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Aaron Smuts
Rhode Island College
  1. The Good Cause Account of the Meaning of Life.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (4):536-562.
    I defend the theory that one's life is meaningful to the extent that one promotes the good. Call this the good cause account (GCA) of the meaning of life. It holds that the good effects that count towards the meaning of one's life need not be intentional. Nor must one be aware of the effects. Nor does it matter whether the same good would have resulted if one had not existed. What matters is that one is causally responsible for the (...)
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  2. Art and Negative Affect.Aaron Smuts - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (1):39-55.
    Why do people seemingly want to be scared by movies and feel pity for fictional characters when they avoid situations in real life that arouse these same negative emotions? Although the domain of relevant artworks encompasses far more than just tragedy, the general problem is typically called the paradox of tragedy. The paradox boils down to a simple question: If people avoid pain then why do people want to experience art that is painful? I discuss six popular solutions to the (...)
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  3. The Ethics of Singing Along: The Case of “Mind of a Lunatic”.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (1):121-129.
    In contrast to film, theater, and literature, audiences typically sing along with popular songs. This can encourage a first-person mode of engagement with the narrative content. Unlike mere spectators, listeners sometimes imagine acting out the content when it is recited in the first-person. This is a common mode of engaging with popular music. And it can be uniquely morally problematic. It is problematic when it involves the enjoyment of imaginatively doing evil. I defend a Moorean view on the issue: It (...)
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  4. Rubber Ring: Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?Aaron Smuts - 2011 - In John Gibson & Noel Carroll (eds.), Narrative, Emotion, and Insight. Penn State UP. pp. 131.
    In this essay, I discuss a few ways in which songs are used, ways in which listeners engage with and find meaning in music. I am most interested in sad songs—those that typically feature narratives about lost love, separation, missed opportunity, regret, hardship, and all manner of heartache. Many of us are drawn to sad songs in moments of emotional distress. The problem is that sad songs do not always make us feel better; to the contrary, they often make us (...)
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  5. Painful Art and the Limits of Well-Being.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - In Jerrold Levinson (ed.), Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotions in Art. Palgrave/ Macmillan.
    In this chapter I explore what painful art can tell us about the nature and importance of human welfare. My goal is not so much to defend a new solution to the paradox of tragedy, as it is to explore the implications of the kinds of solutions that I find attractive. Both nonhedonic compensatory theories and constitutive theories explain why people seek out painful art, but they have troublesome implications. On some narrow theories of well-being, they imply that painful art (...)
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  6. Is It Better to Love Better Things?Aaron Smuts - 2015 - In Tony Milligan, Christian Maurer & Kamila Pacovská (eds.), Love and Its Objects.
    It seems better to love virtue than vice, pleasure than pain, good than evil. Perhaps it's also better to love virtuous people than vicious people. But at the same time, it's repugnant to suggest that a mother should love her smarter, more athletic, better looking son than his dim, clumsy, ordinary brother. My task is to help sort out the conflicting intuitions about what we should love. In particular, I want to address a problem for the no-reasons view, the theory (...)
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  7. Cinematic.Aaron Smuts - 2013 - Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 23 (46):78-95.
    Is cinematicity a virtue in film? Is lack of cinematicity a defect? Berys Gaut thinks so. He claims that cinematicity is a pro tanto virtue in film. I disagree. I argue that the term “cinematic” principally refers to some cluster of characteristics found in films featuring the following: expansive scenery, extreme depth of field, high camera positioning, and elaborate tracking shots. We often use the word as a term of praise. And we are likely right to do so. We are (...)
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