During a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has limited our ability to connect with colleagues and fellow classmates in person the PHIL speakers committee has organized a bi-monthly department colloquium. Every other Friday from 2-3 we will meet on Zoom to learn about and discuss a faculty member's or grad student's recently finished projects or works in progress. In addition, once a semester we will be hosting a lecture and conversation with an invited scholar from outside the department.
Our hope is that this colloquium might provide an opportunity to get valuable feedback on work at a time when many of us have lost the opportunity to do this through various canceled or postponed conferences, provide virtual space to connect when we are all so physically disparate, be inspired by, and support the work of department grad students, faculty, and invited speakers.
Dr. Samantha Langsdale
Good, Bad and Technology: Analyzing the Philosophical Problems of Marvel Comics' Ironheart
Taking to Twitter to discuss her work on the Marvel comic Ironheart, writer Eve Ewing teased that she had snuck her "ongoing rants about the banality of evil" into the book. And indeed, Ironheart #1-12 by Ewing, Vecchio, Libranda, and Milla, features RiRi Williams' struggle to understand whether her ambition, intelligence, past trauma, and paternal heritage predispose her to evil. Through her collaborations with friends like Nadia Van Dyne as The Wasp, RiRi learns the Arendtian lesson that any unthinking person has the capacity for evil--it is not one's "nature" that causes evil, but one's choices. And while this philosophical problem is compelling, particularly as part of the superhero genre wherein categories of good and bad are frequently muddied, this paper argues that equally pressing philosophical problems are posed by the creation and use of technology throughout the book. While RiRi herself seems relatively unbothered by the implications of advanced technology, several supporting characters throughout the twelve issues voice concerns about, for example, surveillance and lack of privacy. Further, we are shown how RiRi's engineering ambitions are both hindered (by academic bureaucracy at MIT) and buoyed (she sells a patent for tracking technology) by capitalism. Thus, by putting Ironheart into conversation with the works of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault, this paper will analyze the ways Eve Ewing explores the moral ambiguity of technology alongside RiRi's own development as a hero committed to doing good. This paper also examines the role of physical violence within the comic in order to ask whether and how it might be considered an example of what Martha McCaughey called "physical feminism," or, if the use of violence by an otherwise feminist character constitutes further (futile) attempts to "dismantle the master's house with the master's tools" (Lorde). Ultimately, while RiRi learns that there is nothing inevitable about being good or evil, her creation and use of advanced technology contributes to a certain level of moral ambiguity throughout the book.
Jeff Gessas- Settler Colonialism and Environmental Philosophy
Johnathan Flowers: "Mono no Aware an Aesthetics of Experience: Gender, Nature, and Culture".
Dr. Flowers is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Worcester State University. His research focuses on the affective ground of experience and embodiment through American Pragmatism, Phenomenology and East-Asian Philosophy. He also focuses on Pragmatist and cross-cultural approaches to machine intelligence, consciousness, and science and technology studies broadly.
David Kaplan: "Hunger Hermeneutics"
Terra Rowe: "Alternative energies: Gender, Religion and the Displacement Paradox"
Why is it that the more we know about the anthropogenic causes of climate change the more fossil fuels we burn? Several theories suggest answers, but don't address the distinctiveness of US hyper-energy consumption. Schwerin Rowe will here propose a unique approach to this conundrum and to the study of energy cultures, employing affect theory as a way of analyzing how gender and religious beliefs and values have and continue to infuse distinctively US American energy dreams and desires. In the end, unless we critically address these aims and values, any new "alternative energy" will, as history has shown, merely result in energy additions.
Adam Briggle "Aldo Leopold was Wrong"
Get your rotten tomatoes ready! We will dive into ecomodernism and its vision of a Good Anthropocene, which has nothing to do with re-thinking our axioms, slowing down, and getting smaller. Quite the opposite: double down on technoscience to speed up and scale up. What Leopold saw as the root of the problem is actually our salvation: we need to outgrow the land.
3/12/21 Benn Johnson "Rhizomes and Revolutions" Given intersecting systems of domination and exploitation discussed by ecofeminists and intersectional feminists, as well as performative theories of agency as proposed by Judith Butler and Karen Barad, what does it mean to do liberatory praxis?
3/26/21 Terence Keel "Christianity, Race, and the Haunting of Biomedical Science"
Bio: Terence Keel is an associate professor with a split appointment in the Department of African American Studies, and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. He is a critical race theorist, historian of science, and scholar of religion who has written widely about American biomedical science, religion, law, and modern thought. His first book, Divine Variations (Stanford University Press, January 2018) explained how Christian thought made possible the development of the race concept in Euro-American science while also shaping the moral and epistemic commitments embedded in the study of human biology. Keel is an affiliate of the newly formed Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He is also a senior advisor to the Goldin Institute, a Chicago based non-profit organization that advocates globally for grassroots leadership, conflict resolution, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.
4/09/21 Keith Maggie Brown "Queer Dé, Weird Daò: Playfulness with the Laozi." Some queer theory on the art of failure in the Laozi, or Daò Dé Jing, with a nod to Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars too!
4/23/21 Kevin Siefert