Jennifer Lackey is the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University. Most of her research lies in the area of social epistemology.
What excites you about philosophy?
I love having the freedom to think about a wide range of issues, and I’ve been particularly excited by philosophy’s increased engagement with the broader public. There seems to be greater value placed on making philosophical writing clear and accessible, and more philosophers are publishing work in venues that reach a wider, more diverse audience than academic journals do. All of this makes me very hopeful about the future of the discipline.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?
My favorite work is usually what I’m thinking about at the moment. Right now, I’m finishing a book on the epistemology of groups and editing a volume of essays on academic freedom. I’m also writing a couple of papers where I apply epistemological tools to issues of broader social interest: in one, I argue that long-term prison sentences are epistemically irrational, and in another, I explore the unique kind of testimonial injustice suffered through false confessions.
What are you most proud of in your professional life?
This straddles the fence between my professional and my non-professional life, but I have been teaching philosophy in a maximum-security men’s prison since September, and it has been one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had. It has transformed my views on a number of moral, political, and epistemological matters, inspired me to pursue new avenues of research, and introduced me to some of the strongest, most courageous men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.
What are you most proud of in your non-professional life?
My two daughters, Isabella and Catherine.
Which super power would you like to have?
I’m an epistemologist, so omniscience.
Where is your favorite place you have ever traveled, and why?
Poland, because the maternal side of my family is Polish, and my children were able to visit Krakow and Warsaw for the first time with my mother.
What advice do you wish someone had given you?
One of the greatest challenges of my professional life has been supporting my graduate student through a Title IX complaint and its aftermath. I would go back and do it all over again, but it would have been helpful if I had understood the process, the risks, and the law better at the outset. So while I hope that no one reading this ever has to see a student go through what I’ve witnessed, my advice would be to learn as much as possible about the process before embarking on it.
Find out more about Jennifer Lackey here.
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