Department Highlights

2022

Booklist #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year * African American Literary Book Club (AALBC) #1 Nonfiction Bestseller * Named a Best Book of the Year by: NPR, Publishers Weekly, BookPage, Barnes & Noble, Hudson Booksellers, ARTnews, and more * Amazon Editors’ Pick * Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction Longlist

"A compelling and important history that this nation desperately needs to hear." ―Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative

Winfred Rembert grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. During that time he met the undaunted Patsy, who would become his wife. Years later, at the age of fifty-one and with Patsy’s encouragement, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in prison.

Chasing Me to My Grave presents Rembert’s breathtaking body of work alongside his story, as told to Tufts Philosopher Erin I. Kelly. Rembert calls forth vibrant scenes of Black life on Cuthbert, Georgia’s Hamilton Avenue, where he first glimpsed the possibility of a life outside the cotton field. As he pays tribute, exuberant and heartfelt, to Cuthbert’s Black community and the people, including Patsy, who helped him to find the courage to revisit a traumatic past, Rembert brings to life the promise and the danger of Civil Rights protest, the brutalities of incarceration, his search for his mother’s love, and the epic bond he found with Patsy.

Vivid, confrontational, revelatory, and complex, Chasing Me to My Grave is a searing memoir in prose and painted leather that celebrates Black life and summons readers to confront painful and urgent realities at the heart of American history and society.

  • The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce that Professors Nancy Bauer and Avner Baz will be co-teaching a philosophy majors seminar in Fall 2022. The class is scheduled on Thursdays 9:00-11:30AM.

The aim of this new seminar is twofold: first, to help foster a philosophical community among our majors, by giving them an opportunity to get to know each other and to engage in philosophy as a group; and second, to give our majors more of a say about the texts we will read and the philosophical topics we will discuss. The seminar will give the students more of an opportunity than they normally would have in other courses to present their own work and lead discussions. As part of the seminar, we plan on having some of the philosophers whose work we will be reading and discussing visit the seminar and speak with us about their work and ideas.

A new form of philosophizing known as ordinary language philosophy took root in England after the Second World War, promising a fresh start and a way out of long-standing dead-end philosophical debates. Pioneered by Wittgenstein, Austin, and others, OLP is now widely rumored, within mainstream analytic philosophy, to have been seriously discredited, and consequently its perspective is ignored.

Avner Baz begs to differ. In When Words Are Called For, he shows how the prevailing arguments against OLP collapse under close scrutiny. All of them, he claims, presuppose one version or another of the very conception of word-meaning that OLP calls into question and takes to be responsible for many traditional philosophical difficulties. Worse, analytic philosophy itself has suffered as a result of its failure to take OLP’s perspective seriously. Baz blames a neglect of OLP’s insights for seemingly irresolvable disputes over the methodological relevance of “intuitions” in philosophy and for misunderstandings between contextualists and anti-contextualists (or “invariantists”) in epistemology. Baz goes on to explore the deep affinities between Kant’s work and OLP and suggests ways that OLP could be applied to other philosophically troublesome concepts.

When Words Are Called For defends OLP not as a doctrine but as a form of practice that might provide a viable alternative to work currently carried out within mainstream analytic philosophy. Accordingly, Baz does not merely argue for OLP but, all the more convincingly, practices it in this eye-opening book.

2020

In Attributing Knowledge, Jody Azzouni challenges philosophical conventions about what it means to know something. He argues that the restrictive conditions philosophers place on knowers--that imply that only humans know things--are wrong. In fact, knowledge can be truly attributed to babies, sophisticated animals (great apes, orcas), unsophisticated animals (bees), and machinery (drones, driverless cars). Ram Neta thinks the book "is full of surprises." Indeed, Azzouni solves long-standing and recent puzzles that have perplexed philosophers--including the dogmatism paradox, Gettier puzzles, and the surprise-exam paradox.

The perception of what he calls ‘aspects’ preoccupied Wittgenstein and gave him considerable trouble in his final years. The Wittgensteinian aspect defies any number of traditional philosophical dichotomies: the aspect is neither subjective (inner, metaphysically private) nor objective; it presents perceivable unity and sense that are (arguably) not (yet) conceptual; it is ‘subject to the will’, but at the same time is normally taken to be genuinely revelatory of the object perceived under it. This Element begins with a grammatical and phenomenological characterization of Wittgensteinian aspects. It then challenges two widespread ideas: that aspects are to be identified with concepts, and that aspect perception has a continuous version that is characteristic of (normal) human perception. It concludes by proposing that aspect perception brings to light the distinction between the world as perceived and the world as objectively construed, and the role we play in the constitution of the former.

In this volume, Baz offers a wide-ranging discussion of Wittgenstein’s remarks on aspect-perception, with special focus on Wittgenstein’s method. Baz starts out with an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s remarks on aspects and continues with attempts to characterize and defend Wittgenstein’s approach to the understanding and dissolution of philosophical difficulties. Baz ends with attempts to articulate—under the inspiration of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology—certain dissatisfactions, both with Wittgenstein’s remarks on aspect perception, and with his philosophical approach more generally. 

On the way, Baz explores connections between Wittgenstein’s remarks on aspects and Kant’s aesthetics. He examines ways in which the remarks on aspects may be brought to bear on contemporary philosophical work on perception. He discusses some of the implications of Wittgenstein’s work on aspect perception for issues in moral philosophy and the philosophy of action.

Wittgenstein said the problem of aspect perception was as hard as granite, and no one is a more capable, persistent and imaginative stonecutter than Baz. Using insights from Merleau-Ponty’s work, he shows how the philosophical significance of what is involved in “seeing something as something” is still being widely misunderstood and underappreciated. These essays stand out by their depth and honesty, and raise new questions that anyone working in the area will have to address. 

– Martin Gustafsson, Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

  • Professor George Smith and former Tufts Undergrad Dr. Raghav Seth’s book "Brownian Motion and Molecular Reality" is out! Between 1905 and 1913, French physicist Jean Perrin's experiments on Brownian motion ostensibly put a definitive end to the long debate regarding the real existence of molecules, proving the atomic theory of matter. While Perrin's results had a significant impact at the time, later examination of his experiments questioned whether he really gained experimental access to the molecular realm. The experiments were successful in determining the mean kinetic energy of the granules of Brownian motion; however, the values for molecular magnitudes Perrin inferred from them simply presupposed that the granule mean kinetic energy was the same as the mean molecular kinetic energy in the fluid in which the granules move. This stipulation became increasingly questionable in the years between 1908 and 1913, as significantly lower values for these magnitudes were obtained from other experimental results like alpha-particle emissions, ionization, and Planck's blackbody radiation equation. In this case study in the history and philosophy of science, George E. Smith and Raghav Seth here argue that despite doubts, Perrin's measurements were nevertheless exemplars of theory-mediated measurement-the practice of obtaining values for an inaccessible quantity by inferring them from an accessible proxy via theoretical relationships between them. They argue that it was actually Perrin more than any of his contemporaries who championed this approach during the years in question. The practice of theory-mediated measurement in physics had a long history before 1900, but the concerted efforts of Perrin, Rutherford, Millikan, Planck, and their colleagues led to the central role this form of evidence has had in microphysical research ever since. Seth and Smith's study thus replaces an untenable legend with an account that is not only tenable, but more instructive about what the evidence did and did not show.

 

2019

Congratulations to the Tufts Ethics Bowl team, who is #2 in the nation!

Congratulations to Professor Ninan for making The Philosopher's Annual 2018 list of the ten best articles of the year with his, "Quantification and Epistemic Modality" from the October 1, 2018 issue of The Philosophical Review.

Professor Jody Azzouni was at the University of Rochester on Friday, October 18, 2019 to give a talk on "Knowledgeable Apes, Insects and Drones."

A group of students from Professor Susan Russinoff's Ethics Bowl course (PHIL 091) worked with the new Tufts incarcerated student cohort at MCI-Concord through the Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College. Prof. Hilary Binda, founding director of the initiative, has incorporated an ethics bowl component into the English 1 course she is teaching this spring to the 26 people pursuing their associate's degree in the liberal arts over the next 4 years by taking Tufts courses while serving time. The Tufts students are helping her students at Concord to identify ethical issues, use cogent ethical reasoning to support their positions, and respond thoughtfully to opponents' arguments. This work will culminate in an Ethics Bowl competition at the end of the semester, judged by Tufts Ethics Bowl students. Student participants from Medford include: Chris Wingard, Reece Wallace, Will Youman, Indigo Naar, Abby Feldman, Sarah Wiener, Monika Greco, and Ria Mazumdar. Professors Binda and Russinoff look forward to further collaboration between Tufts philosophy students and the Tufts students incarcerated at MCI-Concord.

Professors Avner Baz and Nancy Bauer spoke at an international conference titled ‘Continuing Cavell: Must We Mean at Fifty’ on Saturday and Sunday, February 9-10, 2019, 9:00am-5:30pm, at Boston University's Kilichand Center 610 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.

Professor Susan Russinoff was selected by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life to be a faculty fellow for the academic year 2018-2019. With support from Tisch, she will continue her work on pre-college philosophy. She has hosted the New England High School Ethics Bowl for the past five years and last spring she offered a new course on teaching philosophy to young children (Phil. 91: Philosophy for Children.) She plans to design a companion course to Phil. 91 that will take Tufts undergraduates into the community to introduce philosophy to and facilitate philosophical discussion with young people in settings such as schools, after school programs, and public libraries.

2018

On December 10, 2018, Professor Avner Baz hosted a day-long doctoral workshop on Ordinary Language Philosophy, at the University of Zurich.

Professor Erin Kelly's book published: "The Limits of Blame: Rethinking Punishment and Responsibility" (Harvard University Press, 2018.)

In Memoriam: Hugo Bedau
Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus

Congratulations to our Neubauer Faculty Fellow: Assistant Professor Dilip Ninan