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Spotlight on Lauren Leydon-Hardy: PhD Candidate in the Department of Philosophy

Created: August 13, 2018
Lauren Leydon-Hardy

Lauren Leydon-Hardy is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy who studies the social phenomena that shape what we know and how we know things. She is inspired to develop the implications of her research for the real world. Lauren also serves on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee for the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP) that launched this year.

How would you describe your research and/or work?
I'm a social epistemologist, so I study social phenomena that have implications for what we know, and how we know things. I'm really interested in the relationships between social norms and social structures, and how they shape or inform the ways individuals and organizations respond to things like testimony and evidence. In my dissertation, I’m looking at a body of phenomena characterized by what I call 'epistemic infringement,' which is what happens when a person or group contravenes the norms you'd expect to govern a relationship in a way that subverts another person's ability to respond to their evidence. For example, when gaslighting, one person treats everything the other person says or does as absurd in a way that, ultimately, makes that person start to doubt their own thoughts and experiences.

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
I became really interested in cases of predatory grooming. Grooming is probably most familiar from high-profile cases of sexual abuse, like the Larry Nassar case. What is interesting to me about grooming is that it is a form of abuse that constitutively depends on victims participating in/acquiescing to their abuse without being able to understand the abuse as such. How does that happen?

Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?
Honestly, my dissertation advisor, Jennifer Lackey. When I came to Northwestern, my love of epistemology was really seated in a kind of core, old school epistemology, fighting over the particulars of a theory of justification at a high-level of abstraction. Of course, I still love that stuff, but Jennifer is just an incredible model for a way of doing epistemology that is connected to the world and to people, and I have found so much joy (and struggle) in that.

What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
Lately my research has required a deep dive into some emotionally challenging literature. But what's cool is being able to have so many different projects going on at once. Right now, I'm also working on projects about the potentially distorting effects of legal precedent, as well as the 'adultification' of children of color in ascriptions of moral responsibility.

How do you unwind after a long day?
I hang out with my spouse, go climbing, cook dinner, play games, and argue about politics.

What books are on your bedside table?
Leigh Gilmore's 'Tainted Witness' and Trevor Noah's 'Born a Crime.'

How would your closest friends describe you?
Wisecracking, sarcastic, laughs too loud, too many self high-fives, and has no poker face.

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
A poet and a lawyer. Somehow, I settled on philosophy.

Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
I'm serving on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee for the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP)—shout out to my advisory council colleagues, Bonnie Ernst (History), and Ari Tolman and Anya Degenshein (both Sociology). The whole NPEP team is amazing and this has been some of the most meaningful and fulfilling work I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. We just interviewed the applicants for the inaugural class, and I couldn't be more excited for this coming year. Everyone should get involved and learn more at sites.northwestern.edu/npep!