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ment, earned a PhD at Penn State, and joined the Skidmore faculty in 2001. In 2005 he published Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism.


Despite bouts of mental illness, Althusser had a long aca- demic career in Paris. A scholar of Hegel, he joined the French Communist Party in 1948. His work was influential in Marxist philosophy, and especially in several critiques of its develop- ment and interpretations. His 1970 essay on ideology and the state drew from Marx, Freud, and other think - ers to describe humans as inescapably bound up in ideology. Lewis is working on an Althusser-


“THIS THEORY URGES US TO THINK ABOUT POLITICS NOT AS WARRING IDEOLOGIES BUT AS PUBLIC INQUIRY THAT INVOLVES RESEARCH AND DELIBERATION.”


inspired critical theory of culture that advocates the use of knowledge from the social sciences as part and parcel of politi- cal decision-making. Instead of accepting today’s reality of democratic politics as an expression of warring ideologies, he says, this theory “urges us to think about politics as public in- quiry—one that departs from our given ideas about what is right and wrong with the world, but that involves research and deliberation about our perceived problems in order to de- cide collectively on what is to be done.” The author of articles on deliberative democracy, evolution-


ary moral psychology, and political aesthetics, Lewis also keeps an eye on current hot topics, like Occupy Wall Street. He says if Althusser were alive today, he might be critical of the pro- testers. “Their demands are amorphous, with no thorough - going analysis or organization. Althusser would be suspicious, I think, about whether or not creating an event can change political and economic structures. He was first and foremost a strategist.” Lewis’s inquiring mind addresses global issues too. If hu- mans have evolved to feel more concern for family or clan than for strangers, he notes, that makes it more difficult to im- plement universal ethical principles, such as in the 1948 Inter- national Declaration of Human Rights. “If we desire such prin- ciples to be implemented,” he says, “we need to strengthen the institutions that support them and develop our feelings of sympathy and moral obligation to those outside our immedi- ate community or nation.” He adds, “In contemporary politi- cal philosophy, a chief concern is making democratic proce- dures fair. And I am concerned also about making them pro- ductive of positive change.” —Nancy Rabinowitz ’85


Beauty and the biologist


For Jennifer Stone ’85, life viewed at the cellular level is as beautiful as a fine painting.


Driven by a fascination with both art and developmental


biology, Stone learned through the support of her drawing and ecology professors at Skidmore that she wouldn’t have to choose one passion over another. “If science leads the way to understanding our world, then art allows us to interpret and reinterpret scientific information,” she explains. That outlook influenced Stone’s research specialization. Intrigued by the


BILL LEWIS ’92, BACK AT SKIDMORE AS A PROFESSOR, USES PHILOSOPHY TO INFORM ART, ETHICS, POLITICS, AND MORE.


complexity and beauty of hair cells, she was first drawn to inner-ear hair cells because they resemble exotic plants. And their important functional role in hearing transformed her aesthetic delight into scientific curiosity. As a research associate professor in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Washington Med- ical School, Stone is studying hair-cell regeneration at the Bloedel Hearing Research Center. For the past 21 years, she has examined how the cells translate sound waves into neural sig- nals that the brain processes. She has published research pa- pers, review articles, and book chapters on neuroscience and hair-cell regeneration. Not every living creature can regenerate hair cells. Stone’s


research explores why they’re regenerated in birds, fish, rep- tiles, and amphibians but not in mammals. While hair-cell death may occur in many species, it’s irreversible in humans. This explains why “hearing loss is a major health problem that impacts more people than any other disorder,” notes Stone. Currently hearing aids and cochlear implants are the only treatments for hearing loss, but both have shortcomings.


g WINTER 2012 SCOPE 23


CHARLIE SAMUELS


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