Brian Kim ’21: Summer Research on the Rationality of Anger

Philosophy major Brian Kim ’21 embarked on a research project this summer, supervised by Professor Sara Protasi, to explore the rationality of anger. (For more information on Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, look here!) Here is Brian’s own description of the project:

My summer research project is focused on answering what seems like a relatively unassuming question: Is anger irrational? Separate from acting angry, or demonstrating one’s anger, the question is asking whether or not having anger is irrational. This isn’t a relatively new question to answer, rather it’s one that continues to escape consensus. When expanding out to literature on anger, I found a disparity in terms of a consistent definition on anger. Then, when looking to differences in the philosophical and empirical work, an even bigger problem arose: what is an emotion? A lack of consensus not only within disciplines, but between them on what emotions are adds another layer of depth. So in order to ask my primary question of “is anger irrational”, I had to answer “what is an emotion” and “what is anger” in that order to have a consistent answer.

To build my model of emotions, I use Heidegger’s Being and Time and his literature on moods as foundation. I chose Heidegger specifically because his work priorities an experiential viewpoint, something that is lacking in much of the literature. Empirical literature reveals anger and emotions to be understood by its physiological effects, in a sense by its outcomes. Philosophical works captured the opposite end of the spectrum, and instead craft anger through cognitive interpretation. While neither field ignores what it does not primarily focuses on, it’s often the case that certain elements of emotions are prioritized within disciplines. The experiential view that Heidegger offers a way to talk about emotions in terms of phenomena rather than physiological or cognitive responses. I do this by constructing further from his work on moods. It’s rather surprising, but very little is said about emotions in Being and Time. Heidegger elaborates extensively on moods and their relation to Being, but does not go further in separating out moods from emotions. My model is, in a sense, a possible interpretation of what an emotion is under a Heideggerian framework. This is, of course, just the outlines of a sketch, but even the scaffolding of my model revealed our emotions simultaneously in a new light and yet also in a familiar and intuitive way.

This project was deeply inspired by Professor Sara Protasi’s Philosophy of Emotions course that I took in Spring of 2020. I found, in doing research for the class, a niche of literature surrounding emotions, cognition, and continental philosophers ranging from Husserl to Sartre. I found myself particularly fascinated by this area and developed and grew that ideas I had about them into the research paper I completed this summer. While I found myself constantly revising and updating my theory, it was a really enlightening experience to struggle with such a broad and messy topic.

Studying emotions during quarantine was both an intensely positive and revealing experience, but also a particularly difficult and, often, frustrating one. I am incredibly thankful for the guidance and direction from Professor Protasi for not only for being my academic advisor for the project, but also for supporting me during the application process. I’m excited to see how my idea on the issue will grow as I continue to reflect as a learner.

You can hear more about Brian’s research, as well as other summer research by students in the philosophy department’s orbit, at Summer Quest: A Celebration of Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Work, on September 10, 2020 from 4-6pm PDT!

Brian Kim ’21

James Conley ’20: Summer Research on Kierkegaard’s Early Works

James Conley, a ’20 Philosophy major, embarked on his summer research project last summer to explore Søren Kierkegaard’s works in depth. (For more information on Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, look here!)  Here, he provides details on his project and his experiences working on it:

My summer research project focused on Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s early aesthetic works. Kierkegaard published two of his most enduring books, Either/Or and Fear and Trembling, in 1843, at the onset of his career. The content of these books is not traditional systematic or analytic philosophy, but rather pseudonymous accounts of life, love, value, and experience, akin to literary fiction, from three primary pseudonymous characters invented by Kierkegaard. The three pseudonymous characters embody three conflicting existential perspectives or modes of living that Kierkegaard wanted to highlight and set against each other dialectically in the mind of his reader. His intention was to develop the subjectivity and self-understanding of the reader in an indirect and inward way, something not possible in an analytic, critical philosophical project. These existential perspectives are the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious, represented in Either/Or: Volume I, Either/Or: Volume II, and Fear and Trembling respectively.

In order to understand Kierkegaard’s existential dialectic, my research narrowed in on one central theme salient in each of the three accounts. This theme is love. My research culminated in a paper detailing the philosophy of love of each of the three pseudonyms and juxtaposing them in order to gain insight into Kierkegaard’s project. The aesthetic philosophy of love, embodied and valued by the first pseudonym in Either/Or Volume I, is akin to a refined hedonism. Love, for the aesthete, is only valuable and existentially effective in its romantic form and as long as it provides pleasure or distraction. The ethical philosophy of love embodied and valued by the second pseudonym in Either/Or Volume II, values social conventions and institutions, such as marriage, presupposing a roughly Hegelian belief that commitment to and identification with the universal conception of ethics is fundamentally important and the highest mode of living. The religious philosophy of love, discussed by the third pseudonym in Fear and Trembling, values a subjective and fully faithful relationship with God and a subsequent experience of earthly love and desire founded in faith.

My interest in Kierkegaard was sparked initially by my time spent studying abroad in Copenhagen in the fall of 2018. Copenhagen is the city where Kierkegaard lived most of his life. He often wrote poetically about his surroundings and used the city as an illustrative device for his philosophy. My immersion in the city left a deep and insightful impact on my philosophical growth and understanding of one of the most important philosophers of the 19th century. Thank you, Copenhagen.

I was aided in my project by the University of Puget Sound philosophy department. Specifically, Sara Protasi, my academic adviser who helped me apply for the research grant, and William Beardsley, my research adviser, who spent many hours with me discussing and helping me to understand Kierkegaard and helping write my research paper.

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Great Lakes Philosophy Conference — Ethics in Action

Sienna Heights University is calling on students with a passion for ethics in the world today! The Great Lakes Philosophy Conference will be held in Adrian, Michigan on April 3rd through April 5th, 2020.

To be considered in joining this conference, students are asked to write papers related to the theme of “Ethics in Action.” Possible paper topics include trends in ethics, interpersonal ethics, social ethics, ethics within and across disciplines and specialties, the intersection of ethics and politics, applied and professional ethics, metaethics, and ethical theory, but alternative prompts are welcome as well. The official submission requirement page is here.

A special stream will be featured for presentations relating to the topic of “The Crisis of American Democracy.” The goal for these presentations will be to compile them into a publication as conference proceedings.

All undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to submit a paper. Final papers should be appropriate for a 20-30 minute presentation and contribute to an inclusive, collaborative environment. To submit a paper, you will need to submit an abstract of up to 500 words here. The deadline for submissions is on January 1st, 2020 and the deadline for acceptance notifications is on January 8th, 2020. There are $100 respective prizes for the best undergraduate and graduate student papers.

If your paper is accepted to be presented at the Great Lakes Conference, you can apply for a travel award here!

This is a wonderful opportunity to get involved with people from all sorts of different fields and professions! If you have any questions, email lharper3@sienaheights.edu for more information.

Philosophy Party: October 25th!

Happy midterms everyone! Hopefully, things aren’t too stressful, but luckily the Philosophy Department has the perfect way to unwind!

On Friday, October 25th, the Philosophy Department will be hosting an event for all philosophy majors, minors, or any students interested in philosophy — come by for an afternoon of games and free food! It will be hosted from 3:30p.m. to 5:00p.m. in the University Club on 1302 N. Alder Street.

Hope to see you there!

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Opening the Tower Gates: Philosophy’s New Relationship with Technology

guest post by Peter O’Meara ’19

A new age could be dawning for philosophy beyond the Ivory Tower. From A.I. to design to data, tech leaders express a desire to see philosophy incorporated into the developmental process for products and services (see for example articles like this, this, and this). Given the human connections many innovations seek to simulate, knowledge of ethics, for just one example, is coming to be appreciated by different types of companies. There are few roadmaps on how to translate the skills of digital native philosophy undergraduates into careers in technology that are in need of the skills developed by philosophy majors in their undergraduate education.

SXSW 2019, the annual ideas festival in Austin, saw a congregation of tech titans and start-ups, each vying to reinvent the relationship between humans and innovation. For example, the Google Home Mini was likened to a pebble, while some social networks were compared to a hearth, aiming to bring communities together. Such designs, chameleon in imitation, raise questions about impact on behavior and what it means to be human. “We should ask philosophically ‘what makes us human?’ ‘Can technology try to be human in that way?’ ‘What is this good experience we are trying to design?’” says Yihyun Lim, MIT Design Lab director and one of SXSW’s many speakers. “As we are developing tech, if we remember what the core value is, that can direct where tech will go in the future.” Philosophy grads can be shepherds on that journey.

A.I. is not exempt from similar considerations: in discussions from totalitarian code to autonomous vehicles to musical instruments, the need for ethics is embraced. Already government leaders are seeing the wielding of A.I. for deplorable ends, and it becomes clear that new voices are needed alongside programmers. Josh Marcuse, executive director of the Defense Innovation Board, warns SXSW, “not all nations share our values, and the world authoritarian regimes compel engineers to create AI for repression.” On an ethical note, he adds “If you have a consequentialist, you care more about what you are emphasizing than what you are explaining. In autonomous cars, you are asking how many thousands of people will die? Why should explainability be the standard?” Ultimately, he calls for integration, declaring “We need to think of diversity in a broader context. Philosophers and engineers working together, working in teams.”

Data repeatedly demonstrates its capacity to harm as much as it helps with its unintended consequences. Facial recognition systems have been known to discriminate based on race, while surveillance data frequently ignores inferences. Josh Klein, CEO of H4X Industries LCC and SXSW speaker, argues that data can be used for good, but often isn’t due to human laziness. This is a bad excuse, he argues, and while change is difficult, “we ought to endeavor to improve data on people such that ethics are met, and business still thrive.” Klein further remarks “treating people like robots does not equal profit. If you get data on toothpaste wrong, toothpaste doesn’t have a bad day. If we don’t face biases, we don’t create large scale positive social change.”

While there is a desire by science and technology to incorporate philosophical rigor, a meaningful roadmap for integration doesn’t yet exist. While some, like Klein, have given isolated, concrete suggestions, there are few real, tangible initiatives. Jake Silberg and James Manyika of McKinsey & Company reiterate this priority for collaboration between tech and philosophy. In their piece “Tackling Bias in Artificial Intelligence (and in humans)”, bias in A.I. is described as an issue only addressable with a multidisciplinary approach. “Business leaders can also help support progress by making more data available to researchers and practitioners across organizations working on these issues, while being sensitive to privacy concerns and potential risks” they argue. “More progress will require interdisciplinary engagement, including ethicists, social scientists, and experts who best understand the nuances of each application area in the process.” Several potential routes undergraduates could take can promote this participation include: Universities could offer bachelor’s degrees with emphasis in certain areas of tech or philosophy of science. Internships with organizations and think tanks facilitating discussions across disciplines could be created as well. Philosophers working alongside programmers, insofar as both parties are involved in decision-making or influencing capacities, could also be a great way to implementation more integration. Panels focusing on empathy and bias, areas which philosophy is adept at reflecting on, could be held on a regular basis to evaluate the current codes and products.

Philosophy’s role in tech appears unquestionable, and the attitudes presented by the latter’s leaders are a welcome sign for those feeling trapped in the Ivory Tower or believing their degree has limited use.

Peter O’Meara holds a philosophy degree from the University of Puget Sound outside Seattle and has studied multiple coding languages. He can be reached via LinkedIn and at pcomeara@comcast.net.

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Join the GQS & Philosophy Summer Book Club

This summer, the Gender & Queer Studies and Philosophy Book Club will be meeting to discuss Prof. Kate Manne’s work Down Girl. These meetings are open to all and lunch will be provided at every meeting. Contact nkranzdorf@pugetsound.edu for more information.

Kate Manne is an assistant professor of the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University. She will be guest lecturing from September 18-19, 2019 as part of the Brown and Haley lecture series.

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CFA: 2019 Ethics and Broader Considerations of Technology Conference (University of Nebraska–Lincoln)

University of Nebraska–Lincoln have sent out a call for abstracts for their 2019 Ethics and Broader Considerations of Technology Conference. Submissions should be on topics of ethics and technology. This conference is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Prof. Tubert will be a featured speaker at this conference.

Submission Deadline: June 15, 2019
Conference Dates: October 31–November 2, 2019

Students are also invited to create a game about ethics and technology for the The Ethics and Technology Game Jam.

For more information about submission requirements, featured speakers, or other conference inquiries, visit the conference website.

2019 Fall Ethics and Technology conference

UPS Ethics Bowl Team Competes in First Ever Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW)

The Puget Sound Ethics Bowl team competed in the first ever Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) on April 14, 2019. The University of Puget Sound and the the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound (FEPPS) teams debated questions such as: Should we bring back species that have been driven to extinction? Are laws allowing terminally ill children to choose euthanasia morally defensible? Is China’s social credit system, which assigns a social credit score based on behavior, morally justified? Do wealthy nations owe a climate debt obligation toward less-wealthy nations? 

FEPPS describes their mission as being:

A rigorous college program for incarcerated women, trans-identified and gender nonconforming people in Washington and creates pathways to higher education after students are released from prison. Our goals are to increase FEPPS students’ economic and personal empowerment, contribute to family stability and reduce recidivism through college education.

The event was sponsored by Freedom Education Project Puget Sound and the University of Washington, Philosophy Department.

This event was also made possible by Paul Tubig, a Philosophy PhD candidate at University of Washington. In addition to coaching the FEPPS team, Paul established ethics bowl at WCCW and organized the event.

Visit the FEPPS Facebook page to read more about the event.

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Left table: FEPPS ethics bowl team

Middle table: Puget Sound Ethics Bowl team

Right table: Judges and moderator

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Paul Tubig

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Puget Sound Students Competed in 2019 National Bioethics Bowl

On April 5–6, students on the Puget Sound Ethics Bowl and their coach, Prof. Tubert, traveled to Mobile, AL to compete in the National Bioethics Bowl at University of South Alabama.

The National Bioethics Bowl is a college-level collaborative presentation and debate about pressing ethical issues in biomedicine and technology. Months prior to the competition, each team receives a case packet containing 15 cases about bioethical dilemmas. Each team conducts research relevant to the individual cases and defend a position using ethical reasoning and argumentation. The bowl entails several rounds of debate. In each round, two teams are given time to present their position and argument for a given case they prepared. Following each presentation, teams have the opportunity to hear and respond to replies from the opposing team. Finally, the teams engage in a Q&A session with judges who included professionals in healthcare, government, and philosophy.

Some of the cases the Puget Sound team presented on were about unrepresented patients, CRISPR babies, and therapeutic misconception.

Students reflected on the value of participating in this bowl:

Liam Grantham ’20: “Debating our positions against another team made us stronger public speakers and improved our ability to act professionally (even when we strongly believe our opponents’ position is flawed)…I would definitely recommend the ethics bowl club to other people who are genuinely interested in ethics as much as we are. It sometimes takes a lot to come to a consensus on some of the cases we were given, but if you are passionate about ethics (doing the right thing), then it is absolutely worth it.” 

Colleen Hanson ’19: “Bioethics bowl is … a necessary space to discuss pressing ethical dilemmas in medicine and biotechnology. There will always be a need for people to critically reflect and make decisions on these issues. Bioethics bowl integrates students and experts from various disciplines and backgrounds, providing a robust and diverse pool of perspectives. As such, I think bioethics bowl is an essential activity not only in the types of skills it develops in students, but in the purpose it serves for the greater bioethics field.”

Simone Moore ’20: “…this experience not only helped us strengthen our rhetorical skills, but challenged us to interrogate and apply the foundational philosophical information that we have gathered through our time at UPS thus far. I feel fortunate that I was able to participate in an event such as this, and I hope that I will be able to do it again…”

Holden Chen ’20: The event was certainly competitive, but at the same time, it was one that prompted a deliberative process that goes beyond itself. We now have familiarity with these timely ethical issues and have acquired the skills and knowledge to develop strong positions, but it doesn’t just stop there for us. The very fact that we were challenged at the competition shows that there’s always more to engage with and consider. The ethical discussions don’t stop, and we as ethicist of the now and of the future have come away from the experience with more appreciation for the process.”

August Malueg ’20: “Ethics bowl has helped me develop strong public speaking skills and has made me more confident in my ability to relate my thoughts to others… In Mobile I had the opportunity to meet students from various universities that traveled to the competition (such as Depauw and Loyola Chicago), as well as locals, who were overwhelmingly hospitable and welcoming. I think it is important to keep ethics bowl active at the university and to continue offering students the chance to travel to compete because it not only helps them in the professional and social sense, but also because they have the opportunity to continue to have novel experiences abroad.” 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_19aTop: Holden Chen ’20, Simone Moore ’20, Professor Ariela Tubert, August Malueg ’20, Liam Grantham ’20 / Bottom: Colleen Hanson ’19

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Brian Kim ’21 Presents at 2019 Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Brian Kim ’21, a double major in Philosophy and Economics with a minor in Sociology & Anthropology, presented his work at the annual Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference. The conference was held from April 5–6, 2019 in Forest Grove, Oregon. Brian presented his paper, “A Critique on the Historical Interpretation of Pirates.” In addition, his paper will also be published in Res Cogitans, Pacific University’s undergraduate philosophy journal. Here is an abstract of his paper:  

The history of pirates has been relatively underrepresented by historians, allowing two dominant interpretations to set the standard for how we study these characters. These interpretations, the capitalist and Marxist interpretation, have unfortunately been cherry picking factual evidence in order to legitimize themselves. While both have merits, I propose an existentialist framework which captures the strengths of both interpretations while dropping the glaring weaknesses of them. As pirates most often began as oppressed navy sailors or seafaring workers in poverty, their transition to become pirates captures an important case study of freedom and choice. I first sketch a background of existentialism and both why and how it is a relevant and legitimate interpretation of pirates. I will critique the dominant interpretations, then offer the new existentialist interpretation and compare it to the dominant views. Finally, I conclude with the importance of adopting my framework over the dominant ones within the context of producing good historical analysis.
Brian reflected on his experience at the conference by saying:
Overall, I thought that the conference was an invaluable, enriching experience! This was my first conference that I presented at and it was fascinating not only to listen to a plethora of interesting and important philosophical topics, but also to get a further look into philosophy culture and meeting unique individuals from all over the States. It was a good experience to not only go to a conference, learn how to present, and to figure out what to do, but also to practice engaging critically both for my paper and for others. I met some amazing people, especially the students from PacificU, and had an amazing time not only sharing my passions with like-minded individuals, but to also learn about different styles of philosophical thought and practice.
    ​The conference accepted over 50 different papers and was broken into three 2 hour windows. Within these windows, there were different rooms which each had three papers presenting for 40 minutes each. After a paper was finished, you had a brief window to go to a different room in order to see other papers. At the end of the paper sessions, philosopher Susan Haack presented her topic on a metaphysics in response to the over accepted paradigm of scientific realism. An important thing I noticed overall about the conference was on my own stamina to philosophy. I would like to think of myself as deeply passionate for almost any philosophical topic and could easily go hours discussing even the most trivial issues. But I learned that there is an important lesson in pacing yourself and closing conversations in order to pursue other topics. I found this out about myself after hour five of philosophy conversations, with only a few hours of sleep under my belt, that I have only so much mental energy to offer in one day!
    Overall, I would highly recommend submitting papers to every conference you have the chance to submit to as it is an extraordinary experience to venture into the philosophy undergrad culture and to meet some amazing philosophical minds, as they become exceedingly harder to find nowadays!
BrianKimPacificU