2011 Spring Philosophy Lecture Schedule


1/11/2011: Religion and Politics: Does God Have a Dog in this Fight?
Robert Radford, Ph.D.
Retired Philosophy Professor, Oklahoma State University
For about thirty years now the Religious Right has been the loudest public voice of the Christian religion in this country and a potent political force in local, state, and national elections and legislative discussions. Is this highly diverse movement known as the Religious Right primarily about religion or about politics? How does it match up with the teachings and practices of the Jewish prophets and Jesus of Nazareth? Does the God of Judaism and Christianity have a dog in this fight? If so, what is it?

1/25/2011: Some Paradoxes of Epistemic Closure
Matthew Lockard, Ph.D.
SMU
To say that knowledge is closed under known entailment is to say that, for any propositions p and q, if you know that p is true and that p entails q, then you are in a position to know that q is true, too. For example, suppose you know that Shamu is a whale and that all whales are mammals. Assuming you know that this entails that Shamu is a mammal, you are in a position to know, if you bother to think about it, that Shamu is a mammal. In this session, we will discuss various putative counterexamples to the claim that knowledge is closed under known entailment; that is, we will discuss some cases in an individual knows that p and knows that p entails q, but does not--and indeed, perhaps cannot--know that q. Such cases have paradoxical consequences for even ordinary knowledge of mundane facts.

2/8/2011: What is Metaphysics For?
Carl Sachs, Ph.D.
University of North Texas
Metaphysics has fallen on hard times. Twentieth century academic philosophy began with two movements -- logical positivism and hermeneutic phenomenology -- that raised skeptical challenges about the very possibility of metaphysics in the traditional sense. Today those movements are (mostly) a historical curiosity, and metaphysical speculation is rampant in both "analytic" and "Continental" philosophy. Are we better off by trying to satisfy the desire for metaphysics, or by critically examining that very desire. I shall argue that while we cannot do without metaphysics, we should not be naive about the nature of the metaphysical project.

2/22/2011: The Mind’s Blind Spot: Consciousness, Dualism, and Introspection
Kenneth Williford, Ph.D.
UT Arlington
Many philosophers have argued that we can know that consciousness is not a brain process because we can conceive of consciousness in the absence of functioning brains (or brain analogues) and of functioning Zombie brains—brains in all respects like ours except for one little detail: they lack consciousness. I argue that these arguments fail because the manner in which we form the concept of consciousness undercuts the inference from conceivability to possibility in this regard.

3/8/2011: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand
Karl Meisenbach, BA in Philosophy
Trinity University
"A Philosophy for living on earth" is how Ayn Rand defined Objectivism. This lecture will cover the fundamentals of the Objectivist philosophy - Metaphysics: Objective Reality. Epistemology: Reason. Ethics: Self-interest. Politics: Capitalism. Also discussed will be the Objectivist Virtues (Rationality, Honesty, Integrity, Productivity, Independence, Pride, Justice) and their application to living a better life on Earth.

3/22/2011: What Is Seeing? A Philosophical Introduction to Neuropsychology.
Robert Wood, Ph.D.
University of Dallas
The talk will present a phenomenological analysis of the field of experience that challenges the reduction of awareness to neural activity. It begins within the general field of awareness within which ophthalmology operates, then branches out into a challenge to reductionism in any form and underscores tasks for the future development of neurophysiology in understanding human behavior.

4/12/2011: Which Rights are “Human Rights”? Philosophical Problems Inherent in the War on Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity
Mark Brodeur
Author and Attorney
The idea of "universal human rights" has been the source of philosophical argument long before John Locke announced in 1689 that we each have the right to life, liberty, and property. This speech will address philosophical problems Inherent in the war on genocide and other crimes against humanity.

4/26/2011: How Science and the Internet Are Forging a New Spiritual Path
Amy Martin
Author and Publisher of Moonlady Media
For millennia, most people stayed with the religion of their childhood – until fifteen or so years ago when the public embraced the internet and personal computers. Suddenly options abounded. Now the majority of people in the U.S. practice a different religion than their birth family. Many choose their own personal faith, calling themselves spiritual not religious, ranging from a low of 10% in the south to 30% in the northeast and northwest. Almost all of them possess a questioning agnostic tendency and site science as a primary shaper of their spiritual sense. Drawing from 18 years of experience in leading this demographic in North Texas, writer Amy Martin will examine the ideological concepts and practices that this wildly diverse group shares. This talk is part of research for a book on the topic planned for 2012 publication.

5/10/2011: St. Augustine’s Anthropology of Affection: The Ordo Amoris
David Naugle, Ph.D.
Dallas Baptist University
Are human beings primarily thinkers? Rationalists? Primarily doers? Pragmatists? Primarily interpreters? Hermenuets? Etc. What is a human being?
In our contemporary North American cities of seemingly endless desire, it is time to revive an ancient understanding of the human person as primarily an agent of love, affection, longing, and desire. Such was St. Augustine’s essential anthropology. In this talk I will investigate several rival anthropologies, and suggest that Augustine’s affective view of human nature hits the sweet spot, and how relevant his view is for our current cultural milieu. I will demonstrate that St. Augustine’s overarching metaphysical framework allows that human happiness and well-being depends on human loves rightly ordered for objects both immanent and transcendent.

5/24/2011: Self Identity and Death.
Ed Stone
Retired Professor of Mathematics
The experience of identity is the fundamental fact that Kant called the “Transcendental Unity of Apperception” and placed first among the a priori categories underlying human cognition. But it is not a part of cognition, for it preserves us through ignorance, mystification, conjecture and other failures and imperfections of cognition. The sense of identity can be logically analyzed only indirectly, for we cannot experience its denial – in this it resembles other famous problems of self-reference like the liar sentence, the incompleteness of arithmetic (Godel), or the unprovability of logical consistency (Lob). It has effects that lie at the core of human intellectual and cultural achievements, yet at the same time it constitutes a cognitive bias, inevitable in any mental structure that functions like ours; this bias limits our ability to confront the ultimate significance of our lives.
One of the striking and characterizing achievements of human cognition is the recognition of mortality – the inevitability of death. Death is omnipresent in the animal world, but each individual animal is busy surviving – although there is evidence that higher primates have some perception of this. Its acceptance in human thought is clear (it is even a metaphor for taxes and other aversions), but in life it is constantly denied – both by irrational behaviors and irrational mythologies, all of which have arguably led to more death rather than less. We do not process our cognitions until experience has made them real to us, and personal death something we cannot experience. Kant’s word is applicable here, but transcendence implies acceptance of our cognitions, not denial of them.

5/24/2011: Ontology of 18th Century America: What Nature Meant to the Founders (Rescheduled)
Jack O ‘Connor, MA
North Central Texas College
If one looks at the Declaration of Independence and other documents of the Founding of the United States, the term “nature” is used as the foundation upon which the political institutions are formed. Traditionally, Americans (17th, 18th centuries) had an aversion for what they called “metaphysics” or the kind of sophistical arguments they associated with the schools of Europe. When it came time, therefore, to conceive of creating their own society, they avoided the philosophical depth that was characteristic of European philosophy. This is largely their deliberate intent, for cohesion and unity were their priorities over philosophical debate. Nonetheless, when terms like Nature are used, and others are said to be self evident, and left as unproven assertions, we can still extract an unspoken ontological foundation that lead to their positing. This talk will attempt to account for some of the presuppositions in the “non-ontology” of the founding.



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