By Phoebe Doscher, Assistant News Editor
Six senior philosophy majors presented their senior theses for educators, family, and peers on Wednesday, May 1. Philosophy Department Chair Gary Mullen prefaced the audience with a short introduction of students’ semester-long work which consisted of previous meetings with the faculty in the department to present their research in a longer form, and finally, the short iteration of their theses for students, faculty, and parents at this presentation session.
Benjamin Boucher ‘19 was the first to present his work titled “How a Bystander Ought to Intervene in Cases of Severe Pattern Based Relational Aggression.” Boucher aimed to find successful intervention and the bystander’s acquisition of justice in the preferable restorative sense. He found that response to an aggressor may differ based on history of abuse and other solutions such as criminal justice and aggression may be used as a solution to perpetrate harm.
Following Boucher’s presentation, Colton Hott ‘19 explored “Understanding heroin addiction: influencing factors, autonomy, stigma, and ethical treatment.” He analyzed the most effective way to understand and treat addiction, which is defined by neurological and environmental factors and often linked with isolation and dependence. He ultimately argued, after comparing various treatment methods in countries around the world, that a utilitarian approach must be taken in order to ethically consider the consequences of the greater good, disband stigmas, and support those who suffer from addiction.
Next, Jianrui Li ‘19 transitioned into discussion of existence with his presentation “Being and Becoming: An Exploration of the Process Philosophy of Albert North Whitehead.” Using Whitehead’s interpretation of becoming and being, Li calls upon self-investigation to understand the phenomenon that “being is becoming; you’re becoming yourself.” He compared Whitehead to Aristotle’s process of becoming as a form of potentiality, thus arguing that beings are in a constant state of change throughout existence.
Dylan Prazak ‘19 stayed within the same realm of contemplation of self in his thesis, “Changing Oneself: Comparing Relational Models of Selfhood to Find the Inner Location of Change.” He posed the question of how he could change himself and used comparative relational models, as well as insight from Martin Heidegger’s “Being and Time” to understand that the self exists in relation to other beings and that “dasein” allows oneself to comprehend their own existence. He argued that the self is never in a stagnant state or fully completed process of being; further, the body is a machine to host consistent searchable newness rather than the social phenomenon of individual change.
After Prazak, Leigh Richard ‘19 delved into gender identity with her study of “Language and Identity – or, Why I Keep Saying Language of Fake.” Richard posed her commonly heard phrase, “language is fake” with arguments about the performative nature of gender and the termed forms of gender such as -cis, -bi, and trans- that have grown to become accepted in society as terms for identity. When one identifies a certain way, she argues, the language provided to express identity calls for a societal inclusion to empower and liberate the identifiers.
To round out the presentations, Kara Robertson ‘19 finished with “Social Media and the Self: A Call for Digital Dualism.” She argued that the online “self” is conceived as a legitimate version of “self” in society, although it exists on a different ecological realm. While one’s social media profile can be easily manipulated and better controlled, dualism is necessary in order to be in touch with one’s true self rather than being limited by algorithms or a diminished form of social being.
All in all, the senior philosophy majors prepared theses that analyzed multiple facets of philosophical approaches to everyday life, whether that be looking within to find oneself, or understanding the separation oneself from the entity that exists on continually expanding forms of social media.