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Eileen John

My research concerns how art and creative practices engage us as cognitive and ethical 'works-in-progress'. I have a specific interest in literature and its philosophical and ethical roles, and I try to show the relevance of literary works to contemporary debates concerning, for instance, personhood, ethical disagreement, and value formation. Recent and current research projects include work on the importance of disliking and disagreeing about art; action and autonomy in Austen's Emma; how we can care about fictional characters; why meals are not works of art; the ethical relevance of eros; and the value of aesthetic autonomy. I have an ongoing interest in the kinds of thinking prompted by poetry. Authors who have provoked some of this work include Elizabeth Bishop, Willa Cather, J. M. Coetzee, Julio Cortázar, Lydia Davis, Emily Dickinson, Jenny Erpenbeck, Thomas Hardy, Henrik Ibsen, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, Flannery O'Connor, Grace Paley, and José Saramago.

Selected publications
  • 'Is Aesthetic Consistency Worth Having?Link opens in a new window' Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics 60 (2), 2023:115-130.
  • 'Moral Learning from Art', in The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Art, ed. James Harold. 2023.
  • 'Can Aesthetics Be Global?', Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements, Vol. 93: Expanding Horizons, 2023. opens in a new window
  • 'Law, Fiction, and Moral Standing', in Lizensur. Literatur und Recht, vol 7., Achermann, E., Arjomand-Zoike, D., Celik, N., eds. (J.B. Metzler, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2023).
  • 'The Experience of Fiction', in The Philosophy of Fiction: Imagination and Cognition, Patrik Engisch and Julia Langkau, eds. (Routledge, 2023).
  • 'Walton and Fictional Characters', in Art, Representation, and Make-Believe: Essays on the Philosophy of Kendall L. Walton, Sonia Sedivy, ed. (Routledge, 2021).
  • 'Meals, Art and Meaning', Crítica: Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía 53 (157), 2021.
  • 'Dickinson and Pivoting Thought', in The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Philosophical Perspectives, Elisabeth Camp, ed. (Oxford UP, 2021). Open access for March 2023 as part of OUP's

     'Women in the History of Philosophy' focus.

    Dickinson and Pivoting Thought, Eileen John | The Poetry of Emily Dickinson | Oxford Academic (

  • 'Learning from Aesthetic Disagreement and Flawed Artworks'Link opens in a new window, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 78(3), 2020.
  • 'Making Human Homes: Willa Cather on People and Wilderness', in Anticipatory Materialisms in Literature and Philosophy, 1790-1930, Jo Carruthers, Nour Dakkak, and Rebecca Spence, eds. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
  • 'Learning to Be a Writer from Early Reading', British Journal of Educational Studies 67, 2019.
  • 'Allegory and Ethical Education: Stories for People Who Know Too Many Stories'Link opens in a new window, Journal of Philosophy of Education 52(4), 2019.
  • 'Emma and Defective Action', in Jane Austen's Emma, E. M. Dadlez, ed. (Oxford UP, 2018).
  • 'Literature and Philosophical Progress'Link opens in a new window, Metodo 6(1), 2018
  • 'Coetzee and Eros: A Critique of Moral Philosophy', in Beyond the Ancient Quarrel: Literature, Philosophy, and J. M. Coetzee, Patrick Hayes and Jan Wilm, eds. (Oxford UP, 2017). 
  • 'Empathy in Literature', in Routledge Handbook to Philosophy of Empathy, Heidi Maibom, ed. (Routledge, 2017).
  • 'Caring about Characters', in Fictional Characters, Real Problems: The Search for Ethical Content in Literature, Garry Hagberg, ed. (Oxford UP, 2016).

  • 'Theme’, in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature, Noël Carroll and John Gibson, eds. (Routledge, 2016).

  • 'Moral Feelings from Rocky Fictional Ground', in Morality and Emotion, Sara Graça Da Sliva, ed. (Routledge, 2016).
  • 'Literature and Disagreement'Link opens in a new window, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114(3), 2014. (chosen by Aesthetics for Birds as one of the 2014 Fab Flock Five)
  • 'Meals, Art, and Artistic Value', Estetika 51(2), 2014. (won 2015 article award from Finnish and Slovak aesthetics societies)
  • 'Love and the Need for Comprehension', Philosophical Explorations 16(3), 2013.
  • 'Poetry and Directions for Thought', Philosophy and Literature 37(2), 2013.
  • 'Art and Knowledge', in The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, 3rd ed., Berys Gaut and Dominic Lopes, eds. (Routledge, 2013). [replaces chapter in 2001 edition]
  • 'Literature, Pluralism, and the Critique of Evaluative Concepts', in Understanding Fiction: Knowledge and Meaning in Literature, Jürgen Daiber, Eva-Maria Konrad, Thomas Petraschka, and Hans Rott, eds. (Mentis, 2012).
  • 'Beauty, Interest, and Autonomy', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (2), 2012.
  • 'Literature and the Idea of Morality', in A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature, Garry Hagberg and Walter Jost, eds. (Blackwell, 2010).
  • 'Poetry and Cognition', in A Sense of the World: Fiction, Narrative and Knowledge, John Gibson, Wolfgang Huemer, and Luca Pocci, eds. (Routledge, 2007).
  • 'Artistic Value and Opportunistic Moralism', in Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, Matthew Kieran, ed. (Blackwell, 2006).
  • Philosophy of Literature: Contemporary and Classic Readings, co-edited with Dominic Lopes (Blackwell, 2004).
  • 'Literary Fiction and the Philosophical Value of Detail', in Imagination, Philosophy, and the Arts, Matthew Kieran and Dominic Lopes, eds. (Routledge, 2003).
  • 'Images of Community in American Popular Culture,' co-authored with Nancy Potter, in Diversity and Community, Philip Alperson, ed. (Blackwell, 2002).
  • Reading Fiction and Conceptual Knowledge: Philosophical Thought in Literary Context, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56(4), 1998.
  • Henry James: Making Moral Life Interesting, Henry James Review 18, 1997.

  • 'Subtlety and Moral Vision in Fiction', Philosophy and Literature 19, 1995.
Selected book reviews
  • Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2021: review of Fiction: A Philosophical Analysis by Catharine Abell
  • Mind 2020: reviewLink opens in a new window of Imagining and Knowing: The Shape of Fiction by Gregory Currie
  • Analysis 2019: review of De Gustibus by Peter Kivy
  • Australasian Journal of Philosophy 2014: review of Philosophy and the Novel by Alan H. Goldman
  • Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2012: review of J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature, eds. Anton Leist and Peter Singer
  • British Journal of Aesthetics 2009, 49(2): review of Art, Emotion and Ethics by Berys Gaut
  • Philosophy in Review 2009, XXIX(5): review of On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism and the Legacy of a Word by Angela Leighton
  • Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008: review of Aesthetics and Literature by David Davies 
  • British Journal of Aesthetics 2007, 47(2): review of Aesthetics, Imagination and the Unity of Experience by R. K. Elliott
  • Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2002, 60(2): review of Fiction and Metaphysics by Amie Thomasson