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Philosophy Professor Featured on NPR  

Headshot of Denise Vigani. Professor Denise Vigani was featured on the "Ask A Philosopher" segment of the NPR, WNYC radio show "All of It." The show is hosted by Alison Stewart, perhaps best known for her news work with MTV in the early 90s or her subsequent work as a news anchor for CBS News, ABC News and MSNBC.

Professor Vigani, whose areas of specialization are virtue ethics and moral psychology, appeared on the show with Professor Ian Olasov of Brooklyn College, considered by many to be the "Father of the Ask a Philosopher movement." Professor Vigani has appeared with Olasove on numerous occasions at his "Ask a Philosopher" tables in public spaces. Over the last few years Professor Vigani has organized a number of these tables at Seton Hall, in celebration of World Philosophy Day.

On the show, the pair of philosophers tackled questions on the existence of objective and subjective truth as well as the differences and what it means to have "skin in the game"; the moral and ethical duties of Bob Woodward; whether a quid pro quo relationship exists in gift-giving; the connection between morality and philosophy; love; patience as a virtue juxtaposed with inordinate waiting; and "is catsup a smoothie?"

Much of Vigani's scholarship is informed by empirically-oriented research in psychology and cognitive science and she was asked to clarify the distinctions between a science question and a philosophy question and how they interact in her work. "Science has particular methodologies," said Vigani. Scientists try to evaluate evidence based on observations to answer questions. Philosophers don't have that kind of methodology. For example, a lot of my work is in virtue, and virtue is committed to the idea that there are character traits. Well scientists, cognitive scientists and psychologists, have a lot of things to say about character traits. And they've used empirical methods – they do studies, they do surveys, they observe people – and they have data that tells us things. And so the things that we think about in philosophy when it comes to what we think character traits are, and how we think they operate in humans, we need to be sensitive to that data and incorporate the descriptive data that me might get from science about how people are into thinking about more normative questions of philosophy like 'What kind of humans do we want to be?' and 'What does a good human life look like?'

You can hear WNYC's "Ask a Philosopher" with Professor Vigani here

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  • Michael Ricciardelli
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