Lectures start promptly at 7:30PM and are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month September through May

1-10-2017: What is the Source of Society's Problems?

Kenneth Sauter, BFA, MBA

What is the source of society's problems? We can point to criminals, various groups with unhealthy agendas, war, and any number of other problems that threaten our civilization. I make the point that every societal problem begins with a family problem. I will go over the history of families, how civilization developed, how government developed, and how families built civilization. I will show how lack of family support creates criminals and other angry people who end up destroying society. I will make the point that children are the most precious resource of any civilization, and they must be protected and nurtured for civilization to thrive. I argue that it is when children are abused and used for someone else's purpose that dysfunctional families develop, bringing about anger, criminal behavior, and ultimately the destruction of society. I contend that there is a pattern that must be followed for society to be healthy and develop a highly functioning civilization, and will do my best to present that pattern.

1-24-2017: Welcome to The Post-Philosophy World

Andrew Laska, Past President, Dallas Philosophers Forum

American popular culture, at present, has rarely been more concerned about Fact. Fake news, post-fact, post-truth, scientific denial, fact checking, and other terms are used frequently. Philosophy, among many other factors, is one of the defining characteristics of Western Civilization. We will discuss how these phenomena are rooted in a culture that has devalued Philosophy as both noun and verb and how our prime concern ought to be Philosophy itself.

2-14-2017: Pleasure As An Attitude

Speaker: Brad Thompson

Philosophers in recent years have tended to argue that pleasure is not a mere feeling or sensation, but rather a kind of “pro-attitude”  similar to or even identical to desire.  The primary motivation for this view concerning pleasure has come from the observation that there are many different types of pleasure, from the pleasure of eating chocolate or listening to music to the pleasure of solving a puzzle or reading a good book.  In asking what it is that unites these different types of pleasure, the attitude theorist claims that what they all have in common is not a common phenomenology but rather that they are all experiences that the subject likes or wants to be having.  I argue that this is not a good argument for the attitude theory if it requires the denial that pleasure makes a contribution to the phenomenology of experience, but that there are better reasons to endorse an attitude theory.  Pleasure, I will argue, is an attitude distinct from desire and which contributes to the overall phenomenal character of the subject’s experience.  I end with a brief discussion about whether the objects of this attitude—the objects of pleasure—are our own experiences or are the external objects of perception, and why this turns out to be an important question in thinking about the value of pleasure and its contribution to wellbeing. 

2-28-2017: The Art And Science Of Happiness

George Kimeldorf, Ph.D.

Learning to be happy is not mystical, mysterious, or magical. Happiness is an ordinary skill that anyone can learn and master through practice, like driving a car or playing the piano. The first step is to discard our deeply ingrained, misguided beliefs that power, financial success, material goods, or the approval of others can make us happy. Only then can we learn to modify our habitual ways of thinking and experience love, joy, and satisfaction regardless of the circumstances in our lives.

3-14-2017: Volney's Ruins of Empires is this: It's not about Yesterday. It's about Today. And Tomorrow

Speaker: Thomas Christian Williams

Chris' first novel, English Turn, Napoleon Invades Louisiana, features Volney, a French philosopher and politician. Volney's controversial book, Ruins of Empires, was the number one Freethought book in the United States during the 19th century. George Washington, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Walt Whitman are known to have read it. What no one knew, during all that time, the most popular English language edition circulating in the U.S. had been translated anonymously by Thomas Jefferson.

3-28-2017: Computational Models of Ethics  TO BE RESCHEDULED.  El Fenix will be remodeling on 3/28

Speaker: Chris Davis, PhD

From self-driving cars on our city streets to drones and robots in the battlefield, autonomous machines are becoming ubiquitous. As humans increasingly interact with them, the ethical considerations of their behavior become more significant. But how can machines act as moral agents? This talk examines computational models of ethical reasoning that are currently being explored in A.I. research.  Examples of programs using first-order logic will be demonstrated. A prior knowledge of programming is not required.

4-11-2017: What Is Experimental Philosophy?

James R. Beebe,Ph.D.

Experimental philosophy is a new movement that uses the methods and tools of the cognitive and social sciences to investigate topics of perennial philosophical debate. Scientists have long addressed questions that have significant philosophical implications, and philosophers have reflected upon such investigations for many centuries. What is new about experimental philosophy is that philosophers are collaborating with scientists, obtaining training in statistics and experimental design, and becoming actively involved in gathering empirical data that is relevant to their research questions. I will introduce experimental philosophy by focusing on one interesting area of research within this movement that seeks to investigate the extent to which the average person thinks that moral judgments (e.g., "Stealing is wrong," "You should keep your promises") are objective (like statements of physical fact) or are more like subjective expressions of preference or emotion.

4-25-2017: Religion and Science

Nicholas Park

How can you reconcile faith in God with appreciation for science, I was asked? To me, these two loves come from the same source: my desire to understand the nature of things, and to know what is true. I will talk about how I fell in love with physics, how I came to a deep faith in Jesus Christ in His Church, and how these two things are not only compatible, but reflect the same fundamental human desire for connection, knowledge and understanding.

5-9-2017: Building an Inclusive Community Among Diverse Individuals

Karen Bradbury, Ph.D.

Many independent schools across the nation are now engaging in efforts to diversify their homogenous school communities, communities mainly comprised of those who can pay the price tag for a top dollar educational experience.  They have aspirations of building communities where their members are valued as individuals while being simultaneously respected for the diverse cultural identifiers they bring to these communities. While this is a noble charge, there is one looming question that should be addressed first and foremost:  Is this even possible? Can one achieve inclusion amidst diversity.... especially when the community is made up of inherently biased human beings?  One glance at the definitions of these two terms confirms the presence of a paradox, one daring us equity and justice practitioners to resolve it. Let's build community.