I usually categorize the books I read into “for work” books and “for fun” books. That isn’t because the books I read for work are never fun (they often are), but because I generally read at a different pace and with a different set of purposes, depending on which kind of book I have before me. It is a rare book that I would say that I read simultaneously for work and for fun, but I recently read one that did a lovely job straddling that line for me. It was Shannon Dea’s Beyond the Binary: Thinking about Sex and Gender, and I strongly recommend it.
While most of the time that I spend thinking about sex, gender, and sexuality, I’m primarily concerned with ethical and political questions, Dea’s book brought to light a range of metaphysical issues relating to sex, gender, and sexuality in a way that unquestionably deepened my understanding, but would definitely be accessible to more novice readers as well. It is a real gem of a book – a great example of integrating empirical research, narratives, and philosophical argumentation to show that concepts relating to sex, gender, and sexuality aren’t nearly so simple as many people would like us to believe.
As part of the annual conference of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions in Athens last June, I gave a presentation that became a paper called “Can Emotions Have Abstract Objects? The Example of Awe.”
Now that paper has been published in the journal Philosophia, and is available for free to anyone via the link above (which takes you to a full text, read-only version). I welcome any questions or comments you may have about it!
I became a fan of Grey’s Anatomy when I spent six weeks in Argentina – reruns were on television just about every moment of every day, so whenever I got lonely, or missed Seattle, or wanted to hear some English, it was there for me. Since then, I’ve often imagined a show that, instead of following medical students through surgical internships and residencies and beyond, would follow graduate students getting their PhDs in the humanities. If you’ve been through it, you know that there is a lot of dramatic potential there (and if any tv execs are out there and want to hear a more detailed pitch – I’m ready)! Plus, who doesn’t enjoy seeing lives like their own represented in mass media, so long as it isn’t as the butt of a joke or a mere token or an offensively simplified caricature or something?
Well, part of my wish has been fulfilled. This fall, NBC is airing a new show called The Good Place; the title refers to a place kind of like heaven, which is where it takes place, and one of the main characters (Chidi) is a moral philosopher! I never thought I would see a major network television show where a character holds up a copy of Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other and starts giving a brief introduction to contractualism, or where the lead character reads some Kant and Aristotle and starts using what she’s learned in her life outside the classroom!
Is it a perfect portrayal of the life of an ethicist? Of course not – it does play up certain stereotypes (though it violates others), and we could easily get nit-picky about the content of Chidi’s lectures if we wanted to (it isn’t like there is no critical thinking to be done about any given product of mass media). Nevertheless, for now, I’m pretty stoked about the fact that lots of different people might be getting their first exposure to the possibility of real people earning a living by thinking about morality, and the idea that maybe we do make valuable contributions to society sometimes.
When it rains, it pours! This week I actually had two book reviews published – what a weird coincidence. The second was a review of Love and Its Objects: What Can We Care For?, a collection edited by Christian Maurer, Tony Milligan, & Kamila Pacovská. I was invited to write the review for the Hypatia special issue, “Feminist Love Studies in the 21st Century,” which was guest edited by Dr. Margaret Toye and Dr. Ann Ferguson. My book review is available for free here (as are 11 others to go with the special issue). The full special issue on love is not available yet, but that is something to look forward to.
In fact, in case you didn’t know, all new Hypatia book reviews are available for free, regardless of whether you have a subscription, by visiting Hypatia Reviews Online. I worked hard on the creation of this new website back when I was the editorial assistant for the journal, and it is great to see the archive really filling up with reviews of new feminist scholarship! Even better, the new editorial team is creating podcasts of the reviews, if listening is more your style!
Just about one year ago, I started reading Adrienne Martin’s book, How We Hope: A Moral Psychology, which I had been asked to review for the journal Mind. I really enjoyed reading it, especially Martin’s dualist theory of motivation, and the book review was a good project to work on during my stay in Seattle that summer. Over these last months, I had nearly forgotten about my book review, but then I got an email this week saying that it is now available via advance access. You can read the full text here, or a pdf here. You don’t have to be a Mind subscriber to access the review for free via these links (thank you, Mind)!
Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a paper at the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions (EPSSE) in Athens, Greece. I have to say that it was a wonderful experience!
I also presented at the group’s inaugural conference in Lisbon in 2014, and both times, it was the kind of conference I really look forward to: the attendees included people from all sorts of different places who were friendly and supportive while still giving interesting and challenging feedback, which was informed by a wide range of different philosophical methods and areas of expertise. I highly recommend EPSSE to anyone who has a philosophical interest in the emotions!
I would like to mention just a handful of my favorite talks from the conference, which include “Admiration and Moral Responsibility,” by Alfred Archer, “Affective Consciousness and Moral Responsibility,” by Alex Madva, “The Break-Up Check: Testing Theories of Romantic Love in Relationship Terminations,” by Pila Lopez-Cantero, “Moral Regret and the Psychological Constitution of the Kantian Agent,” by Katherine Giambastiani, “Emergent Emotion,” by Elaine O’Connell, and “Scaffolded Affectivity,” by Achim Stephan and Sven Walter. Now if only my paper would revise itself in light of everything I learned …
I want to express my appreciation to the organizers of NUSTEP for inviting me to serve as commentator at this year’s conference; I had a really good time. The highlight for me was Nomy Arpaly’s talk about “good old-fashioned benevolence,” which was an excellent model of how to make precise and rigorous argument using well-crafted examples but without using any jargon, while expressing a great sense of humor, all at the same time!
Of course, some nice walks along Lake Michigan and good local food were also very welcome. Regarding food in Evanston, Found Kitchen deserves a special mention – the many dishes I tried were all delicious, the space had a great atmosphere, and the people involved enact a worthy social mission of hiring and training people coming out of homelessness.
I’m grateful to share the good news that I have received a New Faculty Start Up Grant from the ASPiRE Program at Ball State University. Specifically, this $3,000 grant will enable me to travel to a couple of additional conferences in the coming year and buy some books to help me advance my research on collective moral responsibility.
The experience of writing my grant proposal was really valuable, in that it helped me reflect on my current research and do some long-term planning. Even more importantly, the success of the proposal means I’ll get additional institutional support as I move forward with my work. So thank you very much, Sponsored Projects Administration and ASPiRE Program, for helping me prepare my grant and for accepting my proposal!
At the end of this month, I will be presenting and seeing new research at the Hypatia conference at Villanova University in Philadelphia. If you look at the website for the conference, “Exploring Collaborative Contestations and Diversifying Philosophy,” you’ll see that there is a lot to look forward to! In the meantime, I’ll be working hard on my paper (about the concept of a daughter).
Tomorrow I’m going to be sharing some of my work at WOGAP, the workshop on gender and philosophy that is hosted at MIT. The topic of my paper, moral responsibility and its relation to one’s conceptual repertoire, is one that I have found very interesting and challenging over the past year and change, so I’m eagerly looking forward to the discussion.
I am also grateful for the opportunity to share my work with folks whose company and insights I have so enjoyed during all the other WOGAP sessions I’ve attended these past two years, and for the chance to thank them for the good times in person before I move away this summer.