September Researcher of the Month – Dr. Letitia Meynell

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Meet Dr. Letitia Meynell, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Dalhousie University, Halifax.

Dr. Meynell is an invited speaker for the conference “Bridging the Gap: Scientific Imagination Meets Aesthetic Imagination,” to be held in London from 5-6 October 2017.

1. What is your current place of research?

I am an associate professor in philosophy at Dalhousie University, cross appointed with gender and women studies.

2. Could you give us some details about your education background?

My 1st degree was in Theater, which I did at York University. I did, however, minor in Philosophy and I have always had a particular interest in philosophy of science. So, my minor was perhaps a little anomalous, comprising courses on philosophy of physics, philosophy of nature, and the philosophy of Karl Popper along with courses on aesthetics and existentialism. After taking a few more courses in philosophy at the University of Calgary, I enrolled there for a Master’s degree, writing a thesis on conceptualization, with a view to its role in aesthetics and epistemology. From there I moved to the University of Western Ontario where I brought these three interests together, writing a thesis on the epistemology of pictures in science. Throughout these studies I maintained a keen interest in feminist philosophy, especially the politics of knowledge, and I have always seen my work on pictures in science as fitting into broader feminist commitments.

3. What projects are you currently working on and what are some projects you’ve worked on in the past?

My central areas of interest continue to be in the epistemology of pictures in science, which I have more recently extended to thought experiments, and feminist critiques of science, particularly biology. This work, which addresses how politics, power, and historical structures of oppression influence contemporary science, centrally informs some of my recent work addressing the animal sciences. Currently, I have projects in all three areas, which is a poor way of organizing one’s research, but there we have it.

4. What’s one thing you particularly enjoy about working in your field?

Philosophy, especially feminist philosophy, helps you to re-see the world around you. Working in this area you notice things that were previously invisible to you. This makes this kind of work incredibly challenging, fascinating, and exciting.

5. How do you relate your work to the broader topic of ‘cosmopolitanism and the local’?

As feminist philosophers have long realized, having perspectives on a topic that are quite different to your own is incredibly powerful for critically assessing both your own views and those of others. So, for instance, if you want to address the exploitation of nonhuman animals in our society it is incredibly powerful to consider how people from, say, South Asian traditions have thought about the differences, similarities, and relationships between humans and other animals. Keeping non-western perspectives in mind, even as one works in a western philosophical tradition, helps one to be both more rigorous in one’s analyses and less dogmatic. Rigor and critical openness are, in my opinion, central virtues of philosophy and, indeed, science.

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