Research

Recent Research
Doctoral Research
Masters Research

Recent Research
Below are abstracts for articles recently published, forthcoming, and currently under review. For a complete list, visit the Curriculum Vitae section of this site.

"Beliefs about Experiencing and Destroying Art" with Jessecae Marsh (Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2014)
Available Online
Based in current debates in aesthetics, we examined whether people's beliefs match philosophers' arguments that an original painting or carved sculpture possesses a privileged nature when compared with originals in other types of art. We tested whether participants believe the destruction of an original art piece has different consequences on the ability to experience that piece if the art is visual, literary, or musical (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2 we explored how different forms of destruction varied whether people believe an art piece still exists and the perceived quality of an experience with the piece. In summary, we demonstrated that people have a more lax view of how art can be experienced than is assumed by most philosophers, but share an intuition that the original form of a work of visual art has a unique nature.

"Authorship, Co-Authorship, and Multiple Authorship" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 72 (2), 2014)
In this article, I use the example of the novel Micro, authored by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston, to tease out the relationships holding between an author and his work, and with other authors of that work. The case presents a complication for a number of contemporary views on authorship and co-authorship, which suggest that Crichton is either not an author of the novel, or an author but not a co-authoróboth, I suggest, counterintuitive views. After working through the leading views on the topic, I present my own view of authorship, co-authorship, and multiple authorship, centrally resting on issues of power, responsibility, and creation.

"Ontology and the Challenge of Literary Appropriation" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 71 (2), 2013)
Appropriation in art is nothing new: Shakespeare borrowed others' plots, Duchamp elevated to the status of art an ordinary urinal, and Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince have made careers out of photographing others' photographs. And appropriation in art has invigorated discussion in many areas of aesthetics, literary criticism, and the law. But Simon Morris's book, Getting Inside Jack Kerouac's Head, sets a new challenge. Morris's book collects together entries from his blog, each a word-for-word retyping of one page from the Scroll Edition of Jack Kerouac's classic, On the Road. The resulting book is effectively textually indistinguishable from the original, except that the pages are printed in reverse order. One would hope that theories on the ontology of art would be able to tell us whether Morris's book is just an instance of Kerouac's work, as it seems to be. Surprisingly, then, they do not. Rather, Morris's book represents an important case that slips through the cracks of the leading theories on what a work is. I argue that Getting Inside Jack Kerouac's Head is a "watershed work" with the potential to change the very nature and trajectory of art, but that it's doing so will depend upon our deciding just what to do with it.

"Appropriation and Transformation" (Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, 23, 2013
The recent decision in Cariou v. Prince has reinvigorated a pressing issue for the contemporary movement of appropriation art: how can art which is defined by its taking from other artworks hope to survive in the world of copyright? In this article, I consider the legal history leading to the Cariou case, including a series of suits brought against appropriation artist Jeff Koons, as well as strategies proposed by several theorists for accommodating appropriation art within the law. Unfortunately, largely due to vagaries of the law and the misunderstood nature of appropriation art, the matter remains unresolved. I argue that, by investing borrowed material with new ideas, appropriation artists create new expressions and so transform their original sources. Being in line with the Constitutional mandate of copyright law, I suggest that such works of appropriation art be treated as presumptively fair uses.

"Righteous Art Anger" with Craig Derksen (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 70 (4), 2012)
In this paper, we investigate a particular sort of anger levied by fans of artworks against their creators for choices those creators have made with their works. We ask not merely whether such anger is reasonable, but whether it can in fact be justified. Grounding our investigation in a series of cases, we consider what about the peculiar relationship that exists between artist, artwork, and audience might serve to justify such anger. Ultimately, we conclude that neither claims of audience ownership of works, whether partial or complete, nor claims of a special interest on the part of fans, can serve to justify this anger. However, we suggest, justification for such anger may find grounding in what the anger brings about rather than what brings about the anger.

"Aesthetic Supervenience Revisited" (British Journal of Aesthetics, 53 (2), 2012)
In this paper, I hope to reintroduce debate on the issue of aesthetic supervenience, especially in light of work undertaken by metaphysicians in recent years. After providing a brief walkthrough of some of the major views on supervenience generally, including several important metaphysical distinctions, I build upon views by Jerrold Levinson, John Bender, Nick Zangwill, and Gregory Currie, to develop a realist thesis of strong local supervenience, such that aesthetic properties of artworks and other objects depend upon their formal/structural properties and reduce to powers to produce aesthetic effects of particular kinds in suitable perceivers under suitable conditions.

"Toward an Ontology of Authored Works" (British Journal of Aesthetics, 51 (2), 2011)
In 2003, a photograph taken by Richard Prince, Untitled (Cowboy) sold at auction for $332,300. Some might be surprised that a photograph could garner such a sum, but, in this case at least, none more so than Jim Krantz. Krantz might be allowed a certain level of incredulity, for Prince's photograph was a photograph of another photograph, this one taken by Krantz himself. Indeed, Prince has based entire gallery shows on photographs of Krantz's work. How is this legal? As things stand, it probably isn't. As far as copyright is concerned, Krantz's photograph and Prince's are the same work. One might ask, doesn't it matter that Prince put labor in his work? Doesn't it matter that Prince was making some sort of statement? As far as copyright is concerned, no, it doesn't. Although these might importantly differentiate them as artworks, copyright protects "authored works," and not artworks per se. And unfortunately, while copyright law assumes some metaphysical basis to its objects, this basis tends to go largely uninvestigated. In this paper, I work to develop a comprehensive, coherent, and consistent account of the ontology of authored works suitable for the purposes of copyright law.

"Forgery and Appropriation in Art" (Philosophy Compass, 5 (12), 2010)
Although art forgery is documented throughout the history of Western art, philosophical discussion of the problems of art forgery is a relatively recent matter, beginning largely in the latter half of the twentieth century. Arising even more recently is the practice of creating 'appropriation art', a topic that has so far been largely ignored in aesthetics but which raises some challenging questions especially when compared with forgery. This article introduces some of the philosophical problems that arise from the practice and products of art forgery and in the contemporary movement of art appropriation. Rather than involving issues on the periphery of aesthetics, I suggest, forgery and appropriation art cut to the heart of issues in the ontology of art, the intersection of aesthetics and ethics, and other central areas in the philosophy of art.

"Expressing Ideas: A Reply to Roger A. Shiner" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 68 (4), 2010)
In this short paper, I reply to issues raised by Professor Shiner in a response to my article, "Making Sense of the Copyrightability of Plots." As a matter of law, I argue that copyright depends upon the ordinary uses of the terms "idea" and "expression". As a matter of philosophy, I suggest contra Shiner that copyright law is a suitable arena of philosophical inquiry.

"Conceptual Problems of Conceptual Separability and the Non-Usefulness of the Useful Articles Distinction" (Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, 57(1-2))
In this article, I argue that most artworks qualify as "useful articles" under American copyright law (a category ordinarily taken to be reserved for products of industrial design), and that the design of nearly every useful article in principle is conceptually separable from its function, thus allowing for greater copyrightability than normally thought. As such, I suggest that the useful articles distinction serves little purpose, and that any true test of conceptual separability is in fact simply a "merger" test (a conceptual principle already firmly entrenched elsewhere in copyright law), and so distinct tests for conceptual separability could be done away with to no ill effect.

"Making Sense of the Copyrightability of Plots: A Case Study in the Ontology of Art" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 67(2))
Both the legal and philosophical discussion of copyright tends to focus on its ethical and constitutional entailments, and too often fails to investigate the nature of its objects. Choosing one such object, I ask under what conditions the plots of narrative works should fall under the protection of copyright. As I show, answering this question depends as much on the nature of plots as it does on the concepts of the law, with the domain of copyright proving a fertile setting for discussing the ontology of plots, and the ontology of plots a fertile subject for illuminating the concepts of copyright.

"Performance Hero" with Craig Derksen (Contemporary Aesthetics, Vol. 7)
Available Online
The Guitar Hero series of video games and their spin-offs have provided millions with a new way to interact with music. These games are not only culturally significant but also philosophically significant. Based on the way that these games allow people to interact with music we must decide that either playing a song in one of these games can be a legitimate performance of that song or that our current accounts of performance are inadequate.

"Finding a Foundation: Copyright and the Creative Act" (Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal, 17(3))
Approaches to grounding the "right" of copyright come in a variety of forms. In the United States, two views dominate the field, both historically and theoretically: that of copyright as a natural right, and that of copyright as a positive instrumental right. The first is typically framed in terms of Lockean property rights; the second in terms of a state-sanctioned monopoly stemming from the U.S. Constitution. In this paper, I outline these two views and show why each ultimately fails to adequately ground our notion of copyright, for reasons both internal and external to each theory. Having shown what the right to copyright, as we traditionally understand it, cannot be, I then sketch my own view of copyright as a creative right, and consider some reasonable and probable responses to this view.

"Mystery and Misdirection: Some Problems of Fair Use and Users' Rights" (Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, 56(2-3))
In this article, I investigate some of the central conceptual and practical problems with the fair use doctrine and the notion of "users' rights" as they relate to U.S. copyright law. Particularly, I argue that the fair use doctrine, as written, cannot serve its designed purpose, and that the very idea of users' rights is conceptually flawed. On this grounding, I outline an alterative proposal to balancing the rights of creators with the interests of users--a limit to copyright protection based on our recognition of the value of ideas.

"When Is a Work of Art Finished?" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Winter 2008)
Although the creative process has always been a lively topic of discussion, what has gone largely under-discussed is the culmination of this process: the finished work of art. What it means for a work to be finished or complete has been largely tied to both the creative process and the artist's intention, and, on these bases, the topic has been engaged by both Monroe Beardsley and Paisley Livingston, each of whom propose necessary conditions for a work of art's being finished. In this paper, however, I shall argue that each of their proposed conditions fails under the weight of counterexamples. Moreover, I shall voice my suspicions that there are no necessary conditions for a work's being finished. Focusing instead on what a state of being finished entails for a work, I argue that we can identify at least one sufficient condition for this state.

"A Reply to Paisley Livingston" (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Fall 2008)
In this paper, I respond to a series of potential counterexamples raised by Paisley Livingston to my central theory in "When Is a Work of Art Finished?" including problems arising from cases of publicly-constructed works-in-progress, from cases of insincere declarations by artists, and from cases of coersion.

"The Language of Comics" (in Aaron Meskin and Roy Cook (eds.) The Art of Comics and Graphic Novels: A Philosophical Approach, Blackwell: New Directions in Aesthetics Series, 2012)
In this article, I investigate the legitimacy of speaking of comics as a language, centrally a notion advanced by semioticians. Contrary to a view advanced by Gregory Currie that such a project misunderstands the nature of language, I argue that the comics medium operates in many ways like a natural language, and that the notion of a "language of comics" is both illuminating and meaningful, and not merely metaphorical.

"Your Zombie and You: Emotion, Identity, and the Undead" in Moreman, Christopher and Cory James Rushton (eds.) Zombies Are Us: Essays on the Humanity of the Walking Dead (with Craig Derksen, 2012, McFarland)
The character of the emotions that we feel toward zombies is colored by the nature of the zombies. Zombies with agency or a connection to their pre-zombie selves evoke different emotions than automatons. This reveals something about the nature of emotion and our perception of personal identity.

"Horror in Long Underwear" (in Gerry Conway (ed.) Webslinger. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books (2007))
In this short paper, I argue that--outward appearances notwithstanding--the character of Spider-Man in many ways represents an archetypal horror character. Drawing on work by philosopher Nöel Carroll and anthropologist Mary Douglas, I place the creation of Spider-Man in an historical analysis, contending that the character filled a vacuum in the comic-book industry, offering a cathartic outlet not otherwise available to readers.


Doctoral Research
Abstract: The Metaphysics and Ethics of Copyright
University of Maryland, College Park

My Ph.D. dissertation focuses on the ontological underpinnings of copyright law. Essentially, my argument is based on what I see as a problematic lack of foundation to copyright law in describing the nature of those entities that copyright is meant to protect. In broad strokes, my dissertation seeks to build up this foundation, and investigate the effects this has on copyright decisions.



Masters Research
Outline: The Sequential Aesthetic: Contemporary Aesthetic Theory as Applied to Sequential Art
University of Wales, Lampeter

My M.Phil looks at the comics medium ("sequential art") and its place in the larger scope of the arts. Although in the years that have passed since writing it, I have come to some different conclusions, this research served as the basis for a course I taught at the University of Maryland (see the "Courses" section of this site to view the syllabus).