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Jamie Stephenson

LAHRI Postdoctoral Researcher
Areas of expertise
sound; ontology; ambience; speculative realism; aesthetics; meontology; continental philosophy; metaphysics; process philosophy.
Clothworkers South Building

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at the University of Leeds, and a part-time Lecturer in Aesthetics and Fine Art at York St John University. I undertook both my MA in Cultural Studies (2011), and a BA in Journalism and Media, at the University of Leeds (1999), before completing my PhD in 2023 in the School of Music at the University of Leeds, supervised by Professor Martin Iddon and Dr James Mooney.


My thesis, titled ‘Auditioning Ontology: Towards an Ambient Metaphysics’, explores methods for retuning classic metaphysical inquiry (questions pertaining to what reality consists of, and how this can best be conceptualised), via an aesthetics of sound, in a manner that disrupts Western philosophy’s anthropocentrism (and its facilitative grammar of visualism), in pursuit of an ontological democracy.


My thesis investigates post-Enlightenment philosophy’s engagement with the nature of reality, employing sound as an ontological starting place, to provide a critical perspective on Western thought’s tendency to privilege presence over absence, on the grounds that its primarily visualist grammar perpetuates a problematic anthropological bias. It does so by systematically examining ontologies of substance (via Graham Harman) and process (via Jean-Luc Nancy) as they emerge from Martin Heidegger, through my methodology of ‘auditioning’, which I define as ontologising through audition, inquiring as to the nature of being via the aesthetics of sonority. The exposition of what I call ‘ambient metaphysics’ introduces a third stream of realism, between substance and process, capable of theorising the nature of being via the democracy of sonic aesthetics like reverberation and vibrancy. By making explicit the capacities for metaphysical articulation through ‘sound’ that are implicit in Harman, Nancy, and Heidegger, my thesis interrogates the possibility of an aestheticisation of being through sonority. In so doing, it suggests new and productive ways for realism to apprehend the nature of reality, beyond philosophy’s restrictive anthropo-ocularcentrism.

Auditioning Ontology: Towards an Ambient Metaphysics - White Rose eTheses Online


  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), University of Leeds (School of Music)
  • Master of Arts (M.A.), Cultural Studies, University of Leeds (merit)
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Journalism and Media, University of Leeds (2:1)

My Research

As a LAHRI Postdoctoral Fellow, my current research focuses on extending the work of my thesis, expanding and continuing to work with ‘auditioning’ as an ontological methodology, towards a new realism of ambient metaphysics.

At present I am working towards developing my thesis project into a monograph.

Alongside this I am currently writing two articles based on my doctoral work, one on the legacy of Kant, Husserl, and Heidegger in the object-oriented temporality of Graham Harman, and another on ‘auditioning’ as a methodology bridging philosophy and art. I am also developing a new project that, based on themes of meontology within my PhD research, will examine the pedagogical disconnect between the fields of musicology, art, theology, and philosophy.

I am always keen to collaborate and exchange ideas with other colleagues, researchers, and artists working in areas relating to:

  • sound
  • ontology
  • metaphysics
  • aesthetics
  • meontology
  • causation
  • time
  • speculative realism
  • epistemology
  • phenomenology
  • continental philosophy
  • mereology
  • theology


  • (Forthcoming) ‘Touching the Abyss: Modernist Readings of Jean-Luc Nancy’. Review of Cosmin Toma (ed.), Understanding Nancy, Understanding Modernism. London: Bloomsbury, 2023. In The Modernist Review, 2023.

Professional Memberships

  • RMA - Royal Musical Association
  • CHiPhi - Centre for the History of Philosophy

Orcid ID: 0009-0002-8211-6586


Twitter/ X @audio_ontology