Evelyn Brister Headshot

Evelyn Brister

Professor

Department of Philosophy
College of Liberal Arts
Program Director

585-475-4291
Office Location

Evelyn Brister

Professor

Department of Philosophy
College of Liberal Arts
Program Director

Education

BA, Austin College; Ph.D., Northwestern University

Bio

Evelyn Brister’s research is in philosophy of science and environmental philosophy, with a focus on the role of values in land management and ecological applications.

She regularly teaches lower-level courses in critical thinking and upper-level courses in philosophy of science, philosophy of social science, environmental philosophy, epistemology, and contemporary philosophy.

Presently she is engaged in several research projects. One examines the value assumptions involved in ecological restoration and in land management more generally, especially with regard to the use of biotechnology for conservation. Another investigates the epistemological obstacles to interdisciplinary research, developing explanations for failures and successes of interdisciplinary integration. She also works with the Public Philosophy Network to support philosophers who are pursuing engaged scholarship and interdisciplinary collaboration.

In 2020, she published a collection of essays about engaged research in philosophy, A Guide to Field Philosophy: Case Studies and Practical Strategies (Routledge; co-edited with Robert Frodeman).

Her other recent writing includes:

  • Global Warming and the Problem of Failed Intentions,” Philosophy and Public Issues 3 (2013): 247-271.
  • “Disciplinary Capture and Epistemological Obstacles to Interdisciplinary Research: Lessons from Central African Conservation Dispute,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56 (2016): 82-91.
  • “Feminism and Contextualism,” In Jonathan Ichikawa, ed. The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism, 2017.
  • “Not the Same Old Chestnut: Rewilding Forests with Biotechnology,” with Andrew E. Newhouse, Environmental Ethics 42 (2020): 149-167.
  • Conservation Science and the Ethos of Restraint,” with J. Britt Holbrook and Megan J. Palmer, Conservation Science and Practice 3 (2021): e381.
585-475-4291

Personal Links
Areas of Expertise

Select Scholarship

Book Chapter
Brister, Evelyn. "Pragmatism, Problem Solving, and Strategies for Engaged Philosophy." Fields, Farmers, Forks, and Food: The Philosophy of Paul B. Thompson. Ed. Samantha Noll and Zachary Piso. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2023. 17-32. Print.
Brister, Evelyn. "Pragmatism and Environmental Philosophy." The Routledge Companion to Pragmatism. Ed. Scott Aikin & Robert B. Talisse. New York, NY: Routledge, 2023. 387-394. Print.
Brister, Evelyn. "The Value of Public Philosophy." The Blackwell Companion to Public Philosophy. Ed. Lee McIntyre, Nancy McHugh, & Ian Olasov. New York, NY: Wiley Blackwell, 2022. 41-52. Print.
Brister, Evelyn. "Feminism and Contextualism." Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism. Ed. Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017. 57-67. Print.
Journal Paper
Brister, Evelyn and Andrew E. Newhouse. "Wishful Thinking vs. Hopeful Action." Ethics, Policy & Environment 26. 2 (2023): 354-358. Print.
Hane, Elizabeth N. and Evelyn Brister. "A Classroom Intervention to Reduce Confirmation Bias." CourseSource. (2022): online. Web.
Brister, Evelyn, J. Britt Holbrook, and Megan J. Palmer. "Conservation Science and the Ethos of Restraint." Conservation Science and Practice e381. (2021): 1-9. Web.
Brister, Evelyn. "Field Philosophy and Social Justice." Social Epistemology 35. 4 (2021): 393-404. Print.
Phelan, Ryan, et al. "Intended Consequences Statement." Conservation Science and Practice 3. 4 (2021): e371. Web.
Burgiel, Stanley W., et al. "Exploring the Intersections of Governance, Constituencies, and Risk in Genetic Interventions." Conservation Science and Practice 3. 4 (2021): e380. Web.
Brister, Evelyn and Andrew E. Newhouse. "Not the Same Old Chestnut: Rewilding Forests with Biotechnology." Environmental Ethics 42. 2 (2020): 149-167. Print.
Brister, Evelyn. "Disciplinary Capture and Epistemological Obstacles to Interdisciplinary Research: Lessons from Central African Conservation Disputes." Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56. (2016): 82-91. Print.
Full Length Book
Brister, Evelyn and Robert Frodeman. A Guide to Field Philosophy: Case Studies and Practical Strategies. New York, NY: Routledge, 2020. Print.

Currently Teaching

PHIL-101
3 Credits
Philosophy is about the rigorous discussion of big questions, and sometimes small precise questions, that do not have obvious answers. This class is an introduction to philosophical thinking where we learn how to think and talk critically about some of these challenging questions. Such as: Is there a single truth or is truth relative to different people and perspectives? Do we have free will and, if so, how? Do we ever really know anything? What gives life meaning? Is morality objective or subjective, discovered or created? We’ll use historical and contemporary sources to clarify questions like these, to understand the stakes, to discuss possible responses, and to arrive at a more coherent, more philosophically informed, set of answers.
PHIL-103
3 Credits
The purpose of this course is to improve everyday reasoning skills. Critical thinking means evaluating the reasons for our actions and beliefs. Ideally, we think our actions are rational, not arbitrary. But one does not have to look far to discover disagreement and apparent irrationality. What accounts for this? This course investigates how to argue effectively, how to evaluate evidence and reasons, and how to marshal good evidence and reasons in order to arrive at reliable knowledge and justified action. It covers common mistakes that people make in causal, statistical, moral, and everyday reasoning, and it teaches how and when it pays to be skeptical, reflective, and critical.
PHIL-308
3 Credits
Environmental philosophy examines the ethical, metaphysical, and social justice questions surrounding human interactions with nature and the management of natural resources. This course explores the nature and source of environmental values and how environmental goals are achieved through policy decisions. We evaluate and apply philosophical and ethical theory to environmental issues such as endangered species, climate change, wilderness preservation, sustainability, and environmental justice.
PHIL-402
3 Credits
An examination of the nature of the scientific enterprise; possible discussion topics include the presuppositions of science, its logic, its claims to reliability, and its relationships to society and to problems of human values.
PHIL-405
3 Credits
This course examines the methods, foundations, assumptions and purposes of the social sciences. In particular, it will examine the ways in which science and non-science are distinguished as well as the similarities and differences between the social and natural sciences. Special attention will be paid to the ways in which both Anglo-American and European philosophical traditions approach the social sciences. Other topics may include the role of values in social scientific inquiry, the processes of explanation and theory confirmation in the social sciences, and various conceptions of interpretation and meaning in the social sciences. The course will also examine how the tensions between claims of universality and claims of relativism, claims of objectivity and claims of partiality should be understood within the social sciences.
PHIL-406
3 Credits
This course examines developments in philosophy since 1900. During this time philosophy evolved along with science, politics, and the arts. In some cases philosophy responded to new discoveries and theories while at other times it precipitated movements that had far-reaching effects. A range of philosophical approaches may be discussed, including existentialism, experimental philosophy, feminist theory, hermeneutics, logical positivism, neo-pragmatism, phenomenology, and postmodernism. The connections among different approaches may also be addressed.
PHIL-595
3 Credits
This course is required of philosophy majors during their senior year. A student will choose a faculty member to serve as a primary advisor. With the advisor's guidance, a student will research and write a substantial paper on a specific philosophical topic. Students will be encouraged to investigate a particular question in depth, likely building on earlier course work. The finished thesis will be discussed and examined by a committee including two other faculty members.
PUBL-201
3 Credits
This course focuses on the connections and interplay between personal and social values, ethics, and public policy. It explores how values and norms influence public policies and how the resulting expressions of values through public policies impact the implementation and effectiveness of policy choices. It also delves into how different countries make widely different policy choices based on their citizens’ values and social norms. The course also considers how new developments in science and technology influence the interplay between values, ethics, and policy across multiple issues. In addition, this course explores how to formulate values-based explanations of certain public policy preferences. Topics range across the policy issue spectrum.