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 the philosophy of music, video games, and the nature of fiction. I have published essays on the metaphysics of music, the ethics of video games, and historical inaccuracies in works of fiction.  (A complete listing of my publications can be found here.) I have additional research interests in perception (especially sound) and methodological issues in experimental philosophy.

I am currently pursuing two long-term projects. The first is a monograph titled Video Games, Violence, and the Ethics of Fantasy: Killing Time, which is forthcoming from Bloomsbury (August 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? 

My second project concerns philosophical debates about the ontology of art works and its role in our appreciation of music. My worry is that philosophers have tended to focus too much attention on the concept of the musical work, which leads to an overestimation of the importance of some musical practices over others. It is commonly believed that works of art that "stand the test of time" are ones that must be worthy of our attention. However, this belief places musical performance in a precarious position: by their very nature, performances are ephemeral and cannot pass the test of time. I hope to right this wrong by defending the aesthetic value of ephemera. 

I am originally from Massachusetts. 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 video games; though most of my time these days is spent looking after my daughter. 

Areas of Specialization

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art, Ethics, Philosophy of Games, Philosophy of Music

Areas of Competence

Philosophy of Mind and Perception (esp. Sound), David Hume


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

M. A. (2000) University of Bristol

B. M. (1997) Berklee College of Music

Courses Taught

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


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


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