I hope my New England friends have been enjoying a summer full of beach days and Del’s lemonade, and my pals back home are beating the heat with some Ted Drewes. My summer so far has been lacking in travel and outdoor activities compared to past years but has nevertheless been exciting … in a less ‘summery,’ more educational way. Reading and writing lots of philosophy may sound like an actual nightmare to some, but that is what most of my summer so far has consisted of, and I am happy as a clam about it.
About a month and a half after settling into my research here at PC, I spent two weeks in July attending an intensive summer philosophy program at Brown University, joined by eight other students from around the country. Specifically, this was a program to promote diversity and inclusivity in philosophy, which has been historically dominated by Western males. Being surrounded by peers whose identities have been traditionally underrepresented in the discipline was extremely rewarding, and hearing about their unique experiences within philosophy opened my eyes to new perspectives.
For the duration of the program, we attended two daily seminars, “Philosophy of Time” and “Global Justice” taught by two different professors. Some highlights from the first, a metaphysics course, was being able to talk physics … without actually talking physics. While I had studied Einstein’s Laws of Special Relativity before, aside from the analytical calculations, I had not approached the topic from a philosophical perspective. In simple terms, this theory states that we have evidence to believe that time is relative! (Specifically, the duration of time between two events depends on the frame of reference from which it is being observed.) Basically, in this seminar we got to ditch all the formulas and numbers while talking about how this theory conflicts with our norms about time being an objectively measurable entity, and how we should make sense of a notion that seems so counter intuitive.
What really got me thinking, though, was the question about which times exist; for most of us, the default is that the present is special (compared to past and future) in some way, and that the past no longer exists. But what about the past makes it “past?” You can see how this question could go in circles. We could say that we know past events are in the past because they already happened. But this would mean that we already assume that time is a dynamic, and such a thing as “now” and “then” exist. And how do we know this for sure? Also, can we locate “in the past” spatially? These kinds of discussions had me confused and intrigued for hours on end, and almost always ended in further questions regarding the ontology of time. I even started to question the ability of linguistics, particularly our use of past and future tenses, to accurately capture our experiences of time. This course was like a combination of philosophy + physics on steroids, and I loved every minute of it.
As for my Global Justice seminar, we covered topics ranging from inequality, distribution issues, individual moral obligations in preventing suffering, and war. All are clearly very relevant to real world application, which made the content even more enriching. But the highlight of this seminar was, hands down, Skyping with Jeff McMahan, the mastermind behind the revisionist version of Just War Theory. He gave us an MTV Cribs-style tour of his office at Oxford, and we had the opportunity to ask questions about his theory, only to be blown away by his well-articulated and brilliant responses to even the most theoretically insane “What ifs?” that we threw at him.
All in all, my two weeks up on College Hill were extremely rewarding, and I learned more about philosophy than I could’ve ever hoped to. Although the program sadly came to an end, I was able to dive into my personal research project with some added inspiration, mostly due to the experiences of cultural relativism that I heard from my peers.
Quick recap: My research, overseen by Dr. Arroyo, is based on a cross-cultural examination of Japan and America. My interest lies in the sphere of early education and childrearing, analyzing how each society’s values and ethos inform how parents and teachers educate and nurture children. One of the most interesting things I have been writing about recently is the fact that Japan’s educational system was democratized to mirror that of the United States’, after WW2 under the occupation of General MacArthur. Ever since these reforms, the basic structure of the elementary school system has been essentially the same in each country. Yet, despite this similarity, the methods and teaching philosophies utilized in each are wildly different. Dr. Merry White, anthropologist at Boston University, says it best: “in borrowing European and American models of schooling, Japan did not borrow Western conceptions of learning and childhood.”
These conceptions refer to a range of things. Like, for example, the purpose that education is believed to serve in each society. You may be wondering, “Isn’t the purpose of education pretty … universal?” That’s what I thought, too. But it turns out, this concept holds distinct cultural meaning in each society. In Japan, learning in school is regarded as a holistic development, encompassing mind, body, and soul. There is equal emphasis on physical activity, moral development, as well as academics within the curriculum. And in the moral sphere, cooperation, empathy and loyalty to the group are emphasized, and so large class sizes are preferred to allow students to practice these skills. All of these philosophies are quite foreign to our elementary schools. So, you can see how diverging beliefs about learning and childhood can greatly change how the elementary school system functions, despite a similar structure.
I’m still working on getting the findings of my research down on paper, so how my project will turn out is one big question mark for now. But I am excited to continue putting bits and pieces of my work together, and discovering more about two major elements of my identity along the way.
Thanks for reading!
Hello All! I hope my New England friends have been enjoying a summer full of beach days and Del’s lemonade, and my pals back home are beating the heat with some Ted Drewes. My summer so far has been lacking in travel and outdoor activities compared to past years but has nevertheless been exciting … […]MORE
I am Risa Takenaka, a senior here at PC, and I will be blogging about my research experience this summer. Between my unique sense of humor and lighthearted writing style, I hope my posts can emulate that of a professional blogger – an unlikely goal considering the two sentences above took me a few hours to formulate, but I will keep my spirits high for the time-being.
Before I tell you about the nuts and bolts of my research in philosophy with Dr. Arroyo, here are some things you should know about me. I’d call them fun facts, but they’re truly not that fun:
- I was born in Japan, raised in Missouri, and, somehow, ended up here in Providence, Rhode Island. I visited Tokyo this winter break where my entire extended family still lives and had the time of my life.
- I am majoring in applied physics and minoring in philosophy and math. I know, this screams “I am really indecisive and couldn’t fully commit to one thing.” Not surprisingly, this seems to be a recurring theme in other areas of my life.
- My sister is a Friar, too! She claimed all throughout high school that she would not even consider going to college with me. Then she followed me here – all the way from Missouri.
- I was in Ghana last week. I went on the Maymester trip despite a rocky start – my passport and visa were MIA until 10 days before my departure, and I was also told my malaria medicine would come in on time – and made it there and back safely against all odds. It was amazing, and I could not have asked for a better beginning to my summer.
- I really love to eat. I am one hungry girl, and I somewhat pride myself in how much I eat, except when I am at dinner parties eating my eighth plate when everyone else has already moved on to dessert.
That’s probably enough for now. So now the real question: Philosophy research? What does that even mean?
I have an answer! Kind of. As I explained above, I am a Japanese citizen who has been living in America as a permanent resident for the past two decades. During my childhood spent in Missouri, I had a rich exposure to American ideologies and culture from my peers and community, and this has continued on with my college education here in the States. But, I have also had my fair share of a Japanese twist on my upbringing.
Growing up, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between my parents’ teaching philosophies and those of my American counterparts. This fascination resurfaced when I visited Japan this winter and noticed the immense differences in early childhood education as well. What is the reason for this – why do America and Japan nurture and teach their young children so differently? My ongoing curiosity for this concept has prompted me to take on the challenge of answering this question this summer. Working closely with Dr. Arroyo from the Philosophy department, I will be researching how the collectivist and individualist tendencies of Japanese and American culture, respectively, inform values and normative standards regarding the “correct” way to raise children in each country.
With this research opportunity, I will analyze what specific values are at work in each ethical framework and how these translate to practical differences in raising and teaching young children. Additionally, I hope to write a piece that can bridge some of the gaps in knowledge of the ways in which culturally influenced value systems influence, simply put, “the way things are done” in different areas of the world.
Hello All! I am Risa Takenaka, a senior here at PC, and I will be blogging about my research experience this summer. Between my unique sense of humor and lighthearted writing style, I hope my posts can emulate that of a professional blogger – an unlikely goal considering the two sentences above took me a […]MORE
Hello everyone! We are Amy Conte, Grace Grimaldi, and Colin Scano, biology and biochemistry majors who work in Dr. Cornely’s lab thanks to the funding of Walsh Fellowships and Undergraduate Research Award grants. We are excited to share our work on knocking out genes in viral DNA and constructing recombinant plasmids. We hope that our research will contribute to the growing field of phage therapy — a promising method that uses mutant phages to treat bacterial diseases, such as tuberculosis. Before we get into the science, we would like to focus our first post on introducing ourselves.
Colin: I am a senior biochemistry major at Providence College. In the rare times I am not studying, I like to fill my free time with friends, playing piano, and reading. This is my first summer doing research for Dr. Cornely, so I am very excited to complete our project.
Grace: I will be a senior this fall, and I am a biology major and a math minor. Elsewhere on campus, I’m on the club field hockey team. I’m so excited to be working this summer with Colin and Amy on creating mutant phages!
Amy: I am an upcoming senior biochemistry major/math minor from South Kingstown, Rhode Island. At PC, I am a research student, teaching assistant, the treasurer of Sigma Xi, and a volunteer for the StepUP mentoring program. Outside of doing schoolwork, I enjoy running, listening to music, traveling, and going to the beach.
We hope you check back throughout the summer to see what we’re up to!
Hello everyone! We are Amy Conte, Grace Grimaldi, and Colin Scano, biology and biochemistry majors who work in Dr. Cornely’s lab thanks to the funding of Walsh Fellowships and Undergraduate Research Award grants. We are excited to share our work on knocking out genes in viral DNA and constructing recombinant plasmids. We hope that our […]MORE
It’s been a week since I finished summer research and life is different. It feels weird not being in the lab every day. I miss all the fun moments I had in the lab with the research team. I miss listening to hip-hop and R&B while working up a reaction. I miss getting lunch with my lab mates almost every day. Bianca, Matt, Gersham, Kyle, Yazan & I became so close that we all developed a special bond. We became so comfortable with each other that we would talk about anything. I would look forward to our lunch dates every day. We went to a lot of great restaurants Providence has to offer like The Abbey, Anthony’s, and many others on Thayer St., like East Side Pockets.
In the last few weeks of research, our biggest adventure was the 10th Annual Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Conference at the University of Rhode Island. The SURF program funds most of the research conducted over the summer throughout Rhode Island. In turn, researchers funded by SURF attend the conference and present their work. Our group presented our work by assembling a poster containing all the projects we worked on this summer. The conference was great because the team and I got to present all our hard work and got to see many other chemists, biologists, and biochemists. We were also hands-down the best dressed group at the conference! See the picture for yourself. We kept on receiving compliments from multiple people on how well dressed we were. It was nice to get dressed up and not wear sweatpants all day for once.
I am close to finishing my project which is a-carboline synthesis. I completed the final step of my project the day before the conference, and I produced high yields! Although summer research is over, that doesn’t mean my research is over. I plan on continuing my research in the fall. I’m looking forward to completing my project and all the chemistry that awaits me in the year to come! I’d like to thank Dr. Mulcahy and the Providence College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for granting me the opportunity do research this summer. I have learned a lot, and I can’t wait to continue learning in the upcoming semester. I’d also like thank all of you for reading my blog and keeping up with all the exciting events that happened this summer.
It’s been a week since I finished summer research and life is different. It feels weird not being in the lab every day. I miss all the fun moments I had in the lab with the research team. I miss listening to hip-hop and R&B while working up a reaction. I miss getting lunch with my lab mates almost every […]MORE