Project Description

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Zelda Blair


  • Philosophy of Science

  • Medical practice and clinical research, particularly psychiatry and psychometrics

  • Aesthetics



Medical Student;
University of Minnesota

I was born in Birmingham AL, and have studied painting at Pratt Institute and sciences at New York University. As an artist I became interested in the nature of embodiment, which led me to combine aesthetics, political philosophy, and philosophy of science and medicine in my research. In August 2020 I completed my MA in Philosophy at Western and matriculated into medical school at the University of Minnesota.

As an application of aesthetics to medical practice, I submitted a Fulbright grant proposal in 2018 to study with Dr. Urban Wiesing at the University of Tübingen and respond to several questions he presented in a paper about aspects of medicine as an “art.” In my research I continue to find ways to investigate these questions, and to bring attention to aesthetics in the context of applied science and medicine.

While at NYU I worked as a research intern with the Ross-Bogenschutz Lab at NYU Langone. These investigators conduct research in clinical psychology, using psychedelics and other FDA-controlled Schedule 1 drugs to treat anxiety, depression and addiction disorders. In summer 2019, I completed independent research investigating the interplay of measurement and theory in research. This includes the processes underlying the design and application of measures to operationalize variables in systems under study; the evolution of criteria for establishing external validity; and the extent to which pragmatic realities of systems as well as aesthetic criteria direct theory development. The resulting paper presents my assessment of the interconversions of qualitative and quantitative variables and the adaptations of measurement and theory to each other.

My master’s thesis, supervised by Dr. Louis Charland, is an argument for the natural kind status of emotion based on dialectical biology. Opposing positions from Paul Griffiths, Louis Charland and Robert Solomon on the question of whether ‘emotion is a natural kind’ are outlined in order to propose a new approach aligned with Marxist postcolonial critical theory. Traditional expectations of the terms ‘natural kind’ and ‘emotion’ are demonstrated to be inadequate, due to unacknowledged sociopolitical aspects of their epistemological foundations. The limited scope of Ingo Brigandt’s move to jettison the ‘natural’ in ‘natural kinds’ and his claims of ‘transparency’ can be extended through Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s critical considerations. I use the work of Spivak, as well as the methods of dialectical biology articulated by Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, to double down on the ‘natural’ in natural kinds, and argue that emotion is a dialectical natural kind, in two senses. The first, supported by the work of Kathleen Akins on ‘aboutness’ and the ontological project, is that emotion is a natural kind of capacity. The second, supported by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari on the materiality of desire, is that emotion is a natural force. Granting emotion natural kind status accompanies a redistribution of epistemic privilege.


Blair, Z. (2018, October) Developing American Attitudes on Mental Health and Violence. NYU Medical Dialogue Review, Volume 13, Issue 1.

Blair, Z. (2018, May) The Action Potential of Santiago Ramón y Cajál. NYU Medical Dialogue Review, Volume 12, Issue 2, 51-55.

Fall 2019-Spring 2020, TBA in Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario (Graduate teaching assistant)

April-October 2016, Foundations of Holistic Herbalism Certificate Program, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine (Teaching assistant and apothecary apprentice)

Spring 2013, Lithography II, Pratt Institute (Undergraduate teaching assistant)

Fall 2012, Silkscreen I, Pratt Institute (Undergraduate teaching assistant)