Stephanie Heckman

APA Member Interview: Stephanie Heckman

Stephanie Heckman obtained a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Psychology and a Master of Sciences in International and European Politics from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a post-graduate research student in Philosophy (Wellbeing and Philanthropy) at the University of Edinburgh and the West Coast Director for Epic Foundation. Epic Foundation bridges the gap between a new generation of philanthropists and organizations supporting children and youth globally. For the last fifteen years, Stephanie has been building effective partnerships to create a better world. 

What excites you about philosophy?

I am excited by the insight and framework that philosophy can offer when we try to imagine a better world. Other disciplines tend to operate in silos and do not reflect the complex nature of humanity and the environment in which we live. I passionately feel that philosophy is more important than ever before, as technology opens up the world on a level we have never experienced. Philosophy has the potential to unite humanity and define how we can live well together. Even if this seems over ambitious, it is certainly a good time in our human history to pause for deeper reflection.

I think this is also an exciting time for women in philosophy. The implications from an increase in women’s philosophical perspectives, after thousands of years of this being a very male dominated arena, will be interesting to analyze and observe.  I would love to write an article on the philosophy of wellbeing that only cites female philosophers.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Over the last five years I have facilitated discussions with people from all corners of the world, aligned values, and identified common goals. It is wonderfully rewarding to witness the very best of humanity working together to solve some of today’s biggest challenges. I have fostered international partnerships with grassroots leaders and philanthropists from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa,  that have helped fight sex trafficking, child labor, lack of access to life-saving medicine, education, and more. My greatest achievement is the friendships I have made along the way.  I love being a global citizen.

What are you reading right now?  Would you recommend it?

I’m reading a few things just now to help prepare me for postgraduate research. It has been over fifteen years since I attended University. I recently finished Guy Fletcher’s Philosophy of Well Being: An Introduction, which is a very clear and compelling guide. It is lovely revisiting some of the books I first read whilst I was a student. Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics is as relevant now as when it was written more than three decades ago. Similarly, I have enjoyed going even further back and rereading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Our multi-cultural, technologically advanced society offers new interpretations and perspectives on some of moral philosophy’s most traditional arguments. So while I wouldn’t specifically recommend these particular books, I would wholeheartedly recommend revisiting something you haven’t looked at for a long time. It is very interesting and pleasant to look at it with more ‘worn in’ eyes.

What cause or charity do you care about most?

I care about what it means to live well together and I think I am motivated by empathy and what connects us, as opposed to charity and what separates us. In terms of moral philosophy, I am intrigued by the potential of hybrid models of wellbeing that look at the intersection of consequentialism and virtue ethics.  If we consider the definitions of philosophy and philanthropy together, we see that these two disciplines are focused on the love of wisdom and humanity. Applied ethics can be really creative if we start to look at the intersection of values, results, wisdom, and human character.  I think this is the future of philanthropy.

What technology do you wish the human race could discover/create/invent right now?

There is a lot of paid lip service to ‘Tech for Good’ in Silicon Valley. The reality for many people who live here though is the opposite. It is really hard to make ends meet. My daughter started second grade last year without a permanent teacher secured. Teachers, along with many others, are being forced to leave due to high living costs and low wages. Homelessness is increasing at an alarming rate.  I would therefore love the tech sector to discover/create/ invent a more philosophical and philanthropic lens for the design and application of technology.

I am inspired by the use of virtual reality by Epic Foundation. Through immersive experiences of their grantees work, founder Alexandre Mars manages to foster empathy and nurture global partnerships that ‘do good, better’ (to borrow a phrase from philosopher Will MacAskill). They have also applied technology to create a platform that builds trust between philanthropists and community leaders, by making results and impact data accessible and meaningful. Another goal is to leverage technology to make philanthropic giving easier for corporation teams and individuals.

As we look to the future, social responsibility will be the norm. An increasing number of students graduating now feel a sense of social responsibility to humanity and the planet. I believe we all want to be a part of something good. I hope technology provides the tools for us to do so.

Find out more about Stephanie 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 to nominate yourself or a friend.

3 thoughts on “APA Member Interview: Stephanie Heckman

  1. Here’s an area of possible research for you:
    By assuming the subject ‘I’ is the agent of the predicate ‘think’, we seem to forget, or conveniently ignore the fact that the way the person’s environment moulds and shapes them is the real agent of the predicate ‘think’. Consequently, the introspective way we have come to focus in on ourselves when we think tends to make us assume there is an direct cause-and-effect link between us as the cause, and ‘think’ as the effect, and that we must be the agents of our thoughts, rather than the forwarding-agents of the way our environment causes us to feel about our experiences that then causes us to think about them. Without us continually being sensually stimulated by our environmental experiences, we would be quite incapable of thinking about anything at all. Nietzsche put the link between having subjective experiences and having objective thoughts about them like this: “You know these things as thoughts, but your thoughts are not your experiences, they are an echo and an after-effect of your experiences, as when your room trembles when a carriage goes past”.4 Only then, when we begin translating these experiences more objectively into thoughts, do we become egocentrically focused in on what we think we can do about them, usually to our own advantage, rather than anyone else’s.
    [p179 ‘The Rise of the Mutant Ego’]
     

    • Thanks John. I thought of your comments when I read this:

      http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170904-these-scottish-islands-may-hold-the-secret-to-happiness

      It’s especially interesting to consider the environment and individual reactions to the ‘external’ when looking at how philanthropic endeavors affect well being. Often in philanthropy, a subjective (inward looking) definition of well being is imposed on individuals by those with the resources.

      On a side, there’s also a trend in ‘pop culture’ philosophy in silicon valley to only reflect on well being from an entirely egocentric perspective. I don’t feel this will lead to a world of well being.

      Not sure if I’m addressing your comments directly, but you certainly gave me pause for thought. Thank you.

  2. What I was trying to suggest was that all a priori concepts are premised on a posteriori precepts and because they are entirely different: ‘never the train shall meet’. If reality is fundamentally indeterminate and chaotic it can never be known, only experienced sensually. If it is determinate it can only be understood by reason and logic which, as I think you suggest is ‘an entirely egocentric perspective’ and divorced from ’empathy’, which has been described as ‘one of the most valuable resources in the world’ and increasingly being neglected by our egos. “The unreasoned and immediate assurance is the deep thing in us, the reasoned argument is but a surface exhibition. Instinct leads, intelligence does but follow.” [William James]

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