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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I did my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Cambridge. My main areas of interest were ethics, aesthetics and ancient philosophy. I then stayed on for an MPhil, writing on Bernard Williams' integrity objection to utilitarianism, presupposition and ideology in art, and subjectivism and blame. Following that, I spent a year away from academia writing puzzles (logic, lateral thinking, non-verbal reasoning, word puzzles) for a puzzle book company.

For my PhD, I began with an interest in how our beliefs, attitudes and ways of seeing the world are shaped by non-rational means, and the effects this can have on the self and our perceptions of others. I decided to look at this question through the lens of comedy, as I take it that jokes and humour are particularly effective ways of non-rationally influencing the beliefs and attitudes of others. I am interested in both moral/political and linguistic puzzles about jokes, including what, if anything, is wrong with oppressive (e.g. racist/sexist/homophobic) jokes, how jokes persuade hearers and often make them feel complicit, and whether the joke-teller has any moral responsibility for influencing hearers in this way.

Other academic interests

Meta-ethics, moral psychology, subjectivism, feminist philosophy, ancient philosophy, personal and social identity

Department: Philosophy
Supervisor: Professor Rae Langton
College: Pembroke
AHRC subject area: Philosophy
Title of thesis: Behind the Comedic Mask (provisional)
 Zoe  Walker