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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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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Summer Course: Introduction to Philosophy

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If you’ll be in Tacoma this summer, consider taking a course in philosophy. Professor James Garrison will be teaching Introduction to Philosophy during Summer Session I (May 20–June 28, 2019). This course satisfies the Humanistic Approaches core requirement. The course description says:

 

Pittsburgh Summer Program 3: A Summer Program in Philosophy of Science for Underrepresented Groups

From July 15–19, 2019, the University of Pittsburgh is hosting a Pittsburgh Summer Program in Philosophy of Science for Underrepresented Groups. This program is for:

Undergraduate Students who are highly motivated and show strong academic promise and interest in the philosophy of science, including but not limited to:

  • Women
  • LGBTQIA+
  • Underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds
  • Students with disabilities
  • First-generation undergraduates
  • Undergraduates from groups underrepresented in philosophy of science

The Summer Program will include:

Two daily graduate seminars about core issues and cutting-edge topics in general philosophy of science and philosophy of the special sciences (e.g., physics, biology, cognitive science and neuroscience, social sciences). The seminars and lectures will be given by internationally recognized faculty in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh as well as in the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University.

For further details, visit the page for PSP2, where you’ll find last year’s course descriptions, schedule, etc.

Housing, meals, and transportation costs (US travel only – the University will not provide transportation costs for travel into or outside of the US) will be covered, and all course materials provided. Applications are due March 1, 2019, and participants will be notified by April 15, 2019.

For more information, visit the program website.

Applications Open for PIKSI – Deadline January 31

PIKSI summer institutes are designed to encourage undergraduates from groups traditionally underrepresented in philosophy to consider future study of philosophy.  Undergraduates and recent graduates are urged to apply; groups traditionally underrepresented in (anglophone) philosophy include women, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people, people from economically disadvantaged communities, people with disabilities, and people of color or people racialized as nonwhite, including Chicano/a/xs and Latino/a/xs, Indigenous people, Pacific Islanders, people of African descent, and people of Asian descent. Transportation and lodging are provided. Stipends are awarded to all.

APPLICATION DEADLINES

Undergraduates – January 31, 2019

Graduate Assistants (PIKSI-Rock only) – January 31, 2019

PIKSI ROCK
Rock Ethics Institute/Penn State

Dates: June 17-28, 2019
Director: Kris Sealey, Fairfield University
Theme: Philosophy and Public Life
Speakers: Myisha Cherry, University of California, Riverside, Axelle Karera, Wesleyan University, Esme Murdock, San Diego State University, Yannik Thiem, Villanova University

PIKSI BOSTON
MIT/UMB

Dates: June 20-27, 2019*
Faculty Directors: Lisa Rivera, University of Massachusetts Boston & Keota Fields, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Graduate Directors: Mallory Weber, MIT & Marion Boulicault, MIT
Speakers: TBA

*to be confirmed 

For more information visit: piksi.org

Contact: info@piksi.org

SPONSORS: THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION, AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL ASSOCIATION – PENN STATE’S ROCK ETHICS INSTITUTE, COLLEGE OF THE LIBERAL ARTS, AND DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY – MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY – STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY – UNIVERSITY OF OREGON – UNIVERSITY OF IOWA – IRIS MARION YOUNG DIVERSITY SCHOLARS FUND – ANN ARBOR PHILOSOPHERS’ PIKSI FUNDING INITIATIVE – ASSOCIATION OF FEMINIST ETHICS AND SOCIAL THEORY – PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS-HARVARD UNIVERSITY-TUFTS UNIVERSITY

 

Students Sam Lilly ’19 and Colleen Hanson ’19 Present their Summer Research at the 2018 AHSS Symposium

Each year, students may apply to the summer research program for undergraduates in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Recipients of a summer research grant devote the summer to their independent research project and prepare to present their work at the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS) Symposium. This year, two seniors in the Philosophy Department were AHSS recipients.

Sam Lilly ’19, presented “An Ethnographic, Experimental Philosophical Inquiry into Attitudes and Perceptions Toward Suicidality.”

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Colleen Hanson ’19 presented “A Philosophical Approach to the Standardization of Hospital Ethics Services.” 

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Colleen Hanson ’19: “A Philosophical Approach to the Standardization of Hospital Ethics Services.” 

Philosophy major Colleen Hanson ’19 received a Summer Research Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences (information on the Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is available here). She describes her experience working on her summer research project under the supervision of Prof. Ariela Tubert Department of Philosophy:

My inspiration for this research project came after I read a study called “Ethics Consultation in United States Hospitals: A National Survey” by Ellen Fox, Sarah Myers, and Robert A. Pearlman. The goal of the study was to investigate Ethics Consultation Services in hospitals throughout the United States. In healthcare, ethics consultation services (ECS) are committees of medical experts, social workers, philosophers, legal experts, chaplains, and others who work with patients to ensure their care is supported with the utmost ethical considerations. These committees investigate patient care through critical examinations of ethical principles and moral expectations. Fox et al. found the following information about ethics specific training for ethics consultation providers:

5% completed a fellowship or graduate degree program in bioethics; 41% had formal, direct training by a member of an ECS; 45% had NO formal, direct training by a member of an ECS. These numbers intrigued me, particularly the lack of formal education or training from experienced members of ECSs. Was this an indication that a fellowship or graduate degree program was not as valuable as intuition would suggest? Is it necessary to have a foundation in ethical theory in order to practice ethics consultation? 

Given my philosophical background, I wanted to examine these considerations from a philosophical perspective. In particular, my project drew on research regarding the relation of normative ethical theories and applied ethics. To supplement these examinations, I shadowed a Bioethicist at MultiCare Health System and analyzed their policy decision making (specifically lung transplantation in cases of donation after circulatory death) and ethics case assessment. Ultimately, I urged hospital ethics consultation services to maintain a robust, interdisciplinary ethics committee. Furthermore, I emphasized the value of having at least one participant with a formal education in bioethics or a related ethics topic.

Conducting summer research enriched my passion for philosophy and clinical ethics. Not only did I enjoy the philosophical literature and the clinical field work, but I found new ways to be proud of my discipline and my academic pursuits. This project affirmed for me that I chose the right major and that philosophy is integral to every aspect of our lives. Graduation is only a few months away, but I cannot imagine my philosophical endeavors ending there. 

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