Research Statement

My research engages new ways of thinking about nihilism and ethics 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 research on ethics engages Richard Rorty’s concepts of egotism and self-enlargement as useful tools in a liberal democracy. I defend the claim that a life of creative self-enlargement is more valuable over a life of egotism in a liberal context. I plan to take this research toward the direction of virtue theory.

Richard Rorty

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 ethics in social and political life, which I aim to redirect to the area of social epistemology. In my current work, I engage “egotism” as a flaw of human character and “self-enlargement” as a worthy goal in human life. 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). The next step is to advance these themes by reframing egotism as an impediment to human flourishing and reinterpreting self-enlargement as an ideal indebted to the virtues of intellectual humility, open-mindedness, civility, and irony. In coming years, I wish to publish articles that will develop a robust concept of self-enlargement, specifically in a way that presents how these intellectual and civic virtues could be integrated in our understanding of a modern liberal democracy.

Gen. Mariano Llanera’s Flag

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.