Hannah Wakefield

Aesthetics of the Body: Beauty and Value

Faculty Mentor: Clair Morrissey, Philosophy Department

Major: Philosophy

Funding: Ford Research Mentor's Endowment


The aim of my research is to understand philosophical debate about aesthetic judgements of the body. Since aesthetic evaluation of the body has significant social and material impacts on people, the importance of understanding why and how they are made has broad sociocultural importance. I seek to understand the consequences of aesthetic judgements both historically and contemporaneously, as well as inherent aesthetic worth of the body. Historically, as demonstrated in the work of Plotinus, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant, there is a thread of philosophers arguing that objective criteria are necessary in order to make aesthetic judgements. These conceptions of aesthetic judgment prove to be inherently exclusionary, both in who is able to make good judgements and who is included in the category of beautiful. Contemporary accounts of aesthetic evaluation of the body attempt to combat the oppressive ideology of this canon. In particular, Toby Siebers, Paul. C. Taylor, and Sherri Irvin, offer accounts of the aesthetics of the body that embrace all bodies, regardless of form or function. Adopting an intersectional approach, drawing on the work of these theorists, recommends individuals work towards favorable and inclusive aesthetic judgements by adopting Irvin’s strategy of Aesthetic Exploration, in which individuals examine the minute details of the body with an attitude of joy and adventure in order to condition positive aesthetic responses to their own bodies and the bodies of others.


Watch my research presentation below.

Questions or comments? Contact me at: wakefieldh@oxy.edu


View the presentation slideshow