The Dennes Room

SJ Cowan

SJ Cowan [home page]

Office hours:

The Philosophy department is my home department here at Berkeley, and I work in the Program for Critical Theory as well. Beginning in 2022, I also joined (as a visiting PhD fellow) a research group—“Normativity, Critique, Change”, working with the “Reorganizing Ourselves” projected headed by Alva Noë—at the Free University in Berlin.

My interests are in thinkers like Kant, the German Romantics, and Wittgenstein, as well as in Critical Theory, and Feminist and Black thought. My dissertation project, which draws primarily on Kant and Adorno, is on hope’s relationship to aesthetic experience and art. Questions include: Why is it that aesthetic events—even ones that are not ‘pleasant’—often grant us confidence to embrace the uncertainties of the future with hope, even if the facts of the present speak in favor of despair? What reasons can be given for taking the ever-fleeting moments of the aesthetic as evidence that the tangible conditions of our lives can become ‘better’? How ought we utilize the hope that aesthetics (and art) affords us? Should we put our trust in it? Or should we regard it as a mere opiate, as something false?

Prior to coming to Berkeley I studied photography (BFA, Columbia College), theology (MA, Fuller Seminary), and philosophy (MA, UW-Milwaukee).