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Teaching Transnational Feminist Philosophy in a Feminist Philosophy course

My colleague at Denison University, Barbara Fultner, and I received a Themed Course grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association to incorporate transnational feminist perspectives into our feminist philosophy courses. We are teaching shared texts for a little more than half of the syllabus. Our students will meet by video conference three times over the course of the semester and then meet for a workshop at Denison at the end.

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Hadestown on Broadway

I love Anaïs Mitchell’s album “Hadestown,” (2010) which I blogged about in 2015. I was thrilled to learn that the album, which was composed as a folk opera, had been turned into a Broadway show now running at the Walter Kerr theater. For my birthday in the spring, Jeff proposed that we go. We saw it on Wednesday. It’s good. It’s about art broadly construed and politics and what art should do and how art fails politics and what to do with the failure. It’s a show about Eurydice and Orpheus. It’s a show about right now. The end of the show found me with tears streaming down my face. So I think it did its job.

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Jo Walton’s The Just City

In some ways Walton really captures the sense in which the point of philosophy is to engage in a life of questioning and examining and dialectically following the conversation where it leads. There are insights into Plato and into philosophy to be found here. It isn't a substitute for reading Plato's Republic, but perhaps the novel--like good public philosophy--could be an on-ramp.

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Trust Exercise: A Review

I’m curious about the current run on novels of teenage coming-of-age and how these novels aim to capture this contemporary #metoo moment. Anna Burns’ The Milkman captures the peculiar attentiveness of a late adolescent to the impasses of her daily life in a world that seems bent of gaslighting young women. In Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng has a young teenage girl narrate a family drama that captures the xenophobic class tensions of contemporary American life. In Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney dives into the details of friendship between women in their twenties trying to be friends and lovers before they really understand what motivates them (I guess reviewers thought this was a book about adultery — that seemed incidental to me). Asymmetry is a writerly coming of age story of a woman having a fling with a much older and more established writer. These are four of the last six novels I’ve read. Each of these stories is narrated by young girls and women early in their lives. The other two, Salvage the Bones — one girl’s account of the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina — and Euphoria – based on the life of Margaret Mead – are also novels narrated by girls or women about the central experiences that bring them into themselves.

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What I Learned from Taking 30 Days Off from Drinking

Yesterday was the last of 30 days of me being alcohol free. I haven’t had a drink yet today, but I’m no longer holding myself to not drinking. I decided to take a break from drinking because I realized that my “I smoke when I drink” line had ceased to mean that I don’t smoke that often and had started to mean I drink a lot to accompany the cigarettes I want. It had become hard for me to have a drink without a cigarette. So really, I took the month off to stop smoking. I was surprised by what I learned.

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Milkman, by Anna Burns

I finished 2018 Man Booker Prize winner Milkman by Anna Burns and I have three thoughts.

It is the listiest novel I’ve ever read. The lists become expected and rhythmical. I bet there are more “alsos” in this book than any other recent novel.

Also, no one living has a name in this book, which I understand to be about the ways we are roles and relationships in our lives, often misnamed or underconsidered ones. The title character is not even a milkman, so there is another character named “Real Milkman.” I found it striking that in a book of characters named by the roles, the title character is not. In fact, the role becomes more of a nickname for him in a way that the narrator disallows for everyone else. Somebody McSomebody might be the closest someone else comes to having a name that is more of a nickname. And really, that was my favorite way of naming someone that seemed to perfectly capture their role and yet also to be about making the name a placeholder. At first, it wasn’t clear whether this referred to a specific person or just to any old somebody who did a thing that any old somebody would do. But later it becomes clear that this person is a particular person to whom particular actions are ascribed. And it also seems notable that this person is one of the most personally aggressive and violent to the narrator.

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Ruled or Represented?

It’s Election Day in the United States. It’s a national civics lesson in which we celebrate democracy and the role of the people in governing themselves. In the United States, this civics lesson describes our form of government as a representative democracy. People vote for representatives. The person who gets the majority wins and is supposed to represent the interests of the voters. This is the form in which Americans “share in the rule,” the phrase Aristotle uses to describe what citizens do in political life to distinguish political life form master rule where the ruled do not participate in the rule but are entirely subject to rule. Both the sharing in the rule and the ruling for the sake of the ruled are markers, Aristotle tells us, of political rule in contrast to master rule. 

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Teaching Aristotle’s Metaphysics as a Five-Act Shakespearian Play

Ryan Johnson contacted me after my posts (here and here) on teaching Aristotle through active teaching exercises to tell me about his own active Aristotle classroom. I think you will share my enthusiasm for his creative approach. This is his account of how he teaches Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

For me, metaphysics is a practice. While theoretical, it is still something you do. If a qualifier is helpful, let’s call it lived metaphysics. I learned this from reading ancient metaphysics, especially Aristotle’s τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά. This sense of metaphysics as a lived practice inspired how I teach Elon  University’s Ancient Philosophy class. The constant theme of our class is: metaphysics is not a rarified, merely theoretical discipline, but is an activity, a practice. Metaphysics is something you really do. The question was how to turn this into a class.

Here are the four main ways I teacher ancient metaphysics as a practice. First, I turned Aristotle’s Metaphysics into a five-act Shakespeare-inspired play and used that to structure the course. Second, I turned Act I, which focuses on the moments in pre-Socratic philosophy that Aristotle discusses in Book I, into a series of experiential learning exercises. I developed these with the always creative and inspiring Rob Leib of Florida Atlantic University. Third, the students’ semester-long writing assignment was to write their own metaphysical treatises, as well as critique each other’s treatises and then re-write their own in response to their peers’ critiques. Fourth, students performed what I call metaphysical ekphrases. Read more

Comments for SPEP Panel on Online Harassment

These are the remarks I’ll be given at the SPEP Advocacy Committee’s panel on Online Harassment at the SPEP Meeting at Penn State on October 19, 2018.

I was asked to speak on this panel in light of my experience as a series editor at the APA blog. I edit the Women in Philosophy series on the blog. As a series editor and as someone who has been a woman in philosophy on the internet for many years, I’ve spent some time thinking about comment moderation, diverse and inclusive posting, and dealing with trolls. For the record, the views I am sharing here are my own and not mine in any official capacity as part of the APA.

The first point I want to make is that I think blogs meant to serve a community require the same careful and nuanced thinking about what parameters and practices foster inclusive community as the scholarship that philosophers engage in about community requires. I’ve been thinking deeply about inclusive community for almost two decades. I have two points of departure. From Aristotle, I think we learn that community following a certain notion of nature has to remain concerned with what its purpose is and whether it is achieving its end in order to actually achieve it. This purpose is evidenced by who it includes. Aristotle counsels communities to be more just and more stable by being more inclusive. Who a community includes tells you what goals the community pursues and what it thinks is just. Who posts on a blog, whose other posts are linked to, who posts regularly in comment sections, these things tell you what goals the community pursues and what it thinks is just. Read more

Report on the GLCA Ancient Philosophy Research and Teaching Collaborative Initiative

Crossposted from the Great Lakes College Association Center for Teaching and Learning blog.

The GLCA Ancient Philosophy Research and Teaching Collaborative Initiative began in 2014 when several of us in the GLCA who work in ancient philosophy began a series of conversations about how we might take advantage of the resources we share across the consortium for teaching and writing in ancient philosophy. In particular, we thought that ancient philosophy was a good site from which to think about pedagogy since these ancient thinkers were interested in questions of what it means to learn and to teach. These thinkers take seriously the problem that the person who does not know tends to be unaware of what she does not know, so the learning process becomes a paradox: how does a person enter a learning process if she does not realize that she needs to learn? Realizing one needs to learn at some level involves already knowing that which one needs to learn because to recognize this point suggests you know the knowledge you lack is missing. How can you identify it as missing if you do not know it? If you know that you miss it and therefore in some sense know it, then you don’t need to learn it because you know it. Some in-between space is required which allows the movement from not knowing to recognizing ignorance and fostering a desire to know.

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