1-8-2013: The Miraculous
Nature of Human Nature
Paul Tobolowsky, M.D.
Our behavior is driven not only by our "human nature," but also by our sense of what human nature is. We are very skillful at recognizing the imperfections in our life, an assessment that turns our days into a series of battles against life's flaws or potential future flaws. We have a "blind spot" that prevents us from seeing how amazing our life actually is. We are alive due to a series of miracles within miracles that are hidden in plain sight. Learn how remarkable you are, and consider how your life might change if you perceived yourself as a miracle.
1-22-2013: Science, Technology &
Philosophy-Theology: Discoveries and Uncertainties
Jerry Middents, Ph. D. & John Wiley
This joint presentation includes brief histories and current developments in Natural Sciences, Cosmology, Quantum Physics plus Dark Matter & Energy woven in dialogue with concepts of Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Theology and Consciousness.
Joint presentation by:
John Wiley: Two degrees in Physics, Engineering Technologist focused on Semiconductors, Texas Instruments Singapore. Texas Instruments Senior Member Technical Staff – retired with experience in Texas, Japan and Singapore.
John has a BS - Physics from Illinois Wesleyan U, and and an M.S. -Physics from Northwestern U.
Jerry Middents, Psychologist & Presbyterian Minister, degrees in Social Sciences, Theology & Psychology, Professor Emeritus, Austin College, invited to teach at UTD, Mahatma Gandhi U. and Manipal U. in India.
For 18 months, John and Jerry have served as Co-Coordinators of current programs in this Metroplex on "Science, Technology and Faith Values."
2-12-2013: Religion and Economics:
What Difference Does Faith Make?
Joerg Rieger, Ph.D, Perkins School of Theology, SMU
Throughout the history of religion, faith and economics have been deeply intertwined. While narrow modern definitions of religion have prevented scholars of religion and theologians from exploring this connection, repeated and worsening economic crises challenge us to take another look. Using the example of Christianity, Rieger will discuss how the structures of dominant economies deeply influence religion and faith. Vice versa, what contributions might religion and faith make to the construction of alternative economies?
2-26-2013: Comparing Sources of Truth in Criminal Law and Medicine
John Sadler, MD, UT Southwestern Medical School--Ethics and Medical Humanities Department
Anglo-American common law, a basis for contemporary criminal law, arose in England in the medieval period, based upon a metaphysics drawn from Judeo-Christian morality and foundational concepts like free will, desert, personal responsibility for action (as in for salvation and criminal culpability) and an individualism which held the singular person as the fundamental moral unit. In the ensuing centuries Anglo-American law has struggled with the proper relationships between morality, law, and the state. Modern medicine arose as an outgrowth of a secularizing Enlightenment period following the medieval era, building upon the new empirical Baconian science, and ultimately substituting the metaphysics of free will, individual responsibility, and desert with a secular metaphysics presupposing a fundamental unity of the sciences, multicausal explanation, and a dismantling of the concept of free will by the newly-emerging specialized sciences of biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Today, the medieval legacy of Anglo-American criminal law and the Enlightenment legacy of secular science play out through markedly discrepant methods to truth, the latter an epistemic concept which should be relevant to both professional fields. These contrasting accounts of truth will be briefly presented and their practical implications discussed.
3-12-2013: Ekphrasis and the Philosophy of Perception: In pursuit of the essence of a thing.
Alan Birkelbach and Karla K. Morton
About Alan Birkelbach
Alan Birkelbach, the 2005 Texas Poet Laureate, has spoken at schools, universities and bookstores across the state of Texas. Winner of the 2010 North Texas Book Festival Award, two-time presenter at the Texas Book Festival, and Spur, Wrangler, Pushcart, and TIL Children’s Book award nominee, he is the author of nine books of poetry. Mr. Birkelbach holds a B.A. in English from the University of North Texas.
About Karla K. Morton
Karla K. Morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a celebrated poet, author and speaker. A Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, a two-time Indie National Book Award Winner, a North Texas Book Festival Awards Finalist and a member of the esteemed Texas Institute of Letters, she has been widely published in literary journals and is the author of seven books of poetry. Described as "one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry," she has been featured on Good Morning Texas, NPR, ABC News, CBS News and in countless newspapers, blogs and magazines. She has also been featured on The Art of Living Gallery, a national program on Veria TV, and presents at conventions, conferences, bookstores, universities, festivals and schools. An avid photographer, Morton has also had several showings of her black and white artwork, and she loves to mix poetry with other art forms. Morton was born in Fort Worth and holds a Journalism degree from Texas A&M University.
3-26-2013: Relevance of Anarchist Philosophy in the 21stCentury
Nathan Jun, Ph.D., Midwestern State University
Over the course of the past several decades the anarchism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has seldom been discussed in mainstream philosophical literature. In contrast, a certain kind of "philosophical anarchism," represented most prominently by Robert Paul Wolff’s In Defense of Anarchism, Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia, and A.J. Simmons’ Moral Principles and Political Obligations has received significant attention. The use of the term "philosophical anarchism" in these contexts differs significantly from its original meaning. In these cases, "philosophical anarchism" refers merely to principled skepticism regarding the legitimacy and authority of states which is generally articulated in two forms: a posteriori philosophical anarchism (which contends that all existing states are illegitimate), and a priori philosophical anarchism (which contends that states are illegitimate by definition). The literature frequently makes a distinction between philosophical anarchism and "political" (also known as "strong" or "practical") anarchism, a view which not only claims that states are illegitimate by definition (ala a priori philosophical anarchism) but that the illegitimacy of states obligates (or at least permits) us to abolish states. While the former is considered a serious position worthy of serious consideration, the latter is seldom defended. More commonly it is simply ignored or dismissed as crackpottery. A major problem with all such discussions is their tendency to overlook the fact that anarchism is a living tradition of political theory and practice that has existed in various forms for at least two centuries and is probably much older. Because the term "anarchism," along with the theoretical and practical orientations it designates, predates academic discussions of "philosophical anarchism," it is eminently appropriate to inquire (1) whether "philosophical anarchism" as discussed in the contemporary literature has any real relation to the anarchist tradition and, (2) if it does not, whether it ought to be called "anarchism" at all. In this paper, I argue that both of these questions should be answered in the negative and, over and against "philosophical anarchism," offer an explication and tentative defense of genuine anarchism.
4-9-2013: Philosophical Implications of Neuroscience Developments
Dan Levine, Ph.D., UTA
Recent advances in cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral results from cognitive psychology, support the notion that emotion and cognition are not separate but intricately intertwined. Emotions facilitate distinguishing relevant from irrelevant material when we process cognitive information or make decisions. Conversely, high-level cognition facilitates satisfying long-term emotional drives in complex social environments. Hence, at best emotion and reason are partners rather than opponents in the quest of a good life: to use a mathematical metaphor, emotion provides axioms whereas reason provides theorems.
Powerful short-term emotions can distort information processing by drawing attention to salient but irrelevant attributes of events. Yet the remedy for this kind of distortion is not suppressing all emotions. It is understanding and directing the power of emotions to influence our choices in other ways that are personally and socially beneficial, including aesthetic emotions that enhance the pursuit of knowledge.
The belief that reason and emotion are opposites, with reason being superior to emotion, has roots in Aristotle, Descartes, and other leading thinkers, and pervades our culture. Yet this belief has harmful social consequences. Valuing reason over emotion has meant a widespread loss of meaning, as people feel they are valued only for their ability to produce for a job. Those who feel they are not appreciated for themselves as people, and only for their market value, are vulnerable to the appeal of charismatic demagogues and terrorist leaders who promise to give their lives meaning and purpose. Also, the belief that reason is superior to emotion easily degenerates into a rank ordering whereby some people who are "rational" (typically whites, men, and straights) are superior to other people who are "emotional" (typically blacks, women, and gays). Hence, creating a more egalitarian and harmonious society requires making the best of our complex brain pathways that interconnect emotion and reason.
John Mears, Ph.D., SMU
Since the 1990s, a small but growing number of historians and
like-minded scholars from other disciplines have been turning to the study of
Big History as a means of establishing the most comprehensive conceivable
perspective from which to consider the meaning and significance of the human
experience. This presentation explains how they have drawn on the findings of
modern science--astrophysics, geology, chemistry, biology, paleontology, and
anthropology--to connect the evolution of the physical universe, of our planet
and its life forms with humankind's relatively brief past. Particular attention
will be given to what Big History suggests about the abiding character of our
species, especially given the philosophical reflections provoked by recent
insights coming from the natural sciences. Professor Mears is a specialist in early modern Europe, received
his undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota and his graduate
training at the University of Chicago. He is a past president of the World
History Association and a member of therecently organized International Big
History Association. Having published a range of articles and essays on the
subject of Big History, he is currently working on what has become a two-volume
work tentatively entitled " To Be Human: A Perspective on our Common
History." There he sets forth an interpretation of human experience as an
integral dimension of the epic of evolution.
5-14-2013: Kant's Moral Imperative: Is it Moral,
Is it an Imperative? Where Does it Come From?
Since the 1990s, a small but growing number of historians and like-minded scholars from other disciplines have been turning to the study of Big History as a means of establishing the most comprehensive conceivable perspective from which to consider the meaning and significance of the human experience. This presentation explains how they have drawn on the findings of modern science--astrophysics, geology, chemistry, biology, paleontology, and anthropology--to connect the evolution of the physical universe, of our planet and its life forms with humankind's relatively brief past. Particular attention will be given to what Big History suggests about the abiding character of our species, especially given the philosophical reflections provoked by recent insights coming from the natural sciences.
Professor Mears is a specialist in early modern Europe, received his undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota and his graduate training at the University of Chicago. He is a past president of the World History Association and a member of therecently organized International Big History Association. Having published a range of articles and essays on the subject of Big History, he is currently working on what has become a two-volume work tentatively entitled " To Be Human: A Perspective on our Common History." There he sets forth an interpretation of human experience as an integral dimension of the epic of evolution.
5-14-2013: Kant's Moral Imperative: Is it Moral, Is it an Imperative? Where Does it Come From?
Reg Grant, Dallas Seminary
In Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant posits a basis for morals and, at the same time, a practical postulate for the existence of God. While his argument does not constitute a rational argument for God’s existence (which Kant would have rejected in any case), it presupposes an intuitive moral response on the part of all humans that allows for the formulation of the categorical imperative (CI). The first formulation of the CI, and the one under consideration here, states that I should act only in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law. At issue is the contradiction in Kant’s insistence that knowledge regarding the existence of any absolute, noumenal reality is absolutely inaccessible, while coetaneously presupposing that an absolute standard exists against which a response (the summum bonum, the unity of desire and duty) must necessarily be regarded as universally obligatory (the categorical imperative). He can’t have his epistemological cake and eat it too.
5-28-2013: Is Capitalism Stable? And what does that mean?
PowerPoint-Equality Trust data PowerPoint-Is Capitalism Unstable?
Modern economic theory was developed on the bases of equilibrium, and balance of forces, and stable markets. For some time the dominant theory of macroeconomics has stressed that free markets are efficient and self-correcting, or at least in Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium. However, recent events have revived fears that have run as a rejected undercurrent through the history of economics. Perhaps in some fundamental way capitalism is not stable. Why might that be? If there is dis-ease at the heart of capitalism, is western civilization doomed?