Author: hkg13001

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Ufuk Topkara

Ufuk Topkara is a residential research fellow with the Humanities Institute’s Humility and Conviction in Public Life Project

H&C: What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?
UT: I received a master’s degree in history from the Humboldt University, Berlin and am completing my doctoral dissertation with the Graduate School of Islamic Theology in Germany. I am a 2017 residential fellow at UCHI.
H&C: What is the project you’re currently working on?
UT: My research centers on the convergence of reason and revelation. I bring Islamic Theology into discourse with Modern Philosophy. This is both the subject of my doctoral dissertation, as well as theoretical and methodological articles that I am currently preparing for publication.
H&C: How did you arrive at this topic?
UT: Both my academic and personal background draw from multiple traditions. I have always been interested in how disciplines can inform and strengthen one another. I also remain dedicated to the translation of academic work for diverse broader populaces, which is a key aspect of my major intellectual project.
H&C: What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?
UT: I believe that my work could help society to look at two intellectual and social traditions often misperceived as diametrically opposed to one another (Islamic Theology and Modern Philosophy) as both complementary and complicating simplistic discourses on religion and secularity. I also feel that by providing an initial methodological model that unites these two disciplines, other theologians could apply and expand our understandings of the interrelation between reason and revelation. This is especially important at a time in which much of European and American society feels discomfort with/disconnected from the religion of Islam.

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Louise Richardson-Self

Louise Richardson-Self is a residential research fellow with the Humanities Institute’s Humility and Conviction in Public Life Project

H&C: What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?
R-S: I am a tenured lecturer at the University of Tasmania and teach units which contribute to both the Philosophy and Gender Studies majors. Prior to taking up my post at the University of Tasmania, I was a lecturer at the University of Wollongong, and was awarded my PhD in Philosophy from the University of Sydney in June 2014. I am the author of Justifying Same-Sex Marriage: A Philosophical Investigation (Rowman & Littlefield Intl. 2015), which emerged from research undertaken during the course of my PhD. Broadly speaking, my area of specialty is Feminist Philosophy, but I am particularly interested in events and issues that have contemporary political and ethical significance, privileging intersectionality. I am a Visiting Fellow to the Institute’s Humility & Conviction in Public Life project and will be in residence from mid-January to mid-February 2017.
H&C: What is the project you’re currently working on?
R-S: Currently I am researching hate speech. I’m interested in a variety of overlapping issues, but my main concern is to think through the problem of misogynistic hate speech against women. Little is said about women as targets of hate speech in philosophy, and I want to rectify this issue. That said, I am also interested in the evolution of hate speech alongside emerging technologies and integration of technology in our daily lives: how has the problem of hate speech changed with the emergence of the internet, smart devices, and social media? What are the harms of hate speech online and (how) do they differ from hate speech offline? Why do people disagree about what to do about hate speech (or whether anything should be done at all)? What new strategies can we devise to combat hate speech when legislation is too limited/limiting? These are all questions that I hope to work through. While I’m visiting UConn, I’ll be concentrating on an analysis of hate speech through the framework of social imaginaries – I hope that doing so will permit me to consider whether there is true understanding of the harms of hate speech amongst persons who are rarely, if ever, targeted.
H&C: How did you arrive at this topic?
R-S: Proposals to weaken Australian legislation forbidding hate speech initially sparked my interest in the topic. In my previous research (on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage) I had begun to consider and develop literature on social imaginaries, so it was with this framework in mind that I started to consider the contemporary problem of hate speech. Most philosophical analyses of hate speech utilise ‘speech act theory’ as a method for explaining the harms of hate speech (and sometimes, for justifying the need for legislative prevention/remedy). I hypothesize that applying a different theory to the issue may contribute new insights and provide a more robust understanding of the problem at hand. I do not want to see legislative protections weakened, but I am keenly aware that the law is not the solution to hate speech. We need to find alternative strategies which complement the law if we ever hope to reduce or eradicate the problem.
H&C: What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

R-S: I hope that my research will achieve a few things: I hope that my research will help people to better understand the harms of (misogynistic) hate speech, and how to identify it. I hope that my research will build scholarship on social imaginaries, and that this concept might begin to find greater purchase in the public sphere as a means for thinking through issues of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, and so forth. I also hope that my research will enable greater empathetic connections with victims of hate speech and target groups, and greater recognition of each individual’s own intersectional location in the world. Of course, I hope that politicians, activists, and the general public will read and be moved by my scholarship, since the point of thinking through the problem of hate speech is to begin to build real-world strategies for change.

January 24, 2017. The Public Discourse Project Seminar: Jordan Labouff

Date & Location: January 24, 2017, UCHI seminar room, Babbige 4th Floor.

Title: Humility and Helpfulness

Abstract: Dispositionally humble persons (i.e., people with characteristically low self-focus and a comfortably accurate perception of one’s strengths and limitations) may be more likely to sacrifice some of their limited resources to help others in need.  In several experimental studies we find that dispositional humility predicts willingness to help someone in need – particularly in situations where social pressure to help is low.  We will investigate several possible mechanisms by which humility may promote helpfulness, and explore mechanisms for promoting the development of humility and intellectual humility (e.g., education, perspective-taking exercises).

Fake News and the Internet Shell Game, Michael Lynch at the NYTimes | The Stone

November 28, 2016

“Only a few days after the presidential election, the Oxford English Dictionary crowned its international word of the year: post-truth. The dictionary defined it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” To say that the term captured the zeitgeist of 2016 is a lexigraphical understatement. The word, the dictionary’s editors explained, had “gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary.” ”

Read the full article here.

Indigenous Refusals of Settler-Capitalist Notions of Precarity and Aging: The Struggle for Indigenous Elsewheres – Sandy Grande

Tuesday, November 15th, 4-5:30pm
UCHI Seminar room (Babbidge Library, 4th Floor, Room 4/209)

Sandy Grande (Quechua) is a Professor of Education as well as the Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) at Connecticut College.

This talk is part of the Political Theory Seminar Series.

Democracy and Disagreement by Michael Lynch at UConn Today

““The best lack all conviction,” William Butler Yeats noted, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Rarely has the Irish poet’s famous warning against the perils of dogmatism seemed more apt. As a nation, we are so deeply divided that our disagreements extend past values, past even the facts, to the very meaning of what a fact is. As a result, many in the United States believe there is no point in talking to the other side. Why bother, when you already know you are right and they are wrong?”

Read the full story at UConn Today.

“Democratic Rehab” by Scott F. Aiken and Robert B. Talisse at 3Quarks Daily

Monday, November 07, 2016

“When we tell people that we write about logic and politics, we let our interlocutors make the big joke. There is no logic in politics! It’s a funny joke, for sure. But it’s also tragic. And the tragedy is double-barreled. First, good reasons should be behind decision making. Without good reasoning, policy will likely be an irrational hash. There may be no logic in politics, but there ought to be. Second, the politics referred to in the quip is the politics of our democracy. And in a democracy what’s true of the politics is often true of the participants. This includes not only the candidates, politicians, lobbyists, and media personalities, but the citizens as well. And it’s hard to deny that we, the democratic citizens, are not users of logic when it comes to politics. The joke’s on us.”

– Read the full article here at 3Quarks Daily

November 11 & 12, Intellectual Humility and Public Deliberation Workshop

Although not stated using the particular phrase, something like intellectual humility in public discourse appears to be one of the foundational aspects of deliberative theory. For example, Rawls’s concept of the fact of reasonable pluralism, Habermas’s theory of testing validity claims, and even Fishkin’s call for a more reflective public opinion all rely upon the basic assumption that citizens accept that they and those like them might not be correct in their beliefs or preferences. Citizens must, at least eventually, be open to the possible influence of others with whom they disagree; without this possibility, it would be hard to call the democracy deliberative. This workshop will bring together leading scholars and promising new researchers from philosophy, political theory, and political science to discuss topics at the intersection of intellectual humility, public reason, and deliberation. Topics include the place and nature of intellectual humility in public discourse, the possible determinants that mitigate against or encourage its presence (e.g. open‑mindedness, tolerance, and empathy); and the ways in which intellectual humility arises in actual public discourses and practices of deliberation.

Information about speakers and talk abstracts can be found here.

The full schedule of activities can be found here.

Register for the event here.

November 10, 2016: Alexander Heffner, PBS. “Picking Up the Pieces”

Alexander Heffner DebatePlease Join us for a Livestream today 11.10.2016 at 7:00 PM ET.

What will politics look like in the United States after the tumultuous 2016 election? On November 10, 2016, Humility and Conviction in Public Life will host Alexander Heffner, Host of PBS’s The Open Mind and a discussion on “Picking up the Pieces” of U.S. political discourse. “Humility and conviction are indeed the path forward if we are going to break through the cycle of incivility in American politics that has defined our 2016 presidential campaign, I am delighted to join the UConn community just days after we vote…to reflect on this unprecedented election, and to consider a vision for more civil American democracy.”

Heffner will be joined by UConn professor of political science Evelyn Simien and UConn professor of history, Micki McElya. Professor Simien’s most recent book, Historic Firsts: How Symbolic Empowerment Changes U.S. Politics, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015 and considers the historic firsts in American politics, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Published earlier this year by Harvard University Press, Professor McElya’s most recent book, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, examines the larger political and cultural implications of the history of Arlington National Cemetery. The discussion will be hosted by Michael Lynch, a professor of philosophy, the director of the UConn Humanities Institute, and the Principal Investigator of ‘Humility and Conviction in Public Life’ project which was the recent recipient of $6 million in grant funding from the John Templeton Foundation. He is the author of the recent book, The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data.