Philosophy Professor Recognized by APA
Oct. 4, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
Story By: Mikah Boyd
Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin, assistant professor of Philosophy at Sam Houston State University, was 1 of 5 winners of the American Philosophical Association’s Public Philosophy Op-Ed Contest. Mitchell-Yellin has been a member of the APA for 10 years, working with the association to promote philosophy on academic and public levels. He promotes philosophy as a profession and engages minds by teaching, pushing students to think deeper about issues.
Mitchell-Yellin’s work, “The Mirror Test and the Problem of Understanding Other Minds”, published in Psychology Today, discusses debates regarding the mirror test concerning its ability to show if animals are capable of self-recognition. He also addresses questions about studying other minds and the limits of understanding. The article engages readers that are longing to know if animals think as we do and wonder how one can know how to understand other’s minds.
Mitchell-Yellin applies that cross-pollination of ideas in the classroom, providing his students with a pool of information to help their developing minds generate a capacity for higher thinking. He finds teaching to be enriching for him as well, as his students never cease to surprise him.
“They say stuff that never would’ve occurred to me, use examples I never would’ve thought of, share stories that enrich my understanding of people and the world. My favorite part of being a philosophy professor is that it keeps things fresh,” Mitchell-Yellin said. “Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, one of my students says something that gives me a pause. Then it is back to the drawing board. I like to think that this will help me avoid going stale."
The APA op-ed contest serves as an incentive for philosophers to engage in public philosophy and share their ideas with people outside of their field. Other than the prize and recognition, those who are part of the APA get to collaborate with like-minded peers and share ideas, building each other up by comparing experiences. This collaboration is even more enriching when ideas are shared on different platforms and discussed with those who have differing viewpoints.
“An op-ed like this isn’t an attempt to contribute to the academic literature. It is an attempt to say something that the public might find interesting. The venue is also great, as it allows me to reach an audience that is comprised of many non-philosophers. I get to engage with other academics outside of my field. The cross-pollination of ideas is a great way to learn and grow as a thinker,” Mitchell-Yellin said.
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