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Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
A considerable part of human life is structured around appreciative pursuits, including but not limited to our dealings with the arts. While these pursuits are vastly heterogeneous, they share some general psychological underpinnings. This dissertation investigates those underpinnings. Firstly, I argue that theories of appreciation in aesthetics have been unduly constrained by the dominance of hedonist accounts of aesthetic value. Aesthetic hedonism posits a constitutive link between the value of appreciative experiences and the aesthetic values of their objects. But once alternatives to hedonism are taken seriously, and this link is no longer taken for granted, new avenues open up for theorizing about appreciative engagement, and its relevance to value theory beyond aesthetics comes into clearer view. Secondly, I revisit the aesthetic attitude theorists’ much maligned idea that appreciation involves a distinctive mode of attention. Drawing on recent work in the philosophy of games, I develop a novel account of this distinctive attentional mode, in terms of a nested hierarchy of goals by which attention is guided in appreciative episodes. Finally I argue that our thinking about how self-awareness figures in appreciation should be more thoroughly informed by empirical work on human metacognitive capacities. I review two bodies of empirical literature on the subject and use them to develop a proposal about the role of metacognition in our appreciative encounters with the world.
The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.
Psychotherapy is effective. Since the 1970's, meta-analyses have consistently shown a significant effect size for psychotherapeutic interventions when compared to no treatment or placebo treatments. This effectiveness is normally taken as a sign of the scientific legitimization of clinical psychotherapy. A significant problem, however, is that most psychotherapies appear to be equally effective. This poses a problem for specific psychotherapies: they may work, but likely not for the reasons that ground their theoretical explanations for their effectiveness. This dissertation explains the common efficacy of psychotherapies by developing novel skill-based account of mental illness and healing. According to the view defended here, mental illness, and the success of mental healing, is best explained as an issue of the breakdown and development of skilled action. This skill view of mental health attempts to resolve a number of long-standing metaphysical questions about the roles of biological dysfunction, the environment, and values in the conception of mental disorder.