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Department of Philosophy

Emily Mathias Earns Bilinski Fellowship for ’23 – ‘24

Congratulations to Emily Mathias who has recently been awarded a Bilinski Dissertation Fellowship!

Emily's dissertation is tentatively titled: "Resolving Conflicts of Commitment"


Dissertation Abstract:

The primary purpose of an institution of higher education (IHE) is to be a place of education. In fulfilling that purpose, IHEs make a series of commitments. The topics of these commitments range from staffing to providing a safe learning environment. Sometimes these commitments come into conflict with each other. For example, consider an IHE that has both a commitment to inclusive excellence and a commitment to freedom of speech. Is all protected speech included in inclusive excellence or is there a threshold to inclusion? How should the IHE navigate this territory? In this dissertation, my goal is to provide a general framework for resolving conflicts of institutional commitments.

Specifically, I argue that conflict resolution can occur through what I call goal realignment. Underlying this approach is an account of IHE commitment that treats commitments as a particular kind of performative speech act, one that establishes a goal or ideal. I argue that institutional commitments are a special case of this speech act that introduces certain practical problems when conflicts arise. I defend this account against a prominent objection that treats IHE commitments as mere placeholders for genuine action. On the account I defend, IHE commitments are genuine meaningful forms of action and the practical problems they generate are, in fact, valuable opportunities. The conflicts that arise call for a kind of reappraisal, which ultimately will strengthen the operation of the IHE.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.