Lawrence Santiago – Reason and Passion: How NUS Philosophy Shaped my Thinking About the World

The following is a letter from Lawrence Santiago, who received his MA in Philosophy from NUS in 2007.

Exactly two years ago, I was interviewed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for the Trudeau Scholarship. The Trudeau Scholarship is Canada’s most highly coveted doctoral scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences. The scholarship competition is open for Canadian students studying in universities in Canada and abroad as well for non-Canadians studying in Canada. Some claim that it is Canada’s answer to the Rhodes or Fulbright Scholarships. To get the scholarship, one has to be nominated by the candidate’s research supervisor, then by her Department, and finally by her University. By a stroke of luck and hard work, I was sent by my home university, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and was eventually chosen by external and selection committees of the Trudeau Foundation to be among the final 25 for an interview. I was finally chosen to be part of the final 15, the only non-Canadian in my cohort as well as the first to come from a Singaporean institution of higher education in the history of the scholarship.

In the morning of my interview, I put aside all my nerves and decided to leave the interview process to fate. After all, just to arrive at that stage was enough confirmation that I have an intellectual project worth pursuing. A panel of 4 interviewed me: there were 3 senior academics from a wide range of fields outside my specialization, a historian, a sociologist and a lawyer, as well as 1 leading Canadian journalist. During my interview, I was asked many questions about my personal and academic background. I was very clear to them that I came from Asia, and particularly, educated in the Philippines and Singapore. Then, they asked me the most challenging question: exactly how my academic background that is mostly in philosophy (at this stage, they have read my file well!) can enable me to do my research project informed by the methodologies and theories of the social science discipline I was enrolled in, human geography. They also asked me whether I would pursue this project normatively or empirically. Continue reading

The Kent Ridge Common: An Open Letter From a Philosophy Alum

The following is an open letter from one of our philosophy alumni, Lester Lim, about his experiences, from Kent Ridge, to Illinois, and back again, starting The Kent Ridge Common:

Through my experience from a semester of exchange at the University of Illinois during President Obama’s electoral campaign in 2008, I saw how a vibrant university culture could not be possible without the presence of an active student voice. This active student voice, in part, was largely supported by an independent student-led news publication, The Daily Illini. The Daily Illini was the the University of Illinois’ news daily – a news publication that was supported by external investors, but ran exclusively by the university students. No issue was too big or too small for The Daily Illini to report on; it was the pivotal centerpiece of everything and anything that happened on campus. If something happened on campus, one can almost be sure that the daily would be there to report it to the student population the very next day. But more importantly, the publication also engaged the students very directly to canvas their opinions on a large variety of issues that was of concern to them – the ambit stretched from political to economic and social issues that affected the larger community they were living in. The students had a voice, and the daily acted as a taintless mirror to reflect their views. Continue reading

NUS Philosophy Podcast #2 – “Ways of World-Breaking & Ethical Escapism”, by John Holbo

This is installment two in our podcast series. “Ways of World-Breaking & Ethical Escapism”, delivered as a talk in the department by Assoc. Prof. John Holbo, on March 30, 2010. Here is the abstract:

Tamar Gendler takes ‘the puzzle of imaginative resistance’ to be that of ‘explaining comparative difficulty imagining fictional worlds we take to be morally deviant.’ Gendler follows Kendall Walton, who prefers to focus on difficulties ‘making true’. This paper seeks to dissolve any such puzzle, largely by considering the workings of genre: relationship between absurdities and absurdism; reflections on narrators and authors; then, a major class of counter-examples: most genre fiction is ‘morally deviant’. Superman lives in a world in which behavior that would be morally appalling in the real world is sane and admirable. In effect, these fictions are perfectionist fantasies about impossible compossibilities of virtues, but not explicitly so. So the world contains many metaethically fantastic fictions, while containing few fictions about metaethics, per se.

NUS Philosophy Podcast #1 – Asst. Prof. Neil Sinhababu, “Desire And Intention”

I’ve been meaning to get this podcast series started for a while now. And here we go. Our first is a talk given by the department’s own Asst. Prof. Neil Sinhababu, “Desire and Intention”. The talk was delivered in the department on March 2, 2010. Here is the abstract:

I will argue that intentions are reducible to combinations of desires and beliefs.  Kieran Setiya presents two criticisms of such views of intention in “Reasons Without Rationalism.”  First, he charges that they can’t explain why intentional action is accompanied by knowledge of what we are doing.  Second, he charges that they can’t explain how we can choose our reasons for action.  I will first describe some general advantages of the desire-belief view over competing views.  Then I will show how the nature of desire explains the things that Setiya thinks the desire-belief view can’t explain.