Working For and Studying Justice:
A Two-Part Summer in the Appalachians and Rockies
Annie Corbitt, Centre College
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Working For and Studing Justice: A Two-Part Summer in the Appalachians and Rockies by Annie Corbitt


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Working For and Studing Justice: A Two-Part Summer in the Appalachians and Rockies by Annie Corbitt

  1. 1. Working For and Studying Justice: A Two-Part Summer in the Appalachians and Rockies Annie Corbitt, Centre College VOLUNTEERING AT RED BIRD MISSION ABSTRACT TAKING A PHILOSOPHY SEMINAR AT CU-BOULDER My first two summer enrichment projects shaped me in two main ways: 1) I developed a deeper sense than I had had before of the „realness‟ of other beings, that is, a sense that the lives of others are just as real in their struggles and hopes and just as valuable as my own, and 2) with that weight of the realness of others upon me, my concern for matters of ethics and justice deepened. From those two formative discoveries stemmed my 2013 summer enrichment project. I wanted to think about justice seriously – study it philosophically – but I did not think it was right to theorize about whether or how to help the marginalized without having lived with and learned firsthand the needs of some of the marginalized. Therefore, I split my summer into two parts. I spent the first five weeks of my project volunteering at Red Bird Mission in Beverly, Kentucky, helping the mission try to meet the needs of those in poverty in Appalachia. My goal there was to learn what the lives of the poor in Appalachia are like and what their needs are, to show them that their lives matter to me, and to let them know that I had much to learn from them if I wanted to theorize about justice. The last three weeks of my project were spent at a philosophy seminar on justice with the renowned ethics faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder. There, I hoped to determine whether graduate school was the path I wanted to take after college, but more importantly, I wanted to delve into and develop my thoughts on matters of justice. These particular goals may not have been fully accomplished, but throughout both parts of the project, I developed a conception of the central importance the fostering of relationships holds in ethics. About the Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy (as stated on the website): “The Seminar is intended for outstanding About Red Bird Mission (as stated on the mission’s website): “Red Bird Mission and Clinic have been providing ministries in its region of the Appalachian Mountains since 1921. Today the need remains critical in this isolated, rural distressed area. Chronic poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, and rugged mountainous terrain provide obstacles to a fuller life for the residents of this area. Red Bird Mission strives to meet these needs through ministry in five areas: Education, Health and Wellness, Community Outreach, Economic Opportunity, and Community Housing.” undergraduates who are considering graduate school in philosophy. The aim is to introduce students to the atmosphere of a graduate-level seminar, giving participants a chance to explore and sharpen their philosophical abilities before they commit to a graduate program.” The Seminar has a different topic every summer, and this summer the topic was political philosophy, with a focus on the concept of justice, both historically and today. What I Did: At the Seminar, we had an intense reading load with both What I Did: I worked in the Community Outreach wing of Red Bird Mission. My responsibilities included helping lead the Summer Youth program for children ages 3 to 15, delivering meals to the elderly on a 75mile route, packing food boxes for families, preparing school supplies to be given away, organizing office files, entering data into the dental clinic‟s database, and performing any odd jobs that needed to be done. CONCLUSION My experience at Red Bird Mission, where I witnessed the way the community took care of each other and where I had to work hard as an outsider to gain the community‟s trust, did enrich my philosophical study of justice. I was able to see with more clarity that nurturing relationships is of central importance in ethics, in a way many philosophers have historically ignored. During the Seminar in Colorado, I was able to develop this line of thought a bit further and use it in my final presentation. Many philosophers seem to have a narrow conception of harm. They think an act has to be directed at a particular individual for that act to harm an individual. I, however, think that harm often comes to us in the form of harmed relationships with others. Our interpersonal relationships shape who we are; when our relationships are harmed, we are harmed, and when they flourish, we flourish. And I believe that relationships may be harmed as a result of a way of thinking or living or holding a certain system of values, not just isolated acts. When we recognize this wider conception of harm, we see that we have a responsibility to change systems of values that oppress groups of people. We see that the ethical course of action is one that fosters relationships, be they interpersonal, intercommunal, or international, and the unethical course of action is the one that destroys relationships. And if that is so, we must work to acquire the virtues that help us become relationshipnurturers and try to rid ourselves of the stubborn prejudices that hinder relationship. historic and current works on subjects such as virtue ethics, utilitarianism, justice as fairness, future harm, justice and the environment, and global justice. Everyday, we would attend a three-hour lecture and then an hour-long student-led discussion. We were required to write two five-page papers and one fifteen-page paper, and to give a tenminute presentation. Fortunately, we also managed to take a number of hikes in the Rocky Mountains.