Cynthia Willett

Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Philosophy

Office: Bowden Hall 319

Phone: 404.727.2241

Fax: 404.712.9425


Additional Contact Information

Mailing Address:

Department of Philosophy

Emory University
561 S. Kilgo Circle

Atlanta, GA 30322

Additional Websites


  • PhD, Pennsylvania State University, 1988


Proposed and established the Institute for the History of Philosophy at Emory in 2006.

Co-Director, Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (2008-2011; organizer of 50th Anniversary Conference)


Ethical culture; philosophical psychology especially affects, emotions, community; cultural politics especially tragedy, comedy, music; new critical theory and social thought from intersectional, multicultural, and cross-species approaches

Selected Publications

  • Author of
    • Interspecies Ethics (CUP 2014) was translated into Spanish as Etica Interespecies, ed. Alexandra Navarro (Buenos Aires, 2019)
    • Uproarious: How Feminist and Other Subversive Comics Speak Truth, coauthored with Julie Willett (University of Minnesota, Fall, 2019)
    • Interspecies Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2014)
    • Irony in the Age of Empire (Indiana, 2008)
    • The Soul of Justice: Social Bonds and Racial Hubris (Cornell, 2001)
    • Maternal Ethics and Other Slave Moralities (Routledge, 1995).
  • Editor of
    • Theorizing Multiculturalism (Blackwell 1998)
  • Articles in
    • Cultural Critique, Philosophy and Literature, Research in Phenomenology, and Journal in Speculative Philosophy.
  • Articles
    • "The Sting of Shame: Racial and Sexual Assault,” Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race, ed. Naomi Zack (Oxford, 2016), pp. 608-618
    • "Affect Attunement in the Caregiver-Infant Relationship and Across Species" Press.philoSOPHIA 2.2 (Summer 2012);
    • "Ground Zero for a Post-moral Ethics in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace and Julia Kristeva's Melancholic" in Continental Philosophy Review (Winter, 2012).
    • Coauthored essay "Going to Bed White and Waking Up Arab: On Xenophobia, Affect Theories of Laughter, and the Social Contagion of the Comic Stage" published in Critical Philosophy of Race vol. 2 no. 1, 2014 - More info here.
    • "Masculinity and Existential Freedom: Wright, Ellison, Morrison, and Nietzsche” Critical Affinities: Nietzsche and African American Thought, eds. Jacqueline Scott and A. Todd Franklin (SUNY Press, 2006), pp. 203-223
    • "The Social Element: A Phenomenology of Racialized Space and the Limits of Liberalism,” Racism, in Mind, eds. Michael Levine and Tamas Pataki (Cornell University Press, 2004), pp. 243-260
    • "Rethinking Autonomy in an Age of Interdependence: Analytic, Continental and Pragmatist Feminisms,” APA NewsletterVol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 121-123
    • "The Mother Wit of Justice: Eros and Hubris in the African American Context,” New Critical Theory: Essays on Liberation, eds. William S. Wilkerson and Jeffrey R. Paris (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001), pp. 223-248
    • "Tropics of Desire: Freud and Derrida," Research in Phenomenology, Vol. 22, No. 2 (1992), pp. 138-151
    • "Partial Attachments: A Deconstructive Notion of Responsibility," Ethics and Danger: Currents in Continental Thought, eds. Arleen Dallery and Charles Scott (SUNY, 1992)
    • "The Master-Slave Dialectic: Hegel vs. Douglass," Subjugation and Bondage: Critical Essays on Slavery and Social Philosophy, ed. Tommy Lott (Roman and Littlefield, 1997)
    • "The Shadow of Hegel's Logic," Essays on Hegel's Logic, Ed. George di Giovanni, (SUNY, 1990), pp. 85-92, with response by di Giovanni. 

Current Work

At its core, my research and teaching draw on intersectional—including cross-species--and multicultural approaches, exploring original lines of thought across aesthetics, ethics, political and social theories, and psychologies. My current book project, A Musicology of Everyday Life, is a study of the social dynamic of musical and vibrational atmospheres through New Phenomenology, Resonance Rheory, and Attunement Theory. This study probes the nuances of tone, rhythm, vibration, timbre for ethical cultures within and across human and non-human social groups. Ongoing research focuses on three key areas: music/tragedy/blues; transspecies cosmopolitanism; and humor/irony. The research is anchored in ancient and contemporary concepts of eros and hubris; call and response; affective attunements and dissonances; symbolic social space and its violations.

Fellowships and Honors

  • Co-Director, Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
  • Executive Board, American Philosophical Association (Eastern, 2008-2010)
  • Emory College Winship Distinguished Research Scholar (1998-2001)
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award at University of Kansas (1995)

Authored Books

Willett Book Cover Willett Book Cover Willett Book Cover Willett Book Cover Willett Uproarious 

Edited Collections

Willett Book Cover


Encyclopedia Articles

“Feminist Conceptions of the Self,” co-authored with Ellie Anderson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015 (updates ongoing; most recently January 2020)

“Zoöpolis: Animals in the city,” Routledge Handbook on Philosophy of the City, eds. Sharon M. Meagher, Samantha Noll, and Joseph S Biehl.  (Routledge, 2019), pp. 353-359

“Emerging Ethics,” co-authored with David Pena-Guzman, Cambridge History of Philosophy: 1945-2015, ed. Kelly Becker and Iain Thompson (Cambridge University Press, 2019), 458-470

“Eros,” co-authored with Tamsin Kimoto, 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology, eds. Ann Murphy, Gail Weiss, and Gayle Solomon (Northwestern University Press, 2019)