Penn State New Kensington has first-rate faculty, many of whom are recognized nationally and internationally in their disciplines.
New Kensington faculty bring exciting new developments from their fields into the classroom and are at the forefront of a national trend to bring hands-on, student-centered, active-learning techniques into the classroom. They are committed to collaborative work, including challenging discussions in class, team projects, multi-media presentations, and interactive Web use.
Our faculty welcomes opportunities to incorporate internships, service-learning projects, and community involvement into their courses and programs as employers continue to look very closely for these experiences in applicants' resumes.
Donald Bruckner argues about
what constitutes human well-being
Developing and defending a version of the desire theory is the focus of recent research by Donald Bruckner, associate professor of philosophy at Penn State New Kensington.
Bruckner’s research deals with the theoretical ethics of human good, and what is the good human life. According to the desire theory of well-being, one’s life goes well to the extent that one’s desires are satisfied. (The theory does not complement hedonism theory, which argues that pleasure is the most intrinsic good.)
“My dissertation and earliest published work addressed aspects of the relation between the individually rational good and the moral good, and developed a contractarian framework for arriving at principles of prudence,” said Bruckner, a member of the campus faculty for 12 years. “More recently, I have been particularly interested in the human good, and the question of what constitutes human well-being, or welfare. My research interests lie largely in value theory.”
Value theory is concerned with theoretical questions about value and goodness of people and objects. Understanding how, why and to what degree people value things is the basis of the theory.
Defending the desire theory is at the core of Bruckner’s work. The desire theory faces many challenges, including the adaptive preferences argument, which Bruckner says is akin to the “fox and the grapes fable.” Contrarians postulate that if a person prefers A to B because B is inaccessible to the person, then the satisfaction of this adaptive preference for A over B cannot contribute to this person’s well-being because B actually is the desired object.
Bruckner argues that the challenge is a genetic fallacy, that is, a conclusion based upon an assumption that the origin of a preference affects its legitimacy. The fox couldn’t reach the grapes so it determined the grapes to be sour. However, the fox never tasted them and really didn’t know the sensory perception of the grapes.
According to Bruckner, an adaptive preference is perfectly autonomous under the condition that the agent, in this case, the person choosing A, is able to justify the choice to show that it is the agent’s own. His argument, if successful, establishes that adaptive preferences are autonomous under the right conditions.
“It does not yet show that their (preference A’s) satisfaction contributes to the well-being of the agent,” Bruckner argues. “I think that satisfaction of the same condition establishes any desire or preference to be relevant to the agent’s well-being.”
Additional research by Bruckner bolsters other aspects of the desire theory. He argues that quirky desires, such as counting blades of grass (a seemingly useless endeavor), can contribute to a desirer’s well-being, if certain conditions can be met. One condition is engaging in reflective dialogue with someone who does not share the desire, and justifying it in in such a way that the desire is comprehensible to that person.
“So counting blades of grass is good for the agent who desires it, if he meets this condition,” Bruckner said. “The same line of reasoning applies to adaptive preferences.”
Bruckner’s research continues to defend challenges to the desire theory. He is particularly interested in developing a defense of the desire theory in response to other common objections – delayed benefits, unknown benefits and surprise benefits.
The author of numerous journal articles, Bruckner also wrote two book chapters and a book review. His recent article, “Present Desire Satisfaction and Past Well-Being,” was published in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy in 2013, and is the basis for his current research.
To read more about Dr. Bruckner's research as well as his teaching, please click here.
Penn State New Kensington faculty honored for awards and publications
Annual event recognizes faculty accomplishments
Faculty publications and awards were reasons to celebrate Dec. 3, at a special reception in Blissell Library at Penn State New Kensington. Jennifer Gilley, head librarian, hosted the 11th annual faculty publications party, meant to honor the accomplishments of faculty members at the campus.
“New Kensington campus faculty produce a breadth of excellent scholarship, and this is a time when we can showcase the knowledge that they bring to their academic disciplines and to their classrooms,” said Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs at the campus. “Our students are the beneficiaries of an amazing range of scholarly and creative talent."
Honored for receiving a 2013 Excellence in Teaching award were Jyotsna M. Kalavar, associate professor of human development and family studies (full-time); William R. Mitas, instructor in theatre arts (part-time); Marilyn J. Bartolacci, adjunct instructor in communications (continuing education).
Among the numerous articles written by the New Kensington faculty was a book, co-written by LaVarr McBride, instructor in administration of justice, that provides a different perspective of the criminal justice system. "Through a Convict’s Eyes: An Overlooked View of the Criminal Justice System,” is a first-hand account of former prisoners who shed their pasts to become productive members of society. McBride challenges the conventional wisdom that those who have done time in prison will always be life’s failures, a belief that is often shared by the offenders themselves. McBride co-authored the book with Eric Wicklund, a convicted felon.
Reference librarian Amy Rustic, library assistant Yesenia Figueroa-Lifschitz and staff assistant Beth Matocha assisted in planning the afternoon reception.
Andrea A. Adolph, director of academic affairs, reviewed the book “Food chains: From Farmyards to Shopping Cart for Material Culture" and wrote an article, "At Least I get my Dinners Free: Transgressive Dining in Marghanita Laski's To Bed With Grand Music" for Modern Fiction Studies.
Robert Bridges, associate professor of psychology, Richard Harnish, associate professor of psychology, and Deborah Sillman, senior instructor in biology, blogged about “Undergraduate Psychology: Applications and Advantages” for Essays from E-xcellence in Teaching . Harnish and Bridges co-authored “Development and Psychometric Evaluation of the Sexual Intent Scale” for the Journal of Sex Research and “Improving Teaching and Learning in Synchronous Live Video Streamed Courses” for Essays from E-xcellence in Teaching. Sillman created a website," The Flowering Plants of Harrison Hills Park,” that showcases the diversity of flowering plants in western Pennsylvania.
Donald Bruckner, assistant professor of philosophy, wrote an article, “Present Desire Satisfaction And Past Well-Being,” for Australasian Journal of Philosophy; authored a chapter, “Adaptive Preferences, Autonomy, and Extended Lives,” for the book, “Adaptation and Autonomy: Adaptive Preferences in Enhancing and Ending Life”; and reviewed the book, “Preference, Value, Choice, and Welfare,” for Ethics.
Javier J. Gomez-Calderon, professor of mathematics, co-authored a chapter, “Subfield Value Sets o Polynomials over Finite Fields for the book, “Functiones et Approximatio, Commentarii Mathematici.”
Jyotsna M. Kalavar, associate professor of human development and family studies, co-edited a book, “Global Ageing: Care Concerns and Special Perspectives” that will be published by Jaypee Brothers. Kalvar, Harnish, and Bridges co-authored “Transnational Care of the Elderly” for the Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology.
LaVarr McBride, instructor in administration of justice, co-authored a book, “Through a Convict's Eyes: An Overlooked View of the Criminal Justice System,” that was published by Kendall Hunt Publishing.
Michael McGinnis, associate professor of business administration, co-authored “A Comparison of Logistics Strategies and Integration In The U.S. and Ghana” for the Journal of Transportation Management, “Market Orientation and Firm Performance: An Empirical Analysis of Ghanaian Microenterprises” for the Journal of Global Marketing and “A Comparison of the Effect of Logistic Strategy and Logistics Integration on Firm Competitiveness in the USA and China” for the International Journal of Logistics Management.
Jennifer K. Wood, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, co-edited a book, “Working for Justice: A Handbook of Prison Education and Activism” that was published by University of Illinois Press.
EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING AWARDS
Jyotsna M. Kalavar, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies (full-time)
William R. Mitas, Instructor in Theatre Arts (part-time)
Marilyn J. Bartolacci, Adjunct Instructor in Communications (continuing education)
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