My research engages new ways of thinking about nihilism and conversion in contemporary life. My project on nihilism challenges the traditional view–one advanced by thinkers ranging from Friedrich Nietzsche to Martin Heidegger to Hubert Dreyfus–that we should be interested in overcoming the malaise of nihilism. I argue that we should instead be engaged in outgrowing the cultural problem of nihilism. My project on conversion examines the various phenomena of transformative experience and metanoia in the context of contemporary life. I argue that developing a robust concept of egotism allows us to approach these experiences in a new light.
My main research on the problem of nihilism is shaped by my dissertation entitled “Richard Rorty: Rethinking Redemption in Modernity”. It presents a new reading of Rorty’s work that advances the contemporary debates on nihilism and the modern spiritual condition. This claim is articulated in greater detail in “Rethinking Nihilism: Rorty vs. Taylor, Dreyfus, Kelly” (Philosophy and Social Criticism, 2016) and “Richard Rorty and the Concept of Redemption” (International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2016), which are two journal publications based on the Ph.D. thesis. I introduce the argument that human culture should outgrow the problem of nihilism in “The Deep Personal Resonance of Nihilism” (Journal of Philosophy of Life, 2017) and “Nihilism” for A Companion to Richard Rorty (Blackwell-Wiley, forthcoming). This research will culminate in a monograph, tentatively entitled Outgrowing Modern Nihilism, which will propose an alternative approach to the historical notion of nihilism as a religious and existential problem to be surmounted. The book will reframe nihilism as a cultural problem, one that could be outgrown by developing philosophical and social structures of meaning largely based on contingency, irony, and self-enlargement.
My other area of research is on the issue of conversion. In my current work, I engage “egotism” as a flaw of human character, “self-enlargement” as a worthy goal in human life, and “egotism in the context of group identity” as a way of understanding the nature of particular identities that ground the possibility of conversion experiences. These ideas are articulated in two published articles, “Redeeming Rorty’s Private-Public Distinction” (Contemporary Pragmatism, 2016) and “Morality by Words: Murdoch, Nussbaum, Rorty” (Budhi, 2014) and in a work-in-progress paper entitled “Egotism from Westboro to the Klan”. In coming years, I envision writing three articles, editing a special journal issue, and beginning a book project in the next three years on this project.
In addition to my academic research, I am also interested in applying philosophy for purposes of public engagement. One of my essays, “Seeking Shelter in a Terrifying Father Figure”, profiles two political egotists: U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. It was recently selected as one of the best contributions in 2016 by The Indypendent, a New York free press. I was also interviewed about my research on nihilism by Radical Philosophy Radio (Melbourne). I have also written a research article in the Philippine Sociological Review on the theme “Imagined Democracies”. I aim to continue this practice of writing works inspired by philosophical research and my background as a female Filipino academic and a minority in mainstream philosophy in the years to come.
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.