The Philosophy of Flirting

28 Jan 2010 17:57:31.250


With Valentine's Day fast approaching many of us will be hoping to flirt our way into someone's affections. Perhaps there'll be a candle lit dinner, a passionate card through the post or a romantic bouquet of red roses.

But what happens if cupid's arrow is fired in the wrong direction - will that still constitute flirting?

For two lovebirds from The University of Nottingham their argument about flirting has reached academic proportions.

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It all started during a quiet dinner for two in Lisbon. As their eyes met across the table the two philosophers began to question the principles of flirting. Eighteen months on, with a paper on the subject published in The Philosophers Magazine, Dr Carrie Jenkins is still debating the principles of this social phenomenon with her partner Professor Daniel Nolan.

Flirting, argues Dr Jenkins, is all to do with intention. Badly done, ill judged or inappropriate, flirting is still flirting if it was intended. But if you don't realise you are flirting then you can't be accused of flirting.

Not so, retorts Professor Nolan, you can flirt by accident.  Even if you had absolutely no intention of flirting, even if you were flirtatious by accident, then you have flirted.

Professor Nolan has since written his own, unpublished, response to Dr Jenkins paper. And the debate has attracted the attention of other philosophers and social scientists who have joined in on the debate or on different parts of it.

The couple say the light hearted subject has a real purpose with the potential to draw in a lot of disciplinary interests.

As Dr Jenkins started this complex philosophical debate here are her final words on the matter:

"He knows I'm right!"

- Ends -

Notes to Editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THES) World University Rankings.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.

Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation - School of Pharmacy).

Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for three years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

Additional information: Professor Nolan and Dr Carrie Jenkins will be unavailable for interviews after Friday 8th February.

Story credits

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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