I am most passionate about how philosophy can help people live lives that are more meaningful, more just, more careful – literally more care-full.

Sheila Lintott

Sheila Lintott focuses on the messy, gritty stuff of everyday life.

The associate professor of philosophy teaches courses that lead students in contemplating issues from the nature of beauty to the nature of gender. Her introductory course -- Laughing Matters? -- allows students to explore a broad range of philosophers and philosophical theories with a focus on theories on humor and the human capacity for laughter. Examining the perspectives of Plato, Aristotle, Kant and other philosophers, along with films and other media, students consider the role of comedy in culture, and they debate whether there are any topics are too serious, too taboo or too immoral to laugh at.

"Some of the questions we consider are: Does laughter serve ends beyond entertainment? What does sexist and racist humor say about the joke maker or those who laugh? I want my students to leave the class with a greater appreciation of their own sense of humor and the impact it has on society."

"My aim in the classroom," says Lintott, "is to produce a community of learners who feel a real sense of responsibility to one another and to the subject matter at hand. I want my students to leave my classes with a greater awareness of themselves and an increased ability to live deliberately."

Of her teaching approach, she says, "I like to think that once their eyes are opened in this way, they can't ever be closed again."

Lintott seeks to get students comfortably inhabiting a questioning state of mind in all of her courses, which cover topics in philosophical aesthetics, environmental philosophy, and feminist philosophy. "My goal," she says, "is always to help students see that they know less than they think they do and, importantly, to help them see the glory and great freedom in that realization. I am most passionate about how philosophy can help people live lives that are more meaningful, more just, more careful - literally more care-full. Philosophy can help people lead lives that are full of care and compassion."

Posted Sept. 20, 2011

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