Associate Professor James Phillips

Associate Professor
MA Monash, PhD UTas
School of Humanities and Languages


9385 2987
Room 369, Morven Brown
Kensington Campus
Fields: Cinema Studies, Aesthetics, Political Theory and Political Philosophy, British and Irish Literature, Literature in German, History of Philosophy, Philosophy, Phenomenology
Tags: Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies, Understanding Europe's Past

After completing an MA in Comparative Literature and Critical Theory at Monash University, I studied as a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy in both Austria (ÖAD) and Germany (DAAD) before returning to Australia to finish my doctorate under Jeff Malpas at the University of Tasmania.  Stanford University Press subsequently published my dissertation under the title Heidegger’s Volk: Between National Socialism and Poetry.  In 2007 I also published with them my second monograph The Equivocation of Reason: Kleist Reading Kant.  The following year they brought out my edited collection Cinematic Thinking: Philosophical Approaches to the New Cinema.  I have translated two books from German: Alexander García Düttmann, Philosophy of Exaggeration (London: Continuum, 2007) and Christoph Menke, Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).

I began at UNSW in 2006 as a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow and from 2007 to 2011 I held an ARC Australian Research Fellowship to investigate philosophical questions surrounding community.  I have been a visiting fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh and at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina.  At present I am Associate Professor in Philosophy with teaching duties in the areas of aesthetics, political philosophy and phenomenology.  My research also lies in these broad areas.


My current research project lies in the field of German aesthetics and examines the continuities and ruptures between Kant’s treatment of the beautiful and the sublime and Heidegger’s exposition of the world-founding character of the work of art. The question I wish to address is the exact nature, extent and debts of the transition from Kant’s focus on pleasure to Heidegger’s focus on world. It is in Kant’s attempt to account for the pleasure of the sublime that Heidegger in Vom Wesen des Grundes professes to discern a breakthrough to a more radical problematic of the concept of world. Yet even as he acknowledges Kant’s innovation in the treatment of world, Heidegger plays down its expository context through his neglect of the question of pleasure. Kant’s distinction between cognitive and aesthetic judgement has no precise counterpart in Heidegger’s philosophy of art. That the sublime is an aesthetic judgement and the idea of the world is accordingly revealed in and by pleasure entails a set of qualifications for Kant’s concept of world that Heidegger does not retain for his own account of the world-founding character of the great work of art. For Kant, the idea of totality or world intervenes when the imagination falters in the mathematically sublime; it encompasses an object whose size overwhelms our capacity for a comprehensive perception. In the experience of the sublime the Kantian idea of the world, which in the first Kritik counts as an a priori frame of experience, is itself experienced, albeit in the medium of pleasure. This drawing of the world into experience reworks the transcendental-empirical distinction and thus effects a transition between the Kant of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft and the Heidegger of Sein und Zeit. My contention is that Heidegger’s historicising of world has an unavowed debt to the Kantian sublime, since it is in the pleasure of the latter that Kant’s own conception of the transcendental is rethought and its abstractness disputed.



    • Phillips JA, (ed.), 2008, Cinematic Thinking, 1, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
    • Phillips JA, 2007, The Equivocation of Reason: Kleist reading Kant, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
    • Phillips JA, 2005, Heidegger`s Volk: Between National Socialism and Poetry, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA

    Book Chapters

    • Phillips JA, 2008, 'Glauber Rocha: Hunger and Garbage', in Phillips J (ed.), Cinematic Thinking, edn. 1, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, pp. 90 - 108
    • Phillips JA, 2008, 'Introduction: What Can Cinema Do?', in Phillips J (ed.), Cinematic Thinking, edn. 1, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, pp. 1 - 9

    Journal articles

    • Phillips JA, 2004, 'Beckett's Boredom and the Spirit of Adorno', Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd'hui: annual bilingual review, vol. 14, pp. 251 - 260
    • Phillips JA, 2004, 'From Radical to Banal Evil: Hannah Arendt against the Justification of the Unjustifiable', International Journal of Philosophical Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 129 - 158,


In S2, 2016 I am teaching ARTS2367 Aesthetics (Kant's Critique of Judgement among other texts) and ARTS3368 Advanced Social and Political Philosophy.