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APA Member Interview: Samantha Brennan

Samantha Brennan is a philosopher and Professor at Western University (London, Ontario, Canada) where she is a member of the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research and the Rotman Institute of Philosophy. Samantha received her BA from Dalhousie University and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

What excites you about philosophy?

Lot of different things. It’s hard, so there’s that. And I like thinking through arguments, considering concepts, analyzing ideas. But there’s also this incredible freedom to think about lots of different things, play in lots of different academic sandboxes. I like the ability to connect my work to the work of university colleagues in other disciplines and the chance of actually making a difference in the world. This year I’m excited about having become the Vice President of the Canadian Philosophical Association and being President the year after, though I’m already nervous about my presidential address.

What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?

It’s not something I’ve written, rather a thing I’m editing and creating. It’s the journal I co-founded with Kate Norlock, Alice MacLachlan, and Carla Fehr. Feminist Philosophy Quarterly. It’s an online, open access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to promoting feminist philosophical scholarship.

What are you most proud of in your professional life?

Oh, my PhD students. That’s easy. They’re wonderful. You can read about them here. And they all have jobs. That’s pretty exciting too.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would you most like it to be?

I’d be fluently bilingual in English/French with a natural facility for languages that would make learning additional languages a piece of cake. I’d also like to be able to sing and dance (tango!), but first, French.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

I was Chair of the Philosophy Department at Western University (formerly The University of Western Ontario which some of you may still know it as) and saw through the department through a period of tremendous growth. I know you’re not ever supposed to admit this but I loved being Chair.

Name a trait, skill or characteristic that you have that others may not know about.


I began university in a Journalism program and worked as a journalist for a time. Later I switched to Political Science and political scientists told me I really belonged in Philosophy. These days I have strong ties with Political Science at Western and I still think of Journalism as my career that almost was, the path not chosen. I have lots of friends who are accomplished journalists in Canada.

What do you like to do outside work?

Ride my bike. (You can check out my feminism and fitness blog, a joint project with my colleague Tracy Isaacs, here.)

What time of day are you most productive and creative?

Morning.

Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled and why?

I loved my sabbaticals in Australia (in Canberra at the Australian National University) and New Zealand (at the University of Otago). While it’s not possible right now for all sorts of reasons, I sort of think sometimes I was meant to live in the southern hemisphere.

You’re stuck on a desert island and you can only have one recreational activity. What is it?

Sailing! Oh, right. I’m stuck. I hate philosopher’s thought experiments where you can’t change the rules.

What super power would you have?

Not really a super power but…immortality sounds pretty good. You know, the good kind where you keep your young body and you can end it any time you choose.

What’s your favorite quote?

Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.

–Susan B. Anthony

The bicycle is on the way to transforming our way of life more deeply than you might think. All these young women and girls who are devouring space are refusing domestic family life.

–Sarah Bernhardt

Those who wish to abolish death (whether by physical or metaphysical means)—at what stage of life do they want the process to be halted? At the age of 20? At 35, in our prime? To be 35 for two years sounds attractive, certainly. But for 3 years? A little dull, surely. For for 5 years–ridiculous. For 10—tragic. This film is so absorbing that we want this bit to go on and on. You mean, you want the projector stopped, to watch a single motionless frame? No, no, no, but perhaps you’d like the whole sequence made up as an endless band, and projected indefinitely? Not that, either. The sea and the stars and the wastes of the desert go on forever and will not die. But the sea and the stars and the wastes of the desert are dead already.

–Michael Frayn, Constructions, 1933

Find out more about Samantha here.  

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This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here.

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