Newsletter Issue #138, March 2013
AL-ALPHA(0101) [Spring Hill College; advisor, Christopher Dodsworth] The fall term at Spring Hill College has been a difficult one for the Phi Sigma Tau chapter. We planned a transition to a new advisor, Dr. Victor Di Fate, but he was involved in a severe automobile accident and was unable to take on the duties of advisor. Fortunately, the rest of the department assumed his teaching obligations, and former advisor, Chris Dodsworth, agreed to continue as chapter advisor. Chapter president, Caroline Starr, and a terrific group of students have done an excellent job of keeping the chapter active. During the term, we have had several evening discussions, mostly focusing on moral realism and arguments from Michael Smith’s book, The Moral Problem, that several students were reading for their senior seminar course. The evening before the election, we sponsored a mock presidential debate. Also we are pleased to announce that one of our new members, Elizabeth Bridges, plans to apply for PhD programs in philosophy. Despite a difficult beginning, our year has been successful.
CA-IOTA(0509) [Westmont College; advisor, Jim Taylor] During November, guest Peter David Gross of Wheatstone Ministries lectured on aesthetics in Westmont’s Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The event brought together philosophy and art majors as well as students from other disciplines. Following the lecture, small groups discussed the works displayed in the museum; a reception followed those discussions.
CA-RHO(0517) [San Diego State University: advisor Steve Barbone] ***New Chapter***
GA-GAMMA(1103) [Agnes Scott College; advisor, Harald Thorsrud] On October 22, we initiated several new members, discussed ideas for possible events and activities, and set up bi-weekly Wednesday lunch meetings. Some of our ideas for events included film showings and philosophical discussions. At the first lunch meeting, we discussed responses to the question ‘‘Why study philosophy?’’ and talked about subjects from medieval philosophy, among them the problem of universals, and the origin of modal logic. In November meetings, we discussed the election results, the possibility of other worlds, and plans for a discussion of the book ‘‘The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten’’ that will be led by our chapter of Phi Sigma Tau. For our last November meeting, we considered a topic decided upon earlier. The topic was ‘‘Philosophy in Space!’’ Questions were: If aliens took you to a planet forty-two light years away, would the moral rules of Earth be used in their civilization? Is there such a thing as a universal morality, or does culture dictate permissible behavior? Would the ‘you’ in a parallel universe be forced to make all the decisions you have, given the same biological and environmental setup?
IL-ZETA(1406) [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; advisor, Jon Waskan] At the last meeting of the fall term, members discussed plans for the next term. We considered posting flyers to attract more attention to the club and participating in campus wide Activity Day to recruit more members; members also expressed interest in holding more movie nights and having some social events. During the meeting, the main topic of discussion was Beauty and whether or not there is an objective way to measure beauty. We began by listing examples of beautiful things and quickly encountered disagreement about which things counted as beautiful, thus raising the problems of subjectivity. We considered possible means for measuring beauty and whether beauty could be determined objectively.
One member suggested that visually beautiful things shared a common feature, another member agreed with Nietzsche’s idea that beauty is a human construction, and one thought that beauty might exist independently of us in some fashion. We eventually agreed that we needed a better definition of beauty. Several other questions were raised: Is the concept of beauty influenced by evolution? Are uniqueness and novelty part of the necessary and sufficient conditions for beauty? Can there be an art that is not beautiful in some way?
IL-PI(1416) [Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; advisor, Chris Pearson] President: Garner Perigo, Vice-president: Erik Zimmerman, Secretary: Coel Locandro.
MO-IOTA(2609) [Conception Seminary College; advisor, Elizabeth McGrath] President: TBD, Vice-president: Nick Koeppel, Secretary: James Porter. We held elections for new officers for January; the office of president was not decided at this meeting. For the new term, we voted to sponsor a movie and discussion night in February; the movie will be Shawshank Redemption. Members also asked whether we could have more informal get-togethers so that members could discuss various topics from their philosophy classes in more informal settings. The current president suggested that this request be brought to the new president.
MT-BETA(2702) [Montana State University; advisor, Sara Waller] co- Presidents: Brady Jensen and Chris Kloth, Vice-president: Evan Ivaldi, Secretary: Chris Kloth, Treasurer: Molly Ricketts. At our 9 January meeting, we elected officers and had a discussion of neuroethics. January topics are: Visual debate, D is for Dexter, and F is for Feminism.
NJ-ZETA(3106) [Richard Stockton College; advisor, A. Edward Siecienski] For our 8 November meeting, we used Rae Langton’s article, ‘‘Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts,’’ and Sarah Sorial’s article, Can Saying Something Make It So? The Nature of Seditious Harm.’’ We began by distinguishing between locutions (words with no intentions), illocutions (the acts which intend effects) and perlocutions (intended effects). Freedom of speech requires that we look at both the actions and meanings of words. Often, words are just words, and we need to determine whether a person has the power to perform an illocutionary act. Comedians may be examples of the first, and pastors examples of the second; comedians do not intend that people act, but pastors often do. The government may care about prohibiting speech acts and not about prohibiting speech. But contexts are constantly changing, so the most important aspect of free speech is the power to incite a reaction or to change a situation. There is a problem of taking words out of their context, and words of celebrities and politicians are often taken out of context. A language theory must consider more than just speech; it must consider the illocutions and perlocutions because these are what have the most power.
We discussed ‘‘Paternalism in Mahayana Buddhism’’ in our November 28 meeting with Kin Cheung joining us as the guest expert. Part of the discussion centered on lying and possible justifications for lying and similar activities. A parable in the Lotus Sutra describes a parent trying to get children out of a burning house; when the parent is unable to get all the children out without help, a lie was told to encourage the children to go out. Kant might prohibit lying in such a case since lying is used as a means to an end. But is some kind of paternalism appropriate to save children? Or to accomplish some other end? We considered the role of paternalism in the parent-child and the teacher-student relations and when and how paternalism might be appropriate.
NJ-KAPPA(3110) [The College of New Jersey; advisor, James Taylor] ***New Chapter*** We held our first induction ceremony on November 8. Refreshments were served after the ceremony, and we discussed Star Wars.
NJ-LAMBDA(3111) [Rowan University; advisor, Matthew D. Lund] ***New Chapter*** Despite Hurricane Sandy, the Rowan chapter held its first induction ceremony on December 10.
NY-THETA(3308) [Nazareth College; advisor, Patricia Bowen-Moore] ***New Chapter***
NY-KAPPA(3310) [Siena College; advisor, John Blanchard] President: Olivia Phetteplace. Olivia is the only member of the Siena College chapter, though we expect to have several new members later in the spring term.
NY-CHI(3322) [Lehman College, CUNY; advisor, Michael Buckley] President: Abraham Elie, Vice-president: Zina Khoury, Secretary: Malcolm Young.
NC-ZETA(3406) [University of North Carolina at Greensboro; advisor, Jarrett Leplin] The UNC Greensboro chapter sponsors the ‘‘Great Conversation’’ each month for Phi Sigma Tau members. Topics vary. In September, the topic was ‘‘The Nature of Animate Beings’’ with Gary Rosenkrantz; October’s topic was ‘‘Tattoos and Personal Identity’’ with Chris Metivier. At our November meeting, we dedicated our new Philosophy Library in memory of our faculty member, John King, who was instrumental in chartering the UNCG chapter of Phi Sigma Tau and served as advisor from 1997 until his death in 2011; at the meeting we discussed Dr. King’s paper, ‘‘Bivalence and the Sorites Paradox.’’
ND-ALPHA(3501) [University of North Dakota; advisor, A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone] The University of North Dakota chapter of Phi Sigma Tau held three open discussions during the fall 2012 term: What is Beauty? What is Free Will? and What is Wisdom? All meetings were conducted as informal and interdisciplinary discussions. We plan three meetings for the spring term; the topics are animal ethics, the virtues of being good, and citizens vs. the virtues of being a good human.
PA-IOTA(3909) [Allegheny College; advisor, Steven Farrelly-Jackson] President: Morgan Thomas, Vice-president: Abbey Bradley, Secretary: Jennifer Conklin, Treasurer: Alex Lang. We began our December meeting with a welcome to new members and then elected officers. We discussed activities for the spring term and discussed the roles and responsibilities of each officer.
PA-Alpha Alpha(3925) [Lebanon Valley College; advisor, Robert Valgenti] ***New Chapter***
VA-GAMMA(4703) [James Madison University; advisor, Anne M. Wiles] The James Madison chapter received a $5,000 grant from the University for a program in the spring term. The grant is to bring three or four speakers to the campus to address the general theme of Reason and Rhetoric in the Liberal Arts from the viewpoint of the disciplines of science, art, literature, and philosophy. The grant will also support one or two workshops on oral and written argumentation. This meeting, held just before Christmas, was a dinner meeting and devoted to preliminary discussion for the spring programs. We plan to use the grant money to host three speakers, to hold an ethics workshop, and create a Great Books program. The aim of the Great Books program is to train students and community members, such as retired professors and librarians, in conducting book discussions with an ultimate goal of encouraging learning and discussions both on and off the JMU campus.
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From the Executive Secretary
From this and previous Newsletters, you can see some of the activities of various chapters. Some chapters sponsor or help sponsor (along with the philosophy department) conferences for students with some of those conferences dedicated exclusively to work of undergraduate students; several chapters have conferences that are also open to graduate students. Some chapters have long-standing programs for their members; a long- standing program at James Madison University is ‘‘Philosophers Talk About Philosophy’’ where philosophers are able to discuss their approaches to, and interest in, philosophy and philosophic methods. A program at St. Mary’s University has several faculty meeting to discuss topics of interest, with faculty members presenting the views of philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and important representatives of various disciplines. Our former editor, Dr. James Sauer, would dress as David Hume and present a Humean perspective on the topic of discussion. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro holds a ‘‘Great Conversations’’ program each month, with each conversation on some relevant topic.
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April 2013 Dialogue
Our April 2013 issue of Dialogue is in preparation and almost ready to go to the publisher. Articles planned for the issue are:
‘‘The Island Has Its Reasons: Moral Subjectivism in Fiction’’ Kasandra Barker, University of Arkansas, Little Rock
‘‘Why There Is a Problem of Normativity and How Should We Find a Solution?’’ Roohollah Haghshenas, University of Tehran
‘‘The Philosophy of Neoplatonism and Its Effects on the Thought of St. Augustine of Hippo’’ John Charles Holoduek, Jr, St. Peter’s College
‘‘Restricting the Realms: Frege’s Problematic Ontology’’ Andrew Lavin, San Jose State University
‘‘The Virtuous Euthyphro Dilemma’’ Josh Swindler, Missouri Western State University
‘‘Responding to Moral Blackmail’’ Aaron P. Sullivan, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
‘‘Kierkegaard: Regarding the Three Stages of Life’’ Brian Thomas, San Diego State University
‘‘The Myth of Hippasus and One Mathematical Paradigm Shift’’ Yale Weiss, The College of New Jersey
In addition to the articles, we will be publishing several book reviews. Please note that two of the papers, the ones by Brian Thomas and Yale Weiss, are by students of two of our most recently chartered chapters, chapters that were chartered only during this school year. The editor would like to encourage members from both new chapters as well as older chapters to submit work to him for possible publication. Please join the philosophical conversation along with these other students; your voice is important to the success of Dialogue. Those of you who may be rather new to philosophy might wish to consider writing a book review; if you would like to do that, please email Dr. Steve Barbone, our editor, and request a review book from the list that will appear in the April issue. Books are assigned on a first-come\first-served basis, and you may find that an interesting way to spend the summer break and also to keep your philosophic ‘muscles’ in shape is to work through a book and write a review. (There is another ’fringe’ benefit to the reviewing: the book is yours to keep after you have submitted the review.) And those of you who have written papers for classes or projects may find it worthwhile to rework parts of the paper during the summer months and submit your finest work for possible publication in Volume 56 of Dialogue.
Submissions may be sent to Dr. Steve Barbone, and email submission is preferred. Dr. Barbone’s email address is [email protected]. Suggestions about format may be found on the back cover of recent issues of Dialogue.
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PHI SIGMA TAU
International Honor Society in Philosophy
Dr. David E. Gibson, Humanities Division
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