Gender Reveal Party – Update 1


In my abstract, I wrote that I intended to create a metaphysical and epistemological model to systematically unify queer identities, but over the last few months, I’ve substantially adjusted the goals of this project. The more I’ve learned about the metaphysics (not to mention the politics) of gender and sexual orientation, the less comfortable I am attempting to unify them with a philosophical model. The factors which cause different people to embrace or reject a ‘queer’ identity are so personal and so diverse that it would be very easy to do harm with a model that claims to be definitive, and as such I don’t feel comfortable doing that work at this time. Rather than attempting to propose a comprehensive model, I will tackle a series of smaller questions which strike me as particularly interesting and important, and which together reveal the fascinating relationship between the metaphysical nature of gender, the conversations we use to understand and reinforce it, and the ethics of the role it should play in our lives.

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Abstract: An Evolutionary Objection to Ethical Objectivism

The idea that there is right and wrong is incredibly intuitive. Charity is right. Slavery is wrong. But if right and wrong exist what does this entail and how do we know what if something is right? If morality exists it must be an objective morality. The right action in a specific scenario cannot be right for one person and not right for another. Another requisite of morality is categorical action guiding power. To do what is right you may have to act against your desires, thus morality must be able to motivate  independently of desire. We cling to the idea of morality because if morality didn’t exist then. Surely, without morality there would be no reason for people not to just kill each other on sight or lie without a care.

However, we cannot accept morality exists simply because we fear a world without it. Like everything else we believe exists we must have reasoning beyond intuition. There is no positive reason why morality exists. In fact, many moral actions can be explained by evolution. Research in affective and cognitive neuroscience has show that “moral” instincts have evolved overtime. This summer, I plan to read and analyze studies and articles on the evolution of moral behavior. 

Beyond scientific research, there is significant philosophical evidence against morality. J.L. Mackie argues that the idea of motivation independent of desires is too weird to fathom. In addition to my scientific research, I will research philosophical objections to ethical objectivism and find the intersection of this research and the scientific research I have accumulated.

Epistemology in Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens, a modernist poet who emerged in the 1920s and gained widespread popularity in the 40s, writes very philosophical poetry, and this element of his work sets him apart from his Modernist contemporaries. Stevens’ poems are about the relationship of human imagination and reality, the role of religion in humans’ understanding of reality, and the source of reality’s value. His poetry seeks to answer questions like: how can we know? How do human beliefs and perceptions affect our understanding of reality? Which version of reality is the true version? Epistemology, a discipline of philosophy that deals with the study of theories of knowledge, investigates similar questions. My summer research will analyze the philosophical ideas found in Wallace Stevens’ poems, focusing on how theories of epistemology illuminate the themes in his poetry.

LGBTQ&A: Who We Are and How We Know – Abstract

From the nature of self-knowledge to the role of childbearing in society, there are a number of philosophical problems which queer people are uniquely situated to address. Questions which have inspired robust debate in Western philosophy stand at the heart of modern queer experience: What does it mean to know myself? What do we owe each other? How should I value my own happiness? Who am I? My study of LGBTIQ history, along with my own lived experience, has taught me that constructions of heterosexuality affect every aspect of social reality: Friendship, family, labor, love, aging, dying, justice. Nothing escapes the fray. The goal of my research is to propose a new model for understanding queer identity, and to use this model to explore other areas of philosophy through a lens of queer normativity.

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