Department News, May 2016

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Support the Department

Message from the Chair


Tad Zawidzki


Tad Zawidzki
Chair, Department of Philosophy



Spring greetings from Washington, D.C.! This semester, in January, we welcomed a second, new, tenure-track faculty member, Avery Archer. We held a very productive faculty retreat in February, which yielded much-needed updates to our curriculum. During spring break, we moved the department to a new location: the fifth floor of Rome Hall. We are now located in our own suite, and most seem very pleased with our new digs!

It has been an amazing semester for both student and faculty accomplishments. The president of our Undergraduate Philosophy Club, graduating senior Harry Rosenberg, a Thacher-Reynolds and CCAS Undergraduate Research Fellow, had his project featured during the GW Research Days showcase of undergraduate research in March. He is the first philosophy student to have won a prize at this annual event. In her second year as director of graduate studies, Assistant Professor Laura Papish grew the applicant pool for our new Master of Philosophy from zero to 25  in the space of one year, and has otherwise been just indefatigable in this role. The excellent teaching of our part-time faculty was also richly rewarded: Thanks largely to his rewarding experiences in classes taught by Cameron Bassiri, Dimiter Kirlov and Michael Sigrist, the parents of graduating senior Bo Donoghue made an extremely generous donation to the department. Alums have, as usual, been extremely generous, and we are planning an alumni weekend in the next two years to catch up with all of you!

As usual, very little of our activity would be possible without the tireless, cheerful energy of our academic department administrator, Amanda McLaughlin. The spring semester has been an especially busy time with the challenges of the departmental move, but Amanda has maintained her levelheaded professionalism throughout, and we are very grateful!


Tad Zawidzki

Chair, Department of Philosophy

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Department Spotlights

6th Griffith Lecture: Dr. Meena Krishnamurthy


Dr. Meena Krishnamurthy


Dr. Meena Krishnamurthy



The department’s annual Griffith Lecture was delivered on January 29, 2016, by Dr. Meena Krishnamurthy, assistant professor of philosophy and the program in philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Michigan. Professor Krishnamurthy works in social and political philosophy, mostly on topics in democratic theory. She is developing an account of the nature and value of (political) distrust, particularly as it is formulated and explored in the work of radical political thinkers, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The abstract from her Griffith Lecture, entitled “Loving Distrust,” is below:

This paper develops an account of valuable distrust. It is based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s work. Distrust is a cognitive attitude. To distrust someone is to have the confident belief that s/he will not act as justice requires. To attain its value, distrust must be accompanied by a feeling of anguish, which leads to an intense desire for change, and a deep and abiding sense of faith, which leads to the belief that change is possible. When distrust is complemented by anguish and faith, it disposes individuals to act in ways that promote justice, which makes it more likely to be attained. However, not all actions are valuable expressions of distrust. On King’s view, agape love is an essential constraint on morally valuable distrustful action. Agape love requires non-violence. Thus, any action that springs from a loving sense of distrust must also be non-violent.

The Griffith Lecture was formerly known as the Goutman Lecture, named after Thomas M. Goutman, alumnus and benefactor. The lectureship was renamed in honor of the late Dr. William B. Griffith in Spring 2014, in honor of his 50 years of service to the department and university, at the request of Mr. Goutman.

Philosophy Club Update

President Harry Rosenberg contributed the following update on the philosophy club’s many activities during the spring 2016 semester:

This spring, the GW Undergraduate Philosophy Club enjoyed another exciting and successful semester. With an ever-growing membership base, our focus was to expand and improve our social programming, creating a community of philosophically-engaged students. Our regular meetings were held on Wednesdays, with topics ranging from logic and the philosophy of language to aesthetics and ethics, and no shortage of lively debate. In response to a strong club interest in the philosophy of mind, we met to watch the Academy Award-winning Ex Machina, whose philosophical implications were hotly debated. In addition to these events, we organized a Jeopardy!-style debate competition in ethics and political philosophy with the GW Triple Helix Society.

Next year, the club plans to continue to improve and expand our ongoing social programming. We also hope to make the club more inclusive and prominent throughout the GW community, in part by co-sponsoring more debates and discussions with other student organizations. Elections for next year’s executive board were held in late April.

Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

On March 25, 2016, the GW Philosophy Club hosted its annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference under the leadership of Philosophy Club President Harry Rosenberg. This year’s theme was “Minds, Brains, and Persons,” and student presenters from around the country traveled to GW to deliver thought-provoking talks on the philosophy of mind. A large faculty and student turnout made for intense and entertaining discussions throughout the day following the lectures. This year's keynote speaker was Dr. Bryce Huebner, associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, who delivered an interesting presentation on cognitive science, free will, and politics. The order of presentations was as follows:

  • "A Critique of Scientific Knowledge and Contemporary Psychology" by Ricky DeSantis, San Diego State University
  • "Perspectivalism and Blaming" by Dana Gutierrez, Western Washington University
  • "The Architecture of Scientific Inquiry" by Eamonn Bellin, George Washington University
  • "Planning and Prefigurative Practice" by Professor Bryce Huebner, Georgetown University

Congratulations to the Philosophy Club on another successful event!

Thacher-Reynolds Fellowship Presentation


Alumnus and donor Michael Thacher, 2015-16 Thacher-Reynolds Fellow Harry Rosenberg, and faculty mentor Dr. Eric Saidel pose for a picture





On Friday, April 29, 2016, Harry Rosenberg, 2015-2016 Thacher-Reynolds Fellow, presented his impressive research paper “Cognitive Phenomenal Intentionality” to department faculty. Harry has been very active in the department this year, most notably as Philosophy Club president. The abstract for his presentation is below:

In recent years, many philosophers of mind have been interested in the idea that the intentional contents of our conscious cognitive states are determined by their phenomenal character—that our thoughts are about what they're about because they feel the way they feel. Although this thesis, which I call “Cognitive Phenomenal Intentionality,” has not been accepted by most philosophers of mind, a growing number of philosophers have found this thesis to be a fruitful way of theorizing about the mind. I review a number of prominent arguments for this thesis, and conclude that no compelling reason has been given to think that Cognitive Phenomenal Intentionality is true.

Photo: Alumnus and donor Michael Thacher, 2015-16 Thacher-Reynolds Fellow Harry Rosenberg, and faculty mentor Dr. Eric Saidel pose for a picture. 

Faculty Spotlight: Michèle Friend

The GW Philosophy Club has chosen Associate Professor of Philosophy Michèle Friend as the subject of the Spring 2016 Faculty Profile. Professor Friend responded to questions posed by Philosophy Club Secretary Nicola Young below.

When did you decide to pursue a career in philosophy? What were some of the first philosophical questions that piqued your interest?

In high school, I started a philosophy club where I forced my friends to read Sartre, Kafka and Plato and have discussions. Between high school and university, I took a “gap year” to make some life decisions. The choice was between physics, philosophy and training horses. I ruled out physics because it might be boring sometimes and no one would talk to me except other physicists. On the choice between horses and philosophy, I reasoned as follows: If I injure myself badly, then I can't train horses any longer, but I can continue with philosophy. If I go senile, I can't continue with horses, and no one would notice in philosophy; so the safer bet, given life's contingencies, was philosophy. I also liked the idea of philosophy since I could do philosophy of all sorts of things: physics, mathematics, politics, history, language and art, so the breadth of philosophy appealed to me. 

Your work is mainly in the philosophy of logic and philosophy of mathematics. What, in your opinion, is the right picture of the relation between these two subjects?

I think of logic first as a set of formal and rigorous representations of reasoning. The most abstract and rigorous reasoning is in mathematics. But the two areas blend into each other, or at least the boundaries between the two are vague and depend also on what you are looking for, or think you are looking at. So, for example, we can look at formal propositional logic as an algebra. Moreover, there is an exchange between logic and mathematics—they feed off each other. We can make mathematical models of formal logical systems, we can look at the logic of the reasoning in a new or questionable proof technique. For example, we can look at what it means to have a proof so long that no one person can survey the proof in their lifetime (say, a proof generated by a computer). Sometimes similar philosophical questions come up in both logic and mathematics, but the answers might look quite different. For example, there is a movement afoot to be pluralist about the formal systems of logic—not favoring one over the other—and taking any formal representation of reasoning that meets some philosophical criteria as counting as a perfectly legitimate representation of reasoning. We can also be pluralist in mathematics. This means something very different. There are several different ways of being pluralist in mathematics: in truth, ontology, epistemology, proof, method and so on. Pluralism in mathematics is much broader and multifaceted than pluralism in logic.  

Much of your recent work focuses on pluralism in the philosophy of mathematics. What is mathematical pluralism and what makes it so interesting?

Mathematical pluralism is many things. It is more of a family resemblance concept: Again, we can be pluralist in foundations, methodologies and so on. There are very specific questions about particular areas of mathematics. For example, there was a big project to sort into categories all of the groups we meet in group theory. The project was too big for one person to do—it was a “group” effort (no pun intended). This was all fine, except that some of the researchers were using methods of classification that are not being used by other researchers, and some methods were exactly in conflict with others (they contradicted or precluded each other). Some working mathematicians were worried about this and others not. It is a philosophical question of when and how it is all right to mix methodologies that are in conflict with each other. There are also very fundamental questions, such as whether mathematics gives us a unified body of truths. The pluralist thinks that the notion of truth within a theory is quite straightforward, but the notion of truth of a theory is not. So there is no unified body of truths in mathematics. Then there are questions about how to deal with contradictions between theories. 

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of the academy?

Outside of academic philosophy, I practice classical dressage riding. In particular, I practice this in the Franco-Iberian tradition. I go to Portugal and France for weeks of intense training under a dressage master in each country. I have my own horse that I have trained to a high level in the classical style. I also travel a lot, and sometimes do what I call "adventure travel" where one has to put up with some hardships. I have traveled a lot to Europe, including “Eastern Europe.”  I have also traveled to South America, Africa, Australia and, most recently, India. I like good wine and hard liquor. I cook to a high standard, mainly in the French tradition, but also dabble in Portuguese, Hungarian, Italian, Indian and Middle Eastern foods. I like "foreign" films, "world" music and classical music; I read novels, learn strange languages (like Hungarian) and spend far too long playing Sudoku games.

Before coming to GW, you worked with Cycorp, a private artificial intelligence (AI) firm. What roles do the philosophies of logic and mathematics play in AI research?

The Cycorp job was in what is called "ontological engineering." We made partial models of ordinary objects (ontology) in a logical language, which is then translated into programming languages and used in inference engines. It’s a piecemeal attempt to "solve" the framing problem in computer science (that is the problem of giving enough backgrounds and context so that the machine does not come up with absurd answers). The company hired a number of philosophers of logic and mathematics. But this was because we were (1) easy to train, and (2) had no job prospects. The latter meant that we did not have to be paid much and that we would stay! For me, it was very applied work and I missed the classroom and more rigorous philosophical discussion, so I took the first opportunity to return to academia. 


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Department Announcements

Faculty News


Professor Archer


Professor Archer 



During the Spring 2016 semester, Avery Archer gave colloquium talks at the University of South Carolina and the University of Albany.  Both talks critically explored the idea that intentions, like beliefs, may come in degrees. In his first colloquium talk, Professor Archer focused on developing an alternative to the claim that intentions come in degrees, and in his second he advanced several criticisms of competing views. Both talks grew out of a shorter paper that Professor Archer presented at the Great Plains Symposium in Lawrence, Kan., late last year. 

In April, Professor Archer will be chairing a session exploring the question of whether there can be reasons for attitudes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Practical Reasons Conference.  Additionally, he has been invited to deliver a paper at the Annual Midwest Epistemology Workshop, which is being hosted by University of Wisconsin-Madison over the summer. This year’s workshop boasts an exciting line up of invited speakers, including David Sosa, Imogen Dickie and Paul Boghossian, and promises to be a ridiculous amount of fun.  Professor Archer’s most recent publication, “Do Desires Provide Reasons?” (Philosophical Studies), is now available electronically, and should appear in print later this year. He currently has three papers under review at various journals and has just begun work on a fourth paper defending a version of the cognitivist account of intention. According to standard cognitivist accounts, intending to do something entails the belief that one will do it. However, Professor Archer proposes that we should view intending as involving a special kind of acceptance rather than belief.



Professor Cameron Bassiri


Professor Cameron Bassiri



Professor Cameron Bassiri was offered the position of Bishop Hamilton Ethicist in Residence at American University, where he organized the D.C. Area High School Ethics Bowl and taught an ethics course entitled Do The Right Thing, in addition to teaching his GW courses. As Ethicist in Residence, he will teach a course entitled Practicum in Ethics, which is designed to deepen students' understanding of ethical theories, as it provides a robust opportunity for experiential learning in working with area high school student teams preparing for the D.C. Ethics Bowl.

The course is composed of both in-class sessions and weekly meetings with ethics bowl teams. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophical texts concerning rhetoric, oratory and the correct manner in which to educate students in these subjects comprise the first readings of the course. As an additional component to the course, there were also readings in the philosophy of education, which supplemented the classical readings, better prepared the students to help as assistant coaches and served to make this an interdisciplinary course. Students also had weekly writing assignments and gave one presentation that incorporated certain of the rhetorical and oratorical techniques into an interpretation of an ethical issue. This course is available through the consortium and will be offered again. All interested students are greatly encouraged to register for it.

Peter Caws, University Professor Emeritus, gave a paper, "Ontologies of the Natural and Human Sciences," at the 15th Congress of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science in Helsinki last August. (He was one of only two participants there who had given papers at the first Congress in this series at Stanford in 1960.) In addition, the British magazine Philosophy Now recently published Professor Caws’ review of Jacques Lacan's Anxiety; anyone wishing to be discouraged from reading this book should read the review.

Paul Churchill’s major professional activity has been making final revisions of his book Women in the Crossfire which is under contract with Oxford University Press. A revised version of the paper "Armed Drone Warfare: Mythology, Mental Health, and Cultural Violence," first presented at Western Carolina University, has been accepted for publication in Philosophy and the Contemporary World. For the annual meeting of Concerned Philosophers for Peace (CPP), October 2015 at Loyola University of Baltimore, Professor Churchill gave a talk on "Mythology, Cognition, and Cultural Violence," and he also critiqued John Lango's book, The Ethics of Armed Conflict at an "Author Meets Critics” session. At the Eastern American Philosophical Association (APA) session, Professor Churchill presented a paper critical of the book Leveraging by David Anderson, a former GW philosophy major (Ph.D. Michigan) and, presently, a candidate for the 8th Congressional District of the House of Representatives. In February, Professor Churchill gave a talk on "Globalization and Ethics: Is Western Morality Too WEIRD to Be Universal?" at the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he also served as a judge for the top three papers among the 24  accepted for the 13th Annual Appalachian Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.

Since the last newsletter, David DeGrazia has happily continued to divide his time between GW and NIH. This spring he returned to his graduate seminar, Topics in Health Policy, which somewhat unusually enrolled a student from another university (University of Maryland), and he is looking forward to teaching a new seminar, Moral Status, in the fall. His publications in the past few months include his first newspaper op-ed, "Gun Rights Include the Right Not to be Shot," which was published in The Baltimore Sun.  His other recent publications are "Modal Personhood and Moral Status: A Reply to Kagan's Proposal," Journal of Applied Ethics; "Sentient Nonpersons and the Disvalue of Death," Bioethics; and "Parents of Adults with Diminished Self-Governance," Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (with Jennifer DeSante and Marion Danis). Meanwhile, a more science-oriented article, "Relieving Pain with Dose-Extending Placebos," is in the proof stage at Pain. As for books, his volume with Lester Hunt, Debating Gun Control, has entered the production stage with Oxford University Press. His other book project, A Theory of Bioethics, authored with colleague Joe Millum of NIH, continues to be drafted.  In addition to writing, since the last newsletter Professor DeGrazia has given invited presentations at Johns Hopkins University, the APA Eastern Division Meeting and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Professor DeGrazia continues to be thrilled with the progress of a colleague he is mentoring, Laura Papish.  As he approaches the end of his 27th year on the faculty of George Washington University (half of his life so far!), he is somewhat amazed that in a year he will become the most senior member of the Philosophy Department, when his dear friend and colleague Paul Churchill retires.

Michèle Friend presented at two conferences and a workshop in India over the Christmas break. She presented a paper on qualitative accounting at a conference on Globalisation, Environment and Human Rights. She also presented two papers at a conference in Kolkata, India, on mathematical pluralism, which was organized by Mihir Chakraborty, and she also presented another paper to his logic circle. As a result of the trip to India, Professors Chakraborty and Friend are co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (JICPR). This will be the first collection of edited papers on the subject of mathematical pluralism in the world. JICPR is the most prestigious philosophy journal published in India (it is published by Springer). Additionally, Professor Friend wrote a chapter on the "Aires Above the Ground" to accompany a series of photographs by the artist Sälla Tykka of the Lippizan Stallions in Lippica, Slovenia. The horses are trained to the very highest level of accomplishment for horses. Professor Friend’s chapter explains to a lay audience the training of these horses. The book The Palace by the artist includes three series of photographs and a text to accompany each series. It was published in spring 2016. Professor Friend was also invited by Achille Varzi (Columbia University, New York) and Marco Panza (Sorbonne, Paris) to present a paper in April at a workshop in New York, on the topic of "Reconciling Platonism and Nominalism in the Philosophy of Mathematics.” The workshop was held at Columbia University and the conference was funded by the Alliance Program, which supports joint transatlantic research between Columbia University and academic institutions in Paris. (It was the second event of this sort after a conference held at the University of Paris from November 27-28, 2015.) The paper presented by Professor Friend was "Is the Pluralist Reconciliation between Platonism and Nominalism too Easy?" Lastly, Professor Friend is taking a sabbatical next academic year, 2016-2017, and has a lot of projects lined up for then.

Laura Papish spent the school year working on a book manuscript titled Kant on Evil, Self-Deception, and Moral Reform. She also presented selections from the manuscript to several conferences: most recently, she presented "Self-Deception and the Entrenchment of Evil" in February at the Southern Study Group of the North American Kant Society, and "Kant on Self-Deception, Rationalization and the Hell of Self-Cognition" in January at the North American Kant Society meeting, at the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA. Professor Papish is very much looking forward to completing the manuscript and plans to spend the summer working on unrelated Kant projects.

This spring, Mark Ralkowski published his book Louis C.K. and Philosophy: You Don't Get to Be Bored, and continued working on his monograph, entitled Don't Blame Socrates: Plato's Trial of Athens. In addition to teaching a proseminar on Heidegger's Being and Time in the Philosophy Department and doing his usual work in the University Honors Program and GW's Faculty in Residence program, Professor Ralkowski spent the first few months of the spring semester recruiting 11 students to take part in this year's short-term study abroad, Ancient Philosophy course, which will spend 10 days in Athens and the Peloponnese. Students involved in the abroad program will visit sites in and around Athens, such as the Parthenon, the ancient Agora and Aristotle's Lyceum, and they will take a four-day trip through the Peloponnese that will include visits to Delphi, Olympia, and the site of ancient Mycenae. Before the students arrive in Athens, Professor Ralkowski will attend a weeklong seminar and conference on Plato's Phaedrus that is being held in a villa on the coast of Greece north and west of Athens.

Looking back on the spring, Eric Saidel reports that his paper on mirror self-recognition in non-human animals was published in Biology and Philosophy. He has also written a paper on self-concepts and consciousness in some animals, to be published in a Routledge Handbook on Animal Minds. Saidel also enjoyed mentoring Harry Rosenberg this year as Harry worked on his Thacher-Reynolds project “Cognitive Phenomenal Intentionality” (on whether what we think is determined by how it feels to have those thoughts). Professor Saidel is looking forward to a sabbatical year in 2016-2017, during which he’ll be working on elaborating a different approach to the mind-body problem (and he’ll spend the fall 2016 semester as a Fellow in the GW Honors Program). 

Joseph Trullinger has an article on Marcuse that came out in the latest issue of Radical Philosophy Review, and will be presenting at the Leibniz Kongress in Hanover this July. Additionally, he will be participating in the Institute for the History of Philosophy's summer seminar on Kant's political philosophy at Emory University this June. Finally, Professor Trullinger has been invited to contribute an entry on Kant for Wiley-Blackwell's forthcoming encyclopedia on the philosophy of religion.

Since the last newsletter, Gail Weiss participated in the executive committee meeting for the Eastern Division of the APA in Washington, D.C., before leaving for an amazing sabbatical trip to Southeast Asia where she re-connected with a former GW philosophy colleague, Ilya Farber, and his family in Singapore. She also got to hang out with another philosophy colleague from the Merleau-Ponty Circle at the end of the trip in Hong Kong!  Earlier this spring, Professor Weiss completed an essay on phenomenology and race that was commissioned for the Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race and she also wrote a new paper, “Surgical Ties that Bind: Responsibility and Consent without Autonomy,” that she presented at the 10th annual PhiloSOPHIA conference, held at the University of Colorado, Denver, in March. She is currently completing her new monograph, Existential Ambiguities: Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, preparing for two overseas conference presentations at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, in late June and a keynote at the University of Bochum in Germany in early July, and reviewing proofs for several articles and book chapters that should all come out within the next year. Professor Weiss is enjoying every minute she has left of her sabbatical, but is also looking forward to teaching a new proseminar in the fall, Disciplining Bodies, that begins with Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and critically examines recent philosophical work on the U.S. prison-industrial complex.

This spring, Vanessa Wills taught the first graduate seminar of her career, on the topic Economic Justice. It's been a success, with graduate students from philosophy, sociology and other programs engaging with empirical and theoretical literature on topics such as reparations, the case for a universal basic income, global inequality and tax policy. Professor Wills has also been developing her work on the theory of "False Consciousness," and by the end of the semester she'll have given invited talks on the subject at Wellesley College, Morgan State University and Georgetown University. She will be delivering the Ian Moore Memorial Lecture at Towson University on the subject of "Marx and Morality," which is also the working title of her manuscript in progress.

Since the last newsletter, Tadeusz Zawidzki has a number of papers and book chapters in press, including: (with Marco Fenici) “Action Understanding in Infancy,” forthcoming in Studia Philosophica Estonica, vol. 9.2 (2016); “The Many Roles of the Intentional Stance,” forthcoming in Engaging Dennett, Huebner & Ross, Eds. (Oxford University Press), and “Mindshaping and Self-Interpretation,” forthcoming in The Routledge Companion to the Social Mind, Kiverstein, Ed. In addition, his contribution to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of 4e Cognition (Newen, Gallagher, and de Bruin, Eds.), “Mindshaping,” is under review. He has also been invited to a workshop in Rome, on game theory, meeting September 19-20, 2016, and organized by the Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk. Professor Zawidzki continues in his roles as co-director of GW’s Mind-Brain Institute (with Professor Chet Sherwood of anthropology), co-convener of the University Seminar in the Future and History of Mental Well-Being (with Assistant Professor Paul Marvar of physiology and pharmacology) and advisor for the Mind-Brain Studies Minor. He is also in his final year as a faculty guide (this year for South Hall). Though this role has been very rewarding, it is impossible to continue concurrently with fulfilling his position as chair of the Philosophy Department.



Recent Graduates

The department would like to congratulate the following individuals who graduated in 2016. A sampling of photos from the department's graduation reception can be found below. 

MA Graduates

  • Keyu Chen
  • Yasushi Hattori
  • Justin Johnson


BA Graduates

  • Maximillian A. Blinder-Acenal
  • Mohammad "Albert" Anaim
  • Lauren Isadora Caldwell
  • Nichole Mcturk Cubbage
  • Patrick Kelly Darin
  • Robert S. Donoghue
  • Robert Alexander Donovan
  • Maxwell Lewis Ezrin
  • Tyler Billingsley Greeno
  • Pengxiao Guo
  • Dor Hirsh Bar Gai
  • Michael Gaewon Lee
  • John Beattie McEwan
  • Kaylee A. McNeil
  • Priyanha Nadanasabesan
  • Devan Narendra Patel
  • Samantha Santos Newman-O'Gara
  • Harry Rosenberg
  • Alberto Hiram Zayas Montilla


Ethics Bowl: This year, one of the department’s adjunct faculty, Dr. Cameron Bassiri, who is also Bishop Hamilton Ethicist in Residence at American University, organized the D.C. Area High School Ethics Bowl. The Ethics Bowl brings together high school ethics bowl teams from the public and private high schools across the D.C. metro region for intensive examination and discussion of pressing moral issues. An ethics bowl is a competitive yet collaborative event in which students analyze and discuss real life and timely, ethical issues, and defend whatever position they believe is right in order to win by showing that they have thought more carefully, deeply and perceptively about the cases in question. Fifteen schools participated this year, and a number of students from GW participated as assistant coaches, moderators and judges.  Justin Brandt-Sarif and Nicola Young were assistant coaches for the School Without Walls, Albert Anaim was an assistant coach for West Potomac and Robert Donovan was a judge and moderator. Dr. Michael Sigrist, another adjunct faculty of our philosophy department, also served as a judge.

A Semester of Brown Bags: The department hosted four brown bag seminars this spring led by GW philosophy faculty and visiting lecturers. For more information, please visit our website.

  • February 12: Fred Kellogg (GW) presented “Vagueness and Convergence of Meaning in the Borderline Case: The Social Dimension of Similarity in Logical Induction.”
  • March 11: Dr. Vanessa Wills (GW) presented “Marx, Bentham, and The Possibility of Distributive Justice.”
  • April 8: Dr. Paul Churchill (GW) presented “Are Western Ethical Theories too WEIRD to Be Universal?”
  • April 22: Dr. Gail Weiss (GW) presented “The Shame of Shamelessness.”


Thank You & Congratulations:

Thank you to student assistants Carl Dennis, Robert Idowu, Lily Twomey and Vinuri Dissanayake for their help this spring!

Carl Dennis graduated this past May. During the spring semester, he was working on an English thesis entitled “Trauma Theory and the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” He is director of communications for a college-oriented media startup, The Rival, which is comprised of major U.S. universities. He was event organizer and moderator of a mental health panel discussion on April 19, 2016, which was co-sponsored by The Rival and GW College Dems. All of us at the department wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors!

Thank you to our logic tutors, Derek Lee and Hange Ding, for their hard work this year.

Congratulations to 2015-16 Gauss Prize winners Harry Rosenberg and Maha Hasen as well as the 2015-16 Award for Excellence in Service to the Department of Philosophy and/or the Community winner Harry Rosenberg!

Thank you to our Graduate Assistants Christopher Blocher and Patrick Campbell!

Credits: This issue of the GW Department of Philosophy Newsletter was edited by our executive aide, Amanda McLaughlin, with assistance from Professor Zawidzki, Harry Rosenberg, Nicola Young, Lily Twomey, Cameron Bassiri and the CCAS Communications and Alumni staff. 

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Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Sultan Alamer, MA ’14, after finishing his master’s program, Sultan was accepted into the Ph.D. in political science at GW. He is now in his second year in this program.

Riad Alarian, BA ’14, graduated from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) with an MSc in political theory in November and received a distinction for his graduate thesis on modern readings of the Sharia. He currently works as an editor for Muftah Magazine.

Matthew Calardo, BA ’13, hopes all is well in the GW Philosophy Department! In particular, he wishes professors Zawidzki, Ralkowski, Sigrist and Venner nothing but the best.

Matthew T. Doheny, BA ’71, worked for 26.5 years as an elementary school teacher in the New York State Public Education system and retired in 2010. He received two awards from his local school district for excellence in education.

Heather Fink, BA ’03, is completing her first feature film Inside You as writer/director and continues to direct comedy projects. She is currently working in the sound department on Netflix's Daredevil and The Get Down. Philosophy informs her writing and work daily.

Christine Keen, MA ’92, finds herself dusting off some of her old books 24 years after finishing her MA in philosophy and social policy, as she prepares for an introductory philosophy class she will be teaching for middle and high school students this fall.

Manali Kumar, BA ’09, is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the department of political science at National University of Singapore. Her research is on prudence and foreign policy decision-making.

Matt Lord, BA ’03, is currently practicing disability law for a national advocacy group with clients in all 50 states, but more importantly, is eagerly awaiting his marriage to another lifelong student of philosophy, Kathleen Berry, this September 2016.

Andrew Menditch, BA ’09, is now living in Baltimore, Md., and works as general manager for Northwest Honda and CFO for Northwest BMW.

Gabriel Muller, BA ’13, is an editorial associate at Atlantic Media Strategies, the digital consultancy of the Atlantic magazine.

Daniel Rice, BA ’13, is currently living in San Francisco working in client success for a business-to-business advisory and consulting firm.

Shannon Sweeney, BA ’12, has worked as a visual effects producer for commercials and has just recently taken a job as a producer at an architectural visualization house that works in animation and virtual reality.

Felicity Thompson, BA ’00, is back in D.C. working on human rights research in West Africa after a decade working in various African countries as a writer, journalist, photographer and filmmaker.

Andrew Zahornacky, BA ’11, co-founded The Unpack, which is  a company that delivers clothing and accessories to your hotel so that you don't need to pack. Business Insider named it 1 of 50 Coolest New Businesses of 2015.

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Support the Program

Gifts to the Department of Philosophy allow us to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships, and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty, and colloquia. Each gift, no matter how large or small, has a positive impact on our educational mission and furthers our standing as one of the nation's preeminent liberal arts colleges at one of the world's preeminent universities. 

You can make your gift to the department in a number of ways:

  • Securely online.
  • By mailing your check, made out to The George Washington University and with Philosophy in the memo line, to:

The George Washington University
2033 K Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC  20052

  • By phone by calling the GW Annual Fund at 1-800-789-2611.

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