- Areas of Specialization: 20th Century Continental, especially Hermeneutics and Aesthetics
- Areas of Competence: History of Philosophy, Ethics, Logic
- Dissertation: What’s At Play in Ethics? This project seeks to understand ethical selfhood and ethical life in light of the work of Martin Heidegger, Eugen Fink, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. In particular, I seek to shed light on the relationship between play and ethics. I argue that not only does play help give rise to an ethical subject, as is evidenced in childhood development, but also that play best characterizes the superabundant and relational nature of ethical subjects and communities.
- Dissertation Committee: Rudolf Makkreel (director), John Lysaker, and Andrew Mitchell
Refereed Journal Articles
Abstract: The question permeating much of Eugen Fink’s work is whether a non-metaphysical thinking of the world is possible. Fink views metaphysics as understanding the world merely from the side of beings and as a container of things. A non-metaphysical thinking would be cosmological; it would think the world as a totality, as the origin of being, of beings, of time, and of space. This thinking requires a radical way of thinking that which cannot be thought: the nothing that allows being and beings to come to appearance at all. My analysis aims to articulate more clearly what Fink means by thinking cosmologically by tracing his understanding of world, earth, and cosmos and the interplay of being and nothing at stake in each. I clarify how Fink both inherits and goes beyond the philosophies of Kant, Husserl, and Heidegger to provide a way of thinking through that which resists articulation.
This paper explores the state of teacher training in philosophy graduate programs in the English-speaking world. Do philosophy graduate programs offer training regarding teaching? If so, what is the nature of the training that is offered? Who offers it? How valuable is it? We conclude that philosophers want more and better teacher training, and that collectively we know how to deliver and support it.
Central to Eugen Fink’s distinctive understanding of the context of ethical engagement is his way of thinking about being in the world. From Fink’s perspective we can see that Western metaphysics, and contemporary philosophical ethics, has forgotten the world. In its attempt to achieve objectivity, metaphysics has sought a vantage point that could be a view from nowhere. If the world is remembered, it is misconstrued to be a mere frame or container for objects and experiences. This has led to a conception of the ethical subject as a rational, autonomous individual who merely happens to be in the world. In failing to consider the meaning of being in the world, philosophy has rendered ethics nihilistic. Fink seeks to radicalize understanding the world and thus to radicalize the ethical subject as being in the world. For Fink, ethics is fundamentally situated, communal, and playful rather than merely rational. To be ethical requires knowing where we stand in the world, thus requiring being both in relation with others and open to the world. In this openness we are neither merely passive nor masters over our lives but, rather, active participants in the play of the world. Fink maps contours of situated human experience that must be included in discussions of ethics. I suggest that by emphasizing play, Fink allows for a more complex picture of the ethical self as characterized by playful openness and so accounts for one being in the world and with others. Not only is there something ethical that belongs to playful behavior, but there is also a playful dimension to ethics that deserves greater attention.
- “Whoever Cannot Give, also Cannot Receive: Nietzsche’s Playful Spectator,” The Philosophy of Play, ed. Emily Ryall, Wendy Russell, and Malcolm MacLean (London: Routledge, 2013), 98-108.
For Friedrich Nietzsche, the artist must give. The critic, conversely, can only receive. The artist cannot act as the critical recipient of art, for to demand this would be to sap the very character and power of the artist by denying the possibility of giving. If the spectator is equated with a critical recipient, it seems at first that the spectator will always hold an anemic and necessarily secondary position to the artist, especially when we recall the claim that “the artist belongs to a still stronger race.” However, the role of spectator is not clearly delineated and so the question of its status in Nietzsche’s aesthetics remains. If we take Nietzsche’s description of the critical recipient to determine the role of every spectator or recipient of art, then we fail to do justice to Nietzsche’s fuller story of the interplay of art, artist, and, indeed, life.
I argue that Hans-Georg Gadamer provides a compelling account of aesthetic experience that rings true with much of Nietzsche’s work, especially in terms of a fundamental play between art and life. For Gadamer, the artist is indeed opposed to the critical or impartial recipient, but the spectator also engages in a dynamic and transformative relation with the artwork. Looking to Gadamer specifically on the nature of play in the experience and creation of art will help us think through the characteristics of Nietzsche’s spectator, frequently overshadowed by descriptions of the artist, and thus flesh out his account of aesthetic experience. I would like to suggest that we understand the spectator not as the passive recipient, but as an active participant who stands, like the artist, in an essential relationship to art and life as manifested in play.
Articles in Preparation
- “Gadamer’s Rehabilitation of Taste”
- “Poetic Education: Gadamer on Play, Ethics, and Conversation”
- “Existence and Co-Existence: Eugen Fink on Recognition”