Research Highlight

Professor Kevin Richardson

Prof. Richardson outside West Duke

Who is/are your favorite philosopher(s)? Why?

I don't have a favorite philosopher, but if I could build a favorite philosopher out of multiple philosophers, I would use Aristotle, Marx, and Rudolf Carnap as ingredients.

How would you describe your research program?

I give an analysis of social categories as scalar (viz., come in degrees) and indeterminate (viz., vague, open-ended). Traditionally, philosophers have thought that the fuzziness of social reality makes it resistant to analysis. I disagree. There are many formal and philosophical tools that we can use to perspicuously describe the fluid and ever-changing nature of gender, race, and sexual orientation. I employ these tools regularly in my research.

What issues or questions in philosophy are you most excited by?

I'm excited about what is called non-ideal social ontology. Many philosophers have theorized about society in a way that abstracts away from social dysfunction, disagreement, and disaster. Today, philosophers are more interested in theorizing in a way that acknowledges the disorder of the social world.

Kevin R. outside West Duke

What project/paper/collaboration/etc. are you proudest of so far?

I recently published this paper, "The Metaphysics of Gender is (Relatively) Substantial," where I lay out my scalar theory of gender. It best represents my style of philosophizing, to date.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently wrapping up a project where I give an account of how gender and sexual orientation both come in degrees. I also argue that those categories are defined by prototypes, idealized representations of the “ideal” gender/sexuality.

What next? Any ideas for projects in the pipeline?

My scalar approach to social categories ultimately falls under a more general way of thinking of social categories, as regions of social space. This begets a topological theory of social categories, something that I’m interested in developing further.

What's the holy grail, pipe dream project? 

This isn’t a research project, or even a pipe dream, but I would like to bring together local scholars from different fields who are working on social philosophy. Maybe a research group. Maybe a conference. Maybe a lab. I don’t have a well-defined vision for this. I just have a (naive?) belief that collaboration would improve our respective projects.

Check out Professor Richardson's personal website here!

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