Dr Simon Fokt

Learning Technologist


I am a Learning Technologist at the School of PPLS, University of Edinburgh. Previously, I worked as an Online Learning Specialist and Teaching Fellow at the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre, University of Leeds. I graduated with a PhD from University of St Andrews, where I worked with Prof. Berys Gaut.

My academic work is focused in two fields:

Aesthetics  Applied Ethics
  • Classification of art 
  • Aesthetic and artistic evaluation 
  • Ontology and metaphysics of art and aesthetic properties      
  • Borderlines of the aesthetic
  • Ethics of drug use, addiction, and treatment 
  • Cognitive enhancement  






Outside the Academia, I am a semi-professional double bass player - I played in a number of classical ensembles, jazz, folk and rock bands. I also enjoy backpacking, acrobatics, and crafting in wood and leather.

I am committed to promoting equality and diversity in the academia and manage an independent online resource devoted to this aim: the Diversity Reading List.


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  • University of Leeds Teaching and Research Award (30 credits, pending)
  • Technology Enhanced Learning by The Association for Learning Technology (2014)
  • Introduction to University Teaching by Higher Education Academy (2011)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Manager of the Diversity Reading List.

Research summary

My main research is in aesthetics, where I focus on cultural differences in art classification and interpretation, art ontology, artistic and aesthetic properties, and the borderlines of art and the aesthetic. I specialise in issues related to art classification and definitions of art, where I developed a context-sensitive definition of art, offered criticisms of and improvements on existing definitions, and applied the classification theory to specific contentious cases, discussing the art status of comics and pornography.

List of publications

You can find open access versions of my publications on

Current research interests

I am currently focusing on issues related to the paradox of fiction and the rationality of aesthetic engagement and engagement with art in general.

Past research interests

I briefly worked in applied ethics, looking at the moral implications of recent developments in medicine of psychoactive substances: cognitive enhancement, vaccinations against drugs, and the use of drugs in treatment of psychological disorders. I addressed the moral status of drug use and addiction, moral justification behind actions aimed at preventing use and addiction, and the implications the use of vaccinations would have for civil rights.

Knowledge exchange

My work on art and pornography was discussed in the media during the 2013 Shunga exhibition in the British Museum

Affiliated research centres

Project activity

Diversity Reading List (independent project unsupported by PPLS)

I manage and develop this online resource, aiming to address the issues of equality and diversity in academic philosophy. In my role, I manage the work of over 20 volunteer editors, edit particular entries, design and develop the project website, work on promoting the List and maintaining relations with related groups and projects. The project won several grants (listed below) which financed a part of its development, and has been widely publicised in philosophy media.

Automated Study Skills course

I work on developing a fully automated, philosophy-specific online course which would help the students develop the basic referencing, essay writing and research skills they require. This project is designed specifically to address the tension between the need for this type of course and the lack of time in the curriculum to include a lecturer-taught, credit bearing option.

Current project grants

2015-2018, British Philosophical Association – Further development and management of the Diversity Reading List.

2016-present, EIDYN, Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity – Continuous development of the Diversity Reading List

Past project grants

2015, American Society for Aesthetics – Curriculum Diversification Grant for the development of an annotated reading list on the topic of art classification (available here: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/aesthetics-online.org/resource/resmgr/Files/Div...).

2015, School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds – Strategic Funding Scheme grant for the initial development of the Diversity Reading List

2015-2016, Society for Applied Philosophy – Further Funding Grant to expand the applied philosophy section of the Diversity Reading List.

2015-2016, University of Edinburgh – Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme to expand the metaphysics, mind and science sections of the Diversity Reading List.

2015-2016, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh - Read, Write, Cite grant for the development of an automated referencing study skills course.

I have been playing music since early childhood. I went to dedicated primary and secondary music schools, where I played the piano, guitar and double bass. Double bass is my main instrument, and I have had the opportunity to play it in multiple bands, including classical ensembles such as Dundee Symphony Orchestra, Tayside Symphony Orchestra, Fife Opera; jazz bands such as The Sellars Brothers Quintet; and acoustic bands: Sooz D'Souza. I passingly flirted with folk and prog-rock, and now I am a member of the Kabaret Bastardo, which is what we call a weird band. Check links for recordings.

I am a proud owner of a very artistic electric double bass, DSDV3, hand sculpted by Piotr Sell. The creation of this beautiful instrument was a wonderful adventure, and I am happy that I could help Piotr in his artistic work.