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Personal profile

Teaching Interests

Teaches:   Philosophy and Literature, Aesthetics. Philosophy of Mind.


I was educated at Cranbrook School, Kent; read philosophy at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; and completed my D.Phil, ‘Philosophy, Psychology, Criticism: A Defence of Traditional Aesthetics,’ at the University of York in 1987. I then taught English – and also a certain amount of philosophy and music – for twenty-two years, the last eight of them as head of department at Pocklington School near York. I spent 2006-7 as a fulltime writer, completing my biography of Ernst (see below), and 2007-8 lecturing in aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London. From 1991-2006, I was Honorary Visiting Research Fellow in the philosophy department at York University, and from 1995-2002 I was Reviews Editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics. I joined UEA in September 2008.

Additional Contacts

Academia.edu.Personal page

Key Research Interests

Philosophy and Literature, Aesthetics, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Larkin, C19th Music.

1)     I am particularly interested in the different ways in which philosophy and literature can interact, and the ways in which philosophical style can be an integral part of philosophical method. For example, I’ve written about how Goethe’s conception of scientific method (using the senses to achieve a perspicuous overview) led him to adopt a very distinctive kind of style (a sequence of numbered remarks), and how Wittgenstein applied both the method and the style to philosophy generally. Similarly, I’ve written a couple of pieces intended to show that, in the 1860s, when Matthew Arnold was attempting to be the Socrates of his time, he wrote a number of works which either use a dialogic form (‘My Countrymen’, Friendship’s Garland) or actively engage in an ironic dialogue with his opponents (Culture and Anarchy). My most recent piece of work in this line shows how Iago in Othello fits the specification of the philosopher gone to the bad in Plato’s Republic, and that the great temptation scene in the play has the dramatic movement of a subverted Socratic dialogue.

2)      I am exploring the place of truth and knowledge in our aesthetic appreciation of literature. There seem to be overwhelming objections to those (like Lamarque and Olsen) who believe that truth plays - or should play - no role in aesthetic appreciation, but working out exactly what kinds of truths and forms of knowledge there are, and which of them can be conveyed by literature, proves to be tricky.

3)      At a less abstract level, I am interested in the poet Philip Larkin, Shakespeare, and nineteenth-century music – particularly the repertoire for violin and for piano. 

Research Projects

1)     The problem of literature and truth continues to attract me. I published a paper on this topic called 'Literature, Knowledge, and the Aesthetic Attitude' in Ratio 2009, and I am planning to write a short book on the subject.

2)     In the more immediate future, I plan to write papers on whether literature is intrinsically right-wing; Wittgenstein's notion of family resemblance concepts; Ian McEwan's Enduring Love; and another paper on the temptation scene in Othello.

3)     I planned the programmes for the 6 CDs of Heinrich Ernst's complete music for violin and piano, performed by Sherban Lupu and Ian Hobson (both at the University of Illinois) and issued by Toccata Classics, London. I am currently writing full historical notes - about 5000 words per disc - for all of them. I am doing the same for the new Toccata edition of the 850 pages of Ernst's complete sheet-music, and also acting as historical consultant for the documentary about the Ernst revival currently being made by the Chicago-based Czech film-maker Peter Grosz.

4)     I and Maiko Kawabata in the UEA Music Department have applied for a £200K AHRC grant to fund a major project on changing conceptions of virtuosity in C19th instrumental music. If successful, this will entail conferences, masterclasses, lectures, recitals, and further books and articles.

Forthcoming publications:

M.W. Rowe, ''Of the Standard of Taste': Decisions, Rules, and Critical Argument', The Continuum Companion to Hume, A. Bailey and D.O'Brian (eds.), London: Continuum, (forthcoming 2012).
M.W. Rowe, 'The Problem of Perfect Fakes' in Anthony O'Hear (ed.), Philosophy and the Arts (Cambridge: CUP, 2012). The Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures 2010-11.