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Mercedes Valmisa Oviedo - "What is a Situation?"

Mercedes Valmisa Oviedo
Mercedes Valmisa Oviedo
Department of Philosophy
Gettysburg College
Online lecture, Zoom link:

Mercedes Valmisa Oviedo is a Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College. She is the current Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow, and specializes in Chinese philosophy, Chinese studies, and the European tradition, as they intersect with social philosophy, and ethics. She pursues questions of agency, autonomy, uncertainty, control, and freedom. Oviedo is multilingual and engages in collaborative research across languages, contributing to the Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum program, as well as the East Asian Studies and Spanish programs.

Abstract for "What is a Situation?"

Sometimes we walk into a situation without even realizing it and do not know how to walk out of it. While we often encounter a situation that we must immediately face, other times we may be able to sit back and see how it unfolds before taking any action. All these idioms, expressive of our conventional understanding, suggest that a situation is something that preexists our encounter with it; something that is out there before we can even notice and acknowledge it; something that, in sum, possesses a separate and independent existence with identity and boundaries of its own.

My analysis of what a situation is leads me away from this commonsensical and conventional understanding toward a view that at first sight might seem counterintuitive, but which I expect to become self-evident for the reader by the end of this paper. In my analysis, I will be using interpretive keys and concepts from two main sources: the Zhuangzi 莊子 and José Ortega y Gasset’s Unas Lecciones de Metafísica (Some Lessons in Metaphysics), namely a multifarious philosophical compilation from the Warring States (approximately 4th century BCE) and the transcripts of a course on metaphysics by a Spanish philosopher of the early 20th century.

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