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2009 Winter and Spring Philosophy Lecture Schedule

January 27, 2009:  Psychiatry and the Virtues.
Dr. Kevin Majeres, MD

In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle described how emotions interact with our thoughts and behaviors, and highlighted how the behavioral process of habituation in turn shapes the emotions. This understanding has grown increasingly relevant in psychiatry today. Beginning in its work with anxiety, and then with addictions, cognitive-behavioral theory has moved toward an understanding of the relationship of intellect, will and emotion that closely mirrors that of Aristotle. Dr. Kevin Majeres, a psychiatrist in private practice, will discuss the relevance of Aristotelian virtue theory to the current practice of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.

February 10, 2009:
 Social and Ethical Implications of Findings in Neuroscience and Psychology.
Dan Levine, PhD.

Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

The biochemistry of brain connections is very much influenced by the environment, especially by social interactions.  The wiring of our frontal lobes does not fully develop until our twenties, and connections can still be strengthened or weakened throughout adult life.  This means the limitations human nature imposes on social organization are likely to be less severe than conventional wisdom allows.  The talk will explore three Twentieth Century utopian societies from novels by Aldous Huxley, Ernest Callenbach, and Marge Piercy.  The three utopias share common patterns: child rearing that fosters independence; conflict resolution that emphasizes mediation; emotional openness; fluid family structure; gender equality; and democracy of creativity.  I will argue that these societal patterns are both within reach of our brains and beneficial to their functioning.


February 24, 2009:  Philosophy of Water:  Re-thinking River Relations, Developing a Capacity to Aspire.

Irene J. Klaver, PhD.

Director Philosophy of Water Project, University of North Texas.

How can one think towards a new environmental mentality? How does one raise awareness around water issues? These are questions of enhancing people’s engagement, participation, and interest in their environmental surroundings, specifically their waterways. I will present two UNESCO initiatives the Philosophy of Water project is involved in and that deal with these issues.  I will zoom in on UNESCO’s River Cultures-Ecological Futures initiative. Rivers have been anchors of civilization and bones of contention. They are rich ecological and cultural corridors.  I will connect these qualities with anthropologist Arjun Appadurai’s notion, the “capacity to aspire,” which he sees as the capacity of culture to orient itself to the future and to navigate towards it.  In my presentation I will develop this future looking notion of culture to various river traditions and contemporary public policy issues around our waterways.


February 24, 2009:  Discussion of Bioethics and Medical Ethics.

Griffin T. Nelson, PhD.

University of Dallas.

Medical ethics and bioethics discussion related to current events.


March 10, 2009:  Can Animals Be Ethical?
Carl B. Sachs, Ph.D

University of North Texas Department of Philosophy and Environmental Ethics.
The question, “can animals be ethical?” depends on what ethics is and also what animals are.  First, I’ll examine the ethical theories of modern Western philosophy to show how little they help.  Second, I’ll turn to recent research on monkeys, apes, and dolphins, and ask if this shows that these animals understand ethical concepts such as fairness or compassion.   Third, I’ll re-frame the question through Aristotle’s accounts of animals and of ethics.  I’ll present the Aristotelian answers to these problems in order to show how difficult it is to distinguish between ethics as such from mammalian social behavior in general.


March 24, 2009:  Buried in the Wall:  When Poetry, Philosophy, and Faith Converge.
Alan Birkelbach

Texas Poet Laureate 2005.

Poetry and Philosophy are viewed as opposites, that is, Poetry is generally considered an emotionally-centered discipline and Philosophy an academic-driven one.  And Faith tends to keep feet firmly planted on both sides.  But what are the questions that arise when all three converge?   Does poetry become a philosophical tool?  Can poetry become inseparable from faith?  Can poetry become worth dying for? Can fervor and passion co-exist with rational thought?  These, and other questions, will be examined in this high-level overview of the issues that arise when the lines between faith, philosophy, and poetry blur.

April 14, 2009:  The Immortal Idea: A Brief History of Anarchist Philosophy.
Jun, Nathan, Ph.D.

Philosophy Program Coordinator, Midwestern State University.

The last ten years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in anarchism both inside and outside the academy. In this presentation, I will provide a brief overview of the history and philosophy of anarchism, taking care to address its affinities with, and deviations from, liberalism and socialism. I will conclude with some remarks about the contemporary development of anarchist theory and praxis.

April 28, 2009:  Comparing Individual and Collective Virtue.
Dr. John Z. Sadler, MD

UT Southwestern Medical School Ethics and Medical Humanities.

Daniel W. Foster Professor of Medical Ethics, Professor of Psychiatry & Clinical Sciences, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Chief, Division of Ethics and Health Policy, Department of Clinical Sciences, Department of Psychiatry, Co-Editor:  Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology.

Philosophers generally consider virtue a feature of individuals. But can organizations exhibit virtues? If so, is organizational virtue derivative from individuals' virtue, or does organizational virtue emerge from explicitly collective properties? If organizational virtue is a credible idea, what relationship does organizational virtue have to more conventional organizational concepts like values, interests, and missions? These questions will be considered using a project in progress at UT Southwestern as an example, one which considers how clinical science, patient care, and community interests interact with organizational practices at Southwestern. The project aims to analyze how the notion of collective virtue can support and specify the enactment of institutional mission, values, and interests. In this sense it will be argued that organizational virtues are derived from institutional mission, values, and interests, which in turn are iteratively related to more general notions of ethics, morality, and virtue as considered in the individual.

May 12, 2009:  Despotism and the Democratic Passion for Equality.
Michael Harding, MA, Philosophy, MA Politics.

Professor, Mountain View College.

Tocqueville famously claims in Democracy in America that in a democratic age, the people “want equality in freedom, and, if they cannot get it, they still want it in slavery.” Our lecture will discuss why Tocqueville makes this claim, the character of the new despotism that he anticipates, the connection it has to the passions of men in democratic ages, and the measures which might be taken to mitigate the danger presented by such a tendency.

May 26, 2009:  Common Sense in America:  The Scottish Influence on 19th Century American Philosophy.
Elmer H. Duncan, Ph.D.

Baylor University Philosophy Department.

Professor Emeritus.

The Scots made their last bid to be an independent nation in 1745-’46, and lost, disastrously, at Culloden. Many fled to France; many more fled to the "Colonies" in America. From our earliest times until about 1867, the primary philosophy in America was Scottish. Some of it was quite good philosophy. After 1867, the primary philosophy was German. I offer some good reasons to have another look at the Scottish Philosophy.

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