1-10-2012: Meta-Semantic Arguments against Skepticism
Justin Fisher, SMU

This paper uses recent work in philosophy of mind and language to provide a unified resolution to a variety of skeptical arguments raised in different areas of philosophy. I argue for a meta-semantic principle which holds that, so long as we have a track record of appropriate causal interaction with things or kinds in the world, our terms and concepts will semantically latch onto these referents. From this principle, several corollaries follow, including that certain sorts of systematic error are impossible. This provides a unified resolution to skeptical arguments involving the Matrix, long-term envatment, van Fraassen’s argument for scientific anti-realism, eliminativism, hard determinism, moral queerness, evolutionary arguments for moral skepticism, and Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism. I close by considering the limitations of this approach. This is no panacea against all forms of skepticism, but it does help resolve multiple debates that have received much recent philosophical attention.

Justin Fisher (Audio)

1-24-2012: Considering Metaphysical Presuppositions in Environmental Thought
Christopher Cone, 
Tyndale Theological Seminary

David Hume understood that descriptive (is) premises do not directly lead to prescriptive (ought) conclusions. The implications of Hume’s understanding in this regard are particularly useful for considering the grounding of environmental ethics. While, in context, he was directing his specific criticism to theistic models of ethics, his axiom is broadly applicable as a mechanism for measuring aspects of coherency within systems of thought. This present discussion considers the possible preferability of one environmental ethics model over another, insofar as the models draw ethical conclusions from metaphysical premises. To that end I will (1) introduce Hume’s Is-Ought Problem, (2) apply a resulting axiom to representative environmental ethics models, and (3) assess the coherency of the models in light of the axiom 

Christopher Cone (Audio)

2-14-2012: The Meaning of Life Through Eastern Perspectives
David Alkek

Most are familiar with the European approaches toward a meaningful life as proposed by Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, Hume, Mill, and Kant. We will explore the Eastern perspectives of a meaningful life through the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, including Zen. We will also include the thoughts of Gandhi, the present Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Alkek's outline  Dr. Alkek's talk (Audio)

2-28-2012: God-Talk
Win Galbreath

In a short interview John Carroll, author of The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited, says “The great Western experiment with Humanism …. has failed….The challenge for the West is to rediscover a religious language that speaks plausibly to modern secular individuals.” [www.isi.org/books] He feels that this can only be done by some kind of contact to a higher or metaphysical order beyond the confines of the time-bound, mundane human selves. We have frequently seen statements to the effect that the question of our time is how to relate science and religion. We have puzzled over “God Talk”, and Loyal Rue has informed us that religion is not about “God”; it’s about us. We have wondered to what extent atheism is compatible with theism. I propose to make manifest the key to resolving all these issues by showing how to translate the term “God” into something that is no less empirical than many other terms utilized by the physical and social sciences. I further propose that this effort is not entirely new, but represents simply the next step in a long tradition of theology in every major theistic tradition. In other words, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will probably move in some direction like this or fade out of contention and join Mithraism, and the worship of Zeus or Issus and Osiris.

God Talk (paper)   God Talk (PowerPoint)     God Talk (Audio)

3-13-2012: "Who am I?" India's Experiments with Consciousness
Pravrajika Brahmaprana

This talk by Pravrajika Brahmaprana will present the ancient Vedanta-Hindu method of uncovering the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of our existence - "Who am I?" In the process, Brahmaprana will show the Vedanta process of deconstructing the human personality in order to arrive at the true nature of human consciousness.

Brahmaprana audio

3-27-2012: American's Gold Obsession: From The Cross Of Gold To The Yellow Brick Road
Paul Benson
Mountain View College

Between 1873 and 1933, America had a 60 year love affair with gold. This relationship with gold colored every aspect of the nation's political and economic life during that time. Elections were won and lost over the gold issue. This program will highlight the leading personalities and groups associated with both sides of the gold mania.


Benson audio

4-10-2012: Psychedelic Soul: What altered states, spiritual experience, and phenomenology teach us about the possibility of neurophilosophical thinking.
Tony Roberts, Ph.D.

Tarrant County College

On “Good Friday” in 1962, a group of theology students at Andover Newton Theological School participated in a controversial experiment involving psychedelic drugs.  What did they experience?  And what does their experience suggest about spirituality and consciousness?  In this lecture/discussion, we’ll examine some phenomenological qualities of spirituality, compare/contrast these with our everyday lived experience (an embodied-embedded view of consciousness), and raise more questions than answers about how we might study both.  This is not a lecture on religion, claims of transpersonal/transcendental action/ability, or the reality/being/non-being of God; though our discussion will certainly inform our methodologies in these studies as well.


Roberts audio


4-24-2012: Exploring Contemporary Thoughts in Buddhist Philosophy
Woody Gandy

Buddhism offers an intellectually challenging body of philosophy that has attracted increasing interest in the west over the last few decades.   Woodrow Gandy will explore this intriguing philosophy, drawing on works by Mark Siderits (Buddhism as Philosophy), Karen Anderson (Buddha), William Hart (Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka), Thich Naht Hahn (The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra) and other works by modern writers.

Gandy audio

5-8-2012: Should you really be wearing that Adam Smith tie?
Gerald Shilling
Economics Instructor, Eastfield College


Today's global media is dominated by corporate owners, infotainers, and Super PAC's that are high-jacking economic theories and misrepresenting them to perpetuate self-serving agendas. This presentation will attempt to address these questions - How are the theories of Adam Smith being misinterpreted and misused in our current discussions of laissez faire capitalism? How is Adam Smith's view of economics relevant to our current economic environment? How might Adam Smith's view of self-interest differ from that of today's view of self-interest?

Shilling audio

5-22-2012: The Sublime Conservatism of Edmund Burke
Frank Rohmer

Austin College

Where Burke’s intimate friend Dr. Johnson called “patriotism the last refuge of a scoundrel,” Burke made patriotic prejudice the core of a passionate counterattack on the French Revolution that would make him the “first apostle” of conservatism in the twentieth century. The melodious harmony Burke envisioned between the earthly and heavenly realms brought solace to the conservative mind by courageously restoring in the face of modernity’s rational skepticism an older view of man’s nature and place in the cosmic order of things. But however melodious and sweet Edmund Burke’s rhetorical music may have been and may continue to be to conservative ears, Burke’s persuasiveness ultimately depends on the disturbing foundations of his moral-political philosophy that lie mostly dimmed by his lustrous rhetoric.