Philosophy of literature
"Public Theology and Religious Identity"
It is almost a commonplace to hear the statement that
throughout the world revival of religion is on the rise.
Increasingly, we see across the globe that socially and
politically conscious individuals take religion as an
important factor, if not only the deciding factor,
in determining their private and public aspirations
and expectations. Religion is not only providing the
standards and goals for what a person should pursue
personally and publicly but also, more significantly,
defining the identity of each person. In other words,
people see and identity themselves solely in terms of
the religion to which they belong. My religion, for
example, decides who I am and what I should believe in
and thereby how I should behave in private and public.
Indeed, given that a desire for a lot of people to bring
their religion to bear on affairs of society in pursuit of
an ethically upright and morally healthy social environment.
This is basically what public theology is about: to shape
and influence not only our private lives but also our
public lives on the basis of our religious identity.
However, despite the good intentions and sincere beliefs
of people advocating public theology, not only does
an ethically upright and morally healthy society appear
to be more than ever an unachievable ideal state but also
religion itself has become a source of social strife and
strain. In national and regional politics, religious
identity has led to sectarianism and exclusion of other,
including non-religious, points of view, and, on the
international scene, the world has increasingly become
a patchwork of rival religions and a platform for religious
rivalry. Paradoxically, religion as the call for compassion
and care has been turned into a harbinger of death and
destruction: lives and livelihoods are destroyed in the
name of religion. But what did go wrong? It would not be
an exaggeration to say that this is one of the most
important questions facing humanity. The key to the question
lies in our understanding of religion and, more fundamentally,
in how one acquires one's religious identity. What is it
for me, for example, to be a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu,
a Jew, a Muslim, or a Zoroastrian? The purpose of
the project is to show that religion is ultimately a
matter of choice and choices are made on the basis of
reason. But, reason is something that each of us shares
with the rest of humanity and provides the grounds for
our coexistence. Consequently, it is not surprising
that religious identity not based on reason and catering
only for our religious kith and kin becomes a recipe for
carnage and calamity.
Majid Amini is a Professor of Philosophy at Virginia State
Philosophy of Science
"Where Have All the Women Gone? Social Accounts of Science and the Need for Women Scientists"
Since the 1970's the number of women earning doctorates has
tripled, but the number of women full-time professors has
only increased 1.5 times. Women are especially underrepresented
in science and engineering. Traditional philosophical accounts of
knowledge, including scientific knowledge, pay little attention
to the identity of the knower. In these accounts it doesn't matter
who the knower is, for instance whether the knower is a man or a
woman. In this context philosophers of science tend to see the
underrepresentation of women scientists as regrettable, but as
someone else's problem; a problem best dealt with on a political
or ethical or sociological terms.
However, there is a relatively recent turn in philosophy of science
that characterizes science as a social practice. Philosophers of
science, such as Helen Longino, have argued that the objectivity
of scientific knowledge is dependent on the structure and
practices of communities of scientists. According to Longino,
objectivity requires a diverse community that fosters critical
and constructive social interactions. In this view, the
underrepresentation of women among scientists and the culture
of scientific communities becomes a problem that philosophers
of science can tackle. It is not only a problem concerning ethics,
it is also a problem concerning the production of scientific
knowledge. This social account of science has practical uses.
For this project, Fehr continues interdisciplinary research she
has conducted on actual scientific communities. This research
is designed to explore the structure of scientific communities.
This research is designed to explore the structure of scientific
communities and to test strategies that can help those communities
recruit excellent women scientists and engineers.
Carla Fehr is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ioan State University
"Confusing Goods: 'Intrinisic Value' in Contemporary Debate"
Contemporary moral debates over stem cell research, genetic engineering,
animal rights; abortion, and other controversial issues are
confusing, with different parties in the dispute seemingly
talking past one another. And, although people disagree about
the value of stems cells, the worth of various animal species,
and the moral status of human fetuses, why they disagree is
unclear. There is no single and simple explanation for the
disagreement, but one can be found in debates around the notion
of intrinsic value.
What intrinsic value means is unclear, but standard definitions
revolve around the idea that the thing in question is valued
for itself, and not for some other reason. The purpose of
this project is to examine the role of differing understandings
of intrinsic value in contemporary moral debates. It contains
two key elements: characterizing clear positions about the
intrinsic value. While the original impetus for the projects
stems from my work in applied ethics, my project here will
focus on intrinsic value itself, including questions related
to how notions of the sacred relate to intrinsic value, and
how the categories of intrinsic value, the final good, and
extrinsic value relate to one another.
Brian Huschle is Professor of Philosophy at Northland College, East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
Do you love yourself? If that question strikes you as strange or
even obnoxious, perhaps that's because you think of the very
idea of 'self-love' as narcissistic. On this view, love should
be directed at others. Focusing it on oneself is just vain and
self-absorbed. Down that route lies the absurdity of the Dutch
artist Jennifer Hoes, who married herself in a public ceremony,
telling a Haalem newspaper: 'I want to celebrate with others how
much I'm in love with myself'.
But if the question seems innocuous, perhaps that's because you
share a commonly held view: that you have to love yourself
before you can love others. Only someone sufficiently at ease
with themselves is capable of loving other people - and you
can't build a house until the foundations are in place.
You might even go so far as the contemporary philosopher
Harry Frankfurt, who claims that true self-love is 'the
deepest and most essential ... achievement of a serious and
Or perhaps you're somewhere in the middle: slightly nervous
about the connotations of a term like 'self-love' but
viewing it as a necessary evil. As Voltaire quipped,
self-love 'resembles the instrument that perpetuates
the species: it is necessary, it is clear to us,
it gives us pleasure, and it must be hidden'.
Ever since the ancient Greeks, philosophers have asked
questions about the nature of self-love. The problem
of whether we should love ourselves - and if so how -
has a particular resonance within the Christian tradition.
After all, many think of Christian love as selfless.
And yet the second love commandment in the gospels tells
us that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
So how do we love ourselves? How should we? And are these the same?
Philosophers within this tradition - including St. Augustine,
Thomas Aquinas and Søren Kierkegaard - have aimed to tease
apart good and bad, proper and improper, forms of self-love.
But this is by no means only a problem for Christians. Less
theologically minded philosophers - including Hobbes, Spinoza,
Kant, Nietzsche and Frankfurt - have wrestled with essentially
the same issue. Further, some have argued that distinguishing
such forms of self-love is also crucial for contemporary
psychotherapy, as therapists and their clients wrestle with
the need to avoid such extremes as narcissistic personality
disorder on the one hand and chronically low self-esteem on the other.
In this project, I draw upon numerous thinkers to address the
question of what true self-love really means. But I'll argue
that the work of two thinkers - Kierkegaard and the contemporary
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor - prove especially useful
in thinking through this problem. In Works of Love
Kierkegaard poses a stark and troubling challenge. He argues that
the relationships we typically treasure most - romantic love and
friendship - are, all too often, merely disguised forms self-love.
Yet I'll argue that Kierkegaard also gives us valuable resources
for answering his own challenge, by applying to the self key aspects
of the picture of love that emerges from the second part of
Works of Love
. Central to this picture are the virtues
of hope, trust and self-forgiveness. We find different yet
complementary resources in Taylor. In such books as Sources
of the Self
and A Secular Age
, Taylor develops an
account of the development of the modern self that is at once
historically and philosophy grounded. I argue that we can draw on this
account to articulate a rich and nuanced account of true self-love for
the present age. We need to take into account the fact that we
beings, whose sense of who we are is
intimately related to our purposes
in life. The way we
understand ourselves matters profoundly to us: it is crucial
that we take on projects and live by commitments that we have
made our own. And yet we are also creatures to whom dialogue
is so central that we cannot be 'selves' in isolation. We also
need, then, to consider the vital role of others and 'the good'
in the development of this self we are to love. My project aims
to show how this combined account can address the 'problem of
John Lippitt is a Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of
Religion at the University of Hertfordshire
Ethics and Continental Philosophy
Proximity and Sympathy: The Ethical Dimensions of Distance
Both "old" and "new media have made it possible for the average
American to keep in touch with events on the other side of
the world, to see images of victims of natural and human-caused
catastrophes. The question looms as to whether these mediated
experiences of the suffering of others have the same value as
a face-to-face encounter. Some argue that the profusion of
digital information actually blunts concern for others because
of the sheer volume of information that competes for our
attention. While some of the initial fervor over the internet
as a kind of "global village" has cooled, many still see this
technology as a democratizing, leveling force that makes it
possible for people to connect across their differences and
geographies. This project asks what space and time have to do
with sympathy and will ask how encounters with others can
lead to caring action in the world. The project will also ask
about other forms of remoteness: can caring about a fictional
character or a historical figure lead me to care about others
right in front of me? Does caring for a non-existent other
The philosophical resources for this project would stem from
Continental philosophy, in particular, the philosophies
of relation (Buber, Levinas, and Marcel, in particular)
and Bergson's theory of duration. These thinkers, in addition
to other resources from feminist theory, media studies, and
phenomenology, will shed light on how artifacts like photos
and text can telegraph the agency of the subject through time
and space and also reveal the contributions of previously
maligned faculties like emotions and imagination to the caring
relationship. Understanding why the response of sympathy arises
has tremendous implications for how we organize society, how
we educate children, and how we deal with social and
environmental problems. While this topic has obvious
philosophical dimensions, it also concerns everyday life and
the world in which we live. The world of the future will,
without a doubt, be interconnected, but if those connections
are to matter, the mediated presence must translate into
concerned action in the world.
David Dillard-Wright studied Religion and Russian
as an undergraduate at Emory University and received
a Master of Divinity degree in Emory's Candler School
of Theology. From there he attended Drew University,
where he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy.
David's first book, Ark of the Possible: The Animal World
in Merleau-Ponty (Lexington, 2009), explores the theme of
"interanimality" in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
David's other articles focus on aesthetic attention and
the phenomenon of sympathy. In the summer of 2008, he
completed a fellowship in residence sponsored by the Animals
and Society Institute at Michigan State University, where
he studied the worldwide trade in human organs and its
relationship to animal-based research.
David currently teaches philosophy and ethics at the
University of South Caroline, Aiken.
As Good As It Gets?
The romans depicted the goddess Fortuna (the goddess of fortune or luck)
with a cornucopia in one arm and a rudder in the other. With one hand
she might give from her plenty, and with the other she might dash a
life against the rocks. Much of human history reads as an unending
attempt to enjoy Fortuna's gifts and take control of her rudder.
Some schools of thought have held out the hope of insulating lives
against bad luck. The stoics believed that true sages could be
happy even on the rack. Others have looked at the Biblical Job
and have preached a hard lesson: With the right faith, even
horrible things might be nothing compared to the joys of the
kingdom of heaven. Secular utopians have sung the praises of a
golden age to come when swards might be beaten into ploughshares,
lions might lay with lambs, and human beings might find true
Anthony Cunningham's project departs from these sanguine views and
assumes that no life is ever safe from serious harm, the kind
that can make a mockery of the idea that life is good. In this
light what besides the things that luck might give or take do
we need for an honest chance at living well? Most of all, what
sorts of people do we need to be for a chance at a good life?
Philosophy in the 21st century often has little to say about
such questions for everyday people leading normal lives.
Sometimes the analysis are so specialized, the targets so
arcane, and the details so tedious that philosophers speak
a language that only philosophers can care about or understand.
This project harkens back to an ancient tradition with a simple
goal: to notice and appreciate meaningful things about things
that genuinely matter in a human life
Anthony Cunningham is a Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the
Philosophy Department at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN.
Specializing in ethics with a particular interest in literature,
he is the author of 'The Heart of What Matters: The Role for
Literature in Moral Philosophy', and he has published essays
in various journals, including 'American Philosophical Quarterly',
'Journal of Value Inquiry, Mind, Ethics, and Dialogue'.
He is completing a manuscript called 'Modern Honor', and
his project grows out of his desire to bring moral philosophy
out of its ivory tower and into the everyday world in some
Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Public Policy
"Philosopher as Political Interlocutor"
Gordon Marino has a long history of public commentary on the issues
of the day. In particular, he is looking at a range of contemporary
public policy issues including the cult of the expert in America,
self-deception and ethics education, the use of psychotropic drugs
in children too young to be able to discuss side effects,
and problems with Just War Theory in an era of asymmetric wars.
His project is an example of just how philosophers can be citizens
and public commentators.
Gordon Marion took his doctorate from the Committee on Social
Thought, University of Chicago. Curator of the Hong Kierkegaard
Library and Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College, Marino
is the author of 'Kierkegaard in the Present Age'
(Marquette University Press) and co-editor with Alastair Hannay
of the 'Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard'. He is the editor of
the 'Basic Writings of Existentialism; and 'Ethics: the Essential
Writings' (Modern Library/ Random House). Marino's essays have
appeared in the 'Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine', 'Slate',
'Newsweek', and many other nationally circulating publications.
In 2010, Marino will serves as 'William J. Clinton Distinguished
Lecturer' at the Bill Clinton School of Public Service and the
Clinton Library. A form boxer, Marino trains amateur boxers in
Northfield, Minnesota and covers the sweet science for the
'Wall Street Journal'.
Ethics and Philosophy of Film
"Moral Sorites in Life and Movies"
Richard Gilmore is fascinated by the sorites paradox, or the paradox
of the heap first invented by Eubuildes of Miletus in the fourth
century B.C.E. One grain of sand is not a heap. Two grains of sand
are not a heap. Three grains of sand are not a heap. It seems to be
the case that there is not condition under which the addition of
one grain of sand can convert a non-heap into a heap, yet at some
point, if grains of sand are continually added, at some point,
there will be a heap. The moral dimensions of this problem
especially struck me one morning looking at the glass in our
medicine cabinet that we fill with Q-tips. There were three
Q-tips in the glass. I knew that I should never leave the glass
completely empty, because that would force my wife to fill the glass.
But, if that is the case, then I should not leave just one Q-tip
in the glass either, since she is a moral person, and so would
still have to fill the glass when she used the last Q-tip.
But if leaving one Q-tip is morally reprehensible, then leaving
two Q-tips is also and almost equally morally reprehensible.
And yet, the whole point of the glass is so one does not have
to continually fill it every day. It suddenly struck me that
this was a sorites paradox. It further struck me that most
moral situations were. It is especially true of any situation
that involves a limited resource and multiple users. That is,
moral issues will not be immediately present but will emerge.
Furthermore, they will emerge with gradually increasing force,
so that being morally responsible will be less a matter of
choosing right over the wrong than anticipating where a
situation is heading and acting in a way that is responsible
to that trajectory.
I am very interested in making philosophy and philosophical issues
accessible and available to wide, non-professional audience.
I have worked on that project mostly through writing about
philosophy and movies. When I have taught or presented on
the topic of moral sorites, the situation is always
immediately recognized by several people in the audience
as a situation that they have found in their own lives
(who feeds the dog, replacing the toilet paper, cleaning
the house, making the bed, tec.). Mostly, they describe
these situations in terms of frustration that the other people
in their group sharing the resource are not behaving responsibly.
By clarifying the issue and the responsibilities that are
entailed, I hope I can alleviate some of the frustrations
that people experience.
Richard Gilmore is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy
Department at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN. He is the author
of 'Philosophical Health: Wittgenstein's Method in Philosophical
Investigations' (Lexington Books, 1999) and 'Doing Philosophy
at the Movies' (SUNY, 2005).
Philosophy of Culture and Sport
Exertions that Inspire: José Ortega y Gasset and the Re-Valuation of Sport.
José Ortega y was Spain's foremost 20th Century intellectual and a
philosopher for dark times. Writing in a period when Spain had
lost its way, he made it his mission to shine a beacon that
would bring lost minds to safe harbor. Bringing philosophy
to the general public by means of newspapers, magazines, and
cultural journals, Ortega presented his deeply original ideas
in a beautiful style without compromising rigor or effectiveness.
Sport was one of his most intellectually and existentially
invigorating ideas: a central, high pillar of human achievement
from which to scan the horizon for promising possibilities.
IPPL Fellows Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza brings sport to the center of
public and intellectual discourse as a privileged vehicle for
novel ideas. Often disregarded as a genuine object of study
in philosophical circles, Jesús argues that sport overflows
with stimulating ideas that can infuse a contagious zest
for life and encourage a creative ethos. To fulfill this
educational and intellectual promise, Exertions that
Inspire revalues - in Nietzsche's fertile sense - the realm
of sport in three ways. First, it presents and examines
the notion of the sportive, where we find Ortega's most
optimistic, riches ideas. For Ortega, the generous effort
of the sportsperson, literally and ironically "superfluous",
embodies and symbolizes an exertion that inspires an enthusiasm
for life that can spill into creative artistic, scientific and
literary enterprises. Second, it capitalizes on the direct and
potentially galvanizing connection sport has with the common
citizen, and its suitability as a vehicle to overcome social,
professional, and national barriers. And third, it explores
the underlying conceptual, formal, and historical structures
that sport shares with art, science and philosophy in order
to advance out thinking on values, character, excellence, and
the good life. When coupled with diligent refection, we are
sure to enjoy philosophical fireworks
Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza hails originally from Pamplona, Spain
(renowned for the annual running of the bulls, something he used
to do when the legs were faster and nowadays engages just academically).
He is an Allen and Pat Kelley Scholar and an Assistant Professor
of Philosophy at Linfield, Oregon. He has previously taught at
the University of New Mexico - Los Alamos, and Truman State
University, Missouri. His main specialties are the philosophy
of sport, aesthetics, and metaphysics. However, his teaching
and research interests are wide ranging, and include philosophy
of literature, Asian philosophy, and contemporary philosophical
trends among others. He has taught courses designed to make
philosophy more approachable to a wider public, such as the
Philosophy of Humor or Philosophy and 'Lord of the Rings'.
Published in academic journals, such as 'Sports, Ethics,
and Philosophy', he derives great satisfaction when his work
is addressed to a general readership. In this regard, he has
co-edited a book on cycling and philosophy for Wiley & Blackwell's
'Philosophy for Everyone' series, and has chapters forthcoming in
books on the Olympics, hunting, and soccer. He contributes to a
blog on the philosophy of sport to expose this discipline to a
wider non-academic public.
2009 Regional Fellow
Insider/Outside: The quest for authenticity
in and around North Dakota
Our society, perhaps all of humanity, is described in
terms of kinship and groups. But inquiry - the search
for knowledge and for the answers to our deepest questions -
is supposed to be universal. That at least was the
Enlightenment's conviction. The cultural studies movement
and post-colonial discourse have challenged the assumption
that there are universal questions or that one culture
can fairly investigate another.
As the 21st century begins, how do we negotiate this
tension between our desire to examine the world as if
virtually everything were fair game and our increasing
sensitivity to questions of appropriation and representation?
Clay Jenkinson's current project faces the question head on.
He is currently beginning to write a novel about an improbable
friendship between a Native American girl and a white boy on
a reservation border town, in the hopes of examining the flash
points between the two cultures of North Dakota, cultures that
frequently collide but seldom communicate in any mutually
respectful way. But Clay Jenksinson is a self-described
Anglo-German left-brained scholar. Does he have a right
to intrude upon North Dakota's Native American world,
even as a respectful quest, and what credibility could
he possibly bring to a world he reads about and observes,
but in no significant way "lives?"
At the same time, as a regular newspaper columnist, he offers
suggestions and observations about North Dakota and
its future. Yet while he was born and raised in the state,
he spent a large portion of his life outside of it.
Has he lost the authority to Dakotan? Is he still a
Dakotan? Do you have to be a North Dakotan to observe
the habits of the heart of the North Dakota community?
How long can you be gone without losing your citizenship?
And how long do you have to be back before you have regained
it, if ever?
In his work with the Institute, Clay will examine these
fundamental questions and others. What makes an outsider?
Does true criticism require insider status? What are the
consequences of temporary separation from the group in terms
of identity and trust? In essence, his research will examine
the question of authenticity and what it means to North Dakota
and the peoples who reside in it. Do we want our young people
to leave and come back or do we not let them leave at all?
If they come back bearing new perspectives and ways of seeing
North Dakota, shall we embrace them our shun them? What are
the nature and limits of cross-cultural communication
between those who live here, even those who live next
door to each other? His fellowship is timely and important,
locally-based out with universal importance.
Clay's personal mission is "to help start the conversation
we need to have about our identity, our values, our past,
our future, continuity and change, heritage and opportunity,
land and people, community and history, landscape and
resources, North Dakota as unique place and North Dakota
as a typical place North Dakota as a platform or North
Dakota as place." He is well aware that, like all
invitations to conversation, this one may be declined.
Clay Jenkinson is most famous for portraying Thomas
Jefferson in the long-running and always inspiring
public radio show The Thomas Jefferson Hour, and
one of the most sought-after Humanities scholars
in the United States.
A cultural commentator who has devoted most of his
professional career to public humanities programs,
Clay Jenkinson has been honored by two presidents
for his work. On November 6, 1989, he received
from President George Bush one of the first five
Charles Frankel Prizes, the National Endowment
for the Humanities' highest award (now called the
National Humanities Medal), at the nomination of
the NEH Chair, Lynne Cheney. On April 11, 1994,
he was the first public humanities scholar to
present a program at a White House-sponsored
event, when he presented Thomas Jefferson
for a gathering hosted by President and Mrs.
Clinton. When award-winning humanities documentary
producer Ken Burns turned his attention to Thomas
Jefferson, he asked Clay Jenkinson to be the major
humanities commentator. Since his first work with the
North Dakota Humanities Council in the late 1970s,
including a pioneering first-person interpretation
of Meriwether Lewis, Clay Jenkinson has made thousands
of presentations throughout the United States and
its territories, including Guam and the Northern Marianas.
2009 Visiting Fellow
Social and political philosophy
Competition and the Social Ideal
Competition is not the whole of life: humans are, at least to
some extent, collaborative, sympathetic, and benevolent.
But a full understanding of the human condition could not
fail to assign an essential place to its importance.
For many, the experience of competition is an intrinsic value;
it plays an indispensable role in the good life.
Those who seek out athletic competition, either as
spectators or as participants, would seem to accept
this view (ignoring, for the moment, those who distort
this enterprise by reducing it to an instrumental
financial interest). While athletics is something
of a "pure" instance, it may be regarded as an end-in-itself,
defined largely by its own rules, there are other varieties of
competition that increasingly regulate our social life.
For example, contemporary legal systems use adversarial
confrontations to maximize justice; market capitalism
includes as a defining characteristic the competitive
struggles of self-seeking agents; democratic politics
makes the ability to persuade or "win over" the majority
the sine qua non condition of success, even if persuasive
opinion is not "best" or "true" according to other
criteria. In short, ours is a competitive world, and
it is becoming more and more competitive.
In his work with the institute, Paul Gaffney will examine
these developments. He believes that, in their rightful
place, competitive systems are not only best at achieving
certain outcomes, they are also themselves instantiations
of certain ideals such as respect, fairness, and human dignity.
Paul Gaffney is Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy
Department at St. John's University, NY, and Adjunct Professor
of Business Administration at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.
In 1997 he was named St. John's College of Liberal Arts
Professor of the Year by Student Government. He has
published many articles and reviews on topics such
as Ethics, Law, Education, and Sport. A former
college basketball player at Niagara University,
he is currently working on a book entitled The
Competition Ideal: The structure and meaning of
Ethics and Philosophy of Social Science
What is Happiness? Can the Perspectives of
Philosophy and the Social Sciences Work Together?
The ancient Greek philosophers regarded happiness as one
of the most important topics for philosophy, part of
the more general question of "What is the best life?"
or "How should we live?" The 19th century utilitarians
also regarded happiness as an important concern of
philosophy but that of it in a narrower way.
Many of thought you could measure it and use
calculations to determine which actions were right to do.
Not surprisingly, early economists went wild with this
idea and developed various suggestions as to how to use
such measurement; they developed an understanding of
the welfare of individuals and groups in terms of
preferences and satisfaction. Some even argued that
income itself was a rough indication of how happy people were.
When Mark Chekola wrote his PhD dissertation,
"The Concept of Happiness", in the 1970's,
it was regarded as an unusual topic for philosophy,
yet it proved influential for social scientists in
the 1980's, particularly psychologists and sociologist
who began their own empirical studies of the subject.
Social Scientists were attracted to the quantitative
approach to happiness because it supplied "data;"
it appeared scientific happiness is back on the table
and philosophers have renewed interest. The question
before Chekola is how to reconcile two approaches.
Is the social scientific mathematical approach
inconsistent with the classical Greek philosophy
of happiness? The first approach is "subjective",
but the other might be more "objective." Where does
philosophy go from here?
With this and other questions in mind, Chekola has sought more
cooperation between philosophy and the social sciences on the
topic of happiness. In particular, he serves on a research
team at the World Database of Happiness, located at Erasmus
University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He has visited there
for a month each fall for the past five years improving the
philosophy bibliography in the Database. (much of the database
is available on the web
He seeks a way of joining the strengths of philosophy - its
conceptual clarity and focus on good argument - with the
social sciences and their emphasis on empirical data.
He concepts but that philosophers could gain insight from
empirical data. Can a collaboration be forged so that
philosophers and social scientists might work together
on their studies of happiness, rather than separately or
just side by side? Chekola hopes to find out.
Dr. Mark Chekola first came to this region to attend college
at Concordia College in Moorhead. When he graduated in
1967, leaving for the University of Michigan for graduate
study, he swore he would never live through another
upper Midwest winter, yet he returned to teach at Minnesota
State University Moorhead and has lived there ever since.
He is now a professor Emeritus at MSUM.
While at MSUM he taught (among other courses) Classical Greek
Philosophy, a particular love of his, medical ethics, and
some seminars on happiness and well-being. His published
articles have been in the areas of happiness studies and
Some of his community and professional service has been in the area
of Gay, Lesbian, Biseuxual and Transgender issues.
He served as chair of an early gay/lesbian group in the
Fargo-Moorhead area in the early 1980's. In the 1990s,
he served on the governor's Task Force on Lesbian and
Gay Minnesotans. In the American Theosophical Association
he served on the Committee on the Status on Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender Persons in the Profession, and
the Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession.
He has also been concerned about the over-professionalization
that has been occurring in Academia and the and the tendency
of philosophers at universities to write for the Philosophical
Association he is currently chairing the Diversity Essays
Project, a project to encourage the writing of essays on
diversity issues suitable for use in undergraduate teaching
and the general public. He is the founder of the Fargo -
Moorhead chapter of "Philosophy for All", a monthly philosophy
discussion group that has been meeting regularly since 2004.
Phiolosphy of literature
Literature, the Author, and the Digital Age
What is the relationship between an author and a text, especially
given the new and changeable nature of words in the digital
age? Are web pages or blogs substantively different than
e-novels or digital reproductions of classic works?
These are all variations of classic questions in the
philosophy of literature. Two millennia ago, Plato
cautioned against writing because words, once permanent,
have a life of their own. Their meanings, he argued, are
no longer bound to what the author intended.
In the nineteen sixties, "the author" was symbolically
killed off by Roland Barthes in his book "La Mort de l'Auteur"
(1968). Today, many in academe
regard the idea of an
author as a relic even though one can see, touch, and hear
the creator of any written work.
Crystal Alberts struggles with these problems while focusing
specifically on digital media - the written word in cyberspace,
as well as film, television, and recordings of lectures,
each of which is also now regarded as a "text." Has the
concept of an "author" changed since Plato and Barthes?
Has the very meaning of literature become something
essentially different than, say, when Charles Dickens
or Shakespeare wrote? Now that anyone can publish online,
what does it mean to be an Author? What is Electronic
Literature? How is it different from a book? And,
perhaps more importantly, what, if anything, distinguishes
electronic literature from the billions of web pages in existence.
Dr. Crystal Alberts completed a bachelor of arts
in English and Religion at Mount Holyoke College
and holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature
from Washington University in St. Louis. She specializes
in post-1945 American literature and culture, particularly
on the roles of the archive and author in contemporary writing.
She currently teaches in the areas of film, digital humanities,
and emerging media. Dr. Alberts is the co-editor of a
forthcoming volume entitled Novel in Tradition: Essays
on William Gaddis. She also has articles in The Missouri
Review, as well as Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the
World System edited by Joseph Tabbi and Rone Shaers.
She serves as the technical editor for the NEH-funded
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Project and is a research
associate for the Electronic Literature Organization.