Christopher Bartel

"To be clear-headed rather than confused; lucid rather than obscure; rational rather than otherwise; and to be neither more, nor less, sure of things than is justifiable by argument or evidence. That is worth trying for."

-- Geoffrey Warnock


I am a Professor of Philosophy at Appalachian State University. My research interests primarily lie within aesthetics and ethics. I mainly focus on video games, the philosophy of music, and media ethics. (A complete listing of my publications can be found here.) I have additional research interests in perception (especially sound), philosophy of technology, and methodological issues in experimental philosophy. 

I am the author of Video Games, Violence, and the Ethics of Fantasy: Killing Time (Bloomsbury 2020). Many video games allow players to commit numerous violent and immoral acts, like sexual assault, theft, and murder. This begs the question, should players worry about the morality of their virtual actions? A common argument that gamers often appeal to is that games offer merely the virtual representation of violence and immoral activity. It cannot be morally wrong to perform such acts because no one is actually harmed by committing an immoral act in a game. While this is an intuitive defense, it does not resolve the issue. I approach these issues by examining recent debates in philosophical aesthetics over the ethical criticism of works of art. I argue that many video games are ultimately works of fiction that enable players to entertain a fantasy, so a fuller understanding of the ethical criticism of video games must focus attention on why individual players are motivated to entertain immoral and violent fantasies. Indeed, video games raise a general and important philosophical question: is it ever morally wrong to enjoy fantasizing about immoral things? 

As an undergraduate, I studied sound engineering at Berklee College of Music and worked as a recording engineer in the Boston area for four years before deciding that I wanted to study philosophy. I then moved to England where I received my MA from the University of Bristol and my PhD from King's College London. In addition to my love of philosophy, I also enjoy cycling, music, and playing games with my daughter. 


Ph. D. (2007) King's College London

M. A. (2000) University of Bristol

B. M. (1997) Berklee College of Music

Courses Taught

  • Aesthetics
  • Ethical Theory
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Metaphilosophy
  • Perception, Color, and Sound
  • Philosophy and Popular Culture
  • Philosophy and Video Games
  • Philosophy of Art
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Music
  • Philosophy, Society, and Ethics
  • Relativism


Department of Philosophy and Religion
I. G. Greer Hall, Room 114
Boone, NC  28608
bartelcj (AT) appstate (DOT) edu


Click here for a short piece on the ethics of fantasy.

Click here for a short piece outlining my account of the ethics of video game violence.

Click here for a BBC article on the use of comic books in philosophy courses.

Title: Professor of Philosophy
Department: Philosophy and Religion

Email address: Email me

Phone: (828) 262-7193

Office address
I. G. Greer Hall 115-B