W&L Student Presents Paper at the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium Dylan Santella ’25 presented “Gender and The Face: Expanding Upon the Butlerian Model of Ethics” at the undergraduate conference held March 31 at Swarthmore College.
Washington and Lee University student Dylan Santella ’25 presented a paper at the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium (GPPC) Undergraduate Conference hosted by Swarthmore College on Friday, March 31.
A philosophy and politics major from Sarasota, Florida, Santella submitted his paper “Gender and The Face: Expanding Upon the Butlerian Model of Ethics” for review with the GPPC in early January. He was notified on March 3 that he was among the students from 12 schools across the country selected to present at the conference.
“The GPPC conference allowed me to hear other people’s reactions to my paper, and they brought new perspectives to what I had to say,” Santella said. “If we don’t hold critical discourse about the words we put down on the page, we can never experience progress in academic philosophy. This was a fantastic opportunity to do so.”
In his essay, Santella attempts to synthesize Emmanual Levinas’ ethics of difference with Judith Butler’s concept of vulnerability and dependence, using the socially constructed concept of “gender.” Santella argues that we ought to both acknowledge and respect one’s gender identity as a form of care. This responsibility we have to others determines whether they can understand themselves as people worthy of social recognition. To do this, he uses Hegel’s “Recognition” as a way of explaining the relationship we have with others, entailing both dependence and vulnerability.
“Dylan is an exceptional student,” said Nathaniel Goldberg, professor of philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department. “I am really impressed — but not at all surprised — that as a sophomore he’s already presenting at undergraduate philosophy conferences. Dylan cares about ideas as much as about the world, and W&L is lucky to have him.”
Santella first presented his paper for the Mudd Center’s 2023 Undergraduate Ethics Conference, which was held as a virtual conference on March 4. He used that experience to refine his presentation for the GPCC conference.
“I received a lot of feedback, both from the wonderful editing team at the Mudd Center, and from conference participants,” said Santella. “These comments helped me understand my project in terms of my community and allowed me to expand my ideas to make them more accessible to my audience.”
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