Stacey Goguen is Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She works on feminist philosophy, social epistemology, and philosophy of social psychology. She is currently working on issues of self-identity and stereotypes.
What excites you about philosophy?
Philosophy often leads to a sort of exciting confusion for me–and confused excitement, I guess. I remember when I first read Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature in college, and at one point, I put the book down on my desk and stared at my wall for about ten minutes, contemplating whether I could see trees–or any other physical object–and whether cause and effect was just a thing my brain made up.
It took me another year to realize I wanted to do graduate work in philosophy, but that was probably the moment I got hooked, because I felt like I had no clue what was going on, but if I stuck with it, I just might. That is both terrifying and exhilarating–realizing that the world is exponentially weirder and more complicated than you had thought.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
Two projects I really liked doing were writing short essays for Games of Thrones and Philosophy and Supernatural and Philosophy. Both essays explore how these fantasy worlds deal with gender roles in some way, but the GoT essay is more related to my main work.
That essay argues that chivalry is a flawed moral system, both in GRRM’s universe, and in how it’s invoked in contemporary society. In short, it restricts the autonomy of women, who need to forever be protected, it restricts who counts as a proper woman, and it also restricts (certain) men by forcing a static role onto them, too—that of the protector. But social roles like “protector” aren’t all bad, so I think there’s an interesting tension between people needing to adopt social roles, and see exemplars of those roles (like that of the chivalrous knight and protector), but bad things happening when we let those roles calcify to the point that they’re essentialized or made to be mandatory.
What topic do you think is under explored in philosophy?
Gender, still. Even though I think gender is currently getting way more philosophical attention than it was 10 or 20 years ago, I don’t think we’re in danger of overdoing it anytime soon. There is a lot to say about gender, and I don’t think we’ve come close to saying it all.
Part of the reason is that I think gender often comes across as something really simple, static, and obvious. But it’s none of those things. It’s easy for many of us to think we know pretty much all there is to know about gender—both in general and specifically regarding our own gender and relation to gender norms. In the same way that reading Hume blew my mind and made realize that the world had this whole other dimension of complexity, so did feminism. I slowly realized that what I thought I knew about gender and gender norms was actually just the surface of this very weird and complex aspect of the world.
What’s your favorite quote?
When I first heard about the notion of public philosophy and bringing our discipline out of the ivory tower, it seemed like a very here-and-now conversation. So I was really struck to find a similar sentiment in Marx, and the following quote has become something of a mantra for the work I want to do:
Philosophers have [thus far] only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
—Theses On Feuerbach
What are your goals and aspirations outside work?
Be a good person. Learn as much about the world as I can. Try to leave the world a better place than I found it, one interaction at a time. Pay off my student loans.
Find out more about Stacey here.
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