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Aili Whalen

Associate Professor

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: Philosophy


Email: Aili Whalen
Phone: 937-229-1471
HM 409
Website: Visit Site


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Temple University
  • J.D., Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • B.A., Philosophy, Columbia University


Dr. Bresnahan specializes in aesthetics, with a particular focus on the philosophy of dance, improvisation, and the performing aspect of the performing arts. She is a 2020-2021 U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar whose project, “Cross-Cultural Ethical Agency in Dance and Philosophy,” will be conducted at the Centre for Dance Research at Roehampton University in London, UK, in 2021.

She is the author of “The Philosophy of Dance” entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and is the founder and moderator of the DancePhilosophers Google group. She has been a faculty member at the University of Dayton since 2012.

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of Dance and the Performing Arts
  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • Ethics
  • American Pragmatism
  • Philosophy of law and culture

Selected Publications

With Einav Katan-Schmid and Sara Houston. “Dance as Embodied Ethics.” In The Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy, Ch. 39, 379-386, edited by Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca and Alice Lagaay. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2020.

“A Philosopher Explains Why Dance Can Help Pandemic-Proof Your Kids.” The Conversation (U.S. edition), May 29, 2020, published online:

“Is Tap Dance a Form of Jazz Percussion?” Midwest Studies in Philosophy XLIV (2019): 183-194.

“Dance Rhythm.” In The Philosophy of Rhythm: Aesthetic, Music, Poetics, Ch. 5, 91-98, edited by Peter Cheyne, Andy Hamilton, and Max Paddison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

“Perceiving Live Improvisation in the Performing Arts.” In Perception, Cognition, and Aesthetics, 106-119, edited by Dena Shottenkirk, Manuel Curado, and Steven S. Gouveia. London: Routledge, 2019.

With Michael Deckard. “Beauty in Disability: An Aesthetics for Dance and for Life.” In Dance and Quality of Life, Social Indicators Research Series, Vol. 73, Chapter 11, 185-206, edited by Karen Bond, Netherlands: Springer, 2019.

“Diversified Philosophy.” The Philosophers’ Magazine 80 (1st Quarter 2018): 78-79.

“Appreciating Dance: The View from the Audience.” In Aesthetics: A Reader in the Philosophy of the Arts, 4th edition, 347-350, edited by David Goldblatt, Lee Brown, and Stephanie Patridge. New York: Routledge, 2017.

“Dancing in Time.” In The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Temporal Experience, 339-348, edited by Ian Phillips. London: Routledge, 2017.

“Dancing Philosophy: What Happens to Philosophy when Considered from the Point of View of the Dancer.” Fatum 4, no. 33 (June 2016 special issue on intelligence, form, and the arts): 37-39. Available online Publisher: Technical University, Munich, Germany.

“How Artistic Creativity is Possible for Cultural Agents.” In Pragmatism, Metaphysics and Culture: Reflections on the Philosophy of Joseph Margolis, 197-216, edited by Dirk-Martin Grube and Robert Sinclair. Helsinki: The Nordic Pragmatism Network, 2015.

“Improvisation in the Arts.” Philosophy Compass 9, no. 10 (September 2015): 573-582. Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell.

“Toward A Deweyan Theory of Ethical and Aesthetic Performing Arts Practice.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 1, no. 2 (November 2014): 133-148. Publisher: Bloomsbury.

For a full list and text of Dr. Bresnahan's publications see

Selected Presentations

[Postponed due to COVID-19] Keynote Address, Workshop on Embodied Cognition and Dance, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN (originally scheduled for October 2020).

Panelist, American Society for Aesthetics Panel on Embodied Beauties: The Politics and Aesthetics of the Moving Body, College Art Association Conference, Chicago, IL (February 2020): Dance as Body-Centered Art-in-Progress.

Keynote Address, Conference on Philosophy of Performance: Beyond the Continental/Analytic Divide, University of Kent (May 2019): The Case for Multi-Methodological Competency in Philosophy of Theatre Art. Sponsored by the British Society for Aesthetics, the Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent, and the Centre for Performance Philosophy at the University of Surrey.

Invited Panelist, Jazz and Philosophy Intermodal Conference, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, CA (April 2019): Tap Dance as Jazz Percussion.

Workshop Presenter, Creating A 21st-Century General Education Conference, Association of American Colleges and Universities (February 2019): Interdisciplinary Humanities Learning at the University of Dayton. Co-presenter with Bill Trollinger, Marissa McCray, and Phyllis Bergiel.

Invited Plenary Lecture, Summer Institute in American Philosophy, Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, Dayton, OH (July 2018): Philosophy, Sustainability, and the Arts. Co-presented with William C. Marvin.

American Society for Aesthetics Eastern Division Meeting (April 2018): Dancing Style.

Transmissions and Traces: Rendering Dance, Dance Studies Association Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH (October 2017): Moving Form in Langer, in Gaga, and in Ballet.

How Does Performance Philosophy Act? Ethos, Ethics Ethnography, Performance Philosophy Conference, The Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague, Czech Republic (June 2017): Contact Philosophy: Dance as Embodied Ethics of Comprehension and Understanding. Co-presenter with Einav Katan-Schmid (Humboldt Universitat, Berlin) and Sara Houston (Roehampton, London).

Invited Lectures, Aesthetics Forum, Institute for Logic, Cognition, Language, and Information (ILCLI), University of the Basque Country, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain (June 2017): Improvising Dance (first day), and Interpretation in Dance Performing (second day).

Invited Lecture, Dialogues on Dance, Philosophy, and Performance in the Contemporary Neoliberal Moment Conference, University of Coventry, UK (June 2017): Dancing Together: How Dance Involves Lived, Shared, and Interconnected Experience. Organized by the University of Coventry, the University of Brunel (London), the Performance Philosophy Institute (Surrey), and supported by the British Society for Aesthetics.

Invited Lecture and Seminar Workshop, Rutgers University Dance Department MFA Program, Mason Gross School of the Arts, New Brunswick, NJ (March 2017): The Aesthetics of Dance Improvisation: A Challenge for Philosophy. Co-sponsored by the Rutgers Philosophy Department and by the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities. Here I provided a public address and then held a seminar the next day with the Rutgers Dance Department MFA program students.