Stephanie Heckman obtained a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Psychology and a Master of Sciences in International and European Politics from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a post-graduate research student in Philosophy (Wellbeing and Philanthropy) at the University of Edinburgh and the West Coast Director for Epic Foundation. Epic Foundation bridges the gap between a new generation of philanthropists and organizations supporting children and youth globally. For the last fifteen years, Stephanie has been building effective partnerships to create a better world.
What excites you about philosophy?
I am excited by the insight and framework that philosophy can offer when we try to imagine a better world. Other disciplines tend to operate in silos and do not reflect the complex nature of humanity and the environment in which we live. I passionately feel that philosophy is more important than ever before, as technology opens up the world on a level we have never experienced. Philosophy has the potential to unite humanity and define how we can live well together. Even if this seems over ambitious, it is certainly a good time in our human history to pause for deeper reflection.
I think this is also an exciting time for women in philosophy. The implications from an increase in women’s philosophical perspectives, after thousands of years of this being a very male dominated arena, will be interesting to analyze and observe. I would love to write an article on the philosophy of wellbeing that only cites female philosophers.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Over the last five years I have facilitated discussions with people from all corners of the world, aligned values, and identified common goals. It is wonderfully rewarding to witness the very best of humanity working together to solve some of today’s biggest challenges. I have fostered international partnerships with grassroots leaders and philanthropists from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, that have helped fight sex trafficking, child labor, lack of access to life-saving medicine, education, and more. My greatest achievement is the friendships I have made along the way. I love being a global citizen.
What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?
I’m reading a few things just now to help prepare me for postgraduate research. It has been over fifteen years since I attended University. I recently finished Guy Fletcher’s Philosophy of Well Being: An Introduction, which is a very clear and compelling guide. It is lovely revisiting some of the books I first read whilst I was a student. Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics is as relevant now as when it was written more than three decades ago. Similarly, I have enjoyed going even further back and rereading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
Our multi-cultural, technologically advanced society offers new interpretations and perspectives on some of moral philosophy’s most traditional arguments. So while I wouldn’t specifically recommend these particular books, I would wholeheartedly recommend revisiting something you haven’t looked at for a long time. It is very interesting and pleasant to look at it with more ‘worn in’ eyes.
What cause or charity do you care about most?
I care about what it means to live well together and I think I am motivated by empathy and what connects us, as opposed to charity and what separates us. In terms of moral philosophy, I am intrigued by the potential of hybrid models of wellbeing that look at the intersection of consequentialism and virtue ethics. If we consider the definitions of philosophy and philanthropy together, we see that these two disciplines are focused on the love of wisdom and humanity. Applied ethics can be really creative if we start to look at the intersection of values, results, wisdom, and human character. I think this is the future of philanthropy.
What technology do you wish the human race could discover/create/invent right now?
There is a lot of paid lip service to ‘Tech for Good’ in Silicon Valley. The reality for many people who live here though is the opposite. It is really hard to make ends meet. My daughter started second grade last year without a permanent teacher secured. Teachers, along with many others, are being forced to leave due to high living costs and low wages. Homelessness is increasing at an alarming rate. I would therefore love the tech sector to discover/create/ invent a more philosophical and philanthropic lens for the design and application of technology.
I am inspired by the use of virtual reality by Epic Foundation. Through immersive experiences of their grantees work, founder Alexandre Mars manages to foster empathy and nurture global partnerships that ‘do good, better’ (to borrow a phrase from philosopher Will MacAskill). They have also applied technology to create a platform that builds trust between philanthropists and community leaders, by making results and impact data accessible and meaningful. Another goal is to leverage technology to make philanthropic giving easier for corporation teams and individuals.
As we look to the future, social responsibility will be the norm. An increasing number of students graduating now feel a sense of social responsibility to humanity and the planet. I believe we all want to be a part of something good. I hope technology provides the tools for us to do so.
Find out more about Stephanie here.
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