Circus & Philosophy


The Circus Lab – University of Kentucky

How is juggling like being a good person? What can the trapeze tell us about truth? What does circus have to do with the self?

In 2017, I started a novel project of combing physical movement, performance, and the circus arts with philosophical study in my course PHI 193: Circus and Philosophy. Intended for the philosophy novice who is also cirque-curious, this course uses circus as a springboard for philosophical inquiry.

Acro-balancing in Circus and Philosophy – Fall 2017


This innovative course is ​FULLY participatory. Students don’t just learn about the circus, they learn how to circus. The course is divided into two kinds of classes: one in which students learn a specific circus skill, such as aerial arts, juggling, or acro-balancing, and another in which students investigate various philosophical topics in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and more.


Don’t know how to juggle? Don’t know who Aristotle is or what he said? No worries. No background in either circus arts or philosophy is required. A sense of wonder, a healthy curiosity about the world, and an appetite for adventure are strongly encouraged.

Juggling in Circus and Philosophy – Fall 2021

In 2019, I helped initiate and fund structural upgrades to a large gym space on campus that now includes 6 aerial dropline points ready for use with various aerial apparatuses – silks, trapeze, lyra, rope, etc. – as well as ground and other circus equipment. This Circus Lab allows UK students greater room for movement and artistic exploration. It is also the hub for interdisciplinary circus-centered research and educational projects, including the Circus Club.


Aerial silks in the Circus Lab – Spring 2022 – (yes, that’s me)

You can read a bit more about the class here and here.


(If you are interested in circus generally, check out the circus club on campus, Circus Cats – and get more info here and here).


PHI 193: Circus and Philosophy will next run Spring 2024 in the Circus Lab (Barker 104).