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Department of Philosophy

Faculty Spotlight

What is Philosophy: Embodiment, Signification, Ideality? ...And VIDEO GAMES!

Just before becoming chair of the department last July, Jere Surber's most recent book, What Is Philosophy: Embodiment, Signification, Ideality? was published. The book was an extended trip through the most basic sources, and still unanswered questions, of philosophy. But its purpose was hardly retro – it's aim was to start thinking about what philosophy could (or should) become as the 21st century unfolds.

One theme that kept surfacing over several years' work on the book was whether philosophy was an enterprise, like some other of the arts and sciences, that was defined by and limited to some specific medium. Surber began wondering whether philosophical ideas could only be expressed in the traditional prose of 'natural languages' or whether other media might do this just as well – or even better.

About the same time, he had learned about one possible new medium from his teenage daughters: video games. He took the dive into 'gamer culture' and, before long, discovered that there were a lot more interesting philosophical issues and possibilities in video games than had yet been recognized. His first step in sharing some of his 'discoveries' was to develop an undergraduate course called "Philosophy and Video Games." At first it was a regular 'face-to-face' class, but he soon found that it worked better as a completely online class. He has been teaching this popular class at least once a year for several years now and recently signed a contract with Bloomsbury Press for a book to accompany it.

In the meantime, he has a full slate of activities, chairing the department and teaching courses on Kant, Hegel, aesthetics, and issues in contemporary philosophy. But he still tries to find a bit of time to sneak away to 'gameworld' – at the moment, it's Far Cry 4 and waiting for Fallout IV.

Philosophy welcomes new tenure track professor Michael Brent

Michael was a Bradley Postdoctoral Fellow at Carthage College, where he taught a freshman-level seminar in the core curriculum.  His current research is focused on
foundational metaphysical issues that arise at the intersection of philosophy of action, agency, and mind, with a specific focus on the notion of effort.

Activism leads to professor's research on migration

Thomas Nail became interested in political philosophy through his activist work with antipoverty, antiwar, animal-rights, environmental and migrant-justice organizations. The assistant professor of philosophy at DU continues to be motivated by issues of social and environmental justice. His latest book project looks at the historical and political role of migration in society. Read more about his research in University of Denver Magazine at:

Nail's published works can all be downloaded at: 

Returning to Revolution by Thomas Nail published by Edinburgh University Press

Nail Book Cover Thomas Nail

Returning to Revolution is an account of the theory and practice of revolutionary struggle in the work of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and the Zapatistas. We are witnessing today the return of political revolution. But it is not a return to the classical forms of revolution: the capture of the state, the political representation of the party, the centrality of the proletariat, and the leadership of the vanguard. Rather, after the failure of such tactics over the last century, revolutionary strategy is now headed in an entirely new direction. Much has been written on Deleuze and Guattari's political philosophy in the last fifteen years, but Returning to Revolution is the first full-length work to-date on their concept of revolution and its relationship to one of the most influential revolutionary movements the last fifteen years: Zapatismo.

The first 50 pages of his book can be downloaded here.

Returning to Revolution is also reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Review and Critical–

Ibn Gabriol's Theology of Desire by Sarah Pessin published by Cambridge University Press

Sarah Pessin Sarah Pessin

Drawing on Arabic passages from Ibn Gabirol's original Fons Vitae text, and highlighting philosophical insights from his Hebrew poetry, Pessin develops a "Theology of Desire" at the heart of Ibn Gabirol's 11th century cosmo-ontology, challenging centuries of received scholarship on the "Doctrines of Divine Will and Universal Hylomorphism." Pessin rejects voluntarist readings of the Fons Vitae as opposing divine emanation, as she emphasizes uniquely "Empedoclean" notions of "Divine Desire" and "Grounding Element," alongside Ibn Gabirol's use of a particularly Neoplatonic method with apophatic (and what she calls "doubly apophatic") implications. Pessin in this way reads claims about matter and God as insights about love, desire, and the receptive, dependent, and fragile nature of human being. Pessin re-envisions the entire spirit of Ibn Gabirol's philosophy, moving us from a set of doctrines to a fluid inquiry into the nature of God and human being—and the bond between God and human being in desire.

Sarah Pessin's blog entry at Cambridge University Press: Methodological Questions about how [not] to Read Ancient and Medieval Cosmology