Faculty Profile

Global Studies Faculty

Katherine Kirby, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Global Studies

M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Fordham University
B.A. Salisbury State University

View my Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Expertise:

Ethics (including the philosophical ethics tradition, metaethics, applied ethics); Emmanuel Levinas (French postmodern ethicist); Continental Philosophy; Global Studies

Courses I Teach:

  • Ethics
  • Ethics of the Heroic
  • First-Year Seminar: Global Studies
  • Foundations of Global Studies
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Otherness and Marginalization: Levinas and the Alienated
  • Truth and Propaganda: Ethics and the Media

My Saint Michael's:

I've become a huge proponent of service-learning courses, wherein there is practical engagement with the community that breathes a certain life into the texts we read and discuss. I find that service-learning opportunities set the stage for a close philosophical (phenomenological) exploration of our lived experiences, especially in courses that challenge students to think about ethical or moral responsibility and engagement.

Research Interests:

Ethics (including the philosophical ethics tradition, metaethics, applied ethics, and global ethical issues); Emmanuel Levinas (French postmodern ethicist); Continental philosophy

My research interests coincide very closely with my teaching. I have been able to develop courses that tackle the very questions with which I grapple in my work, which ensures that my course material continues to be fresh and innovative. I am a huge proponent of service-learning courses, especially in courses that challenge students to think about ethical or moral responsibility and engagement, where I find that service-learning opportunities set the stage for a close philosophical (phenomenological) exploration of lived experiences.

I have two recent journal publications, including: "The Hero and Asymmetrical Obligation: Levinas and Ricoeur in Dialogue," which appeared in the June 2010 issue of International Philosophical Quarterly and "Encountering and Understanding Suffering: The Need for Service-Learning in Ethical Education," which appeared in the June 2009 issue of Teaching Philosophy.  The latter publication was chosen to be the topic of a plenary session at the 2009 North American Levinas Society conference in Toronto, and a shorter version of this paper was presented at a session of the 2007 meeting of the Association of Moral Education.  Another article entitled "War and Peace, Power and Faith" was released in the book, X-Men and Philosophy, in 2009.

Life Off Campus:

Outside Saint Michael's I enjoy hikes, playing with my dog Abigail, movies, cooking, selected television shows, and spending time with friends and family.

Katherine Kirby, associate professor of philosophy/director of the Global Studies Program, recently was elected to be a member of the Board of Directors of the North American Levinas Society. She also has given two conference presentations in recent months: At the annual meeting of the North American Levinas Society at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, July 28-31, she presented "Relinquishing 'religion' for the Sake of Religion: Judgment vs. Justice." In this paper, she discusses Emmanuel Levinas' suggestion that Religion is discourse, and real "interreligious dialogue" would paradoxically depend upon the relinquishing of religious judgment, in service to justice. She then suggests and explains the important emotional underpinning (fear/anger) to our conceptualizations that makes relinquishing judgment incredibly difficult, and all the more necessary. She explores this argument in the context of our modern media’s treatment of events involving persons of Islamic faith and examines these justice dilemmas in order to elucidate Levinas' argument that God – the divine – is present among us only in "the justice rendered unto men" (Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 78). Katie also presented "TV as Gadfly: A Contemporary Call to Critique" at the NorthEast Popular/American Culture Association at Saint Michael's College October 25-26, 2013. In this paper, she examined the role that certain very well-done TV shows can play in challenging viewers to call into question their assumptions, stereotypes, and worldviews. She used The Wire as her example of a TV show that provokes philosophical questioning through the presentation of complex, multi-dimensional characters who unsettle us and call us to care about their struggles and their fates, and demand that we not sit comfortably with our limited understanding of their "worlds." In this way, the creators of such TV shows act as Socratic gadflies and call us to be more open-minded and open-hearted in our endeavor to understand others. (November 2013)

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