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 cancelled 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: TBA
Adam Briggle: The Ecomodernist Challenge to Environmental Philosophy