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As a study-abroad student through the Dickinson in Oxford program, Maizie Ober ’21 attended a lecture by the world’s foremost scholar on David Hume, her favorite philosopher. Now she’s writing a senior thesis unpacking Hume’s theory. Below, she discusses her love of philosophy, her major, her ideal internship, why she chose Dickinson, her time abroad and more.
Clubs and organizations:
Liberty Caps Society (tour guides), Philosophy Collective and Global Ambassador.
Phi Beta Kappa and Benjamin Rush Scholar.
Best thing about my major:
Philosophy not only invites you to be in conversation with the greatest thinkers of all time, but it also gives you permission to disagree with them. It’s exciting and invigorating to consider the “big questions.” I often joke with my friends about my essay topics—while they are examining the intersections of gender and race in the Olympics or critiquing the class disparities in 18th-century British literature, I am being asked to determine whether values are real, if God exists and what personal identity is. I sometimes wonder: What gives me the right to think I can answer these questions? I certainly don’t have the answers. Instead, philosophy is about the dialogue you can have with your peers, your teachers, people on the other side of the world and those long gone, because the questions it asks are relevant to everyone.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
On choosing Dickinson:
I wanted to go to a small school where I could walk around campus and know most of the people I saw. I grew up about 15 minutes from Dickinson, and I knew I would be happy here because of our close-knit community and small class sizes. As someone who wasn’t completely ready to leave home and needed a safe community in which to mature before entering the “real world,” Dickinson provided exactly that.
This is a hard question for me, because I love nearly every class I’ve ever taken at Dickinson. But I’d have to say Moral Problems with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Amy McKiernan, during my very first semester. It was in this class I rediscovered my love for philosophy and I realized that I could use it for the social change I wanted to see in the world. Further, the classroom environment was unlike any other. It was a class of students from all majors and class years in conversation with one another about contemporary moral issues. It was so special for me as a first-year student to be able to make meaningful academic and personal connections with upperclassmen in that space.
I work at an orchard, and I can name and identify about 30 varieties of apples!
On studying abroad:
I studied abroad at the University of Oxford for my entire junior year as a part of the Dickinson in Oxford program. My experience replicated that of a typical Oxford undergraduate student. I had the opportunity to take tutorials, study in the Bodleian libraries, dine in the fancy college halls (Harry Potter-style) and even attend a ball. It was absolutely magical. The highlight of my time was attending university lectures on David Hume, my favorite philosopher, given by one of the world’s top Hume specialists. I also learned how to downhill ski in the French Alps on a university trip, which was definitely another bonus!
As a kid, I wanted to be …
… a philosopher, actually! When I was 10, I was thoroughly obsessed with the ancient Greek philosophers. In elementary school we had to dress up as what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I wore regular clothes because I wanted to be a philosopher and “anyone can be a philosopher.” Little did I know I would actually become one.
I plan on completing a master’s and then a Ph.D. in philosophy, with the ultimate goal of becoming a professor. I want to share my philosophical education with others and invite young people to think about questions of truth, justification and ethics.
About my internship:
This past summer I completed a remote internship for United 4 Social Change as a curriculum development intern. I made lessons that connected various topics in philosophy to civic engagement in order to assist educators with remote learning during COVID-19. I am so grateful for this experience because it reminded me that philosophy is relevant to everyday life and the issues facing our world, and it inspired me to continue sharing it with others, especially young people. We are at a point where the truth is often rendered either questionable or useless. This is a time, more than any other, that we need to ask why. Why do I believe this? How can I justify my beliefs and actions to myself and others? This is what United 4 Social Change aims to do and what I want to continue to do in my education and career.
Proudest accomplishment so far:
When I was a senior in high school, I did a solo road trip from my home in Pennsylvania to Rocky Mountain National Park and back. It was about 10 days of driving and the longest time I’ve been completely on my own.
About my research:
I am currently working on my senior thesis, which critiques David Hume’s moral theory against moral relativism. Hume believes that our moral judgments come from emotion, and I am inclined to agree—after all, when you see something wrong or unjust, it seems right to say that you feel it to be wrong. However, a problem arises when someone else looks at the same event and doesn’t feel it to be wrong. How can we feel differently without collapsing into relativism? Further, how can we motivate people who don’t care about a particular issue to begin caring and feeling about it? I’m trying to unpack Hume’s theory to see how he can respond to these questions.
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Published December 8, 2020