Zombie Cockroaches! (And Other Dissertation Haikus)

When you spend years writing away at a dissertation you learn how to do at least one thing exceedingly well—and that’s to describe your dissertation distinctly and succinctly.  And sometimes succinctly means boiling it down to just a paragraph or a couple sentences or even one sentence.  Or a haiku.  Like these people have done:

not just self-love but
self-duty and widening love
justify ethics

Boram Lee

University of Connecticut

Dissertation Title: “Practical Reasoning and Contractarian Ethics”
My dissertation combines a Humean, naturalistic account of practical reasoning with a Hobbesian, reductionist version of contractarianism that derives moral principles from non-moral practical reasoning in strategic contexts. But with this twist: I argue that besides instrumental reasoning there are other forms of practical reasoning involving sympathy and commitment. Then I endeavor to show that the version of contractarianism with this new twist can avoid the problems besetting the best available instrumentalist version of the same (i.e., Gauthier’s), and that the former will arrive at normative conclusions very different from those of the latter.

Christian Right arose;
fought Roe, feminists, gay rights.
Gender is the key.

Seth Dowland

Duke University

Dissertation title: “Defending Manhood: Gender, Social Order, and the Rise of the Christian Right in the South, 1965-1995″ (2007).
My dissertation explored the emergence of the Christian right, arguing that conservative evangelicals’ underlying motivation for political action was concern for a social order based on “biblical gender roles.” This led them to oppose liberal reforms that threatened this gendered order, notably abortion, feminism, and gay rights.

Experience is
conceptual through and through
so as to grasp facts.

Aaron Schiller

University of California, San Diego

My 2007 dissertation in philosophy, “Concepts in Experience: An Essay on Conceptualism,” defends the conceptualist position, often characterized as the view that “experience is conceptual through and through.” I argue that we experience facts and that inasmuch as facts are social we cannot characterize experience without reference to the normative practices of reason-giving that define the conceptual.

The last thing through the
zombie cockroach brain alas.
Wasp venomous sting.

Gal Haspel

The Ben Gurion University, Isreal

Dissertation Title: Biochemistry and Physiological Action of Ampulex Compressa Venom Cockroach Prey.
We studied different aspects of the cockroach-mind-controlling sting of the parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa. Briefly, the wasp stings a roach into the brain and the venom subdues the prey to become wasp larvae food. We published some papers and it also got some nice attention in the popular science arena.

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There are a whole bunch more fun and interesting bits of ideas at Dissertation Haiku, so check them all out.

Hat Tip:  Jane Dryden

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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