This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Olivia Bailey is a PhD student in Philosophy at Harvard University.
Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
Olivia Bailey: I’m originally from Londonderry, a tiny town in the mountains of southern Vermont. Somerville, MA, has been my home for the last six years.
VW: Tell me about your research.
OB: Broadly speaking, my work is concerned with the ways that different kinds of epistemic virtues enable, constitute, and (perhaps) interfere with ethical virtues. I’m particularly interested in the significance of emotionally-charged imagination, and in the gap between intellectually comprehending and knowing something “in one’s heart.” Previously, I’ve worked on questions about the ethical status of epistemic goods that naturally arise within an Aristotelian framework: issues I’ve addressed include whether some epistemic deficits might be features of good character, and whether the unity of the virtues thesis imposes unacceptably high demands for intellectual understanding and practical know-how upon a would-be phronimos. My dissertation explores territory not as well-trodden by Aristotelian virtue theorists, since it is focused on a psychological phenomenon, empathy, that has traditionally been of interest to philosophers working in the sentimentalist tradition. However, I rely upon insights from virtue theory to develop my account of empathy as an epistemic-cum-ethical good.
VW: What are your non-academic interests?
OB: I love cross-country skiing, camping and climbing; as a summer job, I used to maintain a hut on top of a Vermont mountain (the perfect place to be a bit of a philosophical hermit). I’m also very interested in rare and antiquarian books. I’m currently trying to teach myself Turkish, but with only limited success!