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CIE Researcher of Distinction, November 2017

Phillip Nelson
Phillip Nelson

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Café series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of his/her journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Phillip Nelson, PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy. Phillip presented his work, ‘Pure Violence and the Political Realm: Who is Responsible for War? on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.



Phillip Nelson served in the US Army from 2003-2008; he served two tours in Iraq and one short tour in Afghanistan.  He earned his BA in English from Penn State Harrisburg (2011), his MA in Philosophy at University of Oregon (2013), and he is currently a PhD candidate at Stony Brook University in Philosophy.  His dissertation, "A Political Phenomenology of Warfare Responsibility," aims to sketch the margins of the political realm for the purpose of defining responsibility during wartime. Phillip is a Turner Fellow in the Center for Inclusive Education.

PHILLIP's Current Research

Describe the work you presented for your Research Café.

In this presentation, I examine a distinction the philosopher and political thinker, Hannah Arendt, makes between two types of violence and their relationship to power.  One type of violence exists within the political realm whereas the other exists on its margins.  In the case of the first, violence is always a threat to political power, but when violence appears at the margins of the political realm as "pure violence," its relationship to power completely changes.  I argue that it is the responsibility of civilians and veterans, not soldiers, to navigate the relational dynamics at play between power and violence.

How did you become interested in research?

Before I joined the military in 2003, I took a few classes in Philosophy and had numerous chats with a friend about the meaning of life, the world, and knowledge.  I was hooked on philosophy way back then, and now I just combine that with my experience from the military and questions I have about responsibility, especially since returning from my deployments overseas.

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

The Philosophy Department here at Stony Brook is one I was hearing about even from my earliest days as an undergraduate at Penn State.  Being awarded the Turner Fellowship certainly made my choice to come here much easier.

Are there any other projects, beyond your Research Café work, that you are currently working on? 

Besides my current dissertation project that attempts to work out  “A Political Phenomenology of Warfare Responsibility,” I am interested in writing a book about the meaning of Patriotism.

What are your future goals?

After the PhD in Philosophy is complete, I would like to get a job so that I can pay my bills.  I assume I will remain within the academy as a teacher, which is something I love to do.  However I also love to read and write, so I will try to get a job that continues to allow me to pursue this part of my profession.

What do you enjoy most about research?

80% to 90% of what I do as a philosopher involves reading--this is research work in my field.  I love discovering a new idea or a new concept, especially if it has the power to change my world view, even in the slightest ways.