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The faculty has agreed to the following changes to the curriculum in order to add flexibility to the graduate program.   

  1. Students may satisfy two out of three of the language and logic requirements (two languages and logic) rather than all three. Their choices must be justified to and approved by their mentors/advisory committees. This change will apply to all current students.

  2. Students must take at least five courses in four of the five historical areas (Ancient, Medieval, Modern, 19th C, 20th C).  They may double-up in any area but 20th C. This change too will apply to all current students.

The Philosophy Department has had a very successful recruiting year and is happy to welcome the following students into the Department beginning in the fall 2009 semester.

Ayesha Abdullah majored in Philosophy at Trinity College. Throughout her four years there, her interests have centered within the 19th and 20th Century Continental tradition and French Feminist Thought. They also include, in particular, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Critical Theory, and Philosophy of Language in terms of history, oppression, the question of individuality and structural links through language. She recently began cultivating her interests in Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis.

Axelle Karera is currently completing her B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology at York University in Toronto. Her interests include continental philosophy, feminist philosophy, and philosophy of race. Axelle is also fascinated by the philosophy of the Negritude movement as well as the dialogue between 20th century French existentialists and leading thinkers of the anti-colonial and liberation movements such as Frantz Fanon and C.L. R. James.

Shaheen Moosa received her MA in Philosophy from the University of Memphis and her BA in Philosophy and Theatre from Sweet Briar College. Her areas of interest include the history of ethical thought, contemporary ethical theory, and contemporary Continental philosophy.

Lauren Nuckols is returning to the study of philosophy after spending a few years working and playing outside. She graduated in 2005 from the University of Hartford with a B.A. in Philosophy, with minors in creative writing and visual arts. She reports: "While I genuinely enjoy learning about nearly everything, my main areas of interest include American philosophy, pragmatism, environmental philosophy, social justice, feminist philosophy, embodiment, and aesthetics."

Ronke A. Oke received her BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Spelman College and her MA in Philosophy from the University of Memphis. Her philosophical interests are African Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, and Logic. She has recently adopted an interest in group formation and identity and plans to incorporate this focus in her study of African Philosophy.

Daniel Palumbo is finishing his BA in Philosophy from DePaul University.  His interests include 20th continental philosophy, French phenomenology, German Idealism and the History of Philosophy.  He is currently finishing his undergraduate studies in Paris where he is participating in a study abroad program run by the DePaul faculty. 

Ryan Pollock graduated in May 2009 with a B.A. in philosophy with a minor in Spanish from the University of Dayton. His interests are primarily in the areas of American pragmatism (especially John Dewey and C.S. Peirce). Additionally, he is interested in aspects of continental philosophy (phenomenology, Heidegger), and analytic philosophy (Wittgenstein, Quine).

Jameliah Shorter is a native of Augusta, GA. In May, she graduated summa cum laude from Paine College in Augusta, GA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religion. Jameliah is the Salutatorian of her graduating class. Jameliah's research interests include Continental and American philosophies with specific interests in Existentialism, Black American feminism, and Gender. At Paine College she was the recipient of the Presidential Scholarship, a member of the Honors Program, and an inductee into the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society. Her academic fellowships include the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, The Mellon-Schomburg Fellowship at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Rutgers Diversity in Philosophy Fellowship at Rutgers University. Jameliah's paper entitled, "Our Mothers' Gardens" which explores philosophical possibilities for Black feminist epistemologies has been presented at Duke University and the Ida B. Wells Philosophy Conference at the University of Memphis. Subsequently, the paper was accepted for publication in the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Journal printed by Harvard University Press (forthcoming, Spring 2009). This summer, Jameliah will participate in the Ralph Bunche Summer Humanities Institute at the University of California Los Angeles. There, her research will concern African American gender/sexuality. In the future, Jameliah hopes to become a college professor of both Philosophy and Women's Studies. Her academic aspiration is to publish on Black feminist and gender theories.
Amy Wendling, PhD. in Philosophy '06 and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Creighton University, has a new book, Karl Marx On Technology and Alienation.  She is currently being highlighted on the Penn State University's Alumni Library website:

There will be a session on the book at the 2009 meeting of the Society for the Philosophical Study of Marxism at the Eastern Division APA meeting in New York.

We congratulate Amy and hope many of the friends of Penn State's graduate program in philosophy will be able to attend the book session.
Masato Ishida successfully defended his dissertation entitled: Philosophical Commentary on C. S. Peirce's "On a New List of Categoriies": Exhibiting Logical Structure and Abiding Relevance. Vincent Colapietro chaired the doctoral committee, with Dennis Schmidt and Christopher Long as inside members and Stephen Simpson as the outside member of the committee.

Dr. Ishida also received the Department of Philosophy's Joseph J. Kockelmans Award in Philosophy. The purpose of this award is to honor and recognize outstanding achievement by a graduate student in Philosophy who is ABD. Professor Kockelmans was employed as a professor of philosophy at Penn State from 1968 to 1995. He was an important figure in the history of continental philosophy in the United States, being heavily involved in the early days of SPEP, the Heidegger Circle, and the journal Man and World, now known as Continental Philosophy Review. He was also the first "continental" President of the APA Eastern Division.

We congratulate Dr. Ishida on his recent accomplishments.  We will miss him and we wish him the best success in his excellent placement.  
Penn State is proud and excited to host the Collegium of Black Women Philosopher's this week at the Hintz Alumni Center. This is an important gathering of philosophers and we look forward to an excellent conference.

To learn more about the Collegium, visit the CBWP site here.

Penn State is happy to host the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Eastern Study Group of the North American Kant Association, April 24-25, 2009.

The keynote speakers will be Eckart Forester, Johns Hopkins University and Robert Bernasconi, University of Memphis, joining the Penn State University faculty beginning in the fall 2009 semester.

Please join us for this excellent conference.
In addition to his recently announced award for the outstanding graduate student essay at the 2008 IAEP, Jared Hibbard-Swanson has also received the 2008-2009 College of the Liberal Arts Outstanding Teaching Award for Graduate Students.

In winning this award, Jared continues a strong tradition of excellence with regard to graduate student teaching in the Department of Philosophy. He is the eighth student from our department to have won recognition for exceptional teaching in the past four years, joining Mary Alessandri, Alex Stehn (2007-08); Michael Brownstein, Leigh Johnson and Alexa Schriempf (2006-07); and Kyle Grady, Bryan Leuck (2005-06).

Jared's nominating letter reads in part:

Mr. Hibbard-Swanson is committed to challenging his students to think more critically about the world in which they live. Although he recognizes that philosophy requires specific skills--the ability to argue coherently, read carefully and write effectively--his vision of a philosophical education centers around, as he says, "making easy things difficult." By this he means engaging with his students in a dialogue with central figures in the history of philosophy in such a way that settled beliefs become open questions for students. The curriculum of each of his courses reflects this commitment both to the specific skills of philosophy and the larger purpose of philosophical education. He works very hard to bring ideas and concepts articulated by philosophers to bear on concrete social and politics questions of the day. As a result, students are made to feel the relevance of what they are doing in the classroom to the wider world in which they live. 

The letters from students indicate that Jared is a very conscientious teacher who works constantly and intentionally to improve his teaching. He is clearly succeeding in making easy things difficult, as one of his students writes: "Sometimes I would leave class with the sheer joy and satisfaction of discovery through thought, and sometimes I left class frustrated and pondering more questions than I had entered with."

Congratulations to Jared!
Jared.jpgCongratulations to Jared Hibbard-Swanson who won this year's Outstanding Graduate Student Essay Prize at the 2008 International Association of Environmental Philosophy society conference in Pittsburgh, PA.  This is an award given to the best graduate student paper presented at the conference.

Here is the abstract for Jared's paper:

Self-Realization or Self-Fashioning? Spinoza, Deep Ecology and the Problem of Ecological Subjectivity

In opposition to the "shallow" environmental movement, "deep" ecologists such as Arne Naess have sought not only to articulate new ecological norms, but also to found these norms upon a quasi-Spinozist philosophy of self-realization. While mainstream environmental ethicists attempt to settle upon an understanding of the relative moral worth of different natural beings in abstraction from our relationship to these beings, deep ecologists argue that these relationships, which constitute the ecological self, are ethically prior to a rational articulation of moral principles. If new ecological values are ever to take hold, we must first seek to unsettle the prevailing non-ecological sense of self.

Naess' strategy of turning ethical theory back upon the constitution of the human subject provides an interesting counterpoint to many of the prevailing concerns in the field of environmental ethics, forcing debates over abstract values to return to the ground of our lived experience of the world. However, Naess' static metaphysical vision of the fully-realized self, derived from his idiosyncratic interpretation of Spinoza's Ethics, may still prove insufficiently attentive to the contingent and situated nature of ecological experience. In this paper I argue that Naess does not unsettle our sense of self and world enough.

The principal aims of my paper, therefore, are twofold. First, I seek to critically examine the quasi-Spinozist theory of subjectivity that underlies the deep ecological ethic of self-realization, drawing attention to its static conception of ecological phenomena and selfhood. Second, relying on Deleuze's interpretation of Spinoza, I attempt to unearth in Spinoza's text an alternate ethic of self-fashioning, rooted in a more dynamic, material understanding of ecological subjectivity that is hopefully more attentive to the shifting and uncertain nature of emerging ecological phenomena.

Congratulations to Michael Brownstein, who has accepted a tenure track position at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).  Here is what Michael reports about the position:

NJIT is New Jersey's public research university dedicated to science and technology. As an Assistant Professor in the Humanities Department, I'll be teaching courses for the BS in Science, Technology and Society as well as seminars for the Albert Dorman Honors College. I'll also be helping to reshape the STS major by designing new courses and will be helping to define the purpose of philosophical and humanist approaches to studying the interrelationships of science, technology and human values.

I couldn't be more excited about this position. NJIT is dedicated to multidisciplinary collaborative research to help solve contemporary social and political problems, both in the New York area and abroad, and I can't wait to pitch in.

Thank you so much to everyone at Penn State. I hope you are staying warm and are enjoying the beginning of the spring semester.

We all wish Michael the best of luck in his new position.
Brownstein.jpgMichael Brownstein successfully defended his dissertation on Monday, December 15, 2008.  The title of the dissertation is "Practical Sense and Social Action."  He writes of his dissertation:

My dissertation argued that theories of social action must distinguish intelligent action from intentional action. I used arguments by Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu and, more recently, Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor to provide an alternative to theoretical accounts of social action founded on the study of the psychology of intentional actors (i.e. their beliefs and desires). In other words, I showed why a nonconceptual account of intentionality - what Merleau-Ponty calls "motor intentionality" - helps to solve foundational problems in the philosophy of social science. My goal was two-fold: first, to show that the "know-how," "practical sense," or "embodied practical understanding" of ordinary social actors helps to explain their actions; and second, to consider the ramifications for normative social theories of the study of these practical and "sub-intentional" sources of action. Overall, I developed an approach to social theory focused on the tacit practical understanding social actors utilize in their day to day activities as compared to the beliefs, desires or reasons they often point to upon reflection as causes of action. My dissertation concluded with a case study aimed at applying this approach to the study of the internet. I discussed changing conceptions of copyright and propriety, strong and weak ties in online communities and the nature of information retrieval in "peer-produced" computer-mediated social practices.

His committee was chaired by John Christman and included Shannon Sullivan, Len Lawlor and Nancy Love.

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Brownstein.