Colin Marshall and Ian Schnee awarded Mellon Summer Fellowship for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities

Congratulations to Colin Marshall and Ian Schnee on being awarded a Mellon Summer Fellowship for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities for their project “Advanced Philosophy of Persuasion Courses.” Mellon Summer Fellows receive support to develop graduate-level seminars with a significant focus on the practice of public scholarship.

Colin and Ian plan to build upon their previous work creating the new undergraduate introductory course “PHIL 118: Persuasion or Manipulation? The Ethics and Psychology of Influence,” to develop upper-level undergraduate and graduate-level courses on the topic. They reflected in their proposal about the need for advanced classes in the philosophy of persuasion:

“From the incessant posts of social media influencers to polarized political pundits, citizens today are constantly subject to forces of persuasion and manipulation. It takes little reflection to realize that these forces are rarely motivated by our best interests. At the same time, we want to be successful agents of persuasion, effective democratic citizens contributing to public discourse on important issues like climate change, racism, and immigration.

Understanding the forces of persuasion and manipulation is therefore a vital skill, especially for younger generations. The tools of philosophy--argument analysis and assessment, critiquing values and implicit assumptions, distinguishing multiple readings of complex texts and phenomena--should be able to help with this situation. Unfortunately, few philosophy classes directly confront the question of how ethical persuasion is possible in light of the realities of human psychology and modern technology.”

For their project, they will develop two courses: “Conspiracy Theories, Propaganda, and Epistemic Vice: The Philosophy of Manipulation and Misinformation,” which will be taught by Ian Schnee and “Respect, Rhetoric, and the Psychology of Persuasion,” which will be taught by Colin Marshall. Ian’s course will focus on identifying and avoiding the dark side of persuasion: how we are easily influenced and manipulated by technology, media and misinformation. Colin’s course will focus on how ethically permissible persuasion can be accomplished, with particular attention to issues of moral respect, the ethics of rhetoric, and relevant work in social psychology. These courses will both provide continuation for students excited about their work in this fall’s Philosophy of Persuasion class. Furthermore, it will provide valuable training for graduate students interested in ethics and the epistemology of persuasion, allowing them to build their portfolio in public philosophy skills.

We know our graduate and undergraduate students will look forward to taking both of these classes! Congratulations to Colin and Ian!