Schedule for the Fall 2006 Season:
SEPTEMBER 12, 2006: Immanuel Kant as the Michael Jordan of Ethics.
Donald R. Barker, Ph.D, Philosophy, Notre Dame
Plato's Socrates, in the Euthyphro, is Scottie Pippen, passing the ball to Kant as Michael Jordan. Aristotle in the Nicomachean ethics is on the opposing team, the Patio Walkers, the long-term utilitarians: "Happiness is a rational activity of the soul, according to the highest virtue (or set of virtues), in a complete life" and "Virtue is a habit of rational choosing of a relative mean means to an end in accordance with human nature". Aristotle is Shaquille O'Neal. Aquinas (Kobe Bryant) uses Aristotle to pass back out to him to score from downtown (eternal happiness). Hobbes and Hume are rude fans (like Jack Nicholson) who awaken Kant (Michael Jordan) from his dogmatic slumbers. Michael hits a 3-pointer from half-court after a pass from Scottie: "prudent" has nothing to do with "ought" and wins the game forever. Bentham and Mill keep going back to Aristotle, but with short-term utilitarianism. The Englishmen just don't get it...until H.A. Pritchard asks: "Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?" (Mind, 1917), forcing everyone to look again at Kant, the only philosopher who ever really took the time to understand the importance of Socrates' question to Euthyphro: "Is an action right because it pleases the gods, or does it please the gods because it is right?"
SEPTEMBER 26, 2006: A Palestinian and Israeli theology of liberation.
Inshirah Nabhan, Doctoral Student and Teaching Fellow, University of North Texas
This talk presents a summary of a Jewish and Palestinian Theology of Liberation. We focuses on Jewish liberation theology to make connections between the Holocaust and contemporary communities from the Third World. The talk can be seen as one attempt to approach holocaust, to reflect upon it, from a variety of angles. The event has traumatized Jewish experience and continues to traumatize it, both in the Diaspora and even in the state of Israel. The Holocaust is discussed in the broader framework of other suffering peoples, and the issue of Jewish contributions to that suffering is brought to the fore. Crucial here is the voice of an evolving Palestinian theology of liberation.
OCTOBER 10, 2006: The Problem of Perception: Is It All in Your Head?
Brad Thompson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Southern Methodist University
Perceptual experiences seem to us to provide direct access to the features of external objects in our environment. The "yellowness" present in one's experience of the banana seems to be "out there" on the surface of the banana. The world itself is "present to the mind" in perception, or so it seems. But a number of classic arguments, such as the arguments from illusion and hallucination, have historically convinced many philosophers that the "objects of experience" are not mind-independent external objects, but are instead purely mental items (sometimes called "sense data"). In other words, the colors, shapes, sounds, and smells that one experiences are not really "out there", but are "in the head". In contemporary philosophy, philosophers have tended to reject these arguments in favor of views that vindicate the common-sense idea that perception provides direct awareness of external properties and objects. After examining the arguments from illusion and hallucination, we will discuss two contemporary responses to those arguments. Both responses, I will argue, are mistaken. The problem of perception is as problematic as ever.
OCTOBER 24, 2006: Moral Norms and Divine Commands.
Andrew Johnson, Lecturer of Philosophy, Southern Methodist University
In popular thinking, morality depends significantly -- some would say even essentially -- on religion. But what exactly is this dependence? And does it really exist? After distinguishing a number of dependence relations that people may have in mind when they assert or assume that morality depends on religion, I focus for the remainder of my talk on two such relations, presupposed by moral theories that I call "Metaphysical Divine Command Ethics" and "Epistemic Divine Command Ethics." Metaphysical Divine Command Ethics is the view that God's commands create normative morality. Epistemic Divine Command Ethics holds (roughly) that knowledge of moral truth depends on knowledge of God's commands. I argue that, despite their widespread acceptance, neither Metaphysical Divine Command Ethics nor Epistemic Divine Command Ethics is in practice a tenable moral theory.
NOVEMBER 14, 2006: What is the Good Life?
Mark Hebert, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Austin College
Consider: Bob is 35 years old, single, attractive, and athletic, earns $100,000 a year and lives in Southern California. Mary is 65, married, overweight, highly sociable, deeply involved in her church, and lives in Buffalo, New York. Who would you bet is the happier of the two? Surprisingly, the smart money is on Mary. Why? Recent research in positive psychology suggests youth, income, attractiveness, and physical health play a much smaller role in our happiness than we might think. Drawing on Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness, and Jonathon Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness, Dr. Mark Hebert will discuss what we're learning about happy, engaged, and meaningful lives.
NOVEMBER 28, 2006: A Theory of Vibrating, Interactive Resonance
William B. Sechrest, Attorney
Consider any present moment called "now." What word best describes your most fundamental state of being in that moment? For a clue, consider the words "resonance", "dissonance" and "interference." Or consider the words "interactive force" as modified by the words "strong", "weak", "gravitational" or "electro-magnetic." Or simply consider what is common to each of your relationships be it social, political, economic, psychological, physical, metaphysical or philosophical relationship. We will explore these questions and hope you will join us.
DECEMBER 12, 2006: The Qur'an, Radical Islam, and the Possibility of a Moderate Exegesis.
Eric Palfreyman, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Collin County Community College
The paper examines the possibility of a moderate exegesis of the Qur’aninvestigating the possibility of a version of Islam that is true to the Qur’an, yet compatible with a pluralistic modern world. The theory of exegetical methodologies are compared to interpretations of the nature of the Qur’an and examined for possible points of reconciliation. Does an exegetical approach to the Qur’an exist, such that there is the possibility of a pure Islam that is compatible with multiple, and differing, cultural and religious experiences? Does the text of the Qur’an lend itself to a religious creed and practice that can co-exist with other cultures? This paper examines the possibility that the Qur’an can be legitimately interpreted in such a way that it can co-exist in a pluralistic and free society.
DECEMBER 26, 2006: NO MEETING
The remainder of the season from January 2007-May 2007 will be posted at a later date.
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