Job Market Candidates
Research Areas: Ancient Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Ethics, Philosophy of Technology
Dissertation: "Aristotle on Teaching Virtue"
David Benjamin Johnson
Research Areas: Aesthetics, Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Film
Dissertation: “Color, Movement, Intensity: Aesthetics and Metaphysics in the Thought of Gilles Deleuze”
My dissertation develops an original account of the relation between metaphysics and aesthetics in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, focusing particularly on the concepts of intensity and sublimity. I argue that Deleuze’s aesthetics rests on a largely unstated principle, according to which the fundamental task of art is to provide sensuous access to the deep structure of sensibility. I show that Deleuze, drawing particularly on Leibniz and Kant, understands this structure in terms of the early modern concept of intensive magnitude, or qualitative degree. I reconstruct Deleuze’s interpretation of this concept, showing that he discovers in intensity a form of complex, generative order, which he argues must be understood as the determining ground of sensory quality and spatiotemporal form. Through readings of Deleuze’s texts on painting and cinema and my own analyses of drawings, paintings, and films, I argue that works of art compose sensuous elements—lines, colors, movements, sounds—in such a way as to make the intensive order underlying those elements itself sensible. I show that this radically sensualist aesthetics entails noetic effects as well, which Deleuze articulates in terms of a modified version of Kant’s concept of the sublime: the artistic encounter with sensuous intensities overwhelms or outstrips our conventional categories of thought and forces us to invent new concepts to account for what we sense.
Dissertation Advisor: Penelope Deutscher
Research Area: Ancient Philosophy
Dissertation: “Birth in Beauty: Truth, Goodness, and Happiness in the Platonic Dialogues”
We are all intensely attracted to beauty — but why is beauty valuable? Plato answers that human beings are able to give birth (or bring forth) only in beauty but not in ugliness. He claims that giving birth to children and generating poems, constitutions, and philosophical theories are all instances of birth. In my dissertation I offer a new understanding of Plato’s doctrine of birth in beauty, which shows the unity of these apparently disparate activities. I argue that (according to Plato) beauty is the property that makes things exist in harmony with intelligible forms. He claims that the best human life is guided by knowledge. And beauty is valuable because of its epistemological function in all instances of human creativity: the harmoniousness of the beautiful thing increases the harmony of psychic motion, which in turn increases the soul’s power of understanding. With this increased power, the soul understands forms in the intelligible realm, which it cannot do without beauty. These intelligible forms are in turn models of organization for the offspring. The soul (human or divine) then brings into being an artifact (an account or human bodily nature) by imposing organization onto the appropriate material.
Dissertation Advisor: Richard Kraut