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COLUMBUS, Miss. - As an assistant professor of philosophy at Mississippi University for Women, Josh Dohmen tries to present and to explain ideas to his students in a more accessible way.

Dohmen recently had an opportunity to practice that technique when he was interviewed for The American Philosophical Association Early Career Research Spotlight Blog. The blog, which was started in 2016, is designed to bring attention to an early career APA member who is doing interesting research and to generate discussion about the spotlighted work. You can see the blog at https://blog.apaonline.org/tag/early-career-research-spotlight/.

Dohmen, who has a doctorate from the University of Memphis, has been at The W since August 2018. This was his first time being interviewed for the blog. He said finding ways to relate concepts without using a lot of “academic lingo” is a great way to have greater dialogue. He said the appearance on the blog also enabled him to publicize his research and to explain it.

“It’s probably a good thing (to explain ideas in the simplest way possible) for anyone to pick up a journal of philosophy and read the articles,” said Dohmen, 32, who is from Mechanicsville, Iowa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Dohmen also earned a Graduate Certificate in Disability Studies at Memphis. “We probably don’t need to turn away any readers more than we already do by publishing in these academic sources.”

Dohmen discussed two of his papers on the blog. The first “ ‘A Little of Her Language’: Epistemic Injustice and Mental Disability,” was published in "Res Philosophica," a peer-reviewed academic journal covering the major areas of philosophy from antiquity to the present. The paper received Res Philosophica’s 2016 essay prize. The second paper “Disability as Abject: Kristeva, Disability, and Resistance”, was published in "Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy," a peer-reviewed academic journal published quarterly by Wiley-Blackwell.

Dohmen said he chose to share his published work on the topic of disability over the work he has done on prison in an effort to have a more coherent interview. He said his research attempts to understand how and why disabled people are excluded in our society. Dohmen’s research contends people protect themselves from thinking about their vulnerability by trying to think of themselves as different from disabled people. He argues people protect themselves from acknowledging their vulnerabilities and weaknesses by ignoring the reality of disabled peoples’ lives.

“We see that in how we treat disabled people and elderly people in society,” Dohmen said, noting that there are tendencies to exclude these groups through inaccessible social spaces and even to segregate these groups in care facilities and sheltered workshops. “The second overriding theme (in the papers discussed on the blog) is what that means for the knowledge that disabled people have and how we exclude it (from society).”

Dohmen said that the knowledge disabled people have is often discredited or ignored. For example, it is common in many settings to witness non-disabled individuals speaking on behalf of the disabled, even when the disabled person is perfectly capable of communicating for her or himself. He said there is also a dangerous tendency to take knowledge that a person is disabled and generalize from that knowledge to a belief that the person is less capable or trustworthy than she or he actually is.

Dohmen has done a third article related to the topic. It is titled: “Interactions with Delusional Others: Reflections on Epistemic Failures and Virtues,” which will be published in the "Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Disability."

Dohmen was a lecturer or philosophy at the University of West Georgia for two years before coming to The W. Prior to that, he was a visiting professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He said the APA’s blog’s editor asks interviewees to recommend someone for the next interview. Dohmen said John Garner, an assistant professor of philosophy at West Georgia, previously was featured on the blog and he recommended him to be interviewed.

Dohmen said he is shifting his research to examine what we consider work and what makes work valuable. He said he hasn’t published any findings, but he hopes to analyze the possibilities of how a more automated society could lead to a society where people work a lot less. If that happens, he said questions will arise about the distribution of resources, how much people are paid if some work 20 hours and week and others work 40, and how do people find meaningful things to occupy their time if they are working less.

In addition to continuing his research into work, Dohmen said he recently was accepted as a member of the Philosophy as a Way of Life Network, which is hosted by Notre Dame University and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The goals of the program are to help faculty learn about and teach philosophical traditions that seek to understand what a good life is and how to live a good life. The workshop will be June 17-20 at Notre Dame.

“I expect to learn a lot of great ideas and teaching strategies to make me a better teacher (and overall a better philosopher),” Dohmen said.


April 3, 2019
Contact: Adam Minichino
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