I had the incredible opportunity to present a paper I’m currently working on at the APA Pacific 2023 which took place April 4-8 in San Francisco, California.

In this paper, I argue that most theories within philosophy of love fail to account for experiences of love by people who live with psychological and/or neurological disorders. As a result of this, I argue that romantic love needs to be addressed on the level of perception because it is through perception that we can understand how meaning, signification, and affect take place within interpersonal relationships. I base my argument on Merleau-Ponty’s work on perception and at the same time I present phenomenology as a better suited approach to understanding romantic love in a more inclusive way.

Here is the abstract to my paper:

“Using French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work, I argue in this paper that romantic love must be addressed on the level of affective perception when it is experienced within a context of mental health. An extremely large portion of the literature on philosophy of romantic love focuses on its epistemological and metaphysical standing in such a way that is non-inclusive for people diagnosed with certain (neuro)psychopathologies (e.g.: Gabriele Taylor’s definition of romantic love (1975), which uses beneficence as a major condition, hardly applies to somebody diagnosed with Asperger’s who does not experience social concepts like beneficence on the same level as a neurotypical person but nevertheless still loves someone for different reasons). I suggest that this rupture created by the wrongful expectations of these theories for people to fit certain normative standards of epistemological and/or cognitive constitutions can be resolved by returning to a more perceptual understanding of this experience, which is especially mindful of experiences of romantic love within a context of mental health. I begin my argument by presenting how some of the major (materialist and non-materialist) definitions and theories of romantic love have grievously ignored neurodivergent people and their ability to experience romantic love in ways that do not fit these theories. The second part of my paper examines how a phenomenology of perception can solve this issue by highlighting the affective dimension of perception. To do so, I revisit Merleau-Ponty’s exposition of a woman’s experience with aphasia that was caused by her socially imposed inability to maintain a romantic relationship with her partner (Phenomenology of Perception p.193). By explaining how Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the body as an ensemble of habitual and open-ended meanings, and as especially affectively dependent on perception to make sense of its experiences, I demonstrate that his phenomenological framework provides a better terrain for understanding romantic experiences lived by people with psychopathologies and neurological disorders. Overall, my paper attempts to support the works of critical phenomenologists such as Sara Heinamaä and Lisa Guenther on the inclusivity and diversity of modern understandings of love and sexuality.”

It was my first time attending the APA meeting and it was wonderful. I’m very thankful to my peers from the Society For Philosophy of Sex and Love for the feedback they provided me.

But it wasn’t just the conference that was wonderful. My experience of San Francisco was unbelievable and I’m planning on writing a few more blog posts about how my visit to the Golden Gate city has been philosophically fruitful in itself…

There are high chances philosophy students at university have to write exegetical papers, which we also call an exegesis reading in philosophy. An exegetical reading is an exercise that comes down from the Scholastic tradition in the Middle-Ages, which consists in doing a close reading of a text in philosophy. For historical examples, you can read Aquinas’ commentary on Aristotle’s Physics and Suárez’s commentary on Aristotle.

But what the Scholastics did were exegetical readings of entire books – for the most part. In contemporary philosophy we restrain the exercise to short passages. The idea behind this sort of assignment is to teach students the following skills: i) To be able to understand an argument by deconstructing it so as to highlight a crucial premise in it; ii) to be able to contextualize that premise within the whole argument, its relevance and significance; iii) to be able to clearly explain philosophical terminology that is proper to the historical context and the author using them.

Keep reading »

Why universities should encourage developing knowledge-based opinions

Published in The Concordian in August 2017

I believe freedom of speech on college and university campuses should be limited when it jeopardizes academic endeavours. Academic institutions were originally intended to provide a wide understanding of the world through the lenses of the fields students were interested in. Research was mostly done to be able to understand certain phenomena, rather than to prove a certain ideology right or wrong.

This is where programs such as gender studies, First Peoples studies and exchange programs can be beneficial. When completed with academic rigor, they shed light on issues and perspectives that are unknown to those who don’t experience them firsthand.

As learners of the world, students should be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in order to take informed stances and develop thoughtful perspectives on various issues. I believe that advocates for free speech on university campuses often skip over another important right: the right to know as much as possible about a topic. The right to access information as free from censorship, bias and prioritization as possible before forming an opinion on a subject. However, the atmosphere of higher education has shifted to a more active and socially involved mindset which leads people to skip this first step that is necessary for them to form accurate and truthful opinions.

Keep reading »