I write and teach philosophy. I have a PhD in philosophy from NYU and a BA in philosophy from UC Berkeley. I teach at the University of San Diego. Most of my work is in aesthetics and the philosophy of art and connects to themes in ethics, action, moral psychology, and social philosophy. I’m also interested in the history of philosophy, especially Kant.
In On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck (Penguin, 2017), I develop a theory of social virtue around the concept of a "social opening" and argue that a range of contemporary terms track various modes of success and failure with respect to social openings: ‘awesome’, ‘down’, ‘chill’, ‘sucks’, ‘wack’, ‘lame’, ‘douchebag’, and others. A basic idea is that the normative character of contemporary social life cannot be fully understood in traditional philosophical terms: ‘obligation’, ‘demand’, ‘duty’, ‘right’, ‘just’, ‘requirement’. ‘Sucks’ and ‘awesome’ (and their ilk) capture a special mode of interpersonal critique. Old modes of critique fall short because contemporary social life embodies a concern for cultivating, expressing, and appreciating individuality. This is partly an aesthetic affair, which flavors the modes of response and critique that constitute the normative framework. I detail how our interest in the "ethics of awesomeness" has influenced a range of post-’60s cultural practices, including art, charity, athletics, public life, and others.
My writing is published in a range of venues, including The Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophers’ Imprint, The British Journal of Aesthetics, The Journal of the American Philosophical Association, McSweeney’s, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and Penguin Books. Most of my writing is available through PhilPapers.org.
“A Social Theory of Aesthetic Judgment” Aesthetic judgments play a distinctive role in social life. What is this role and what theory of aesthetic judgment best explains it? By way of answering these questions, I develop a social constraint on theories of aesthetic judgment: no theory should imply that social expressions of aesthetic judgment make us susceptible to an underexplored kind of suberogatory failure that I call a “communal failure”. I consider whether two theories of aesthetic judgment meet this constraint—Kant’s and a recent proposal by Richard Moran—and argue that neither succeeds. I develop an alternative theory according to which part of the illocutionary force of typical aesthetic judgments is that of an invitation to appreciate and argue that this view best meets the social constraint. I then argue that the invitation view reveals a pernicious individualism in theories of aesthetic value. We need to consider the view that aesthetic value is more fundamentally social.
“Transformative Expression and Participatory Art” The hope that art could be personally or socially transformational is an important part of 20th century avant-garde work, and it shaped a movement away from traditional media in an effort to make social life a medium. Artists imagined and created participatory situations designed to facilitate potentially transformative expression in those who engaged with the works. In this paper I develop the concept of ‘transformative expression’ and illustrate how it informs a diverse range of such avant-garde works. I argue that understanding these social artworks in this way raises two interesting questions, one about the nature of aesthetic value and the other about the nature of expressive action. Answers to these questions lie in understanding the social and aesthetic character of our capacity for certain kinds of expressive, spontaneous, or playful action.
I can be reached by email at nick riggle at gmail dot com or find me on Twitter @nickriggle