4/25/2014 5:03:42 AM

Philosophy with a Modern Twist

Friday, September 27, 2013

By Kristen Bossio '16

When people think of philosophy, many tend to think of ancient names such as Aristotle and Socrates. There are, however, many contemporary philosophers who are adding new ideas to the preexisting body of work.

The Symposium on Living Philosophers seminar at Siena College focuses specifically on these highly-accomplished modern minds. Every other year, a renowned philosopher is chosen and his or her work is studied in great depth during a year-long course taught by a team of Siena faculty and an external scholar.

This year’s Symposium is being co-taught by Assistant Professors of Philosophy Karen Ng, Ph.D., and Fanny Söderbäck, Ph.D. Twelve specially-selected students will spend all year studying the work and thoughts of Judith Butler, Ph.D. and doing research themselves.

“I hope to have my own thoughts challenged and to be forced to think deeply about things that would not normally have crossed my mind. That's what I love about philosophy,” said Emma Ciborowski ’14.

Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a Visiting Tam Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and Hannah Arendt Chair at the European Graduate School. Butler has published almost twenty books on various topics, ranging from war and torture to gender, sexuality, and power. Her work focuses on feminism, psychoanalysis, and ethical and political theory and resonates strongly with Siena College’s commitment to diversity and social justice.

Butler will visit Siena twice this year. Each time, she will give a public lecture and visit the seminar class. In the spring semester, the students will present and discuss their research findings with Butler.

"It is very rare to have the opportunity to study the work of a renowned thinker and then have them come into the classroom to engage with and respond to your ideas,” said Ng.

Throughout the year, the students will give presentations and discuss Butler’s work intensely. “I find Judith Butler to be one of the most intelligent people alive today, and knew this class would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jessica Murphy ’16, a student in the Symposium on Living Philosophers course.

In addition to learning from Butler, the students will also learn from each other. The small class is diverse in terms of graduation year and majors, but everyone shares a similar interest in the material being studied.

“As a sophomore, it is a privilege to be in a class with such intelligent upperclassmen that provide both clarity in my thoughts, and inspiration to further challenge myself,” said Murphy.

Butler’s first meeting with the class is Friday, October 4. It is preceded by her first public lecture titled “Kinship Trouble: The Bacchae for the Present.” Butler’s lecture will consider whether Greek tragedy still has something to teach us about the relationship between psychoanalysis, feminism and kinship. It will be held on Thursday, October, 3 on campus in the Maloney Great Room from 4-6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Symposium on Living Philosophers, including dates and topics for future lectures, visit the Symposium on Living Philosophers website. 


Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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