Jennifer McMahon

Emeritus Professor Jennifer McMahon

Emeritus Professor

School of Humanities

Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Economics

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.

My research investigates the contrasts and similarities between the affective nature of the Arts and what Aristotle would call rhetoric (a manipulative device for those not impressed by reason). This question bears on various topics in Aesthetics, Philosophy of the Arts, Kantian scholarship, meta-ethics and philosophy of mind, such as imagination, pleasure, attitude and intention; and motivation.

My most recent works include: “What can be learnt from imagining?” “If learning from fictions is a case of delusion, are attitudes acquired from fictions also delusional?” “Can we learn anything from the Arts?” “Are the attitudes acquired from the Arts the result of manipulation given they do not involve argumentation: that is they do not have their effect upon us by providing reasons in support of a conclusion?”.

I welcome inquiries from Masters and PhD candidates interested in:
1. Immanuel Kant’s notion of public reason as exemplified in the sensus communis of aesthetic reflective judgement.
2. Imagining as engaged by the Arts or a particular branch of the Arts and what we learn by it. The branches can include visual, narrative, cinema, music, dance or literature. Indigenous art can be a focus incorporating visual and narrative.
3. The role of pleasure in Kant’s conception of beauty and the sublime.
4. Was Plato justified in banning artists from his ideal Republic?

My current projects include:

  • Taste and Community (Australian Research Council DP)

    This project considers the role of the arts in shaping experience and changing attitudes. The way in which the Arts engage exchanges between many perspectives is a focus.  Project website :

  • Imagining and rhetoric

    When cultures collide and norms and conventions are in a state of flux, the attitudes and behaviours fuelled by images we hold come under scrutiny. Fictional narratives are accepted as harmless when a society is homogeneous; but when every value needs to be reaffirmed, justified or discarded, it is no longer acceptable to claim that a life style or even a political movement was motivated by a novel or cinema; that is, by fiction. This project considers the way belief can be demonstrated through actions that are never articulated in a conscious way; and are vulnerable to the manipulative and motivational nature of narratives

  • Not all Duty: Kant, society and the objectivity of communicating

    Kant’s conception of the objective basis of public reason is given a surprising model in his aesthetic theory, which is often overlooked by Kant scholars. Finding a means by which to communicate beauty and the sublime exemplifies the way communication itself sets the objective basis for the exercise of reason.  This project explores this through textual evidence in Kant and draws out the implications for this aspect of Kant’s aesthetic theory for Kant scholars, epistemology and philosophers of art.

  • Social Aesthetics 2018
    Art and Ethics
    Aesthetics and Material Beauty









Ch. 3 "Aesthetic Ideas": Mystery and Meaning in the Early Work of Barrie Kosky pp.59-80.
Ch. 3 McMahon 2021
Curator: the museum journal
Issue edited by McMahon 2019
The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism
Ch. 24 McMahon 2022









Australasian Philosophical Review
Issue edited by McMahon 2017
Oxford Bibliographies Online
Beauty in Oxford Bibliographies Online 2019
Palgrave Kant Handbook
Ch.19 McMahon 2017
The Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Friedrich Schiller Part 1 Ch.2 McMahon 2022
Part 1 Ch.2 McMahon 2022


Beauty in Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory 2022
Beauty McMahon 2022
Who Runs the Artworld 2017
Ch.11 McMahon & Gilchrist 2017
Visual Animals
Ch 73-83 McMahon 2007
The Sublime 2017
Ch.7 McMahon 2017
Routledge Companion to Aesthetics 2001
Ch 20 McMahon 2001
Routledge Companion to Aesthetics 2005
Ch.24 McMahon 2005

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2017 - ongoing Professor University of Adelaide
    2014 - 2015 Director of the Faculty of Arts Higher Degree by Research Program University of Adelaide, Adelaide
    2010 - 2013 Head of Philosophy Department University of Adelaide, Adelaide
    2002 - 2016 Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor University of Adelaide
    1996 - 2002 Lecturer University of Canberra
    1992 - 1992 Tutor Australian National University
    1991 - 1991 Tutor and Research Assistant University of Melbourne
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2015 Achievement Chief Investigator, ARC Discovery Grant Adelaide, Monash, Macquarie, Brown, Toronto, Houston Australia $251,100.
    1991 Research Award The Freda Cohen Prize, The University of Melbourne University of Melbourne Australia -
    1982 Scholarship Italian Government Scholarship The Institute of Art and Restoration Italy -
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1992 - 1996 Australian National University Australia PhD
    1989 - 1990 University of Melbourne Australia M.Ed (Research)
    1978 - 1978 University of Melbourne Australia Dip.Ed.
    1975 - 1977 RMIT University Australia B.A. (Fine Arts)
  • Research Interests

Date Project Number Investigators Funding Body Amount
2015 - 2022 DP150103143 Jennifer A. McMahon (Lead CI); Paul Guyer (Brown) Cynthia Freeland (Houston) Mohan Matthen (Toronto) Robert Sinnerbrink (Macquarie) Daniel von Sturmer (Monash) Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro (visual artists) Australian Research Council $251,100



Date Course Title Course Level / Code
2002-2021 Argument and Critical Thinking Level 1, PHIL 1101
2021  Ethics and the Arts Level 2, PHIL 2038
2002-2019 Beauty: Pleasures and Principles Level 2, PHIL 2112
2003-2018 Art, Perception and Creativity Level 2, PHIL 2051
2012  Pragmatism and Value Theory Level 3, PHIL 3031
2021 Ethics and the Arts Level 3, PHIL 3038
2002-2019 Beauty: Pleasures and Principles Level 3, PHIL 3112

Between 2002-2010 McMahon contributed lectures to other upper level courses namely: Reality and Knowledge; Foundations of Modern Philosophy; Moral Problems; and held tutorials in first year Logic.

McMahon's Honours Seminars: The Critique of the Power of Judgment; Pragmatism; Pictorial Representation; Moral Pleasure.

  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2011 - 2015 Principal Supervisor Gestural Abstraction in Australian Art 1947-1963: Repositioning the Work of Albert Tucker Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Carol Ann Gilchrist
    2011 - 2018 Principal Supervisor The Good, the Right and the Exigencies of Life: John Dewey and the Value of Moral Disagreement Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Ms Karen Bland
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2018 - ongoing Member Research Evaluation Committee (REC) for the Humanities and Creative Arts ARC ERA 2018 Australia
    2014 - ongoing Advisory Board Member Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent University of Kent United Kingdom
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2014 - ongoing Member American Philosophical Association United States
    2013 - ongoing Member JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, University of Adelaide Australia
    2008 - ongoing Member Australasian Association of Philosophy Australia
    1997 - ongoing Member American Society for Aesthetics United States
  • Consulting/Advisories

    Date Institution Department Organisation Type Country
    2022 - 2023 University of Notre Dame Australia Faculty of Education, Philosophy, and Theology School or college Australia
    2015 - 2016 University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia Contract to convene two day symposium, School or college Australia
    2010 - 2013 Eynesbury College, Adelaide Chief Examiner for Logic and Clear Thinking Foundation Studies Program Business and professional Australia
    2002 - 2002 David Hooper, Solicitor, Sydney, NSW Expert Witness, Duty of Care, Secondary Schools Business and professional Australia
    2001 - 2002 The Hargreaves Practice, Sydney, NSW Expert Witness, Duty of Care, Secondary Schools Business and professional Australia
    1999 - 2000 National Schools Network, Canberra Facilitator: Curriculum Peer Review in Secondary Schools Business and professional Australia
    1998 - 1998 Catholic Education Office, Canberra Mediator in Employment Dispute Business and professional Australia
    1998 - 1998 NSW Crown Solicitor's Office, Sydney Expert Witness, Duty of Care, Secondary Schools Business and professional Australia
  • Offices Held

    Date Office Name Institution Country
    2014 - 2017 Executive Secretary, Australasian Association of Philosophy Australasian Association of Philosophy Australia
  • Position: Emeritus Professor
  • Phone: 83135296
  • Email:
  • Fax: 83134341
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Napier, floor 7
  • Org Unit: School of Humanities

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