These universal questions form our framework for understanding the world, according to Associate Professor of Philosophy Lydia Moland. “It (that framework) can be the basis of how we approach problems,” she says.
And, Moland says, the study of philosophy may be more relevant than ever in a time of political upheaval, cultural shifts, and rapid technological change.
“In the current news cycle, how do we determine what is one person’s truth as opposed to others?” she said. “What is patriotism? Is it loyalty to a particular culture or to a set of principles?”
Moland loves to attack these questions with Colby students. “This is an age—eighteen to twenty-two—where people are trying to orient their lives. Philosophy brings some perspective and order to the questions, but it can also be very abstract: what does it mean to sense things? Are you taking in (concrete) information, or are you bringing things into existence by just sensing them?”
Currently on a sabbatical year to write on German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel’s aesthetics, Moland teaches many of her classes using, not only texts, but also the resources of the Colby College Museum of Art.
“Hegel was committed to the idea of art being central to what it means to be human,” she said. “When I teach historical courses, I go into the collection to show how the ideas we’re talking about in the abstract were given physical form by artists.”
The academic world, meanwhile, is impressed with Moland’s scholarship. Earlier this year, she published an essay in The Paris Review about the philosophy and rhetoric of the abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, as well as a Boston Globe article on Child. The American Council of Learned Societies awarded Moland a fellowship to support her sabbatical. The book, Hegel’s Aesthetics: The Art of Idealism, will be published by Oxford University Press.