You are here: Home / News


Ph.D. Candidate Appointed Mellon Dissertation Fellow

The Department of Philosophy would like to congratulate appointed Mellon Dissertation Fellow, Edward O'Bryan, Ph.D. Candidate!


Title of Dissertation: Black American Existentialism: From Liberation to Abolition.  

Committee: Kathryn Sophia Belle (Chair), Robert Bernasconi, Sarah Clark Miller, Jennifer Boittin 


Black Americans who lived through chattel slavery, the abolition of slavery, and the horrors of lynching presented a myriad of ways to think about freedom, equality, alienation, and empowerment. Prolific Black writers like Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells-Barnett exposed contradictions in American society’s views on freedom and equality. Their works underscore the vibrant philosophical objections Black Americans raised with regard to the dominant white society’s views on freedom, equality, oppression, and the alienation of persons through slavery and racism. My dissertation project is motived by the way these thinkers raised practical and theoretical challenges against, and fundamentally changed, the dominant Western views of freedom and equality. Three questions motivate this project: How did those enslaved during American chattel slavery, and their descendants, approach Western concepts like freedom and agency? Were their approaches to freedom fundamentally different from the pro-slavery society? And what lessons can we learn about empowerment from their struggles against oppression? My dissertation aims to answer these questions by utilizing the work of Angela Davis and her existential reading of Frederick Douglass. Further, I demonstrate how both Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells Barnett understand freedom as the process of empowering individuals and communities against the alienations of slavery and its aftermath. Each of these figures outlines the horrors of slave life, the anguish of living under the constant threat of racialized violence, and the importance of resisting these realities. By outlining hypocrisy, inconsistency, and prejudice, these figures both demonstrate how dominant concepts can be altered and utilized in favor of oppressed populations.


To read more about the Mellon Foundation Grant, please click here.

Freiburg - Penn State Collaboration Development Program 2018

The Philosophy in the Age of the New Wars event being hosted as a collaboration between the Penn State philosophy department and the University of Freiburg philosophy department, has received a grant from the PSU Global Programs in the framework of the Freiburg-Penn State Collaboration Development Seed Funding Program 2018.


Ever since Plato, the development of philosophical thought reveals a rich tradition of confronting fundamental questions related to war, peace, and the human condition. However, it is arguably with the advent of a modern conception and experience of warfare that war and, more generally, violent strife in its various forms (as struggle for recognition, as power of negativity, etc.), has firmly become entrenched as a fundamental philosophical concern. Since the 20th -century, transformations in military technology, social forms of organization, cultural modes of perception, and the practice of warfare itself have accelerated and amplified the centrality as well as urgency of the philosophical significance of war. Yet, as many military historians and theorists of conflict have recently argued, over the past 20 years we have been witnessing another stage of radical transformation in the history of warfare under the heading of "the New Wars." Advances in robotic and drone technology, cyber-warfare, and the sprawling fragmentation of conflict have substantially altered both how we think about war and how war is pursued. What, however, are the philosophical consequences and implications of this phenomenon of "the New Wars"? How have transformations in warfare, technology, and the culture of war changed philosophical thinking? How might philosophical thinking come to terms with such transformations?

The aim of this research project between the philosophy departments at Penn State and Freiburg is to explore these questions through an approach combining various philosophical methods of analysis and argumentation in conjunction with an inter-disciplinary outreach to other related fields of study (history, cultural studies, security studies, etc.). The aim of this project to develop a novel field of philosophical research by drawing on and challenging established frameworks for the conceptualization of warfare, violence, and the human condition. 

This project will focus three mutually orthogonal theme of research: War and Technology, War and Subjectivities, War and Institutions. 

Faculty Member Awarded Distinction in the Humanities Award

Robert Bernasconi, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy, has been awarded the Class of 1933 Distinction in the Humanities Award by the College of the Liberal Arts. This award goes to a faculty member who, by his or her outstanding work in the field of humanities, has provided an inspiration in that field.

The award will be presented at the New Emeritus faculty luncheon on Wednesday, April 4th at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Congratulations Robert!


TV Interview on WPSU ft. Paul Taylor

Turn your TVs to WPSU on February 11th at 11:30 a.m. to see Penn State President Eric Barron conduct an interview with Paul Taylor, Professor of Philosophy and Michael Kulikowski, Head of History about the College of Liberal Arts course on 1968.



Professor Awarded the 2017 Monograph Prize from the ASA

Professor Paul C. Taylor's book Black is Beautiful was awarded the 2017 Monograph Prize from the American Society for Aesthetics.  To view the full announcement please click here.

To view Paul C. Taylor's interview with the African American Intellectual History Society, please click here.


Congratulations Paul!