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Faculty Update

Mark Alznauer is very much looking forward to the return of normal social interaction.   This year he was the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Critical Theory Minor and continued to organize the Chicago-Area Consortium in German Philosophy.  He co-taught (with Andrew Koppelman) a new course on conservative political philosophy—to be followed, he hopes, with courses on liberalism and socialism in the not-too-distant future.  He had several essays and reviews published—mostly on Hegel but one on Wordsworth--and was happy to see the appearance of a volume he edited: Hegel on Tragedy and Comedy (SUNY).


Throughout the 20-21 academic year, Penelope Deutscher continued in her role as Associate Director of the Critical Theory Cluster, and as Principle Investigator of an Andrew. W Mellon Foundation funded project to develop new teaching resources and syllabi in critical theory in which there is a stronger representation of critical theory in the global south.  Despite the need to adapt events to Zoom, the project was able to organize a robust program of workshops throughout the academic year. Given the COVID-related problems of isolation confronted by younger scholars and graduate students, the project’s event series foregrounded the discussion of forthcoming, and recently published books, prioritizing opportunities for prepared commentaries to speakers by graduate students. Working in Zoom was a challenge, but it did make possible new forms of international cross-university reading groups between graduate students working with cooperating professors at universities linked by the project. Throughout the year, our project organized workshops and conference on Sampada Aranke’s Death’s Futurity : A Visual Culture of Death in Black Radical Politics,  on Santiago Castro-Gomez’ Critique of  Latin American Reason,  and on Marquis Bey’s Black Trans Feminism. Graduate students were also supported to organizes several events of their own initiative.  These included the international conference in the area of African francophone philosophy and decolonial thought “Decolonizing the University, Decolonizing the Universal” in June (organized by Philosophy graduate student Carmen de Schryver) and the 2021 meeting of the Cross-University Graduate Dissertation Workshop (a cooperation with the Goethe University of Frankfurt) organized by philosophy graduate student Eskil Elling , in which Penelope was one of the respondents. The Mellon project was also an opportunity to work with two of Northwestern’s student “URAP” participants (Undergraduate Research Assistant Program.) Penelope published essays in the journals  Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society  (on deconstruction and psychoanalysis in Derrida’s Life Death) and  Critical Inquiry  (in a symposium on Veena Das’ Textures of the Ordinary), and book reviews in Contemporary Political Theory, and a new Women in Theory online forum. She presented papers  online at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Israel,  and the department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.


Kyla Ebels-Duggan: It was a weird and difficult year, but things took a surprising turn for the better when we installed a white board on our basement wall.  That was the anchor of a remote teaching studio that transformed Zoom teaching from pretty hateful to downright bearable, and occasionally even rewarding.  It allowed me to teach seminar-style classes in a way that nearly approximated being in the classroom—but for the fact that the students’ faces were much too small, existed in only two dimensions, and sometimes disappeared altogether.  Nevertheless, both my fall graduate seminar on Ideal and Non-ideal Theory and winter Brady Program undergraduate seminar on The Moral Life were marked by good discussions of interesting questions and ideas.

Like many, I planted more flowers, did more home-repair projects, took more walks, and participated in more Zoom reading groups and happy hours than in any prior year.  But, due to the pandemic, I did no travelling and gave no talks.  I missed the sense philosophical community that arises from in-person conversations, but enjoyed the slower pace of life. 

In the isolation of my home office I completed a paper about reasoning, love and the moral attitude.  (I argued that the first can’t get us to the third, but the second can.)  I also wrote a paper arguing for a modest version of normative constructivism—and against more ambitious versions.  The latter is a contribution to the festschrift for Christine Korsgaard, which I am co-editing with Tamar Schapiro and Sharon Street.  In the spring term, I returned to work on a manuscript about valuing attitudes like love, respect, appreciation, awe, and reverence.  In the book, I argue that we can have reasons for these kinds of attitudes, but cannot reason to them, and explore the implications for interpersonal relationships, moral education and political discourse. 

This summer I am working on a short article about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay, “After Ten Years,” for the new philosophy magazine, The Raven, a chapter about ethics coursework requirements for a book on higher education, and a paper on T.M. Scanlon’s account of the value of humanity.  And I’ve got to finish that book manuscript.


Sandy Goldberg spent AY 2020-21 on Zoom.  Interestingly, he did not master the art of online teaching.  This was not for lack of opportunity: in Winter 2021 he taught Introduction to Philosophy (PHI 110) and a special topics course on Epistemic Injustice (PHI 318), and in Spring 2021 he taught Philosophy of Mind (PHI 325) and a graduate seminar on Higher-Order Evidence (PHI 410), all of which were on Zoom.  In addition to his other notable Zoom failures, he was consistent in forgetting to turn on his microphone, he regularly neglected to hit “Share Screen” in screen share mode, and he succeeded in asking his own adult children for help so often that they opted not to return home at all until after the pandemic is over.  When not on Zoom, he managed to spend significant time ruminating on matters of no importance.  Despite these successes, his book Conversational Pressure was published in October 2020 by Oxford University Press.


Chad Horne taught courses this year in bioethics, ethics & public issues, business ethics, and political philosophy. He was also proud to supervise a couple of excellent undergraduate honors theses and to serve as a faculty mentor and advisor during Northwestern’s Summer Research Opportunity Program. He served as coach of Northwestern’s amazing Ethics Bowl team, which placed second at the Midwest regionals and thereby earned the opportunity to represent NU at the national competition this winter. Outside the classroom, he had plans to present his research at conferences and workshops in New Orleans, Montreal, and Edinburgh, but those plans were derailed by you-know-what. Nonetheless, he has a new paper on solidarity in health care forthcoming in Social Theory and Practice, and he is now completing a series of articles on the moral and political significance of market failure in health care and public health.


Megan Hyska designed and taught a new upper-level philosophy of language course focusing on how language interacts with context. She also continued to teach classes on the nature of propaganda and the analytic philosophical tradition. She completed a handbook chapter and an article both on the relationship between irrationality and the concept of propaganda, and is currently working on a paper about the nature of social organizing. She also had the pleasure of hiring two great Research Assistants through Northwestern's URAP program, Dylan Zhou and Prabhav Jain, to work on a project querying the normative import of political polarization through the winter and spring quarters. While many conferences she'd been looking forward to were cancelled, she presented work (online, alas) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and L'Ecole Normale Supérieure, as well as stopping by the PARC media podcast


Richard Kraut has recently been critiquing the work of moral philosophers. In 2020, he participated in an “Author Meets Critics” session of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, devoted to Exemplarist Moral Theory by Linda Zagzebski. In 2021, in the same venue, he discussed The Value of Humanity by Nandi Theunissen. His critique of Aspiration by Agnes Callard appeared recently in Philosophy and Phenomenological ResearchThe Quality of Life, his latest book, will be critically discussed by several philosophers at the next meeting of the APA, Central Division. An earlier work, How to Read Plato, is being translated into Turkish and Chinese. With his former Northwestern colleague, David Ebrey (Humboldt University), he is preparing a second edition of the Cambridge Companion to Plato. He continues as Director of the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life.


In addition to continuing serving as Chair of the department, Cristina Lafont discussed her new book Democracy without Shortcuts (OUP, 2020) with scholars from all over the world without ever leaving her home office! Some of these discussions were published in special issues about the book in The Journal of Deliberative Democracy, Philosophy & Social Criticism, Krisis, etc. Other discussions of her book were postponed because of the pandemic so next year she hopes to be able to travel to Paris, South Korea, Spain, and elsewhere to discuss her book at in-person conferences. She also taught a course on Habermas on Communicative Rationality and published her research in journals and collected volumes, including “Are Human Rights Associative Rights? The Debate between Humanist and Political Conceptions of Human Rights Revisited, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2020), and “Remarks of a Young Habermasian on Jürgen Habermas’ Also a history of Philosophy”, Constellations 28/1 (2021), 25-32.


Jennifer Lackey won a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and an Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year. She served as Vice President of the American Philosophical Association’s Central Division and is completing her final year as Chair of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession. Lackey published a single authored book, The Epistemology of Groups, an edited volume, Applied Epistemology, and a number of papers in various journals and collections on eyewitness testimony, false confessions, testimonial injustice, echo chambers, fake news, sexual consent, epistemic duties to others, group belief, and the epistemology of punishment. She served her third year as Director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program and was the PI on the first year of a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project, “Transforming Prison Education.” She taught a new seminar at the Pritzker School of Law and offered a new undergraduate course supported by the Alumnae Award for Curriculum Innovation, “The Philosophy of Punishment and Incarceration.” She continues to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Philosophical Studies and of Episteme: A Journal of Individual and Social Epistemology and Epistemology Subject Editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Patricia Marechal has been working on her book manuscript on the desire for respect and recognition, and the emotions related to this desire, in Ancient Greek philosophy. She has forthcoming articles on pleasure in Plato’s Philebus (Apeiron) and in Plato’s Phaedo (Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie). She is working on a book review for The Philosophical Review, and she published a piece on comparative Greek and Chinese philosophy in Philosophy East and West. She continued working on several research projects in Hellenistic philosophy, and finished an article on Galen’s hylomorphism for a volume forthcoming with Oxford University Press. She is currently working on a piece for a Routledge collection of essays on women in ancient philosophy. She gave talks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Humboldt University, the University of Patras, and the Complutense University of Madrid, among others. In Winter 2021, she was awarded a Provost Grant for Research in Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts. She taught seminars on Plato’s Republic, pleasure in Plato and Aristotle, and power and knowledge in Antiquity and contemporary epistemology. She is the co-director of the Northwestern Classics Cluster. In that capacity, she has organized a series of reading groups and talks. She was a member of the program committee for the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, and helped organized the 2021 Central APA conference.


José Medina’s recent research has made contributions to the philosophy of social protest and the philosophical literature on communicative and epistemic injustice. In 2020, he has published “Protest and the Politics of Confrontation” (Nomos), “Agential Epistemic Injustice and Collective Epistemic Resistance in the Criminal Justice System” (Social Epistemology),  “Complex communication and Decolonial Struggles” (Critical Philosophy of Race), “The Other Within: Agency and Resistance under Conditions of Exclusion” (Philosophy and Social Criticism). He has also coedited the volume Theories of the Flesh: Latin-American and US Latina Feminist Theories (Oxford University Press, 2020) and has published essays in the following edited volumes: Vice Epistemology (edited by Ian J. Kidd, Heather Battaly, and Quassim Cassam); Applied Epistemology (edited by Jennifer Lackey); Making the Case: Feminist and Critical Race Philosophers Engaging Case Studies (edited by Heidi Grasswick and Nancy McHugh); The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Philosophy (edited by Kim Q. Hall and Ásta Sveinsdottir); and The Routledge Handbook of Trust and Philosophy (edited by Judith Simon). Medina is coeditor of Symposia on Gender, Race, and Philosophy and cofounder and coorganizer of the Midwest Race Theory Workshop. 


Axel Mueller continued working in political philosophy, specifically democratic theory and the analysis of populism. He was selected to give a symposium talk about populism and representation problems at the 2021 Central APA meeting, and is currently busy keeping the write-ups following from this to an extent that would allow sending it out as articles. In the –virtual but still vibrant—department at NU, he continued his administrative and curricular work and coordinating function for student groups like Minorities In Philosophy (MAP), WiPhi, the Women Into Philosophy Initiative, its graduate sibling WIPHICA, the Northwestern Undergrad Philosophy Society NUPS, and the NU Ethics Bowl team. Despite not teeming with physical life, these activities show that undergraduate philosophy at NU is still vigorously brimming with our students energy and creativity. The joy in this was a major motivating element throughout the year for him.


Gregory Ward is a member of the Department of Linguistics and, by courtesy, the Department of Philosophy as well as the Program in Gender & Sexuality Studies. He is also currently serving as Co-Director of The Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN), a multi-pronged, critical, and interdisciplinary initiative to promote research and education on sexuality, sexual orientation, and health in social context. This past year, in addition to giving talks at various conferences, he published a number of papers on the pragmatics of natural language, including work on information structure and the uses of demonstratives (co-authored with Ryan Doran, 2012 NU PhD in Philosophy). He teaches courses in linguistic pragmatics, philosophy of language, and language & gender/sexuality.


Rachel Zuckert spent a lot of time on Zoom this year. She was glad to be educated by students about how to run classes remotely, while also trying to discuss with them some philosophy. She also enjoyed Zoom conferences more than expected: in these times of isolation, and worse, communal intellectual discussion is more precious than ever. Two book panels on her recent (2019) book on J.G. Herder’s aesthetic theory, one sponsored by Northwestern’s own Chicago-Area Consortium in German Philosophy (thanks to Mark Alznauer!) were especially fruitful, in allowing for rethinking in response to extremely thoughtful comments from colleagues around the country. In the small interstices of time apart from Zoom, and childcare, she has been working on two papers on the sublime.


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