In Fall 2016 I joined the faculty at Florida International University in the philosophy department. Previously I taught at Portland State University. I received my PhD in philosophy from the University of Washington in 2015. I earned my MA in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I wrote my MA thesis on Clement Greenberg and I have a BA in history from Oberlin College. My areas of research include ethical theory and aesthetics.
Much of my research has focused on the aesthetic beauty of immovable cultural heritage (such as ruins), and our ethical obligation to cultural heritage. In my work on ruins, I provide an account for the aesthetic appreciation of ruins, one which encompasses ruins of antiquity to contemporary industrial ruins (e.g., the former Packard Plant in Detroit, MI). I argue that if we see ruins as in the process of decay, and we have good reasons to respect the aesthetic integrity of ruins, we ought to allow a ruin to ruinate. Paradoxically then, to “preserve” the special aesthetic value of a ruin, we must allow it to decay. Offshoots of this project have been published in the Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism (“Unimagined Beauty“), ARCADE (“Authenticity in Ruins”), and The Journal of Applied Philosophy (“Visiting the Ruins of Detroit“). A blog post (politicalphilosopher.net) about ruins of war can be found here.
My interest in providing practical arguments for the preservation of immovable cultural heritage has given rise to a related interest in the ethics of travel and tourism. This, I believe, is an underdeveloped area of applied ethics. One benefit of my research interests is that it gives me the opportunity to travel. In 2012 I was awarded a Melvin Rader Fellowship for Innovative Philosophical Projects which allowed me to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites in South East Asia, including the My Son Sanctuary in central Vietnam. I am also currently working on a paper discussing whether or not UNESCO’s World Heritage designation does more harm than good for historic sites. This paper was borne out of a presentation I gave at an interdisciplinary conference on Heritage Management in Guimarães, Portugal.
During my time at the University of Washington, I had the good fortune of having many rewarding and meaningful jobs. In addition to teaching, I worked for the Program on Values in Society, as an editorial assistant for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, as the Soden-Trueblood Publishing Fellow at the University of Washington Press, as the Department of Philosophy’s Teaching and Learning Coordinator, and as the director of the Department of Philosophy’s writing center. If you’d like to read an article about my time in the press, you can find one here.
I am a self-professed failed musician and successful film buff. I spent eight years as a volunteer 35mm projectionist and outreach coordinator at the Grand Illusion Cinema in Seattle, Washington and was the manager at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon (the longest continuous running Rocky Horror Picture Show in the world!). When not projecting at arthouse cinemas or butchering jazz flute, you may find me working on various political campaigns in the area or devouring fiction on my e-reader (academic texts in physical print only, please).
I can be contacted at lizscar [at] gmail.com