Walton, who have proposed that fictions prescribe imaginings. The former has opted for, what Schuppert calls, ‘fictive intentionalism’ (2021, 33), which entails the view that fictions are made – they are communicative and intentional, while the latter has taken a ‘fictive anti-intentionalist’ approach, according to which fictions function – the products work in a particular manner, rather than attaching to particular actions. Walton used a thought experiment to demonstrate this, which consisted of a naturally occurring story formed from cracks in a rock that spell out “Once upon a time there were three bears…” It is postulated that while realizing there is no author for the story, we can still read and enjoy the story much in the same way as if it had an author – the stones also seem to make imagining that there are three bears, rather than other creatures, appropriate. As Schuppert outlines: “Correlatively, it clearly seems to be fictional or true in the fiction that there are three bears.” (2021, 36) In response to this thought experiment, Currie has argued that the natural story is not a work of fiction, but ‘pseudofiction’, where we might treat the shapes formed from the cracks as if they were fiction (Currie 1990, 36).

Although this put an end to the debate for many philosophers, Schuppert reopens the case first by arguing that Currie’s response establishes that, as per his theory, the natural story is not a fiction. Schuppert demonstrates that Walton’s functionalist framework does in fact accommodate the kind of conceptual separation proposed by Currie, but can still maintain that authorless fiction can exist. Drawing upon one of the four conceptions – a relativist concept of function (it is possible that something is fiction in one society but not another) – that Walton offers to explain why we might have mixed intuitions about certain cases, Schuppert argues that “it truly is an authorless fiction for us because we would use and understand it as such.” (2021, 44) Furthermore, Schuppert argues that an actual author theory of fictionality fails to explain why there is good reason to imagine the ‘Cracks in a Rock’ story, while a nonactual author theory of fictionality could entail the counterintuitive consequence that pseudofiction turns out to be metafiction, whereby we imagine that there are three bears “because we infer that a fictional author believes that a fictional author believes that there are three bears.” (2021, 47) In light of these considerations, Schuppert concludes that Walton’s thought experiment still provides good reasons to argue in favour of fictive, and also fictional, anti-intentionalism.

Schuppert’s work then, demonstrates the possibility of natural fictions, which, given recent developments in aesthetics, has some interesting consequences for accounts pertaining to the nature of art forms. Christy Mag Uidhir for instance, has argued that an art form must be strongly author-relevant.[1] More specifically, Mag Uidhir has proposed that something is an artwork “only if intentions substantively figure in the thing coming to have the required features, whatever those may be.” (2013, 23) To be an art form is to be an author-relevant sort, among which Mag Uidhir counts paintings, sculptures, poems, and novels. In each of these forms, there is necessarily an agent who is directly responsible for the way in which that thing is a painting, or a sculpture, and so forth. The same however, he argues is not true of photographs and so “the sortal photograph is not substantively intention dependent (i.e. strongly author-relevant).” (2013, 103) This Mag Uidhir has reasoned is because, as art is intention-dependent, “purely natural objects can’t be art.” (2013, 23) He argues that for a photograph to be an artwork, it must be “photography-plus”, that is containing some non-photographic, or extra-photographic, feature from an art sortal (Mag Uidhir 2013, 105). However, Mag Uidhir’s inclusion of the novel among strongly author-relevant categories might be at risk, if, as Schuppert has proposed, we have greater reason to favour fictive anti-intentionalism over fictive intentionalism. Just as the reaction of photosensitive surfaces to light might be authorless, there might be authorless fictions. Clearly, fiction is not exhaustive of what constitutes a novel, but then neither is the reaction of photosensitive surfaces to light exhaustive of what constitutes a photograph. Why then should we accept that the sortal novel is strongly author relevant, while photography is not? This is just one among many interesting consequences of Schuppert’s arguments.

In Risco Ruiz’s article ‘The contemplative walking in light: Somaesthetic experience in the projects of Ann Veronica Janssens and Olafur Eliasson’ she explores the aesthetic attitude that is adopted by viewers during the experience of certain contemporary art installations involving light. The article focuses on two select examples of light installation from leading contemporary artists: Your Rainbow Panorama (2011) by Olafur Eliasson and YellowBluePink (2015) by Ann Veronica Janssens. These artworks are both characterised by the way in which the audience experiences the artwork by being immersed in and moving through coloured light, and they have been selected to demonstrate what the author calls ‘contemplative walking in light’ (2021, 52) as a distinct somaesthetic form (that is, a subjective state that holistically integrates the mental and emotional elements of aesthetic experience with bodily sensation). In many ways, Risco Ruiz’s article feels akin to the aesthetic experience of light art that is its subject – a contemplative and poetic wandering through ideas and insights regarding the phenomenology of these installations – but Risco Ruiz does argue persuasively for the position that ‘contemplative walking in light’ is both an appropriate aesthetic attitude towards these works and a transformative somaesthetic tool.

Although Risco Ruiz’s observations are compelling, it could be fruitful to explore alternative or competing views on how these works of light-art are, or ought to be, experienced. It is also not clear how far Risco Ruiz’s observations are intended to extend to other works of light-art or installation art. It would be beneficial to contrast the chosen examples with some that do not evoke the same somaesthetic experience despite also utilising coloured light or the viewer’s movement through space. This would more clearly demarcate the limitations of ‘contemplative walking in light’ and perhaps help to motivate the authors position regarding both the artistic intentions and the viewers’ dispositions in the selected examples.

In further research, it would be intriguing to explore how and why the act of ‘contemplative walking in light’ as an aesthetic attitude has developed from previous artistic movements and assess the significance of its position in both contemporary art and the broader history of art. The emphasis on aesthetic experience and contemplative feeling contrasts with more intellectually focused works of the twentieth-century avant-garde; is it possible that the undeniable beauty and embodied experience that are associated with the light-works are a reaction to conceptual art? Such a somaesthetic form seems to break with the status-quo disposition of purely receptive looking and listening in relation to gallery-based artworks; it would be interesting to question how this compares to or has evolved from other interactive works of contemporary art.

Finally, in the interview conducted by Matija Rajter, Rafe McGregor addresses some of the issues raised by the narrative cognitivism that he develops in his book Narrative Justice (2018). On this view, as Rajter outlines in the introduction to the interview, “representations can provide knowledge in virtue of their narrativity, regardless of their potential truth value.” (2021, 68) McGregor uses these arguments to practical ends by, for instance, giving examples of how these ideas might be applied to undermine criminal inhumanity, or crimes motivated by ideology. Importantly, McGregor’s is an interdisciplinary approach between philosophical aesthetics and criminology. As this interview makes clear, philosophical aesthetics has a lot to offer to other disciplines and vice versa. We hope to see more such approaches in future endeavours in the field.

  1.  Mag Uidhir, Christy, Art and Art-Attempts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Harry Drummond

↑ Back to top ↑

This paper seeks to refute the claim that architectural value is one and the same value as the artistic value of architecture. As few scholars explicitly endorse this claim, instead tacitly holding it, I term it the implicit claim. Three potential motivations for the implicit claim are offered before it is shown that, contrary to supporting the claim, they set the foundations for considering architectural value and the artistic value of architecture to be distinct. After refuting the potential motivations and offering some counterexamples to the claim, I provide some comments upon the interaction(s) between aesthetic, artistic, and architectural values, which are benefitted and supported by Louise Hanson’s discussion of attributive value in the artistic domain.

1 Introduction

In the aesthetics of architecture, there is a tendency to employ the terms ‘architectural value’ and ‘artistic value for architecture’ with no clear distinction between the two. Indeed, the two terms are frequently used interchangeably as though identical. Despite this, to my knowledge, there are no explicit endorsements of such an identity. As a result, the claim that architectural value and the artistic value of architecture are the same will be referred to as the implicit claim. In the following, I aim to show that the implicit claim is false and that our assessments of architectural value must pay respect to architecture as a discipline with its own narrative beyond the artworld.

I commence by motivating architecture’s claim to having artistic value in spite of some scepticism about its status as art. This teases out the origins of the implicit claim. Subsequently, I provide reasons as to why we might hold the implicit claim. For ease of exposition, these reasons will be referred to as the categories argument, the attributive argument, and the constitution argument. Interestingly, fleshing out these motivations makes it clearer that architectural value and the artistic value of architecture are distinct. These supposed motivations, in fact, set the groundwork for denying the implicit claim. I show this by scrutinizing each argument in turn, before offering counterexamples (instances where the aforementioned values diverge) to the implicit claim. To conclude, I offer some thoughts regarding the intersection and divergence of values, focusing on the need to acknowledge the disciplinary orientation of architectural value.

2 Motivating the Implicit Claim

We often prefer to speak of a construction’s architectural value, rather than its artistic value, most likely due to the uncertainty surrounding architecture’s classification as art. Architecture’s position amongst the arts is unstable, and its claim to artistic status is contested. Scepticism about architecture’s status as an art primarily derives from its functional heteronomy and restrictions within the discipline, for example, planning restrictions and material considerations. Architecture does not possess the autonomy that being an artform requires. The concern that follows is that if the sceptic is right and architecture cannot be art, then architecture cannot possess artistic value. If architecture cannot possess artistic value, then there is no distinction between the values in question and, subsequently, the proceeding discussion is futile. For Davies, this uncertainty is resolved by distinguishing between artwork and artform; architectural productions can be artworks, but architecture as a discipline is not itself an artform (2007, 129, 136). Hence, the set of architectural works contains within it a (smaller) set of architectural works that are also artworks. This aids the case for our discussion, as shall become apparent.

The idea that anything that is not an artwork cannot have artistic value is supported by Hanson’s (2017) claim that artistic value is attributive goodness. As I will make extensive use of Hanson’s paper throughout my own, it is useful to summarize her claim. Attributive goodness contrasts with predicative goodness insofar as the former is goodness with regard to some kind, whereas the latter is goodness ‘in general’ (regardless of any kind) or, in Hanson’s terms, goodness simpliciter (2017, 417). Hanson identifies three cases to demonstrate that artistic value is attributive goodness. Firstly, the formation of assessments indicates attributive goodness as they are assessments as or qua art(-work). Secondly, artistic value being attributive goodness accounts for why artistic value is possessed by all and only artworks. Thirdly, not every artwork is good simpliciter but may be good as art, or attributively. This is to say that morally bankrupt paintings may be good artworks, but they are not ‘good’ in an overall sense. Hanson derives multiple intuitive and convincing identifications from this thesis. The three most notable ones are: (i) that some artwork’s having higher artistic value than another is simply the former being a better artwork than the latter; (ii) artistic value is not a kind of value but instead should be understood as constituted by different kinds of value, such as aesthetic, cognitive and so forth, and, crucially; (iii) not all valuable things about an artwork are determinant of its artistic value. For example, one might value a sculpture as a good doorstop, but it is unlikely this value would feature in determining the sculpture’s artistic value.

Returning to the case of architecture’s undetermined status as an art, there are three methods of resistance that, I suggest, shift the burden of proof onto the sceptic when it comes to architecture’s artistic value. Firstly, our preference for using ‘architectural value’ over ‘architecture’s artistic value’ in our discussions is just that, a preference. This preference should not determine whether architecture does or does not indeed have artistic value. Secondly, the narrative rests upon an understanding of artistic value as an attribute of all and only artworks. Though Hanson (2017) provides a convincing account when she suggests that artistic value is attributive goodness, that this is the case is not a fact beyond dispute. Indeed, John (2014) provides a case for attributing artistic value to experiences besides artworks, such as meals. Thirdly, and most importantly, even if it is the case that all and only artworks can have artistic value, the artform-artwork discussion, qua Davies, holds that some buildings can be artworks despite architecture’s not being an artform. Davies’ worry is that declaring architecture an artform will result in all constructions by architects being artworks, good or bad. However, architecture’s not being an artform would not entirely preclude some constructions from simultaneously being artworks (Davies 2007, 136). Resultantly, if (at least) some constructions are artworks, they can, qua Hanson, possess artistic value. Indeed, the claim that no architectural products are works of art would require a strongly autonomous art for art’s sake position and rejection of the craft arts, art as entertainment, decorative arts, and so on. Such a position has already been challenged by the existence of conceptual, anti-aesthetic art, alongside other issues with aesthetic-purist theories of art. That architecture is useful, functional, and public does not preclude it from possessing arthood.

The implicit claim revolves around this point, perhaps due to the uncertainty around architecture’s status as art, high art, or non-art. To my knowledge, there are no explicit endorsements of the implicit claim beyond passing, seemingly non-controversial comments such as: “I will take the expression ‘architectural value’ to refer to the artistic value of a building” (Sauchelli 2011, 142; original emphasis). The claim lingers on in conversations about architectural aesthetics. For example, in his application of the moderate moralist approach from the generally artistic domain to the discipline of architecture, Carroll is careful about speaking in terms of “architecture-as-an-art” and “architectural art” (2016). Likewise, the claim manifests itself when we attempt to distinguish between architecture and ‘mere building or construction’, where the distinction may lie in the fact that mere building is not the same as “the art of architecture” (Graham 2006, 243; my emphasis).

Overall, this terminological uncertainty or simple lack of clarity unquestionably favours the approbation of the implicit claim. Throughout Haldane’s analysis of the history of the philosophy of architecture, his terminological commitment varies. When arguing that, “aesthetic experiences of architecture […] accommodate the fact that buildings are functional objects” (Haldane 1999, 9), he merges functional-architectural concerns into the aesthetic.[1] This overreaching absorption of concerns for the functional into the aesthetic is accompanied by his use of terms such as “aesthetic experiences of architecture”, “architectural values”, and “perceptible and intelligible forms of things”, causing further confusion before he merges architecture’s aesthetic and political concerns in a different paper, perhaps implying a broad notion of the aesthetic (Haldane 1990). Winters (1996) provides an “aesthetic theory” of “architectural understanding” that involves “artistic qualities”, conflating aesthetic, artistic, and architectural values and concerns without the caution required for matters of aesthetics.

What may motivate the implicit claim? The first potential motivation for holding the implicit claim is what we can term the categories argument. This argument would start with the aforementioned distinction between ‘mere buildings’ and architecture. If we suppose that ‘architecture’ denotes all and only those constructions that are at the same time artworks, and artistic value is the assessment of something as an artwork, then it looks as though architectural value will be alike to the artistic value of constructions. In other words, the artistic nature of architectural constructions is the sole factor that distinguishes them from ‘mere’ buildings. If this is the case, then we have at least some reason to think that the implicit claim is true.

We might strengthen this argument further by identifying some analogies between artistic and architectural value. As aforementioned, Hanson (2017) provides a convincing case for artistic value as a form of attributive goodness. As a result, assessments of artistic value are just the extent to which some artwork is good or bad when considered in the artistic domain, such that one artwork having greater artistic value than another is simply the former being a better artwork. It would not be controversial to say that the same applies for architectural value. For example, unlike monetary value, we do not ‘quantify’ or ‘point out degrees of’ architectural value. Rather, architectural value fits with Hanson’s comparative notion insofar as having greater architectural value seems to be just being better as architecture. A case of higher architectural value is not the same as having twenty architecture points versus having fifteen. If architectural value is simply the artistic value of architecture, this would explain its attributive and comparative character. Call this reliance on both values being attributive the weak attributive argument. However, it can be noted that in being attributive goodness, something is goodness as x. If architecture is a sub-category of artworks denoting constructions possessing arthood, as per the categories argument, then we can replace the term ‘architecture’ with ‘constructions as art’. Architectural value, we can say, is goodness as architecture, which in turn is goodness as a construction as art. Call this compounding of the weaker form with the categories argument the strong attributive argument.

Finally, there are similarities between the kinds of values that we think determine artistic value, and those that we think determine architectural value. When considering architectural value, what sorts of values do we take into account? Aesthetic value would certainly be amongst the constitutive elements. We want the architecture that comprises our cities, neighbourhoods, and towns to ‘look good’; architecture’s public heteronomy and reflection of our own citizenship ensures this. Indeed, the aesthetic element is crucial in its reflection of our humanity and the need for architecture to fit into (Scruton 1979), or perhaps challenge, existing landscapes. Moral value, too, may be amongst the constitutive considerations of our assessments of architectural value. Carroll’s (2016) moderate moralism towards architecture sheds light on the importance of the intertwining of ethics and form. The timeline and history of architecture as a discipline, too, seem appropriate to include. Interestingly, these are the same constitutive values that would appear to bear weight in our assessments of artistic value more generally. For example, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’s (1907) aesthetic (de-)merits, moral agenda, and importance for the art-historical and cubist, timeline contribute to our overall assessment of its artistic value. As the types of value that enter into artistic and architectural value appear to be similar, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the latter is a type of the former. Let us call this the constitution argument.

Taking stock, the implicit claim holds that architectural value is the same value as architecture’s artistic value. Three plausible motivations for holding the implicit claim have been provided. Firstly, the categories argument, which suggests that architecture falls into the category of artworks only insofar as these constructions are distinguished from ‘mere’ buildings through their arthood. This notion implies that architectural value might be the artistic value of architecture. Secondly, the attributive argument, which in its weaker form identifies the similarity in operation of architectural value and artistic value, and in its stronger form unites with the categories argument to form a convincing case for the implicit claim. Finally, the constitution argument, which recognizes the likeness of the considerations taken into account in our assessments of architectural value and architecture’s artistic value.

3 Discrepancies and Denying the Implicit Claim

These motivations are relatively convincing reasons to hold the implicit claim. Furthermore, holding the implicit claim would relieve the burden on foregoing discussions that have proceeded with its assumption. For example, the non-identity of architectural value and architecture’s artistic value might require Sauchelli (2011) to reassess whether the moral value of a construction’s function should indeed be a determinant of aesthetic and artistic value, or whether it should now be located within architectural value. Though the arguments that are supposed to support the implicit claim are intuitively appealing, they actually act as the starting point for teasing out why the two values should be considered distinct. I shall now scrutinize each argument in turn, before considering the implications of the redundancy of the implicit claim upon the intersection of values.

The categories argument originates from a relatively popular starting point: the assumption that ‘architecture’ is the term we use to denote the art of construction and building. ‘Architecture’ is a skilful process that requires dedication, creativity, and intelligence, amongst other factors. The issues with the categories argument are that, firstly, the distinction between architecture and mere building is not as concrete as is needed for the argument to succeed. Secondly, the argument relies on the idea that the art status is what distinguishes architecture from mere construction and, contrarily to our intuitions, precludes non-artistic constructions from having architectural value.

As Shiner correctly summarizes, architecture and building’s “polarity appears to be an evaluative continuum masquerading as a categorical disjunction” (2011, 38). The division between architecture and mere building rests in the oscillation between form and function. The strong disjunction relies on the supposition that those constructions that are overtly and pronouncedly aesthetic are works of art (of architecture), whilst the everyday and mundane household is a work of ‘mere building’ with functionality at its core. Yet, as Shiner points out, this does not serve as a “categorical disjunction” as mere buildings can be aesthetic, whilst constructions we consider to be artworks are still functional dwellings. Therefore, architecture and mere building are not as clearly distinguished and polarized as the categories argument requires. For example, it seems uncontroversial to say that the local bridge has some degree of architectural merit insofar as it is structurally sound and fulfils its purpose of allowing passage. Similarly, a block of apartments in the city may be said to exhibit interesting architectural solutions insofar as it allows for some improvements in modern living. If such locutions seem plausible, then we could consider these works to be architectural to some degree and, therefore, possess some degree of architectural value. It would be a stretch, however, to identify these constructions as artworks.

This consideration gives us reason to doubt that architecture denotes with clarity the category of constructions that are at the same time artworks. If architectural value is attributive goodness and architecture extends beyond the domain of constructions that are art, then there are buildings that possess architectural value but not artistic value. This idea aligns with Davies’ (2007) distinction between art-form and art-work. Resultantly, we cannot uphold the categories argument as an endorsement of the implicit claim. This, in turn, presents problems for the attributive argument. If a value is attributive, that is, goodness as k, then that value cannot be an identical value to another attributive value for kind x, when k and x are not identical. By itself, this distinction is a prima facie reason to doubt that architectural value and the artistic value of architecture are the same, as art and architecture are different domains, therefore threatening the weaker claim of the attributive argument. The inability to equate architecture with constructions as art only increases this doubt. If there are constructions outside the artistic domain that possess architectural value, the claim that goodness as constructions as art derives from architecture does not hold up and dismantles the stronger form of the attributive argument.

The domains of architecture and art are distinct because they differ in their constitutive factors, which leads us to finally consider the constitution argument. It is undeniable that there are factors taken into account when assessing architectural value that are also present in our assessments of artistic value including, for example, moral and aesthetic values. Nonetheless, there are factors that (i) are present in the assessment of architectural value but not artistic value for architecture (and vice versa), and (ii) are of greater significance when assessing architectural value than the artistic value of architecture (and vice versa). For example, structural soundness, environmental impact, sustainability, and the fulfilment of the patron-client relationship towards agreeable outcomes are likely to play a role in the attribution of architectural value but rarely, if at all, would such factors contribute to the assessment of artistic value. Likewise, the transition of arts such as painting and music into autonomous realms, away from specific functions such as the social and religious, indicates that a fulfilment of function, if present at all, bears less weight in the assessment of artistic value and so too, then, in architecture. However, architectural value is inextricably tied to the fulfilment of function, no matter if practical, symbolic, or environmental.

Indeed, the functional nature of architecture secures the falsity of the constitution argument. If the implicit claim is true, then any factor of judgement necessary for the attribution of architectural value must be necessary for the assessment of architecture’s artistic value, and vice versa. As attributive values, the assessments are assessments of goodness within the kinds of architecture and art, and, as we have seen, the domain of the artworld does not necessitate function, though architecture does. The constitution argument, therefore, folds where the following holds:

1.If architectural value and architecture’s artistic value are one and the same value, then any factor constitutively necessary for the assessment of one will be constitutively necessary for both.

2.The capacity for architecture to fulfil, or allow the fulfilment of, some practical function is constitutively necessary for the assessment of architectural value.

3. The capacity for architecture to fulfil, or allow the fulfilment of, some practical function is not constitutively necessary for the assessment of artistic value for architecture.

C. Therefore, architectural value and artistic value for architecture are not one and the same value.

Finally, if the implicit claim is true, then there should be no instance in which an assessment of architectural value deviates from an assessment of artistic value for the same construction. However, this is simply not the case. There are buildings (factories, slaughterhouses, supermarkets, for example) that one might declare devoid of artistic value, yet they are exceptionally efficient, sustainable, and structurally sound, and as such may possess a high degree of architectural value. Vice versa, there are constructions that will be attributed a high degree of artistic value due to their expression and unique manipulation of material but are functionally futile and so possess minimal architectural value. Shiner’s (2011) cases of “spectacle art museums” may serve as good examples of diverging architectural and artistic values. Those museums that we observe in awe do not allow for a successful viewing experience of the artworks held within. Conversely, Lincoln Plaza holds ‘awards’ for being unsightly, but its reviews as a residential building and hotel suggest it is truly fit for purpose and thus good architecture.

It is, therefore, the case that, as I have presented and assessed them, the categories argument, the attributive argument, and the constitution argument do not provide sound reasons to adopt the implicit claim. Furthermore, it has been shown that these arguments lay the foundation for fleshing out the distinction between the two values at stake, accomplishing the opposite of their intention. Resultantly, we have good reason to think that the implicit claim is false, and that architectural value and the artistic value of architecture are not one and the same value.

4 Conclusion: Aesthetic, Artistic, Architectural

The implicit claim’s falsity requires us to take the distinction between architecture’s artistic and architectural values seriously, and allows us to explore where these values may intersect as well as diverge. Both architectural and artistic value being attributive has the consequence that high architectural value does not necessitate high artistic value and vice versa, nor do the determinants granting high value in one domain render the building highly valuable in the other. That is, being good architecture does not guarantee being a good artwork, nor does being a good artwork mean being good architecture. Equally, being good simpliciter does not guarantee being good architecture or art, qua Hanson’s cases. Likewise, being functionally efficient does not guarantee goodness as architecture, nor does high aesthetic value entail high artistic value. As noted, a consequence of Hanson’s identification is that not all valuable things about an instance of a kind, in terms of attributive goodness, contribute to said goodness. For example, a work of architecture that blocks out the sun on one’s daily walk to work might be valuable, but this is not a determinant of its architectural value (nor, most likely, its aesthetic or artistic value).

The responses to the constitution argument give cause for the divergence of these values, but the motivations for the implicit claim and even its implicit adoption vouch for the intersections. What I would suggest is that, when adopting the narrative of the implicit claim, one adopts the ‘seen’ or ‘perceptual’ approach of artistic and aesthetic value and (mistakenly) transfers this to architectural value. Indeed, the distinction between aesthetic and artistic value outside the architectural domain is rather lacking, and clarity upon it may benefit aesthetics in general and, subsequently, the aesthetics of architecture. Assessments of architectural value command a scope beyond, but inclusive of, mere perceptual experience, towards functional and practical commitments that are particular to the architectural domain. We should laud longevity, celebrate craftsmanship, and be wary of leaning towers, while respecting the architectural process and its constitutive elements from the initial sketch to the potential demolition. Davies (2007, 137) argues against the notion that architecture is an artform by focusing on the discipline’s constraints. This argument might be useful when proposing where the determinants of architectural value diverge from those of artistic value. Namely, physical, legal, political, and useful constraints are determinants of architectural value, but are excluded from our assessments of artistic value. If an architectural work achieves structural soundness within legal and commissioned constraints, alongside sound facilitation of function, then there is a good chance it is good qua architecture. However, these values do not need to and will not influence the evaluation of the same work’s artistic value as, qua Hanson, not all valuable things about an artwork are determinants of its artistic value.

One also needs to pay attention to the ‘spirit of the place’ as architecture must make aesthetic commitments that align with the humanistic values of those it serves, alongside sculpting itself into the environment in which it is placed. Scruton (1979) advances this line of thought through architecture’s necessary publicity. For Goodman, architecture sculpts our physical experience whilst simultaneously “inform[ing] and reorganiz[ing] our entire experience” (Goodman 1985, 652; my emphasis). Architecture must, therefore, make moral commitments and, if it falls short, they may be of detriment to its aesthetic value (Carroll 2016). Resultantly, matters of function and morality can weave together to manipulate aesthetic, artistic, and architectural values. For example, Apple Park’s stylistic isolation from Cupertino’s extant architecture represents an aesthetic and moral fault in architectural terms. Yet, outside of this public relation, this same neo-futurist, innovative, formal determinant contributes to its aesthetic, artistic, and architectural goodness. This contribution amounts to further evidence that determinants vary across values, which do not need to be determinants of other values, but can also act as determinants spanning many values. Identifying where artistic value and architectural value converge might serve as an indicator of where constructions that are artworks diverge from ‘mere’ constructions. As one can imagine, aesthetic value claims significant occupancy of this area.

Throughout these efforts, though, we must acknowledge the falsity of the implicit claim and the accompanying identifications fleshed out through the dismantling of the three arguments. The notion that aesthetic, artistic, and architectural values can merge and rise or fall together does not eradicate the need to consider the varying weightings, degrees, and presence of constitutive factors for the attribution. Goodman’s observations are useful here as, similarly to Davies, he acknowledges the existence of architectural art, though he is cautious to note that “not all buildings are works of art”, and that buildings can mean in ways that extend beyond the scope of the artistic domain (Goodman 1985, 643). Judgements of architectural value must pay tribute to the architectural discipline, its unique processes and independence from the other arts, and therein lies the importance of respecting the distinction between architectural value and architecture’s artistic value. It is important, however, for the sake of adequately understanding architectural value, artistic value, and the ties between constructions and arthood, that we do not use the implicit claim’s falsity to eradicate any remaining fruitful similarities and unity.


Carroll, Noël, ‘Architecture, Art, and Moderate Moralism’, The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics (2016) 25:52, 68-78.

Davies, Stephen, Philosophical Perspectives on Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Goodman, Nelson, ‘How Buildings Mean’, Critical Inquiry (1985) 11:4, 642-653.

Graham, Gordon, ‘Can There Be Public Architecture?’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2006) 64:2, 243-249.

Haldane, John, ‘Architecture, Philosophy and the Public World’, British Journal of Aesthetics (1990) 30:3, 203-217.

Haldane, John, ‘Form, meaning and value: a history of the philosophy of architecture’, The Journal of Architecture (1999) 4:1, 9-20.

Hanson, Louise, ‘Artistic Value is Attributive Goodness’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2017) 75:4, 415-427.

John, Eileen, ‘Meals, Art, and Artistic Value’, Estetika (2014) 51:2, 254-268.

Shiner, Larry, ‘On Aesthetics and Function in Architecture: The Case of the “Spectacle” Art Museum’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2011) 69:1, 31-41.

Sauchelli, Andrea, ‘Functional Beauty, Architecture, And Morality: A Beautiful Konzentrationslager?’, The Philosophical Quarterly (2011) 62:246, 128-147.

Scruton, Roger, The Aesthetics of Architecture (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1979).

Winters, Edward, ‘Architecture, meaning and significance’, The Journal of Architecture (1996) 1:1, 39-47.

  1.  My comments upon the relationship between aesthetic, artistic, and architectural values become apparent in Section IV.

Guillaume Schuppert

↑ Back to top ↑

The nature of fiction is commonly understood in terms of make-believe. Within this framework, there has been a debate between fictive intentionalism and fictive anti-intentionalism. In this paper, my purpose is to make a case for the latter. To do so, I reassess the debate over Kendall Walton’s (1990) ‘Cracks in a Rock’ thought experiment. I put forward a careful reconstruction of its most popular reply, namely Gregory Currie’s (1990) pseudofiction counterargument, and argue that it is either incomplete or unsound. I then emphasize the importance of fictional truth for the thought experiment. Therein lies the core of the argument, for intentionalism has a hard time accounting for fictional truths. I thus rehabilitate the ‘Cracks in a Rock’ argument as a compelling reason for the anti-intentionalist view of the institution of fiction.

1 Introduction

The problem of the nature or definition of fiction is a long-standing debate. What is the difference between fiction and non-fiction? To resolve this issue, a number of theorists (Walton 1990; Currie 1990; Lamarque & Olsen 1994) proposed to conceive of representational works of art in terms of make-believe. These theories share the basic conception that fictions prescribe imaginings: they are causally and normatively responsible for the imaginative states of their readers. Beyond that, significant differences have persisted.

Disagreements arise about the institution of fiction. The institution of fiction is the network of relations and contexts within which a philosophical theory places works of fiction. The important issue here is whether there are authors within the minimal framework of the institution of fiction alongside works and readers.

“There are indeed!” some argue.

Fictions are made. They ultimately function in a particular – imaginative – manner because their fiction-makers acted in a certain way: “The explanatory work for defining the fictional dimension of stories appeals more to actions and attitudes than to words and things” (Lamarque & Olsen 1994, 32).

“Not necessarily!” others object.

Fictions function. Fiction-makers have ultimately crafted fictions because their products work in a particular manner: “The basic concept of a story and the basic concept of fiction attach most perspicuously to objects rather than actions” (Walton 1990, 87).[1]

These disagreements then, pertain to the question of what it is to prescribe something to be imagined. Author-based theories of fiction (Currie 1990; Lamarque & Olsen 1994; Davies 2007; García-Carpintero 2013; Stock 2017) are based on two claims:

• They postulate the existence of fictive utterances. Fictive utterances are assumed to be essentially contained within fictions and ultimately a kind of communication.

• They introduce a Gricean clause as, at least, a necessary condition for fictive utterance. Fictive utterances are taken to be necessarily uttered with reflexive intentions.[2] Every author-based theory contains a refined version of the following: for an author X, a particular audience Y and an utterance A, X’s utterance of A is fictive only if X utters A intending that Y will (i) imagine that P, (ii) recognize that X intends Y to imagine that P and that (iii) this recognition (ii) will be a reason for the imagining (i).

So conceived, author-based accounts are communicative and intentionalist theories of fiction. Henceforth, I will refer to those views as fictive intentionalism.

Fictive intentionalism is misleading. There could be works of fiction without an author, hence without a fictive utterance or Gricean intention. In fact, such challenging cases exist. Here is one:

Queneau’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes […] is a set of ten sonnets each of whose verses can be combined with each of the others. Queneau thus produced 1014 well-formed sonnets. But is he the author of each and everyone of them? Answering “yes” would be to commit oneself to the idea that one can be the author of a text one has never entirely read. (Rouillé 2019, 150-151)

There also are well-known hypothetical cases. It is quite possible to postulate that monkeys hitting keys on typewriters for an infinite amount of time will produce at least an instance of every possible finite text, or (in a more Putnamian spirit) that an ant crawling on a patch of sand could by pure chance produce readable symbols. And there is Kendall Walton’s ‘Cracks in a Rock’ thought experiment (1990).

Proponents of fictive intentionalism (Currie 1990; Lamarque and Olsen 1994) claim to have convincingly countered the arguments put forward using the ‘Cracks in a Rock’ case. In this paper, I argue that they have not. To that end, I put forward a careful reconstruction of the pseudofiction counterargument (Currie 1990). I argue that it is either incomplete or unsound. Then, I emphasize the importance of fictional truths for the thought experiment: it really is ‘true in’ the story that there are three bears, who enjoy eating porridge and napping afterwards. Therein lies the core of the argument, for intentionalism has a hard time accounting for these fictional truths. In a nutshell, my purpose is to shed light on the debate and rehabilitate the ‘Cracks in a Rock’ argument as both correct and compelling.

2 The Cracks in a Rock Thought Experiment

The reasoning behind Walton’s ‘Cracks in a Rock’ argument against fictive intentionalism is straightforward: there are non-artefactual, natural fictions; hence, it is not necessarily the case that fictions are produced by specific intentional acts performed by an author. Two hypothetical cases flesh out the argument. First, Walton introduces the ‘Natural Newspaper’ story.

Consider a naturally occurring inscription of an assertive sentence: cracks in a rock, for example, which by pure coincidence spell out “Mount Merapi is erupting.” And suppose we know for sure, somehow, that the cracks were formed naturally, that nobody inscribed (or used) them to assert anything. This inscription will not serve anything like the purposes vehicles of people’s assertions typically serve. It will not convince us that Mount Merapi is erupting, or that there is reason to believe it is, or that someone thinks it is or wants us to think so. (Walton 1990, 86)

No theory of communication should allow the ‘Natural Newspaper’ story to be a case of communication and indeed the Gricean theory of communication clearly does not. Take an agent X. X cannot recognize within the natural inscriptions that someone intends him to believe that Mount Merapi is erupting. As a matter of fact, X is aware that nobody uttered anything here. So, there is no intention to recognize that could have been a reason for X to believe that Mount Merapi is erupting. There is no such thing as a natural newspaper here. Fair enough. Next, Walton compares the ‘Natural Newspaper’ story and the ‘Natural Story’ case.

Contrast a naturally occurring story: cracks in a rock spelling out “Once upon a time there were three bears…” The realization that the inscription was not made or used by anyone need not prevent us from reading and enjoying the story in much the way we would if it had been. It may be entrancing, suspenseful, spellbinding, comforting; we may laugh and cry. Some dimensions of our experiences of authored stories will be absent but the differences are not ones that would justify denying that it functions and is understood as a full-fledged story. (Walton 1990, 87)

Here again, Walton argues, a Gricean theory of communication does not allow the ‘Natural Story’ thought experiment to be a case of communication because the natural inscriptions are no more uttered with reflexive intents than before. However, there are induced imaginative responses featured in ‘Natural Story’ where ‘Natural Newspaper’ features no induced doxastic response. More importantly, there clearly seems to be a reason to imagine that there are three bears. That is, the stones seem to make imagining that there are three bears appropriate while making, for instance, imagining that there are three little pigs inappropriate. Correlatively, it clearly seems to be fictional or true in the fiction that there are three bears. The cracked rock “functions and is understood” as fiction. Systematic consistency is on the line. Intentionalism cannot account for those facts, while anti-intentionalism can. There truly is a fictional world of the cracked rock. It truly is fictional that there are three bears. And there truly is a reason to imagine that there are three bears, as long as we admit Walton’s dictum (1990, 41): “what is fictional” necessarily is “what is to be imagined.” [3] Hence, for Walton, this natural phenomenon is a work of fiction.

3 The Pseudofiction Counterargument

According to Walton’s argument, neither fiction nor fictionality imply communicative acts. However, Gregory Currie has argued that the natural story is not a work of fiction:

The most this argument could establish is that we may treat the shapes on the face of the rock as if they were fiction; we can respond to them as we would to a fictional work. But this is not enough to make something fiction. […] Just about anything can be read as fiction but not everything is fiction. (Currie 1990, 36)

The shapes on the face of the rock are authorless. Hence, they are not fiction. When we do respond imaginatively, we treat the shapes as we would have if they were intentionally produced. Ultimately, there are no fictive utterances; there is no incentive to imagine anything on the grounds of a recognition of reflexive intents. The counterargument sorts out a misconception. According to Currie (1990, 37), we should differentiate fiction, which is determined diachronically by particular Gricean intentions, from pseudofiction, which is determined synchronically “by there being a widespread practice of reading the work as if it were fiction.” Natural stories are no more than pseudofictions. For many philosophers, the conceptual distinction puts an end to the debate.[4]

It is premature to blow the final whistle. As it stands, the reply begs the question. Let us sum up briefly. Walton’s natural story argument is straightforwardly the following:

(Pa) If the shapes on the face of the rock are fiction, then there are some fictions that are authorless.

(Pb) The shapes on the face of the rock are fiction.

∴ There are some fictions that are authorless.

Here, the conclusion implies that intentionalism is wrong. Comparatively, Currie’s reply to the argument is built around the contraposition of Walton’s first premise. We have then the following modus ponens argument:

(P1) If there is no authorless fiction, then the shapes on the face of the rock are not fiction.

(P2) There is no authorless fiction (only pseudofiction).

∴ The shapes on the face of the rock are not fiction.

Here, the premises imply that intentionalism is right. It seems clear that there is a circularity. The counterargument presupposes what it should have established. Circularity is not always a critical flaw. However, it qualifies the outcome: Currie’s reply establishes at most that, according to his theory, the natural story is not fiction. The counterargument will strengthen faith in intentionalism but it will not alter anti-intentionalist beliefs. So far, the debate relies solely on conflicting intuitions.

In order to provide a way out, a reply has to argue that there is a reason to distinguish fiction from pseudofiction here besides loyalty to a particular theory of fiction. Only then would we legitimately endorse premise (P2). According to Currie, his own counterargument is grounded on the fact that there is, to put it roughly, a separation between a folk concept of fiction and a folk concept of pseudofiction in our conceptual scheme. To show this separation, Currie provides conceptual analysis in a couple of hypothetical cases.

If we do not make the distinction, we have to say that The Origin of Species would be fiction if some or most people adopted the attitude toward it appropriate to a reading of fiction: surely an unacceptable result. (Currie 1990, 38)

Many people read and enjoy Bible stories as fiction. […] If atheism becomes more widespread than it is, I can imagine Christians (the few who remain) admitting that the Bible is pseudofiction (in my sense) and denying that it is fiction. To call the Bible fiction is much more inflammatory to a believer than to say it is often read as fiction. (Currie 1990, 36, 38)

The conceptual analysis breaks down the following conceptual relations. Most of us as laymen will admit that Bible stories and Origin stories are read as fiction. Most of us will also admit that neither the Bible nor The Origin of Species are fiction. Or

anyone who says, reasonably enough, “It was widely and mistakenly thought to be fiction,” must be making a distinction between being fiction and being regarded as fiction. (Currie 1990, 38)

Hence, the man on the street distinguishes fiction from pseudofiction. To put it in another way, we have the following modus tollens argument:

(P3) If there is not a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction, then Bible stories and Origin stories are fiction (in the circumstances mentioned).

(P4) Bible stories and Origin stories are not fiction (not even in the circumstances mentioned).

∴ There is a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction.

For the sake of the argument, I should add a few things. Currie draws an ontological conclusion from his conceptual analysis: something would not become fiction if there were a widespread practice of reading it as fiction. He also draws an epistemological conclusion: we are more prone to errors regarding the diachronic claim that something is fiction than we are regarding the synchronic claim that something is pseudofiction. Although it seems we have a compelling reason to admit (P2), it is time to question matters in more detail.

4 Tacit theses

Currie’s reply is less straightforward than it seems and requires further qualifications. There are, in fact, two claims behind his conceptual analysis: a descriptive thesis according to which people do distinguish fiction from pseudofiction and a prescriptive thesis according to which philosophers should distinguish fiction from pseudofiction. To be clear, they both seem perfectly true to me. However, true beliefs sometimes come from improper reasons. Here, I want to take a closer look at the specific arguments offered for those theses. The Bible and The Origin of Species cases undoubtedly possess an intuitive appeal, but those intuition pumps play on an ambiguity. I would argue that they have different implicit functions regarding the two tacit theses.

The Bible case seems to be an argument in favour of the descriptive thesis: it reveals what is believed by people on the street rather than what is true. In fact, this is made explicit in Currie’s proposal for (P4): “Christians […] den[y] that it is fiction.”[5] Taking this into account, the argument should be prefixed with doxastic operators. So, roughly:

(P3’) If, in our conceptual scheme, there is not a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction, then it is commonly believed that Bible stories are fiction.

(P4’) It is not commonly believed that Bible stories are fiction.

In our conceptual scheme, there is a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction.

Although reasonable, the argument is limited. It is a truism that common-sense ideas are often wrong. In fact, Currie (1990, 36, n. 40) himself acknowledges that the beliefs could be mistaken here: “[T]he Bible, or parts of it, may be fiction.” Hence, there really are two distinct claims behind the conceptual analysis. The Bible case only supports the descriptive thesis which will not matter much as long as it remains isolated from the prescriptive thesis.

The Origin case seems to be an argument in favour of the prescriptive thesis: it reveals what should be held by philosophers rather than what is ordinarily believed to be true. There is a normative flavour to Currie’s thinking (1990, 38) when he deems a result “unacceptable.” The norms involved are constraints on philosophical theories. In fact, the textual basis for (P3) is concerned with theoretical thinking: if we as philosophers “do not make the distinction, [then] we have to say that The Origin of Species would be fiction” whether we do or “do not accept the theory [Currie is] proposing” (Currie 1990, 37).[6] Taking this into account, the argument should be prefixed with deontic operators. Roughly:

(P3”) It is philosophically obligatory to consider that if there is not a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction, then Origin stories are fiction.

(P4”) It is philosophically obligatory to consider that Origin stories are not fiction.

It is philosophically obligatory to consider that there is a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction.

Let me state that I do not want to argue against the descriptive and the prescriptive theses themselves. But I have a problem with the arguments that lead to them, especially with (P4’’).

We have established that the Bible case and the Origin case are somehow related. I assume that the descriptive argument (the Bible one) is supposed to be an intuitive reason for the prescriptive argument (the Origin one). Yet, this is not immediately obvious: are we to understand that, because Bible stories are not commonly held to be fiction, (P4’), then we have a reason to believe that Origin stories should not be philosophically held to be fiction (P4’’)? This is hardly the case, even if we grant the rightness of the descriptive argument. On what grounds, then, are we to admit (P4’’)? Surely, on semantic grounds: Origin stories are not false in the situation mentioned. However, such an explanation would be incoherent. Purely semantic criteria for fiction are rejected by every make-believe theorist;[7] keep that in mind when you put the classical scientific work in a world where ordinary people have a much more advanced knowledge of biology and so read the Origin as a simplistic but entertaining view of the phenomena. Does it mean that the Origin is fiction? What is the status of the work? In all honesty, I do not know and have no clear intuition on the matter. And that is my point. We would be wise, contra (P4’’), to be cautious regarding what philosophers should think in those exotic circumstances.

At this point, we may have serious doubts about the pseudofiction counterargument: its reasoning is cumbersome and its thought experiments are dubious. But there is a more eloquent way to dismiss it.

5 An Unsound Version of the Counterargument

Something still remains unclear. Do we now have an argument establishing that natural stories are only pseudofiction? Not quite. In order to obtain a valid argument, we must add another proposition (P5).

(P5) If (in our conceptual scheme/it is philosophically obligatory that) there is a conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction, then there is no authorless fiction.

This is a curious idea that was never asserted by Currie as far as I know.

On a charitable interpretation, (P5) could be understood as a retaliation. The rationale behind it would be that Walton’s theory fails to acknowledge that authorless fictions do not exist (consequent) because it fails to account for the conceptual separation between fiction and pseudofiction (antecedent). More accurately, it would allegedly violate some conceptual truths – an ontological truth (nothing becomes fiction) and an epistemological truth (we are more prone to errors regarding fiction than pseudofiction) – unveiled by the conceptual analysis. The intentionalist reply becomes a riposte which argues that the ‘Natural Story’ argument perpetuates confusions that haunt anti-intentionalism. This reading make sense of (P5) and incidentally explains why philosophers act as if the counterargument puts an end to the debate.

Henceforth, Currie’s riposte is based on a valid inference. However, it is not a sound argument. Proposition (P5) is perfectly inadequate because its rationale is utterly false. Walton’s theory of fiction does account for the conceptual separation but still claims authorless fiction can exist.

It is said that Walton has a functionalist theory of fiction. As a matter of fact, the function criterion is taken to be vague: accordingly, its correlated class of works of fiction is partly extensionally undetermined. However, Walton offers four conceptions of the notion of function. They do not dispel this vagueness. They are intended to clarify the source of any conflicts about the fictive status of something. Two of those conceptions explain the Bible case and the Origin case well.

Relativist account of function.

Fictive status is society relative insofar as it is possible that something, A, is a fiction in a society, X, whereas A is not a fiction in another society, Y. For instance: “The ancient Greek myths may have been non-fiction for the Greeks but fiction for us.” (Walton 1990, 91) Within this conception, the Bible and The Origin of Species are fiction in their respective hypothetical societies; none of them become fiction.

Historical account of function.

Fictive status is inherited. That is to say, if A was produced in X and A is a fiction relative to X, then A is a fiction relative to any Y. For instance: “If Greek myths were nonfiction for the Greeks, perhaps they are nonfiction for us also, despite the fact that we use and understand them as fiction” (Walton 1990, 92). Within this conception, neither the Bible nor The Origin of Species are fiction in their respective hypothetical societies; both of them can be erroneously judged to be fiction while unmistakably treated as fiction.

Are Bible stories and Origin stories non-fiction in the circumstances discussed? We arguably have mixed intuitions about them to the point where being agnostic would not be a bad thing. Surely Walton is, although this does not mean he remains silent. The framework he puts forward explains why we have mixed intuitions; they oscillate between faith in a relativist conception and in an historical conception of function. This does not settle the dispute but does clarify what is at stake.

The framework also allows us to see why (P5) is false. Walton did not talk about fiction and pseudofiction. However, both so-called conceptual truths are in fact explained within the functionalist framework. Hence, there is an unarticulated conceptual distinction between fiction and pseudofiction. So, (P5)’s antecedent is true. Now, let us link the functionalist framework to the shapes of the surface of the rock. Here, the historical conception is useless, and the relativist conception applies.[8] Accordingly, it truly is an authorless fiction for us because we would use and understand it as such. So, (P5)’s consequent is false. Hence, the rationale behind (P5) is false. We can argue that there are authorless fictions while acknowledging the distinction between fiction and pseudofiction.

Ultimately, Currie’s riposte appears fundamentally unsound as it fails to provide a reason to think that natural stories are simply pseudofiction besides its own theoretical assumptions. So, Walton and Currie’s respective analyses appear to be on a par with one another. The alternative between them seems to be reduced to a matter of theoretical preferences. This is not the case. The reason is to be found in their analyses of what is fictional.

6 Truth in Fiction Arguments

Fictive intentionalism leads more often than not to fictional intentionalism; it puts one on the path toward a theory of fictional truth that relies on some notion of author.[9] There are great disparities among intentionalist theories of fictional truth. The ‘Cracks in a Rock’ argument intends to show that in any case intentionalism struggles to account for what is fictional or for what is to be imagined in the natural story. Let me elaborate.

An actual author theory of fictionality such as Kathleen Stock’s (2017, 14) claims that an “authorial intention of a certain sort is both necessary […] and sufficient” for what is true in the fiction. As a consequence, Stock argues that the shapes on the surface of the rock are one of those things which are “not fictions and [which] do not ‘generate fictional truths’ at all, though they may be used as imaginative prompts.” (2017, 153) Natural stories are not fiction and there are no truths in natural stories. Further consequences become unavoidable. There is no reason to imagine that there are three bears. We just imagine this to be the case. The rock only causally induces an imaginative response. It does not normatively govern an imaginative project. In this respect, the answer is highly counterintuitive. Most of us will undoubtedly admit that encountering a mineral story beginning with “Once upon a time there were three bears…” is a good enough reason to imagine that there were three bears. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated. This is the point of Walton’s argument.

A nonactual author theory of fictionality claims that what is true in the fiction depends on a fictional or implied author, which is, in the words of Currie, a theoretical “construct, not the real live author of the work.” (1990, 75) This has an affinity with the subtler explanation involved in the pseudofiction argument: when we respond imaginatively we treat the shapes on the surface of the rock as we would have if they were intentionally produced. Bringing the two together would be like pairing an almost but not quite fiction with an almost but not quite author. However, that does not clarify the matter. There are two mutually exclusive elaborations on the explanation that are available to the nonactual author theorist: a realist analysis and a fictionalist one. Both are inadequate.

In the first instance, the nonactual author theorist may adopt a realist analysis of what is fictional. It really is fictional that there are three bears, because the mineral text really does have a fictional or implied author that believes that there are three bears. Notwithstanding, an asymmetric system will result from the realist analysis. There still won’t be a reason to imagine that there are three bears because prescriptions to imagine require actual reflexive intentions. In fact, the realist analysis reveals a conceptual break within such an intentionalist framework, for truth in fiction turns out to be independent from fictive utterances. This ultimately puts the analysis in harm’s way. It does not explain why there seems to be a reason to imagine that there are three bears…

Alternatively, the nonactual author theorist may prefer a fictionalist analysis of what is fictional. It is not really fictional that there are three bears. We treat the cracks as we would have if it were fictional that there are three bears. The ‘as if’ reading applies transitively from the natural work to its content, avoiding any conceptual break. We have an ‘as if’ reason to imagine. This could be a decent explanation but the notion of ‘as if’ is hardly innocuous. It is reminiscent of the grammatical analysis of fictions by Hans Vaihinger, the father of scientific and moral fictionalism. This leads me to express a concern. The notion of ‘as if’ and the notion of ‘make-believe’ are historically as well as conceptually intertwined.[10] So, the explanation cannot hope to be intelligible, I submit, unless it elucidates the relationship between them. There are roughly two ways of providing such clarifications: a traditional way and a contemporary one. The signs are once again unpromising.

Classical fictionalism assumes that acting as if and make-believing are attached to different types of fiction. As a matter of fact, Vaihinger (1924, 81) himself stressed that we call “scientific fictions – fictions and the others, the mythological, aesthetic, etc. figments.” In recent years, Peter Lamarque & Stein H. Olsen (1994, 188) revived the idea, arguing that Vaihingerian “fictions of convenience […] belong in a distinct category of fictions” which “is not identical with that of fiction in the make-believe sense.” This is a promising path but the pseudofiction argument cannot admit such assumptions. In particular, Currie (1990, 37) has to argue that there is no attitudinal difference between an imaginative response to fiction and an imaginative response to pseudofiction; as he puts it, we may surprisingly learn that a text is pseudofiction rather than fiction while continuing to respond to it in the same manner. This is inconsistent with classical fictionalism.

A more contemporary fictionalism assumes that acting as if and make-believing are very similar. Today’s fictionalism about a given region of discourse is, according to Stephen Yablo (2001, 74), the thesis that utterances of sentences produced within that region are, or should be regarded as, “advanced in a […] make-believe spirit.” Provided this is what Currie has in mind, the riposte would have to endorse bizarre consequences. Here, pseudofiction turns out to be metafiction: fiction about what is fiction or about what is fictional. In compliance with the contemporary assumption, metafiction is fiction in the make-believe sense. Accordingly, the fictionalist explanation of our intuition would be that it is fictional that, fictionally, there are three bears. We imagine that there are three bears as an effect of imagining what we were to imagine, would it be fictional that there are three bears. Specifically, according to Currie’s nonactual author theory of fictionality, we imagine so because we infer that a fictional author believes that a fictional author believes that there are three bears. That is a rather curious explanation and one which I find hard to understand. We should remain dubious. Bear in mind that there could be a way to make it work. But the prospect of an emendation is not particularly inspiring. Hitherto, I had shown that the famous riposte to Walton’s argument is undoubtedly less clear than it seems and that it is a mistake to be compelled by it.

7 Conclusion

Far-fetched as it is, ‘Cracks in a Rock’ is a great thought experiment. It delves deep into our intuitions; it reveals complex relations between fiction, truth in fiction and imagination. In doing so, it brings constraints. Intentionalist views of the institution of fiction should also account for the fact that natural stories seem associated with some fictional worlds and seem normatively responsible for their readers’ imaginings. The pseudofiction counterargument is unsatisfactory in this respect. It does not provide reasons that are independent from the Gricean clause assumed by any communicative theory of fiction to believe that the natural phenomena are pseudofiction rather than fiction. It does not explain what, if anything, is fictionally true of the natural story. And it remains unclear whether any author-based theory of fictionality can consistently and cogently help in providing such explanation. At the very least, I hope I have provided enough reasons to challenge some certainties and to reclaim Walton’s ‘Cracks in a Rock’ argument in favour of fictive and fictional anti-intentionalism.[11]


Bouriau, Christophe, Le “Comme si” (Paris: Editions du cerf, 2013).

Currie, Gregory, The Nature of Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Davies, David, Aesthetics & Literature (London: Continuum, 2007).

Friend, Stacie, ‘Imagining, Fact and Fiction’, in K. Stock and K. Thomson-Jones (ed.) New Waves in Aesthetics (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 150-169.

García-Carpintero, Manuel, ‘Fiction-Making as a Gricean Illocutionary Type’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2007) 65:2, 203-216.

García-Carpintero, Manuel, ‘Norms of Fiction-Making’, British Journal of Aesthetics (BJA) (2013) 53, 339–357.

García-Carpintero, Manuel, ‘On the Nature of Fiction-Making: Austin or Grice’, BJA (2019) 59, 203-210.

Lamarque, Peter, ‘Reasoning to What Is True in Fiction’, Argumentation (1990) 4, 333-346.

Lamarque, Peter & Olsen, Stein H., Truth, Fiction and Literature (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

Matravers, Derek, Fiction and Narrative (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Rouillé, Louis, Disagreeing About Fiction (PhD thesis, 2019), < >

Stock Kathleen, Only Imagine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Vaihinger, Hans, The Philosophy of ‘As if’, transl. C. K. Ogden (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1924).

Walton, Kendall, Mimesis as Make-Believe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).

Walton, Kendall, ‘Fictionality and Imagination – Mind the Gap’, in his In Other Shoes (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 17-35.

Yablo, Stephen, ‘Go figure: A path through fictionalism’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy (2001) 25:1,72–102.

  1.  In both quotes, the emphasis is mine.

  2.  While all author-based theories rely on a Gricean concept of intention, some of them do not admit a Gricean picture of communication. See for example: Lamarque & Olsen (1994); García-Carpintero (2019).

  3.  On another note, Walton’s definition of fictionality encounters important issues. See most notably Walton (2015) for an argument against its sufficiency and Matravers (2014) for arguments against both sufficiency and necessity. Those are fights for another day.

  4.  For instance, García-Carpintero (2007, 213).

  5.  My emphasis.

  6.  My emphasis.

  7.   See, for instance, Friend (2008, 151) for a general description of make-believe approach to fiction.

  8.  To be fair, the relativist conception competes with an essentialist view and a gradualist view. See Walton (1990, 91-92). However, that does not matter much and we can reasonably enough assert that the outcome will be more or less the same in any case.

  9.  A remarkable exception may be Lamarque (1990).

  10.  See Bouriau (2013).

  11.  I would like to thank the editors of DiA and an anonymous referee for their feedback on previous versions of the manuscript.

Marta Risco Ruiz

↑ Back to top ↑

In the present essay, we are going to develop a concept of contemplative walking in light as an aesthetic attitude that can be linked to somaesthetics. My understanding of this type of aesthetic activity is underpinned by the broader framework developed in my PhD thesis, which is based on the poetics of light, to explain how the spectator experiences light installations. So, we are going to analyse what we understand by contemplative walking in light and how it is made possible through a perception based on corporeality and movement. To do this, we are going to analyse two installations – Your Rainbow Panorama (2011) by Olafur Eliasson and YellowBluePink (2015) by Ann Veronica Janssens- to see how they instantiate this type of aesthetic attitude and how it can be related to somaesthetics.

1 Introduction

Since its inception in the 1960s, some of the artists working in the form known as ‘light art’ have used light to create environments that expose the various qualities of light, such as colour, refraction, fusion and explored how light behaves in different ways when interacting with materials. The created installations offer an exploration of building environments where light ceases to illuminate the other, creating an ambience where light is offered to spectators as a field of experimentation. We can gather these installations under the name of what I term ‘poetics of light’. From this perspective, we can situate these environments as places where light becomes explicit, and its experiential qualities emerge, opening to the viewer as a field to generate their own path through feeling, perceiving, moving and imagining. Within this framework, which is part of ongoing PhD research, we propose to develop the idea of contemplative walking in light.

In the first part of the article, we will define what contemplative walking in light is. This is related to the mode of perception that takes place in light-filled environments in Light Art. Secondly, we will explore how this contemplative walking in light can be understood as a somaesthetic form by analysing the projects YellowBluePink (2015) by Ann Veronica Janssens and Your Rainbow Panorama (2011) by Olafur Eliasson. We will see how this contemplative walking establishes an involved and affected spectator, whose perceptive experimentation highlights corporeal feeling. These projects highlight some basic aspects of somaesthetics as embodied perception, establishing an interactive dialogue between spectator and environment, the fusion of art and experience, as well as the desire for the lived experience to be projected into life.

2 The contemplative walking in light

Under what I name poetics of light, there are different installations that make light a medium in which its qualities build atmospheres. The artist’s intention is very difficult to limit to a single idea or concept because he disposes of elements for light to be free in space, and every spectator creates an experience based on their relation to light. It is through perception and feeling that the being builds his journey of poetic transformation; in fact, as Mieke Bal states, “nature proposes, artist disposes” (2013, 179). In other words, artists arrange lighting installations as artistic elements, but they are transformed into acts that impact our daily lives through the experimentation of the spectator. These works transgress the boundary between art and life because they make spectators more receptive to their movements and the transformative qualities of light. Accordingly, in these lighting environments, which we can characterize as open to a multiplicity of experiences, the viewer, through a perception that goes beyond vision, establishes a journey in light accompanied by an activation of imagination. In conjunction with an ‘aisthesic’ body or a body that integrates and shapes the experience of our understanding of the world, these aspects give rise to what I term “contemplative walking in light”.

We can define the contemplative walking in light as an aesthetic attitude where movement is a key element in the development of the perception and experience of lighting installations. A movement in which the spectator is immersed in the installation: it is not a determined walk but rather an aimless ramble. This walking unfolds in different directions: on the one hand, it is a walk close to reflective wandering, which, through its development, seeks the sensations that produce our corporeality in space. A space that is dwelled in the Heideggerian sense (Heidegger 1994, 152) or lived, and where the momentary experience of the installation arises. On the other hand, it is a walk that seeks to observe the way light reflects and changes our surrounding aspects and ourselves. A ramble where the visible and tangible create, as Merleau-Ponty claimed, an “overlap or interweaving” (1999, 116). The space of the body is constituted by movement.

This contemplative walking causes perception to unfold in a continuous present. Here, we speak of an embodied perception in the sense of Merleau-Ponty; it is through perception that we join with the world. In the environments that we will analyse below, there is envelopment within the light, through reflection or in atmospheres of colours. In the perceptual act, a split of ourselves takes place in the way that Merleau-Ponty proposes. “Vision is the means given to us to be absent from ourselves” (1999, 123). That is, we can project ourselves into what we perceive. This causes us to stop being aware of the act of perceiving itself and what we were looking at ceases to be perception to become the world of the being. In light environments, it is through this situation that one is carried away by perception, and the spectator becomes light. Being immersed in different qualities of light gives us an open field where we create our experience from sensations that arise at the same time, in the discovery of luminous space and ourselves.

However, in this situation, an experience of interiority takes place that promotes the image of the retina into spatial involvement and thus “give[s] rise to a sense of commitment and participation” in the space (Pallasmaa 2014, 244). Peripheral perception arises from its essence as a non-directional experience and a seeing that necessarily implies curiosity and intensifies an easily moulded experience and a sense of continuity between interior and exterior (Pallasmaa 2012, 230). In the installations that we are going to see, light creates a feeling of mass within which the body moves towards a fusion of the interior and exterior world. What we perceive peripherally, in this case, colour atmospheres, invigorates the experience of interiority and the feeling of fullness of space. Immersed in light, it will seem that the skin identifies with colour and light, so in addition to vision, we also experience light haptically.

Therefore, the contemplative walking offers the union between body and space in a relationship where there is a flow in constant formation. Illuminated space and body are involved in a mutual interaction of constant transformation. In fact, it is a traverse where we allow ourselves to be carried away to let light in its many forms envelop and surprise us, but it is also a conscious act in the sense that we walk in order to find the effects and affectations of light. We search the point in the space we can establish as a place, in the sense that Heidegger states “that we dwell a place not to build it but that we build it up when we inhabit it” ( 1994, 154). The act of walking and seeing provokes a perception that is inseparable from an intensity of experience where the subject is actively constructed. At the same time, the subject creates their own path where the imagination and perception of an affected body return an attentive sense of self and offer a different way of experimenting and observing reality.

3 The contemplative walking in light as somaesthetics in YellowBluePink by Ann Veronica Janssens and Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson

In the installations that we are going to consider, we will see how the spectator’s appreciation of the installation is grounded in contemplative walking as the way to relate to the environment of light. This contemplative walking is, therefore, related to the concept of somaesthetics, as proposed by Richard Shusterman, for whom: “Experience […] has to do with experimentation, creative exploration and involvement” (2011, 280). By moving in light, the spectator creates a relationship inside light, a creation that needs movement and imagination. In the process, we discover our own being. In the projects of Eliasson and Janssens, we will examine the relations that the contemplative walk establishes with some aspects of somaesthetics and see how the spectator experiences light as a place of possibilities that provoke a celebration of feeling. We will analyse how the conditions arranged in the environments produce a connection between the body and the environment and, at the same time, how the body and space are simultaneously in formation and mutual interaction.

Firstly, let us consider YellowBluePink by Ann Veronica Janssens (ill.1). We find ourselves in a room that contains dense fog and hidden lights that create a colourful atmosphere. As we move through the space, the tones change and mix, creating a disorienting but enveloping experience. In this environment, the synthesis between perception and temporality is experienced. The involvement here undermines the distinction between subject and object, and there is only an immersion of the spectator in light.

In this environment, there is a multiplication of the participation of the senses. This process transforms the routine of perception into an adventure. The purely visual perception is frustrating at first, but this delimitation is overcome when the white fog is transformed into blue, pink, or yellow, producing a kind of sensory overload. In fact, in this environment, we are invited to transcend the limits of sensory and perceptual experience. The artist herself states:

This is the cause of the excess of experience, the limits are exceeded. Situations of glare, persistence, dizziness, saturation, speed, interest me because they allow us to organize ourselves around a threshold of visual, temporal, physical, and psychological instability. (Janssens 2004, 36)

The experience of diving into the fog becomes a journey of perceptual-cognitive processes that involve imagination as a catalyst to travel in a sensory space of freedom and unique associations for each spectator. It also acts as a catalyst to reflection how and what we are in the world and, by extension, as a society. In this installation, we discover visually through our movement in space. The contemplative walking promotes an experience that happens in real time as we move through space. The movement of the body is necessary to the experience, and the light is felt as if it had physical qualities; in fact, it is like feeling with the eyes.

Also, the perception of the room’s space becomes fluid; the fog persists, avoiding any delimited and clear representation of the environment. This experience, as Mieke Bal states, makes the viewer aware that “perception is an incarnation and a temporality” (2013, 24). The perceptual activity of the spectator is central; it is through his activity that light gains materiality and visibility. The fog removes the appearance of all obstacles but, at the same time, gives materiality and tactility to the light. One is moving in a bath of light, blindly – one might say – but without restrictions, with no apparent limit. Our perception of time changes as there is a slowdown. The experience is activated by the reciprocal relationship between the atmosphere and the affective body. The movement between the masses of colour allows them to be experienced, creating a unique experience through our feeling in conjunction with the imagination.

YellowBluePink can also be defined by the concept of an event that is understood as a discontinuity that happens in both the perception of the spectator and the space of the room. The combination of light and fog destabilizes the perception and delays it in relation to a space that cannot be perceived immediately. The environment is a place where there is immersion but not absorption because, through experimentation, we move to unknown places where we discover invisible effects of the world.

Not all the works of poetics of light use the light in the same way to produce the effects of contemplative walking. Consider Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson (ill. 2). This atmosphere consists of a circular platform at the top of the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in the city of Aarhus. The 360º walkway has glass panels coated with colour acetate following the rainbow hue scale. It is a space from which one can look at the city with new eyes, but it also frames the viewer as they walk down the passageway under colour atmospheres that change subtly (ill.3). This installation is a device that transforms the views of the city but also us as we resonate with colour. Wrapped in the rainbow atmosphere, the viewer produces images in complementary tones to the colours in the glass panels around them. For example, if you look at the city through the red glass, your eyes generate a green post-image.

The rhythm of contemplative walking changes the perception of the rainbow colours displayed in the panoramic windows. The sun is reflected in us through colour; we notice its warmth and, if we stop, we get used to the colour, and it seems to soften in our peripheral vision, while in the curved space, it is intensified. We experience an intimacy produced by the short distance. The perceived colour mixes with our imagination that creates the experience. That is, colour resonates inside us, relating to subject experiences with colour, so imagination takes the spectator to that moment, complementing the experience. Your Rainbow Panorama is like a vehicle for looking at our surroundings in a new way. What you experience can be panoramic in scope and also an introspective quality; as Eliasson says: “you can see yourself seeing” (Grynsztejn, Birnbaum, and Speaks 2000, 124). Contemplative walking here proposes a high-intensity experience; we feel light as we move around, increasing the sense of corporeality in space and the way the subtle changes of light intensity and colour affect our bodies.

Certainly, through these two examples, we can point to the contemplative walk as a form of somaesthetics. First, it enables the experience of our own body from within. The movement around different qualities of light in the environments allows the environments to be experienced, and through our feeling in conjunction with the imagination, we create a unique experience. So, in these installations, we find the duplicity that movement is necessary for perception but, at the same time, the sensations we develop in the course of the experience modify the movement through space. Shusterman states that

experience, as Dewey insists, involves receptive experience and productive action, reactively absorbing and reconstructing what is experienced, and in it the subject who experiences shapes and is shaped. (Shusterman 2002, 71)

In both YellowBluePink and Your Rainbow Panorama, contemplative walking enables the aesthetic experience as an emotional and bodily space. Movement and perception allow the viewers not only to experience the light installation but also to see how the qualities of light affect them. It is a process where spectator and experience transform into each other. Janssens’ colour fog leads us to a slowdown only possible through movement. Our body is attuned to the atmosphere of colour, and it seems that space becomes wearable. In Your Rainbow Panorama, the rhythm marks the way in which colour envelops us; it formulates a space of the process and constant transformation that we inhabit, the body resonates to the colour, and we feel its presence as we feel ourselves in the coloured light. So, at the moment of the experience, the viewer becomes more aware of himself and also his environment. That situation makes the viewer aware of another way of looking at his surroundings and understanding light.

Furthermore, for Shusterman, somaesthetics implies the use of one’s own body as a place of sensory and aesthetic appreciation and, at the same time, creative self-formation. The aforementioned projects exemplify the contemplative walking in light as a way to experience the effects and affections of light through movement that depends on the need for a body that feels and, at the same time, articulates a unique experience because each perception depends on the way in which the body and the subject feel and function. This fact determines the construction of realities in a constant process of making and experiencing. The spectator transforms the light space by modifying his actions according to the sensations that come from inside. Thus, the sensations that the body collects in its wandering under the effects of light are mixed with the imagination and what the feeling apprehends.

Constructing realities in a constant process of making and experience can be a way of achieving what Shusterman aims to realize:

the aesthetic experience of collaborative creation and even the cognitive gains derived from the exploration of new practices that provoke new sensations, stimulate new energies and attitudes, and therefore probe the current limits and perhaps transcend them to transform the self. (Shusterman 2012, 29)

Your Rainbow Panorama and YellowBluePink arrange the space so that, through the body and its movement in these contemplative walks, we feel the presence of light, get lost in its extension and feel our subjectivity in a more heightened way. Space is more than the feeling that we are inside a space since there is always a constant present: the connection between space and disposition is always active and palpable. Being in space allows the viewers to feel what kind of space they are in, and in conjunction with perception, is a field of possibilities to build their own paths through the feeling of light. The sensations elicited by the two projects analysed lead us to state that experiencing light through contemplative walking gives us a transformation of the viewer into Being-in-the-light. We are light as we experience it, and we are light according to the sensory and imaginative relationships we establish in the unfolding of the experience.

Also, Shusterman points to “the body as perceptual subjectivity, which is affected by what surrounds it by incorporating these affections into its own being” (2012, 8). Eliasson’s gradual coloured light and Janssens’ colourful fog evoke bodily sensations. The polyphony of light that unfolds in our experience and the living through walking becomes reciprocity: the illuminated space affects us and, at the same time, we change this space for our experience. Through the imagination, together with the sensations that light offers us, we can become and produce a space of coloured light in feeling our surroundings.

Finally, in their projects, both Olafur Eliasson and Veronica Janssens establish devices where light, in its different characters, enables ways to experience reality physically, in a present that is constantly updated by the relationship that the viewer establishes. Thus, a present that occurs in a trans-action from which one can become again, the indefiniteness of light means that there is no stabilization in the installation. Light qualities by nature are always changing, and contemplative walks are mutable because of how movement and perception are tied to temporality. Thereby, light and spectator create an atmosphere always incomplete and open; they resonate because they are in a state of constant becoming. This condition enlivens them and places them in a state of absolute presence.

Therefore, we can think of the contemplative walk in light as a somaesthetic tool that makes a double transformation. This tool offers a way of understanding how light affects us and how this experience can relate to everyday life. The somatic sensitivity that enables the experience of light becomes a way of intensifying life and understanding our state in relation to the environment that we inhabit. However, this somatic attention, which is made possible in the environments of Eliasson and Janssens, allows us to leave the fixed framework of daily life and provides space for new experiences and ideas. Therefore, the projects of Eliasson and Janssens have a liberating function. The qualities of light offered through the environments are a dimension that we may have ignored, but we may need a kind of slowdown. The foggy light and the light spread as colour create environments that invite us to pause and to develop a sense of space and time directed by the human being who constructs his unique and unrepeatable experience. And it is this singular pause that makes this area relevant today as the world accelerates.

4 Conclusion

As we have seen, contemplative walking in light can be understood as a somaesthetic tool for experiencing the qualities of light. It is through the body and perceptual becoming that we experience ourselves in these spaces of light, creating our own moment. In these installations, light exists through the embodied experience and the sensations that are integrated through our corporeality. This embodied experience creates our own knowledge of the soma that allows the environment of light and the human being to complement and define each other.

The installations examined in this paper, as well as others that make up the poetics of light, become the place where we share an attitude of increased perception and reception that is made available to viewers to transpose it to the world in general. By experiencing light and through the use of bodily sensations as perceptual tools we are able to see our world with different eyes.

The act of contemplative walking involves a spectator involved and affected by a perception that goes beyond vision. This act requires an aisthesic body. Janssens and Eliasson’s projects lead to a continuous dialectical openness; installation and spectator resonate to each other because both exist in a perpetual state of becoming and fluency. Through this becoming immersed in light, there is an affection for the experience and the configuration of the environment, where the spectator embarks on a journey with the imagination that gives him in return a new way of seeing reality.


Bal, Mieke. 2013. Endless Andness: The Politics of Abstraction According to Ann Veronica Janssens. Nova York: Bloomsbury.

Grynsztejn, Madeleine, Birnbaum, Daniel, and Speaks, Michael, Olafur Eliasson (Nova York: Phaidon Press 2000).

Heidegger, Martin, ‘Construir, Habitar, Pensar’, Conferencias y Artículos (1994), 127–42.

Janssens, Ann Veronica, 8’26’’. Engrino, Natalie (ed.). (Paris: ENSBA, 2004)

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Fenomenología de La Percepción (Barcelona: Altaya, 1999).

Pallasmaa, Juhani,’In Praise of Vagueness: Diffuse Perception and Uncertain Thought’, in Peter MacKeith (ed.), Encounters (Helsinki: Rakennustieto Publishing, 2012), 224-36.

———,’Space, Place and Atmosphere. Emotion and Peripheral Perception in Architectural Experience’, Lebenswelt (2014) 1 :4, 230–45.

Shusterman, Richard, Estética Pragmatista. Viviendo La Belleza, Repensando El Arte (Barcelona: Idea Books, 2002).

———,’Un Philosophe En Ombre et En Lumière’, in Anne-Marie Ninacs (ed.), Lucidité: Vues de l’intérieur (Montreal: Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, 280).

———,’Body and the Arts: The Need for Somaesthetics’, Diogenes (2012) 59:1-2,7–20.


Fig 1. Ann Veronica Janssens, YellowBluePink, 2015. Artificial mist, coloured lights. Thomas SG Farnetti. Source: Wellcome Collection. CC BY-NC (creative commons licence, free to share, free to adapt).

Fig 2. Olafur Eliasson, Your Rainbow Panorama, 2011. Coloured glass. ARoS Museum permanent installation. “Olafur Eliasson – Your rainbow panorama 01 by Lars Aaro.jpg” by Forgemind ArchiMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0. no changes made.

Fig 3. Olafur Eliasson, Your Rainbow Panorama, 2011. Coloured glass. ARoS Museum permanent installation. “Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson” by mp_eds is licensed under CC BY 2.0 no changes made

Matija Rajter

↑ Back to top ↑

Rafe McGregor is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England. He specialises in the intersection of critical criminology and philosophical aesthetics. He is the author of A Criminology of Narrative Fiction (2021), Narrative Justice (2018), The Value of Literature (2016), and one hundred and fifty journal papers, review essays, and magazine articles.

1 Introduction

In his recent book, Narrative Justice (2018), Rafe McGregor seeks to establish a novel theory of aesthetic education. The main thesis that McGregor argues for in this work is that the cultivation of narrative sensibility can reduce criminal inhumanity. Narrative sensibility is the trait that enables the realisation of ethical value in exemplary narratives while criminal inhumanity refers to a category of crimes motivated by ideology (i.e., a category of political crime). McGregor works within the fields of both criminology and philosophical aesthetics and, as such, has the capacity to provide an interesting point of view from an interdisciplinary perspective. The context of the book is situated firmly within the philosophical tradition of aesthetic education that traces its origin back to Friedrich Schiller, who argued that the cultivation of aesthetic sensibility can help bring about political harmony within a society.[1] The opening sections lay out the contemporary alternatives to the thesis of narrative justice in the form of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theory of global aesthetic education and Sarah E. Worth’s theory of narrative education, after which the shortcomings of each are identified.[2] McGregor defends the deflationary account of the ethical value of narrative representation so that, while every story has a moral, that moral may be virtuous, vicious, or something in between (2018, 53). Essentially, the theory is that there is a necessary relation between narrative representation and ethical value, but not between narrative representation and moral value. The theory of narrative cognitivism is laid out and defended: it claims that narrative representations can provide knowledge in virtue of their narrativity, regardless of their potential truth value. One of the ways narrative representations provide knowledge is through lucid phenomenological knowledge: ”the realisation of what a particular lived experience is like by means of reproduction of a particular experience of a particular character for the audience who adopt the standard mode of engagement to the narrative representation” (2018, 76). Taken together, the arguments developed through McGregor’s interdisciplinary methodology, and examples of how one might apply these ideas in practice to (among other things) undermine criminal inhumanity, present an exciting development in philosophical aesthetics and narrative criminology.

During the interview, we discussed aesthetic education and philosophical criminology as we reflected on the key takeaways of the book and the motivation behind it. One of the strengths of Narrative Justice is, as McGregor sees it, the fact that its advantages over alternative theses include that it does not require a radical rethinking of moral theory or ethical practice, nor does it rely on questionable empirical evidence. Additionally, the discussion provides an insight into why, according to McGregor, narrative criminology has thus far largely ignored the relationship between fiction and documentary.

In addition to drawing upon McGregor’s interdisciplinary knowledge, critical points were also raised in the discussion. For instance, one point of contention within the framework of Narrative Justice is the following: in virtue of which property do narrative representations provide knowledge? According to the theory of narrative cognitivism (which McGregor advocates for in his work) narrative representations provide knowledge in virtue of their narrativity, while others seek to reduce narrative properties to aesthetic properties; the author lays out the reasons for his worry about reducing narrative properties to aesthetic properties and explains why the former should take primacy over the latter within the framework of his theory. Rafe McGregor provides an answer to all of these questions and more; it is up to the reader to judge the strength of his argumentation.

2 Aesthetic Education

What was the main motivation that lay behind the conception of your book?

It was unusual – certainly different from any other book I’ve written – and may be of particular interest to postgraduate students and early career researchers. By the end of 2016 I was in a very poor position career-wise. I was two years out of my PhD, my first (and only) fixed-term contract had just ended, and I was entirely reliant on precarious work in the adult education sector for the following term. By that point I’d applied for thirty-three permanent jobs, but only been invited to three interviews, none of which were successful. I decided that an interdisciplinary monograph (between philosophy and criminology) would make me more employable and set out to write a proposal over the Christmas break. The quickest way to do this seemed to be to base the book on my existing postdoctoral publications, of which I had five at the time, two on crimes against humanity, two on narrative representation, and one on ethical perception.[3] I summarised the five abstracts and tried different ways of cobbling them together to create a coherent whole. I ended up with plans for two different monographs, one with a narrative focus incorporating four of the five and the other with a cinematic focus incorporating three of the five. As the former not only included more papers, but was more obviously interdisciplinary, I selected that plan. The plan became the narrative justice thesis and the four chapters, Chapters Three, Four, Seven, and Eight of Narrative Justice. I submitted the proposal, received an overwhelmingly positive response from referees, and was offered a contract. I started my first permanent lectureship in June 2017 and while I was delighted that the monograph had served its purpose, the circumstances of its creation would come back to haunt me.

That sounds interesting and I would like to circle back to it later. What makes your theory of aesthetic education more compelling than other available alternatives (most notably Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theory of global aesthetic education and Sarah E. Worth’s theory of narrative education)?

The first point to make is that I have a great respect for both Gayatri Spivak and Sarah Worth – as academics and as human beings (unfortunately, the two don’t always align). I was lucky enough to meet Sarah shortly after the book was published, at Narrative Justice: A British Society of Aesthetics Conference on Aesthetic Education from Theory to Practice (5-6 March 2019, Edge Hill University), which I hosted courtesy of funding from the British Society of Aesthetics. She closed our discussion of the differences between In Defence of Reading and Narrative Justice swiftly, stating, ”We are in agreement,” and she was right.[4] With that in mind, I do think that narrative justice has at least one advantage over each of global aesthetic education and narrative education.[5] Spivak’s theory is entirely reliant on what I call her ‘hyperbolic ethics’.[6] Hyperbolic ethics involves a rejection of Kantian moral philosophy in favour of Levinas and Derrida, a reversal of ought implies can to ought implies cannot. Although I am sympathetic to this approach, an advantage of the narrative justice thesis is that no such radical reconceptualization of moral theory or ethical practice is required. Sarah’s narrative education draws on the empirical evidence for the impact of reading narrative fiction on empathy and social cognition. Her summary ignores what I see as the fundamental flaw in seeking empirical evidence for aesthetic education. If there are empirical effects of reading or watching fictions (and I think there are), those effects are likely only evinced in the medium or long term. The problem is the increase in the likelihood of one or more confounding variables as the interval between exposure and measurement increases. This combination leaves those seeking evidence of empathy and cognition in a position where they must either attempt to measure an insignificant effect accurately (short term) or a significant effect inaccurately (long term). In my opinion, no experimental work can be conclusive until this tension is resolved and an advantage of the narrative justice thesis is that it is not reliant on empirical evidence.

What would be the desirable outcome of that same aesthetic education?

Your questions don’t leave much room for manoeuvre! There are two answers I can give. Ideally, the outcome would be the fulfilment of the project Schiller began in On the Aesthetic Education of Man.[7] His argument involves two steps: the cultivation of aesthetic sensibility in the individual produces moral harmony in that individual; and a collective of individuals in moral harmony produces political harmony in society. The desired outcome of narrative justice would be political harmony conceived as social justice. A more realistic outcome is the recognition of the significance of stories to the prevention, reduction, and punishment of what I call criminal inhumanity – ”serious crimes committed by a state or non-state actor against a civilian population, government, or public for ideological reasons.”[8] This recognition would include changes to public policy and institutional practice with respect to crimes against humanity, insurgency (which I prefer to the term ‘terrorism’), transitional justice, and war crimes.

Why is the engagement with a narrative representation qua narrative representation incomplete without ethical evaluation?

I begin Narrative Justice by identifying narrative representation as gradational rather than categorical and establishing a continuum from ‘minimal narratives’ to ‘exemplary narratives’.[9] Even at their most basic level, for example a single sentence representing one person and two chronological events, narratives combine action with agency. All intentional action (and inaction) is subject to ethical evaluation, whether that evaluation is that the act (or decision to take no action) is morally permissible, morally prohibited, or morally obligatory. The essential combination of agency and action in narrative representation is what makes narratives essentially ethical, and this essence should be at least acknowledged in any evaluation, appreciation, or interpretation.

On what grounds do you defend your deflationary account of ethical value of narrative representation?

Returning to your second question, about different theories of aesthetic education, I think it’s important to recognise that the crucial question with which the thesis is concerned is whether narrative, fiction, literature, or art can make some difference to the cognition, emotions, or behaviour of those who engage with it (whether or not that can be measured). If there is no change in readers or viewers, then aesthetic education is fatally flawed. If there is a change, then it seems naive to think that it would only be in the ‘right’ direction. Why should reading books or watching films always make us (morally) better people? The direction of the change is surely dependent on the content and context of what we read or watch. In other words, I don’t see how we as philosophers can propose a change in one direction only and ignore the potential of narrative, fiction, literature, or art to make people, for example, more selfish and less empathetic. This is the crux of my deflationary account, that narratives are essentially ethical (there is a necessary relation between narrative representation and ethical value, whether positive, negative, or in between) rather than essentially moral (there is a necessary relation between narrative representation and positive ethical value).

According to the theory of narrative cognitivism that you articulate in your work, you claim that narrative representations can provide knowledge in virtue of their narrativity, regardless of their truth value. What justifies your claim that narrative properties are not reducible to aesthetic properties?

Although Narrative Justice is first and foremost a thesis of aesthetic education, I have avoided using the term ‘aesthetic’ wherever I can, much as I did in The Value of Literature, where I was concerned with literary rather than aesthetic value.[10] In each case, I was concerned with a particular phenomenon, literature in The Value of Literature and exemplary narratives in Narrative Justice, and wary of generalising beyond that phenomenon. I guess this is a symptom of my postgraduate training in analytic aesthetics, where one is encouraged to be as specific as possible and discouraged from generalising in the absence of sustained argument or substantial evidence. My specific worry about reducing narrative properties to aesthetic properties and, in consequence, extending my theory of narrative cognitivism to aesthetic cognitivism, is that attention will be turned away from the cornerstone of narrative justice – exemplary narratives – to artistic narratives. Of course, many exemplary narratives are (also) works of literature and cinema, but many others are not. I discuss several of these in the book, including Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me (2004), Evelyn Barish’s The Double Life of Paul de Man (2014), and Jacques Pauw’s In the Heart of the Whore (1992).

Why should the former take primacy over the latter within the framework of your theory?

Iris Vidmar Jovanović has challenged me on precisely this point, which she articulates as a dismissal of aesthetic cognitivism.[11] The short answer is that the narrative justice thesis does not require speculation on aesthetic properties or on works of art and analytic caution (or perhaps, less charitably, parsimony) prompted me to restrict my thesis to the relationship between exemplary narratives and phenomenological knowledge. I’m not sure how satisfied either you or Iris would be with that answer, however, so let me say that I do consider myself an aesthetic cognitivist. But I don’t think that truth (whether understood in terms of accuracy or authenticity) is a component of aesthetic value. In this respect, my aesthetic cognitivism is probably closest to Tzachi Zamir’s, as set out in Double Vision (2007), Ascent (2017), and Just Literature (2020). In the last of these, he states: “Aesthetic value (that which makes a work worthy as literature) and epistemic value (that which we are able to learn from the work) often interlock.”[12] The key word for me is often, i.e. frequently but not always, which allows me to reject any necessary relation between aesthetic value or works of art on the one hand and cognitive value or knowledge on the other.

3 Philosophical Criminology

In what way does the cultivation of narrative sensibility have the capacity to either increase or decrease criminal inhumanity?

The lynchpin of my version of the aesthetic education thesis is, like Schiller’s original, ethical value. Narrative representation is, as we have already discussed, essentially ethical. In consequence, the cultivation of narrative sensibility can develop ethical understanding. All I mean by this is that the more familiar we become with exemplary narratives, the more sensitive we become to the ways in which ethical value is realised in them and the more likely we are to develop our ethical understanding through them. Criminal inhumanity refers to a category of crime that is ideologically motivated and ideologies are, in turn, underpinned by ethical principles (which may, in turn, be underpinned by religious principles). The more we develop our ethical understanding, the more insight into ethical principles we are likely to gain and the more likely we are to understand the causes of criminal inhumanity. My version of the Schiller-two-step is thus from narrative sensibility to ethical understanding and then from ethical understanding to criminal inhumanity. I am, naturally, concerned with the reduction of criminal inhumanity, but as we have already discussed, it would be naive to claim that narrative sensibility is only for justice. I use the term ‘narrative injustice’ to describe the cultivation of narrative sensibility to increase criminal inhumanity.[13] Aesthetic education is a thesis of political education by aesthetic means and that education can be aimed at creating a world in which there is genuine equality amongst human beings or justifying the continued supremacy of certain categories of human beings over others. The different aims of those different educations will be achieved by putting different types of exemplary narratives to work, such as equality in Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Mother Night (1961) and J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) or supremacy in D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and William Luther Pierce’s The Turner Diaries (1978).

While discussing methodology you conclude that: “The comparative analysis of documentary and fictional narratives has the potential to reduce criminal inhumanity.”[14] To what extent do you think this method would be applicable in practice, especially among a populace that is in risk of being drawn towards various terrorist narratives and indoctrination?

Let me begin by saying that the notion of an ‘at-risk’ populace is itself part of the problem. In criminology, the term is ‘suspect communities’ and the harm of this concept has been widely recognised since Paddy Hillyard’s publication of Suspect Communities in 1993. If we look at the history of the concept in the United Kingdom in my lifetime alone, it has been used to target first the Irish population, then the Muslim population, and–most recently–the white population of low socioeconomic status (from which white supremacist groups typically recruit). The lesson from Narrative Justice is that we are all at risk of being either complicit with or active participants in criminal inhumanity – which doesn’t only involve perpetrating violence, but also condoning, enabling, or promoting that violence. Having said that, the narrative justice thesis is intended to be put to practical use and I have no doubt that it could influence public policy and institutional practices for the better. The application of theory to practice would have to be undertaken by experts in the respective fields and my own contribution has been to apply the thesis to the practice of criminology as an academic discipline.

You claim that “narrative criminology has thus far largely ignored fiction and the relationship between fiction and documentary.”[15] Why do you think this is the case?

Narrative criminology is a relatively recent development, pioneered by Lois Presser in three core monographs: Been a Heavy Life (2008), Why We Harm (2013), and Inside Story (2018). Presser and those who have developed her ideas have focused almost exclusively on non-fiction narratives, particularly self-narratives. There is a sense in which the life stories of the perpetrators of crime are most obviously relevant to the central concern of criminology, explaining the causes of crime. I discuss the reasons for the marginalisation of fiction in criminology in my forthcoming monograph, A Criminology of Narrative Fiction, but I’ll give you a quick preview here.[16] First, as a social science, criminology is based on empirical investigation, which is founded on positivism. Second, the prevalence of the folk psychological association of fiction with falsity and non-fiction with truth. The consequence of this combination is that an initial reluctance to take fiction seriously is compounded by concerns about fiction as a source of empirical evidence.

What measures can be undertaken in order to increase the interest in fiction within narrative criminology?

I think the main point is to sever the link between fiction and falsity. What I find particularly interesting is that despite the prevalence of the view that fiction has little or no relation to truth, it is in fact very recent, connected to the recognition of the value of the formal elements of works of art popularised in the second half of the nineteenth century. Both Romantic and Classical approaches to art (which includes fiction, for our purposes) acknowledged works of art as revelatory of a higher or purer type of truth than could be expressed or imitated by other means of representation. I am not suggesting that there is a necessary relation between fiction and truth, merely that fiction is not necessarily false, imaginary, or invented. My strategy in A Criminology of Narrative Fiction is to start by severing the link between fiction and falsity and then to argue for the different types of criminological knowledge that fictions can provide.

In your opinion, what would be the best strategy to defend the humanities from the pressure coming from neoliberal quantification?

I am much less optimistic about the success of any strategy now than I was when I wrote the book because of the continued rise of both right-wing populism and market fundamentalism. The humanities are a threat to authoritarianism and the conservative backlash has put – and will continue to put – increasing pressure on the humanities. Similarly, the very fact that the humanities are required to defend their value in economic terms is evidence of the victory of the neoliberal agenda in Anglophone higher education. When I am asked why the humanities matter at public lectures or by acquaintances, I usually reply with something along the lines of: ‘Scientific inquiry minus the humanities equals Auschwitz’. If this seems like an exaggeration, it is certainly true of criminology, which made a significant contribution to the National Socialist Genocide once freed from ethical constraints.[17]

Did you stop working on the ideas in your book once it was published or was there an instance where you had the chance to further develop some of the ideas present within the book?

In truth, I was plagued by doubts about the value of Narrative Justice because of the circumstances of its creation and these seemed to be confirmed when it was only reviewed by a single journal in the first year after its publication. I subsequently discovered that an administrative error on the publisher’s part meant that no review copies had been sent and decided to try and stir some interest on my own. (In hindsight, I left this far too late and I encourage authors to avoid making the same mistake.) The results were surprisingly positive and I took the opportunities that arose to develop two of the ideas in the book. I conclude Narrative Justice by suggesting that the thesis may also provide a methodology that could direct further inquiry into criminal inhumanity. I delineated this methodology in a blog post for the British Society of Criminology and a series of lectures in Israel, Croatia, and Italy (regrettably, the latter two were cancelled due to the pandemic).[18] More formally, I summarised the methodology in my introduction to the Journal of Aesthetic Education symposium on Narrative Justice, which is due for publication shortly.[19] I have also been able to develop and refine my argument for the practical application of the narrative justice thesis to undermining extremist recruitment strategies. Derek Matravers challenged my argument in his contribution to the aforementioned symposium and I was not entirely satisfied with the reply I gave.[20] The result of our dialogue is a forthcoming paper in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence, which is based on Chapter Nine of Narrative Justice but provides a more convincing argument than advanced either there or in my response to Matravers.[21]

Interview conducted by Matija Rajter 10/07/2020.

  1. Schiller, J.C.F. von, On the Aesthetic Education of Man: In a Series of Letters, transl. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson & L. A. Willoughby, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1794/1967).

  2. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); Worth, Sarah E., In Defense of Reading (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017).

  3. McGregor, Rafe, ‘Making Sense of Moral Perception,’ Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (2015) 18:4, 745-758.; ‘The Silence of the Night: Collaboration, Deceit, and Remorselessness,’ Orbis Litterarum (2016a) 71:2, 163-184.; ‘Narrative Representation and Phenomenological Knowledge,’ Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2016b) 94:2, 327-342.; ‘The Ethical Value of Narrative Representation,’ Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology (2017a) 4:1, 57-74.; ‘The Person of the Torturer: Secret Policemen in Fiction and Non-Fiction,’ Journal of Aesthetic Education (2017b) 51:4, 44-59.

  4. Worth 2017.

  5. Spivak 2012.

  6. McGregor, Rafe, Narrative Justice (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018), 112.

  7. Schiller 1794.

  8. McGregor 2018, 19.

  9. McGregor 2018, 5.

  10. McGregor 2016.

  11. Vidmar Jovanović, Iris, ‘Becoming Sensible: Thoughts on Rafe McGregor’s Narrative Justice,’ Journal of Aesthetic Education (2020) 54:4, 48-61.

  12. Zamir, Tzachi, Just Literature: Philosophical Criticism and Justice (London: Routledge, 2020), 1.

  13. McGregor 2018, 106.

  14. McGregor 2018, 190.

  15. McGregor 2018, 191.

  16. McGregor, Rafe, A Criminology of Narrative Fiction (Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2021).

  17. Rafter, Nicole, ‘Criminology’s Darkest Hour: Biocriminology in Nazi Germany,’ (2008) 41:2, 287-306.

  18. McGregor, Rafe, ‘From Narrative Justice to Narrative Methodology,’ The BSC Blog (published online 18 February 2019) <>.

  19. McGregor, Rafe, ‘Introduction to the Narrative Justice Symposium,’ Journal of Aesthetic Education (2020) 54:4, 1-5.

  20. Matravers, Derek, ‘Comments on Rafe McGregor’s Narrative Criminology,’ Journal of Aesthetic Education (2020) 54:4, 19-25.; McGregor, Rafe, ‘Replies to Critics,’ Journal of Aesthetic Education (2020) 54:4, 62-75.

  21. McGregor, forthcoming.