Lewis Gordon: Best Philosophy Books for Beginners

Check out Professor and Department Head Lewis Gordon’s picks for the best philosophy books for beginners!

“Why create a reading list of the best philosophy books for beginners? Well, Bertrand Russell once said that ‘science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know’, and when it comes to philosophy – I don’t know nearly enough. The vastness and occasional intangibility of the subject can make it feel inaccessible for novices. Like trying to find the end of a piece of sellotape, it can be frustrating to know where to start. In situations like this, there is only one thing you can do – ask the experts what they’d recommend as philosophy books for beginners. Luckily for me, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of the world’s finest philosophical minds.”

-Phil Treagus Evans, “Philosophy Books for Beginners”

Alexandra Stamson: “Narcissist Fathers and Powered Daughters”

Alexandra Stamson, one of our talented philosophy graduate students, has a book chapter coming out titled “Narcissist Fathers and Powered Daughters: Examining Narcissism and Gender” in N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate in February.


“This chapter is a deep-dive into kinship and the links between the patriarchal figure, the patriarchy system, and the agency of daughters within that system, and how narcissism plays into the roles of family by looking at the ways that the father/daughter relationship plays out in N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.”


Hady Ba and Thomas Meagher: Blog of the APA

Please take a moment to check out two amazing pieces from members of our UConn community on the Blog of the APA: an essay written by visiting scholar Dr. Mouhamadou El Hady Ba, and a piece by UConn Philosophy alumnus Thomas Meagher. Congratulations!

"Reports from Abroad: Dr. Mouhamadou El Hady Ba"

African endogenous systems of knowledge—embedded inside a metaphysical explanation of life and the universe—were transmitted via secret societies and myths. I argue that our abandonment of that metaphysical framework used to produce and justify knowledge shouldn’t compel us to deem that knowledge irrational. Conversely, re-discovering this endogenous knowledge does not require us to uncritically accept its metaphysical or even epistemological underpinning. I am increasingly convinced that an epistemological study of local knowledge could uncover useful discoveries. For example, there is a wealth of knowledge being lost about the use of local plants like neem (azadirachta indica), niprisan, or aloe ferox to cure or prevent health conditions as serious as cancer or sickle cell disease. An epistemological study of endogenous knowledge could kickstart a movement that would greatly enrich scientific domains like pharmacology or ecology. Trying to make sense of local knowledge in discussions with colleagues who, on ideological bases, promoted all things African helped me see that, if we keep the right distance, we can bring these traditions and their contents into conversation with the scientific realm with a continued critical eye. I think I would never have become open to endogenous systems of knowledge if I hadn’t returned to Senegal where I have been able to participate in local epistemological and philosophical discussions.

Read the full blog post here


"Sylvia Wynter and the Concept of the Homocene" by Dr. Thomas Meagher

How do these categories of Anthropocene and Capitalocene relate to our initial categories of causal and existential responsibility? In implicating human agency as a causal factor in the destruction of the planet, each seems to evoke existential responsibility. Yet as plain statements of fact, these conceptions begin with the matter of causal responsibility. The Anthropocene is defined by human agency as cause of climatic transformation. The Capitalocene is put forth as an alternative naming of a particular human orientation, toward the functional rule of the owners of wealth that produces wealth, as the predominant cause of such transformation. It is only if one takes these terms as implicating oneself that they entail existential responsibility.

Read the full blog post here


Nelson Maldonado-Torres: Sobre a Colonialidade doSer and El Mostrador

Please check out two new items from Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres: a new translation of his writings in Portuguese, and a reference to his work in El Mostrador, a Chilean newspaper.

Congratulations, Nelson!

Sobre a Colonialidade do Ser (On the Coloniality of Being)

About the coloniality of being is a text written with the blood of the victims of coloniality, historical logos that had been established since the colonization started in 1492, with the violent creation – and not innocent discovery – of the New World. Unlike many European and Eurocentric narratives about the genesis of modernity and its main characteristics, Maldonado-Torres takes into account the idea present in many decolonial studies, according to which modernity is born with coloniality and, therefore, it is necessary to talk about modernity-coloniality, to make it clear that coloniality is not a side effect of modernity, something that could be fixed or uprooted without calling into question the essence of modernity. Rather, coloniality is the lifeblood of modernity, statement that confronts Europe's boastful ways of understanding the modernity of its history. For this reason, the Cartesian cogito is not the striking sign of the origin of modernity, a kind of immobile engine or axial point moving all the tradition founded by it. As Enrique Dussel showed, the ego conquers (the I conquer) is the condition of possibility of Descartes' own thought, which is why modernity is marked by political-economic-epistemological relations of domination and subjection of non-Europe by Europe.

Purchase the book in Portuguese here

El Mostrador

"Alexander Ortiz Ocaña and Decolonialism"


Throughout the history of the human and social sciences there have been several turns, such as the linguistic turn, the hermeneutical turn, the phenomenological turn, the configurative turn, the socio-critical turn. Following that same logic, the Puerto Rican philosopher Nelson Maldonado Torres coined the term 'decolonial turn', which has been followed by many authors of our America, including us.

The decolonial turn implies the search to start building knowledge from the particular context of each region, from conceptualized and situated knowledge, looking at ourselves and without the need to import knowledge from other regions, other countries or other contexts

Read the full article here

Tracy Llanera: CLAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grant

Congratulations to Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera, who has been awarded a CLAS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grant to support her work titled “Resilience: A Workshop for Women Doing Philosophy.” Dr. Llanera’s work has already inspired an intellectual movement in the South Pacific, in which Indigenous and other South Pacific women of color working in philosophy have created a Women Doing Philosophy group and project. The result is a series of influential journal articles, conferences, colloquia, and a proposed anthology on resilience. The proposal for the anthology has been enthusiastically received by the series editors for the Routledge-India series Academics, Politics and Society in the Post-Covid World.  

Ayanna De’Vante Spencer: me.too International Social and Political Framework

Assistant Professor Ayanna De’Vante Spencer and her collaborators launched the me.too International’s Social and Political Framework. As the original author of the first two versions and now a co-author, Dr. Spencer is very proud of this public philosophy for and with survivors, and the extraordinary team at me too International. Interested parties can view the framework here digitally before physical copies are available.

Lewis Gordon: Interview in Newsweek

Check out Professor and Department Head Lewis Gordon’s recent interview in Newsweek, “Kanye West Confused About Antisemitism and Racism, Professor Says.”


Gordon explained that “the nonracial interpretation of antisemitism doesn’t quite play out in practice, since people who hate Jews use all the logic of race and racism when speaking about Jews, and, internally to Jewish communities, one could be born Jewish (through a Jewish mother) and remain so even when, in some cases, one has converted to other religions.”

“So,” said Gordon, “the short answer is this: Wherever there is antisemitism, there is racism. Wherever there is racism, there is often antisemitism. But bear in mind, antisemitism is a species of racism.”

Lewis Gordon: Kanye West and the Age of the Unmanageable

Check out Professor and Department Head Lewis Gordon’s comments on Kanye West in the Financial Times, “Kanye West and the Age of the Unmanageable.”


Lewis R Gordon is an American philosopher whose book Fear of Black Consciousness was published earlier this year. In 2018, he was interviewed for an article about Kanye in which he tried to explain the singer’s drift to the right following a controversial interview the musician had done on TMZ about the history of slavery. “It’s pretty clear that his psychological protection against vulnerability is to push himself to the level of a god,” said Gordon. “People who build up an edifice of pleasing falsehoods to protect themselves eventually lose the connection to certain elements of truth.”

Tracy Llanera: Keynote at Notre Dame School of Virtue and Character

Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera gave a keynote at the 2022 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character presented by the Institute for Ethics & Society. Held over two weeks, the third NDSVC allows selected participants to engage with new research on the topic of cultivating good character. NDSVC features six keynote sessions, each running for 1.5 hours. The sessions are structured around a pre-read paper and provide participants with the opportunity to engage directly with the speakers in a rigorous but friendly discussion of their work. 

Flyer for the 2022 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character

Lewis Gordon: Philosophy and Global Affairs Vol. 2

Check out the second volume of Philosophy and Global Affairs, co-edited by Professors Lewis Gordon and Jane Anna Gordon. You can also read Professor Tracy Llanera's contributed article, linked below.

"Pragmatism, Language Games, and the Philippine Drug War" by Tracy Llanera

This article explores the claim that how we talk can inspire how we reason and act. Contemporary research suggests that the words militant Christian leaders in the Philippines use shape how they rationalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Describing drug users as “sinners,” a trope in religious language, is particularly lethal. Using work on pragmatism and philosophy of language by Richard Rorty, Robert Brandom, and Lynne Tirrell, the author examines how the term “sinner” generates pernicious claims in the drug war. It explores how the use of the term inspires hermeneutic uptake, redirects discursive focus, and engenders certain social and political actions in the Philippines.