Style and the Art of Thinking

  • Jack (Coulter) M W Sagar

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


The notion of personal style has two uses: one evaluative, the other explanatory. The evaluative use is in the description of an evaluative practice where we recognise the unique aesthetic contribution an agent has made – where liking someone’s ‘style’ is tantamount to saying that we like their way of doing their X, where X is some general practice (e.g painting or poetry). The explanatory use of the notion involves connecting facts about an individual stylist to those features of their practice or product which make it unique – such that we would have it that style which is both psychologically real and guides action.
Given this, this thesis begins from the idea that style offers us a way of synthesising explanatory and evaluative questions regarding the normative evaluation of courses of action and explores what it means for epistemology and meta-normative theorising as a whole. By rethinking rational thought and action in terms of the notion of personal style, the thesis contends that one gets a particularistic picture.
This is because if one conceives of the relation between an agent’s means and an agent’s ends in the case of normatively successful action in terms of personal style, one articulates the determinable form of the tethering relation which, when determinate, will always involve something of a personal i.e particular nature.
The thesis will put these claims to the test by analysing a particular historical case of a normative success, the case of Richard Feynman and the development of Feynman diagrams. It will argue that the norms-based theorist fails to give a sufficient account of Feynman’s achievement and that because the norms-based theorist can have no recourse to rejecting the desiderata which determine what a sufficient treatment would amount to.
Date of Award23 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorRichard G Pettigrew (Supervisor) & Martin Sticker (Supervisor)

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