Research Statement

My research engages new ways of thinking about conversion and nihilism in contemporary life. I employ resources from social and political philosophy, philosophy of religion, social epistemology and pragmatism to make sense of these two issues.

The title of my first project is Egotism and Conversion. I envision writing three articles, editing a special journal issue, and beginning a book project in the next three years on this project.  I am interested in developing the concept of egotism to examine the various phenomena of conversion and metanoia. My work analyzes individuals and groups whose dogmatic attitudes are inimical to the virtue of humility and the democratic goal of productive dialogue over science, morality, and religion. The concepts of closed-mindedness, dogmatism, epistemic arrogance, epistemic humility, genocidal language games and toxic speech are integral to my research. My project will enrich the understanding of these key concepts and engage in timely philosophical debates in three ways: first, by exploring why and how individuals and groups become closed-minded, and/or dogmatic, and/or arrogant, which are attitudinal markers of egotism; second, by elucidating the nature of the experiences of rehabilitation and conversion from egotism; and third, by proposing corrective measures to egotism through virtue formation and language use. My first article “Egotism from Westboro to the Klan” on this project is currently under review.

The title of my second project is Outgrowing Modern Nihilism. My main objective is to finish my monograph on nihilism by end-2018. In this project, I challenge the traditional Nietzschean view that human culture should overcome nihilism. I argue that it should instead outgrow the problem. In the existential sense of the word, nihilism refers to the modern condition of lostness, disorientation, and despair. It is rooted in the claim that human life has no deep meaning, fundamental value or authentic purpose – ends previously fulfilled by the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent Being. In my work, I present nihilism as fundamentally linked to the human condition of being committed to convictions that are essentialist or absolutist by nature. Three journal articles and a review essay on my nihilism research have been published in leading journals in my field: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (lead article – 2017), Critical Horizons (2017), Philosophy and Social Criticism (2016), and Contemporary Pragmatism (2016). An entry on nihilism will also appear in A Companion to Richard Rorty (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming). “Rethinking Nihilism: Rorty vs. Taylor, Dreyfus, Kelly” (2016) is the first article to be published from my nihilism research. It was shortlisted for the 2017 Annette Baier Prize, an annual monetary prize for an outstanding philosophical publication by an Australasian woman in the previous year. “Redeeming Rorty’s Private-Public Distinction” (2016) is a contribution to my areas of expertise: social and political philosophy and pragmatism.

220px-llaneras_personal_flagIn addition to academic research, I am also committed to utilizing my training in philosophy to enrich public discourse. My essay “Seeking Shelter in a Terrifying Father Figure” profiles two political egotists: U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The Indypendent, a New York free press, selected this piece as one of the best contributions in 2016. Radical Philosophy Radio (Melbourne) has profiled my research on nihilism and my experience as a non-Australian female philosopher in a 2016 interview. The article “Ethnocentrism: Lessons from Richard Rorty to Randy David” (2017) has been published in the Philippine Sociological Review as part of a special issue on Imagined Democracies. It features contributions from key Filipino academics, public policy theorists and politicians, one of which was a former member of Congress and a senatorial candidate in the 2016 Philippine National Elections. In the years to come, I aim to continue the practice of public scholarship on the basis of my professional and personal background.

These research programs and interests are in their early stages, having recently completed my Ph.D. in philosophy at Macquarie University, Australia. Awarded in April 2016, my degree was completed on time and under full university scholarship.