y Department of Philosophy :: Eric Berling
Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Philosophy
Eric Berling
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Ph.D. student

E-mail: berling1@msu.edu

My primary research interests are within the philosophy of biology. I focus on the methods and units of evolutionary change and ways in which different conceptual understandings of the two alter the structure of evolutionary theory. I am also investigating the levels of selection, especially with regards to the evolution of social behaviors. Evolutionary psychology -- the study of the brain and certain behaviors as products of evolution via natural selection -- has become a recent research area of mine, especially with regards to our moral judgements.

My Bioethical interests focus primarily on questions about personhood, personal identity, and quality of life.

In a more light-hearted vein, I am also interested in philosophical questions about humor. This includes the following "big" questions, which share some amount of overlap with issues from the philosophy of language. What is the difference between laughter and humor? What makes something funny? What role does the audience play in determining if something is humorous? When is humor inappropriate?

This area of interest has led me to become the co-founder and vice president of the Lighthearted Philosophers' Society (LPS), a relatively new philosophical society with a dual purpose. First, we seek to investigate serious philosophical questions about humor, which is a surprisingly unconsidered field. Second, in an attempt to make philosophy more engaging and accessible to the populace at large, we are also interested in humorous philosophical work in any field of philosophy. Philosophers, especially at the professional level, have a tendency to take themselves far too seriously and to consider things that most of society considers utterly trivial. The LPS creates a very friendly and inviting laid-back atmosphere that allows for a philosophical community that is fun and engaging while (ideally) not sacrificing philosophical rigor. It also provides an annual opportunity for professional philosophers to step back and laugh at ourselves from time to time. The LPS is currently preparing for its third annual conference this coming October 09.