Metaphysics of Mind and More

August 13, 2018

photo of Willem deVries

The University of New Hampshire has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund a four-week seminar for college faculty on philosophical responses to empiricism in Kant, Hegel and American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars, to be held summer 2019 in Durham.

The award is one of 218 announced recently by NEH, totaling $43.1 million in support for humanities projects across the country. Only ten grants were awarded in the category of summer seminars and institutes for college and university teachers.

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive one of these NEH awards,” says project co-director Willem deVries, professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts at UNH. “Summer seminars like ours have a lasting impact on the participants and the profession, so it speaks to the quality of UNH’s program to get an award like this. Our program will also have a bit of an international spin, because James O’Shea [project co-director and professor of philosophy] teaches at University College Dublin. Indeed, we hope to be able to take UNH to Europe in 2020 with another seminar for European scholars.”

The focus of the 2019 seminar will be on Sellars (1912-1989) and his tussles with empiricism, the idea that all knowledge and meaning arise solely from experience. Sellars’ attempt to develop a more adequate empiricism was profound and set the stage for philosophic debates that persist today, according to deVries. Moreover, his philosophic framework has been the basis of an explosion of scholarship in recent years.

“We’re going to be looking into questions concerning the structure, reach and methods of human knowledge, known as epistemology. We’ll also be looking at the fundamental metaphysics of mind: how do minds relate to the material world around us? Empiricists do not, traditionally, have a strong story to tell about the mind-matter relation. We’ll be exploring a line of thought that stems from Kant through Hegel to Sellars that makes normativity — that is, something like rule-following — a central pillar of what it is to have a mind” says deVries.

Both deVries and O’Shea have written books on Sellars’ philosophy, edited anthologies drawn from conferences devoted to his work, and published essays dealing with Sellars and with aspects of German Idealism, including monographs on Kant and Hegel.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.


Public Humanities

November 9, 2017

photo of six panelists at table

Six College of Liberal Arts faculty members presented on UNH’s innovative public humanities fellows program at the National Humanities Conference, held Nov. 2-5, 2017, in Boston, Mass.

The UNH Center for the Humanities annually awards up to three fellowships of $5000 each for publicly engaged humanities projects. The awards enable individual humanities scholars or teams to undertake collaborative projects, partnering with community or other public organizations, bringing humanities scholarship to bear in the context of advancing democracy, civic life and the public good.

Learn about the projects funded by the public humanities fellows program.

The faculty presenting at the Conference, pictured above, left to right, were Eleanor Harrison-Buck (anthropology), Christina Ortmeier-Hooper (English), Alecia Magnifico (English), Burt Feintuch (English and the Center for the Humanities), Nick Smith (philosophy) and Svetlana Peshkova (anthropology).

The conference, co-hosted with the Federation of State Humanities Councils, was the second in a series of three joint national meetings that bring the humanities community together as whole to consider how, by leveraging strengths, they can achieve broader public impact and showcase the fundamental role the humanities play in addressing both local and global challenges.

Nick Smith presenting

Professor Nick Smith

Svetlana Peshkova presenting

Professor Svetlana Peshkova


Sociology Undergrads Publish New Work

August 9, 2017

The 2017 edition of Perspectives, the UNH online undergraduate journal in sociology, is now available. A student editorial team worked with 11 fellow students to craft their papers into publishable articles for inclusion in this year’s edition.

Articles tackle topics such as racial bias, suicide and mental health, prescription stimulant use and how students’ paid jobs impact academic outcomes.

“We were overwhelmingly impressed and pleased at the high number of submissions we received from undergrads this year,” wrote the editors in their introduction. “It’s truly incredible that so many students went the extra mile to submit these papers, particularly those who worked tirelessly to complete their final year here at UNH prior to stepping out into the post-college world.”

Read the latest edition.


UNH Research Finds Majority of Americans Trust NASA on Climate Change

June 13, 2017

bar graph
Article Source: UNH Media Relations

Seventy-three percent of Americans trust science agencies like NASA for information about climate change, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. This includes a substantial majority within every political group.

In addition, a follow-up survey by the researchers found more than 80 percent of survey respondents – again including majorities in all political groups – favor continuing or expanding NASA’s Earth observations programs rather than cutting them.

“NASA and scientists in general know they face challenges in communicating the results, reasoning and importance of their work to the public,” the researchers said. “That is true now more than ever, as the scientific community interacts with a Trump administration that has been widely dismissive of science. As NASA scientists continue to carry out and communicate Earth observations, efforts to curtail their work will not find a sympathetic public, even among partisans.”

Original data was collected for the nationwide Polar, Environment and Sciences (POLES) survey conducted just after the election and for a statewide follow-up survey in May. Similarly, high trust in NASA climate science was found on a separate survey conducted last August. The full report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/eyes-earth

The research was conducted by Lawrence Hamilton, UNH professor of sociology and senior Carsey fellow; Jessica Brunacini, assistant director of the Polar Learning and Responding (PoLAR) Climate Change Education Partnership at the Earth Institute of Columbia University; and Stephanie Pfirman, Hirschorn professor of environmental sciences at Barnard College, Columbia University, and director of PoLAR.


UNH Political Scientist Named Visiting Scholar at Harvard

February 17, 2017

photo of Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter, assistant professor of political science, has been named a visiting scholar at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) at Harvard University. She is currently in residence at the Center for the spring 2017 term.

At CES, Carter is working on her book project “For What it’s Worth: The Politics of Market Barriers in European Luxury Markets.” The project investigates linkages between political organization, market protection and value construction in luxury markets in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the European Union. She is analyzing dynamics between trust and power across the supply chain, and their relationship to prices and perceived production quality.

Carter earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of California Berkeley. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. Her dissertation focused on producer organization and the creation of value in the French and Italian wine markets. Her current research interests include supply chain organization, regulatory politics and price theory.

This year, CES is hosting 25 social scientists from a range of disciplines who are carrying out innovative research on Europe while in residence at the Center. CES is the premier academic institution for the study of European history and culture, as well as for debate and discussion on contemporary Europe and its future role in world affairs.


UNH Classics Professor Awarded Research Fellowship in Germany

February 3, 2017

Harriet Fertik

Harriet Fertik, assistant professor of classics, has been awarded a research fellowship for postdoctoral researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She will spend the academic year 2017-2018 at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables highly-qualified scientists and scholars from abroad who are just embarking on their academic careers and who completed their doctorates less than four years ago to spend extended periods of research in Germany.

During her fellowship, Fertik will work on a new book project, “Outside the Ideal Community: Spaces for Education and Politics in Greco-Roman Antiquity and the Works of W. E. B. Du Bois.” She will investigate education in political communities that do not value the equal participation of its citizens in public discourse and action.

“While much work at the intersection of political and educational philosophy in classical studies focuses on the formation of the ideal community and how to educate its members,” says Fertik, “I investigate how, where and why education takes place when these ideals cannot be realized. I will use W. E. B. Du Bois’ discussions of classical training for African Americans to frame my study of education and politics in the ancient world.”

While recent scholarship has paid greater attention to the influence of Du Bois’ classical training in his thinking about politics, education and race, says Fertik, no one has yet examined the potential of Du Bois’ work to shed light on key issues in classical antiquity.

Humboldt-Universität has an active program in African-American studies, and Du Bois himself was a doctoral student there in the late 19th century.

“The Humboldt fellowship will give me the time necessary to make significant progress in researching and writing this book,” says Fertik.

Fertik has also received a faculty fellowship from the UNH Center for the Humanities to support this project.


UNH Research Finds Trump Voters Stand Apart on Renewable Energy and Climate

February 2, 2017

key findings chart

Only 25 percent of those who say they voted for Donald Trump agree with the scientific consensus that human activities are changing Earth’s climate, according to new survey research at UNH. In contrast, large majorities of Clinton voters as well as third-party voters and nonvoters believe humans are causing climate change and want to see renewable energy development be a priority.

Climate change received little media attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, but recent surveys indicate that climate change and related energy issues are taken seriously by a growing majority of the public. Almost three-fourths of Americans surveyed after the election said that renewable energy should be a higher national priority than more drilling for oil and about two-thirds agree with the scientific consensus that humans are changing Earth’s climate.

“We saw a common theme when talking about what actions those surveyed wanted to see to reduce the risks of climate change,” said Larry Hamilton, professor of sociology and a senior Carsey fellow. “While renewable energy and lifestyle changes were popular, cap-and-trade and carbon tax were not. Overall, Trump voters are much less likely than other voter groups to support any action to reduce the risks of climate change.”

“Although public recognition and a sense of urgency lag behind science, they are measurably rising,” Hamilton added. “Given the outcome of the 2016 election and the belief patterns seen in these surveys, the willingness of the U.S. to respond is in question.”

The full report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/energy-climate-trump.


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