Departmental Newsletter: June-July 2023

In the fall of 2023, Duke Philosophy will welcome seven new graduate students to our department. We are so excited that they will be joining us. Each new student has written a brief introduction. If you have overlapping research interests, deep-seated disagreements about football club loyalties, or just want to say hi, be sure to reach out to them!

Thomas Carnes

Thomas Carnes joins us after receiving his MA in Philosophy from Tufts University in 2017 and his BA from the US Military Academy at West Point in 2008. He is an officer in the Army and has been selected to teach at West Point as an Academy Professor (sort of the Army's version of an Assistant Professor) upon completion of his PhD. He is coming to Duke from Germany, where he has spent the last three years serving as the strategic advisor to the commanding general of all US missile defense forces stationed in Europe.

He is generally interested in political and social philosophy--especially issues that revolve around race like reparations, the nature of racism, what is required to achieve racial justice, etc. Recently he has been thinking a lot about political disobedience and violence, with special interest in the ethics of rioting. 

One of Thomas' favorite philosophers is Lionel McPherson who, in a close examination of moral similarities between acts of terrorism and conventional acts of war (in contrast with how scholars and military/political leaders often view their moral differences), says that we "should...adopt either a more critical attitude toward conventional war or a less condemnatory attitude toward terrorism." As someone who has taught and will teach the ethics of war to West Point students who will graduate as commissioned officers possibly leading Soldiers into combat, Thomas likes to emphasize this quote when teaching McPherson's paper in class to encourage in young cadets a more skeptical attitude toward their (very morally serious) future business: fighting our nation's wars.

Kerrie Edmondson

Kerrie Edmondson joins us after attending the University of Georgia for a BA in Classics and Wake Forest University for her JD. At the moment, her philosophical interests are piqued by causation and experimental jurisprudence. Kerrie says she can't choose a favorite philosopher because she doesn't know of any, but she hopes to learn of one soon! (Editor's note: I'm trying not to take this personally.) Additionally, Kerrie has been practicing law for 5 years in New York and is an Arsenal fan.

Lindsay Huth

Lindsay Huth received her bachelor's in psychology and visual communication design at the University of Notre Dame. She then received a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park, after which she worked for several years at The Wall Street Journal. When it became apparent that her questions about the world were philosophical, rather than journalistic, she pursued a master's in philosophy from Tufts University before coming to Duke. 

Lindsay is primarily interested in interdisciplinary moral psychology, including moral emotions and comparative ethics across cultures. She is also curious about the nature of mental illness and what it might tell us about wellbeing and flourishing.

One of Lindsay's favorite philosophers is Philippa Foot, who observed: "If one wants to be a respectable philosopher, one should get up in the mornings and do some work, though just at that moment when one should do it, the thought of being a respectable philosopher leaves one cold." Lindsay is encouraged that, despite feeling this way, Foot managed to publish some excellent philosophy. (Same, Lindsay. Same.)

Kexuan Liu

Kexuan Liu joins us after having just graduated from the University of Virginia. 

Her philosophical interests lie in social philosophy and philosophy of mind/cog sci, especially feminist philosophy, philosophy of disability, and philosophy of memory. She is also interested in 20th and 21st century continental philosophy, especially hermeneutics and critical phenomenology. "Honestly," Kexuan says, "if there is going to be a keyword list for things that I’m interested in, it’s gotta be like this : memory / disability / feminist & queer theory / ontological pluralism / emotion / ethics / body / liberatory epistemologies / relational self." 

There are several philosophers whose work Kexuan admires. One is Sue Campbell, who said that “models of cognitive processes have inevitable commitments to values." Another is M. M. Bakhtin, who said that, There may be, between ‘languages,’ highly specific dialogic relations; no matter how these languages are conceived, they may all be taken as particular points of view on the world ... language is not an abstract system of normative forms but rather a concrete heteroglot conception of the world. All words have the ‘taste’ of a profession, a genre, a tendency, a party, a particular work, a particular person, a generation, an age group, the day and hour.”

Tzvetan Moev

Tzvetan Moev comes to Duke after studying philosophy at King's College London and the University of Cambridge. He also completed an MPhil in Economics at the University of Oxford.

His primary interests are in philosophy of science. He is especially excited by topics related to causation, philosophy of economics and philosophy of cognitive science. He also has side interests in existentialism and Kant. 

Tzvetan's favorite philosopher is Alex Rosenberg, and he likes the following quote from the Atheist's Guide to Reality: "What is the purpose of the universe? There is none. What is the meaning of life? Ditto. Why am I here? Just dumb luck." (Anybody else heard of this guy?)

Mary Purcell

Mary Purcell received her BA with a double-major in philosophy and English literature from the University of Scranton. This past spring, she received her MA from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Currently, her favorite philosopher is Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) and she adores the following quote:

"It is probable, some will say, that my much writing is a disease; but what disease they will judge it to be, I cannot tell; I do verily believe they will take it to be a disease of the brain; but surely they cannot call it an apoplectical or lethargical disease: Perhaps they will say, it is an extravagant, or at least a fantastical disease; but I hope they will rather call it a disease of wit. Let them give it what name they please; yet of this I am sure, that if much writing be a disease, then the best philosophers, both moral and natural, as also the best divines, lawyers, physicians, poets, historians, orators, mathematicians, chemists, and many more have been grievously sick."

John Sweeney

John Sweeney joins us after receiving a Master's at London School of Economics and a BA from Bowdoin College. His primary interests are in ethics, agency, technology, and political philosophy. His favorite philosopher, currently, is Elizabeth Anderson, who says: “The fundamental obligation of citizens to one another is to secure the social conditions of everyone’s freedom” (What Is the Point of Equality?, 314). John looks forward to playing lots of ping pong, pickleball, and tennis in Durham!

Mabel and Teddy

In addition to a new cohort of graduate students, the Duke Philosophy Department is thrilled to welcome Mabel Eva to the world! She reports that she is indeed blooming, buzzing, and certainly confused (after being subjected to various thought experiments by her father immediately upon her arrival; turns out she's a one-boxer, but she chose the wrong door in Monty Hall and walked away with this teddy bear).

Nina Van Rooy

Nina Van Rooy will give a talk at the Deep South Philosophy and Neuroscience Conference at Pensacola on 'Is Episodic Memory a Unified Construct Across Species?'. Congratulations, Nina!

Katherine Brading and Pablo Ruiz de Olano

Katherine Brading gave a talk in Norway on "non-empirical confirmation"(!) of theories in physics, at a workshop on that topic. While at the workshop, Katherine caught up with her former PhD student Pablo Ruiz de Olano (currently at the Max Planck Institute). He also gave a talk at the workshop. They enjoyed a late evening walk (with Otavia Bueno and Sorin Bangu) up on the roof of the Opera House in downtown Oslo.

Caleb Hazelwood leaning against a fence in a button-down shirt.

Caleb Hazelwood was recently interviewed on The HPS Podcast, which is developed and hosted by students at the University of Melbourne. He had a fun conversation about "scientific metaphysics" with host Samara Greenwood. If you'd like, you can listen to the episode here

Photos from the Summer Seminar in Neuroscience and Philosophy 

SSNAP t-shirt
Walter and Felipe
Walter and a brain

Ask Tayfun, Or Don’t: The (Unsolicited™) Advice Column

Trustworthy Tayfun

Paul Grice asks: “I have a very avaricious man in my room, and I want him to go; so I throw a pound note out of my window. Is there here any utterance with a meaning?” (Studies in the Way of Words, p. 219). Since I am no longer accepting questions concerning philosophy of language, let me instead give some free, kosher, and unsolicited advice to Adrienne—or rather, a warning. Beware the ghost of one W. V. O. Quine, who gets restless this time of year. The cat owners in the department should be okay, but I hear he won’t stop coming after you if you are a Dog Ma. 

If you have a question for Tayfun for the next newsletter, please send it to though you may get some advice even if you don't.