Professor and Head of Department of Philosophy, University of York

I work mostly on the arts and cognition. At the moment I am thinking about literature and the mind, the way the mind is represented in literature, and how well or badly these representations comport with the picture given us by experimental psychology. I also write about film, empathy and the emotions, irony, and about the evolution of aesthetic sensibilities.

I am currently writing a book on the cognitive value of literature (under contract with Oxford University Press).

Recently I have looked again at the idea, which I argued for twenty years ago, that we can account for the distinction between fiction and nonfiction in terms of the difference between utterances which are assertive and those which are "fictive", or intended to be productive of imaginings. This idea has come in for interesting criticism from Stacie Friend and others. I’m completing a paper which defends the idea against Stacie’s criticisms but which suggests that there are other reasons to be worried about its prospects. This will appear soon in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism as the revised text of the Richard Wollheim Memorial Lecture, 2013.

I’m also completing papers in the idea that film is a medium suitable for the development of philosophical ideas, and on the role of aesthetic concepts in archaeological explanation.


  • –present
    Professor and Head of Department of Philosophy, University of York