Alice Harberd with her cat, Elsie

Me and Elsie, one of my cats

Alice Harberd

I am a PhD student in Philosophy at University College London, funded by the LAHP consortium of the AHRC. Previously, I did my MPhil Stud in Philosophy at UCL, and my BA in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Before starting my MPhil, I spent two years on the Civil Service Fast Stream. You can email me at
My research is about art and aesthetic objects, and how they help and hinder us in coming to understand the world better. By 'art' I don't just mean visual art - I'm interested in music, TV, literature, theatre, dance, etc. I'm particularly interested in whether helping us understand the world makes art better as art.
I am also interested in Value Theory, Normativity, Social Epistemology, Virtue theory in Ethics and Epistemology, Wittgenstein, Iris Murdoch, and Plato.
I teach courses in the UCL Philosophy Department on topics in Aesthetics, Value Theory and Ancient Philosophy.
I am also a singer - I sing soprano (high voice), mostly classical music, mostly in choirs.
My full CV can be downloaded here.


My research is about art and why it is valuable in human lives. In particular, I'm interested in the idea that we can come to understand things that matter through our experiences with art and aesthetic objects - and that this is one thing which makes art valuable. This is a version of a view called aesthetic cognitivism. Most of us have had experiences with art like this - where we feel that we've come to understand ourselves or the world better. I think that some resistance to aesthetic cognitivism comes from worries that feelings like this can't be trusted, because aesthetic qualities are able to make us feel like this without us actually understanding anything: they can trick us into thinking something which is actually banal is insightful.

I suspect that we worry too much about the possibility that art is tricking us when we have feelings like this. My PhD thesis investigates a range of arguments for this view, and explores some implications of these debates for how aesthetic properties influence our judgements of other people's cleverness, knowledge, wisdom, etc.


I have led seminars for two courses in the UCL Philosophy Department: Topics in Plato, and Morality and Literature. I guest-lectured for both, on Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos and self-knowledge, and how to write ancient philosophy essays respectively. I have experience teaching both online and in person.


I have been lucky enough to perform and record with groups including the Taverner Consort, Instruments of Time and Truth, The Marian Consort, London Choral Sinfonia, St. Martin's Voices, Sansara and Eleutherios. I also sing with the choirs at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Tower of London Chapel, and St Brides Church.

Alongside classical singing, I enjoy Javanese Gamelan - an Indonesian percussion orchestra. I am a very rusty pesindhen (female vocal soloist) and sometimes play with Siswa Sukra at the Indonesian Embassy in London.

Some music I like: this by renaissance composer John Sheppard, this by Poulenc, this Scottish folk song, this by The Smiths, this by Ariel Pink, this by Taylor Swift, this by Tchaikovsky, this by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan, this Javanese Gamelan piece, this American Songbook classic... I could go on!