Thursday, May 2, 2013

Abstract for DLSU Research Congress 2013

The Importance of Biology to Philosophy: THE CASE FOR PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGY

This paper argues for the importance of issues raised by biology to the practice of philosophy. Acknowledging the importance of biology to philosophy would also mean that the study and knowledge of biology is also important. At first blush this may be obvious to some when they think of bioethics or medical ethics. The overwrought issue of abortion and contraception immediately come to mind. However, there are other issues that bear directly on philosophical discussion. As a field of study, this is called philosophy of biology, involving discussions between scientists and philosophers. Philosophy of biology features works of scientists and philosophers from the issues stemming from evolution, sociobiology, the human genome project and creationism.
 Difficulties in recognizing such a field arise for those who think that there is an unbridgeable gulf between science and philosophy. Many of those who engage in philosophy of biology do not think of such a gulf, for many of them are naturalists. Naturalism is the view that philosophy is continuous with science. While naturalism is not an unproblematic view and methodology, it has flourished in philosophy of biology. Philosophers, insofar as they are not naturalists, would probably argue the importance of philosophy to biology. Arguing for the importance of philosophy to biology may be satisfactory to traditional philosophical discussion. But what of problems stemming from issues found in biology? Should philosophers be ignorant of these issues?  A case in point would be human nature. Researches in sociobiology and genetics have reframed the question of human nature. Whereas before one can think of an armchair intellectual reflecting on his thoughts; it would be more difficult now to ignore the findings of the fields just mentioned.
Historically, the American pragmatists Peirce, James and Dewey recognized the significance of Darwin. Unfortunately, mischaracterizations of their thoughts proved to downplay their contributions to philosophy. Thankfully, recent philosophers like Elliot Sober, Philip Kitcher and Peter Godfrey-Smith has led to recover this significance.
Philosophy’s relevance can be found anew by acknowledging the importance of biology. The former cannot stay in the armchair. Many of the issues raised by findings in the latter are not merely for abstract theorizing in the classroom. While such theorizing does have its place, the concerns raised in biology are for all human beings, philosopher or not.

Abstract for the 5th Christina Conference at the University of Helsinki

 [I'm preparing some necessities for the trip. About the activities here, I do something similar for my classes in philosophical anthropology.]

Taking on a Role: An Actor-Oriented Approach to Discussing Gender and Introducing Intersectionality

Gender studies is a fledgling course for Philippine universities. This paper argues for an actor-oriented approach to the study of gender. By “actor-oriented,” it is meant that many of the activities are inspired or taken from what actors do in order to prepare for a play. This approach is taken to bring the issues closer to the students. For instance, activities used to deepen listening expose the problematic assumptions and stereotypes regarding hypothetical situations. These hypothetical situations have to do with the interplay of gender, race and social status. One hypothetical situation is that of a woman bleeding who is refused entry to a hospital.  A further description is that the woman has a swollen abdomen. The students are asked to give reasons as to why the woman was refused entry. The added condition is that students repeat the reasons of the previous student. Apart from students defending the hospital, the repeated reasons usually feature embellishments like “she was poor”, “she’s of x-religion”, “she had an abortion.”  
Listening is just one of the many basic skills nurtured even further by actors (especially those informed by the practices of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Stella Adler) in order to be in the scene, from moment to moment. This also means that listening is also an attempt to see through our own judgments. The insights that may be gathered from doing the activities usually lead to discussions of intersectionality. It should be noticed that gender, race, religion and social status also forms some of the elements in building a character, and many of these dynamically intertwine and overlap.  This paper also argues that the actor’s approach is also a good way of introducing intersectionality, especially since this might be the first and last time our students will take up gender studies.