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Research partnership leads to three published papers

“I really started to believe that we could distill the best parts of our conversations to write some pieces that would be very philosophically strong,” Christophe Porot ’13 says of how his research partnership with St. Olaf Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro began.

A research project between St. Olaf College Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro and Christophe Porot ‘13 has produced three papers accepted for publication about everything from the philosopher Donald Davidson to the popular television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The duo’s first paper, titled “A Davidsonian Life After Life,” was accepted in August as a chapter in the forthcoming book Death and Anti-Death, Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson.

Their next article, titled “The Theater of Deceit: What Homeland Reveals About the Ethics of Hypocrisy and Deceit,” was accepted into the book Homeland and Philosophy later that month. And at the end of September their piece “The Hidden Sun: How it Can Always be Sunny in a Wintry, Dark City” was accepted for the book It’s Always Sunny in Philosophy.

Both books, which focus on the television shows Homeland and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, respectively, are part of Open Court Publishing’s “Popular Culture and Philosophy” series, and will be published in 2014.

“It was a real partnership,” St. Olaf Professor of Philosophy Charles Taliaferro says of the research project he worked on with Christophe Porot ’13.

A triumphant collaboration
The professor and student got to know each other outside the classroom during Porot’s senior year, when Taliaferro hired him to edit his writing.

“I edited for his book The Image in Mind and did editing work for the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” says Porot, who is currently studying at the University of Oxford. “I considered this a tremendous honor. That’s how we started a working relationship before getting to co-write pieces.”

The idea to collaborate stemmed from long discussions about philosophy that cropped up while the two were working.

“I really started to believe that we could distill the best parts of our conversations to write some pieces that would be very philosophically strong,” Porot says. “I was staying around campus for the summer and so I let him know that, if he was ever interested, it would be a dream come true to write some papers with him. He instantly replied with an emphatic ‘Yes!’ and we literally started working on a project that very day.”

“It was a real partnership,” Taliaferro says. “I just trusted him completely.”

Ongoing research
Porot’s work with Taliaferro isn’t his first collaboration with a St. Olaf professor. He has also worked with Associate Professor of Political Science Douglas Casson on a project examining the ways in which religious assumptions influenced the emergence of science in 17th-century England.

With support from St. Olaf’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry program, Porot was able to spend the summer of 2012 at the University of Oxford (where he had already been studying during his junior year through St. Olaf’s International and Off-Campus Studies program), while Casson carried out his portion of the research in the U.S. at Calvin College with former Oxford faculty member Peter Harrison.

Casson and Porot’s research together is a continuing endeavor. Currently, the two are working on a paper titled “John Locke and the Problem of Information Overload,” which will examine how Locke tried to respond to what he saw as one of the great intellectual problems of his day: too much data.

And while being abroad may keep Porot from working more with Taliaferro, their collaboration may lead to other projects in the future.

“Taliaferro has said that he wants to hook me up with some professors at Oxford, especially Daniel Robinson, renowned in the fields of Philosophy of Mind and Science and Religion,” says Porot. “So, [Taliaferro’s] influence may extend to the next chapter of my life.”