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Department of Philosophy

Congratulations to Excel grant winners Tom Burke and Brett Sherman!

The philosophy department is thrilled to be so well represented among this year's excel grant winners! Congratulations to Tom and Brett:

Tom Burke's Project: How to Make the Second Amendment Clear

A central aim of this project is to clarify what the Second Amendment both says, and has said, to a long line of interpreters ever since the Framers initially formulated it. The Second Amendment as it stands is remarkably vague and in need of such clarification. Pragmatism originally promoted a way “to make our ideas clear” in practical terms. This pragmatist method should be applicable to the Second Amendment. A secondary aim of this project is to illustrate and clarify what pragmatism itself is through this clarification. The overall aim is to show how to establish a common terminology so that proponents of various views and perspectives on gun rights and gun control might be able to converse rationally without talking past one another. This alone will not guarantee objective and disinterested civility free of political partisanship, but it might help to secure a common neutral conceptual framework for rational deliberations concerning any proposed State or Federal gun reform legislation, versus such deliberations being dominated by recalcitrant partisan politics.


Brett Sherman's Project: Openness and Possibility

Our thinking about the world is shaped not just by the way things are, but also by the way things could have been, the way they might be, or the way they must be. Over the past fifty years, the philosophical and linguistic study of possibility and necessity, which is described as the study of “modality,” has been dominated by an appeal to a primitive set of “possible worlds,” or ways that the actual world could have been. The goal of this project, located at the intersection of philosophy and linguistics, is to challenge the traditional “possible worlds” framework, on the grounds that it obscures a conceptual connection between possibility and open questions, or matters that are not settled. I explore the extent to which treating possibilities as relative to open questions can help to explain a number of puzzling aspects of modal phenomena. Moreover, I examine the connection between openness and possibility to shed light on the distinction between open and settled questions, a distinction that lies at the center of science and inquiry more generally. The project will culminate in the production of a book manuscript entitled “Openness and Possibility.”



Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.