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In Celebration of Margaret (Peg) Simons


Professor Emerita Margaret A. (Peg) Simons of Southern Illinois College at Edwardsville is the recipient of the 2021 Japanese Society for Girls in Philosophy (ESWIP) Distinguished Lady Thinker Award, which she acquired on the 2022 Japanese Division assembly of the American Philosophical Affiliation.

I used to be amongst those that wrote letters of assist for the distinguished honoree not solely due to the excessive regard I’ve for Professor Simons’s analysis, scholarship, instructing, and citizenship to the occupation but additionally due to my information of how extremely her work in every of those areas is regarded worldwide.  Peg, as I got here to know her, is a proverbial drive of nature guided by a dedication to the empowering of communities of men and women typically occluded by the dynamics of colonialism, sexism, racism, and different types of dehumanization. Her a long time of labor in skilled philosophy exemplifies this worth. I can say with out reservation that the thinker of whom she most jogs my memory is the late Hazel Barnes, who was a recipient of this honor.

I knew of Professor Simons’s work in Beauvoir research and existentialism earlier than she contacted me for a collaborative venture that has affected analysis in these fields and a number of other associated ones over the previous a number of years. We labored collectively in 2013 for a joint assembly of the Beauvoir Society, the Caribbean Philosophical Affiliation, and the North American Sartre Society underneath the title of Various Lineages of Existentialism and Shifting the Geography of Purpose. The convention was held in Saint Louis in the summertime of 2014. I’ve collaborated with many colleagues through the years. Working with Professor Simons stands among the many finest. I had the great fortune to go to Southern Illinois College at Edwardsville (SIUE) alongside the best way, at which I loved assembly her many college students and great colleagues and at which I gave a public lecture on Black existential philosophy. The spirit of that go to was marked by certainly one of Professor Simons’s nice virtues: she stands amongst these students whose efforts deliver numerous communities collectively in life-affirming observe. Pleasure among the many college students got here from the mental vitamin they had been clearly receiving from her mentorship and lessons. They had been in love with concepts, and so they understood, with reflective readability, relationships between conceptual reflection and social actuality. Each certainly one of her college students with whom I spoke was concerned in initiatives knowledgeable by the existential reminder of not taking oneself too critically however, as an alternative, dedication to doing what makes—in true Beauvoirian trend—life significant as a observe of freedom. That power was delivered to our convention, which had the participation not solely of philosophers but additionally main literary figures of existential orientation equivalent to Frieda Ekotto, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and Abdul JanMohamed.

I evaluate Professor Peg Simons to the late Professor Hazel Barnes due to her personal philosophical writings and her modifying and translations of essential scholarship on canonical figures within the area. Professor Simons is a relational thinker. By this, I imply she is extra in connections than eliminations. That’s the reason, earlier than it got here into vogue, her work was intersectional and multidimensional. She was writing about how Beauvoir’s concepts on freedom and gender linked with Richard Wright’s on freedom and race. This dimension of her work enabled her to be in dialog with philosophers and different kinds of theorists from the International South. Her Beauvoir and the Second Intercourse: Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism (1999) is an influential monograph in that regard. That work makes her thought worthwhile in Black existentialism and philosophy of race along with feminist philosophy. That work, amongst her quite a few writings, led to her taking part in a major position within the latest wave of scholarship on Richard Wright, as said in latest work on his thought. The connections between Beauvoir and Wright are sometimes neglected due to Beauvoir’s relationship with Sartre. Professor Simons’s work is the singularly most influential in stating the Beauvoir-Wright line of existential thought, which, in fact, is vital to constructing different connections equivalent to how different Black existential feminist writings starting from Nella Larsen to Lorraine Hansberry by way of to what may now be referred to as a wave of philosophical writings in Black existential feminism as evidenced within the writings of Kathryn Belle,  Qrescent Mason, Claudia Millian, Nathalie Etoke, Gail Weiss, LaRose Parris, and Jane Anna Gordon, amongst many others (together with the writer of this testimony). This group of feminist philosophers and theorists have additionally benefited from Professor Simons’s The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Vital Essays (2006), the Beauvoir sequence for the College of Illinois Press, her Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir (1995, for Penn State College Press’ Re-Studying the Canon sequence). To all this I ought to like so as to add that Professor Simons’s work on Beauvoir’s affect on Sartre has had an influence on how I learn their thought from the Forties. I now educate Being and Nothingness (French authentic, 1943), as an example, as a ebook during which there are sections that ought to be learn as co-authored. That is essential not solely as a result of it acknowledges Beauvoir’s unheralded contributions to that nice work but additionally as a result of it challenges us to rethink how nice philosophical work is produced. There may be already the existentialist argument of the work having its life by way of its readers and, thus, missing a previous essence as would some other manifestation of human actuality; however what’s essential right here is that understanding mental work as produced by communities by way of which particular authors purchase the tag of authorship is a crucial consideration past the selfish, typically masculinist fashions of agonal intervention.

An existential phenomenological intervention is one during which demonstration allows, by way of ongoing communication, communities come to see what they did not see, hear what they failed to listen to, perceive what they failed to know. I point out this as a result of it affords perception into the seamless integration of instructing and citizenship in Professor Simon’s work. She understands that concepts don’t float willy-nilly however, as an alternative, require establishments by way of which to realize their intelligibility and have an effect on folks’s lives. That is little question why Professor Simons was among the many founding editors of the journal Hypatia and the explanation for her having co-directed the Society of Phenomenological and Existential Philosophy (SPEP). The convergence of all these components leads to the influence of her work amongst philosophers not solely in the USA but additionally in nations equivalent to Australia, Canada, France, Senegal, South Africa, and the UK in Africana philosophy, decolonial philosophy, Eurocontinental philosophy, feminist philosophy, and in disciplines equivalent to comparative literature and social and political idea.

The Yale Journal of French Research (2019) just lately produced a particular challenge commemorating the seventieth anniversary of its groundbreaking challenge on existentialism. The editors rightly knew that they might be remiss to not have an essay from Professor Simons. This was additionally the case for the Kentucky Press’ distinguished political companions’ sequence, which has a beautiful contribution from Professor Simons in The Politics of Richard Wright: Views on Resistance (2019).

To conclude, Professor Simons’s total work as a scholar, thinker in her personal proper, instructor, and citizen of the occupation is already distinguished. Her being chosen for this award is an acknowledgement of her devoted profession of excellence and, as many from Anna Julia Cooper to Rosa Luxemburg to Simone Beauvoir to Hazel Barnes would put it, dedication to the manufacturing of concepts as a observe of cultivating freedom.

Lewis Gordon

Lewis R. Gordon is Professor and Head of the Division of Philosophy at UCONN-Storrs, Honorary President of the International Heart for Superior Research, Chair of the Committee on Public Philosophy for the American Philosophical Affiliation, and Distinguished Scholar at The Most Honourable PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, The College of the West Indies, Mona. His books embody Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization (2021) and Concern of Black Consciousness (2022). He’s this yr’s recipient of the Eminent Scholar Award from the International Improvement Research division of the Worldwide Research Affiliation.


Victoria Joy
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