Elizabeth Scarbrough

Ph.D. 2015

Contact Information


PhD, Philosophy, University of Washington, 2015
MA, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2005
BA, History, Oberlin College, 1996
Curriculum Vitae (172.6 KB)

I recently defended my dissertation titled, "The Aesthetic Appreciation of Ruins," which, broadly construed, is in the areas of ethics and aesthetics. I provide an account for the aesthetic appreciation of ruins, one which encompasses ruins of antiquity to contemporary industrial ruins (e.g., the former Packard Plant in Detroit, MI). I argue that if we see ruins as in the process of decay, and we have good reasons to respect the aesthetic integrity of ruins, we ought to allow a ruin to ruinate. Paradoxically then, in order to “preserve” the special aesthetic value of a ruin, we must allow it to decay. Offshoots of this project have been published in the Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism ("Unimagined Beauty") and ARCADE ("Authenticity in Ruins"). 

My interest in providing practical arguments for the preservation for immovable cultural heritage has given rise to a related interest in the ethics of travel and tourism. This, I believe, is an underdeveloped area of applied ethics. I am currently working on a paper about exploitation in Detroit's ruin porn tours. 

During my time at the University of Washington I have had the good fortune of having many rewarding and important jobs. I have worked as a TA as the instructor of record for numerous courses in ethics and aesthetics, as an RA for the Program on Valeus in Society, as an editorial assistant for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, as the Soden-Trueblood Publishing Fellow at the University of Washington Press, as the Department of Philosophy's Teaching and Learning Coordinator, and as the director of the Department of Philosophy's writing center. 

I am a self-professed failed musician and successful film buff. I spent eight years as a volunteer 35mm projectionist and outreach coordinator at the Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle, Washington and am now part of the team at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon. When not projecting arthouse cinema or butchering jazz flute, you may find me working on various political campaigns in the area or devouring fiction on my e-reader (academic texts in physical print only, please).

A native of the Washington DC metro area, I credit the Smithsonian Institute's magnificent (free) museums with forming my early love of material culture. I credit my parents for my love of travel and ruins. Find out more about me at elizabethscarbrough.com