Charlotte Witt is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of New Hampshire. She is interested in social ontology, feminist theory and Aristotle. Recent publications include The Metaphysics of Gender and Feminist Metaphysics: Explorations in the ontology of sex, gender and the self. She is currently chair of the APA Committee on the Status of Women.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
I am very fond of two essays on Aristotle. One, “Deformed Animal Kinds in Aristotle” explores Aristotle’s biological writings, and uses the notion of deformity to shed light on the normative aspect of Aristotelian form. The other, “Tragic Error and Agent Responsibility in Aristotle” solves a puzzle about how to reconcile Aristotle’s account of hamartia (tragic error) in the Poetics with his account of involuntary action in the Nicomachean Ethics. These essays almost wrote themselves and that is probably why I like them so much. Usually writing philosophy is like pulling teeth.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I am proudest of the philosophical work I have engaged in with others. I am thinking primarily of the three volumes I have edited: A Mind of One’s Own (co-edited with Louise Antony), Adoption Matters (co-edited with Sally Haslanger) and Feminist Metaphysics. Each of these collections established a new direction in philosophy thanks to the creativity and talent of the contributors.
What are you working on right now?
One project I am working on right now is a paper in social ontology. My interest in social ontology is inspired by the idea that feminists who think about gender and other social categories need to explore the structure of the social world, our agency as social beings, and the interaction between the two. Perhaps surprisingly, I find resources for my work in social ontology in Aristotle’s metaphysics. Fortunately, there are other Aristotelian social ontologists out there; if you want to find us see the newly launched Critical Social Ontology Workshop.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would you most like it to be?
I would like to wake up able to sing with a beautiful voice. Actually musical talent of any variety would be welcome.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Right now my favorite book is anything written by Michael Chabon. But I am also a big fan of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. The portrait of Mrs. Ramsay is very moving, and the depiction of the passage of time and the disappearance of a past life is beautifully written. Anyone with a tendency towards nostalgia and an appreciation of fine writing will love this book.
What’s your favorite quote?
I’m not sure I have a single favorite quote, but this one is certainly timely.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.
I have the possibly naïve belief that teaching philosophy has a part to play in maintaining these distinctions, and that Arendt is right about the role that a certain kind of thinking might play in our resistance to totalitarianism.
Find out more about Charlotte here.
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