Monday, December 4, 2017

More Undergraduate Conference Opportunities!

Students, below are several more great opportunities to get recognized for your writing and hard work!  The AU Philosophy Dept. strongly encourages student research, and remember, if you get accepted, we might be able to extend you some funding.

Be sure to take note of the submission deadlines.  Also, take note of the other conferences available in the post below (3 posts below, I think).  Good luck!


Monday, October 30, 2017

Philosophy: "Return on Life"

As a Philosophy professor, I enjoy seeing articles that attempt to defend the study of Philosophy. In the classroom, I emphasize the need to develop one's critical thinking skills and to make careful value judgments. (E.g., Can you tell the difference between a qualitative and a quantitative judgment? Guess what? It's not going to be justified quantitatively.) We also highlight the flexibility of these basic abilities for enhancing and empowering students in any field they choose. Everyone needs to become a better thinker.

Yet I also understand why many of these articles focus on the current bugaboo: Return on Investment (ROI). Everyone knows that college is expensive (though not because they are paying teachers more or spending more on educational resources). People need to make smart financial decisions for their futures, and I'm sensitive to that.

So when sources like Forbes, or The Atlantic, and even reports from PayScale have good things to say about ROI for Philosophy students, we should pay attention. As Chamberlain notes in the Forbes article:

"Every year, college students choose their majors with an eye toward the return on investment. Among the usual lucrative suspects like finance and engineering, one liberal arts field stands out: philosophy. It turns out that philosophy majors earn significantly more than most majors, especially over the long term, as Bourree Lam writes in his recent article in The Atlantic. Beyond finances, the study of philosophy can also help students learn for themselves how they define the good life and how to go about living it."

None of this should be surprising, of course. As I claimed earlier, philosophy requires one to develop certain skills that are easily transferable to other contexts. Chamberlain recognizes that "philosophy teaches a person to engage not with the superficial symptoms of surrounding society, but, like a good MD, to consider the deeper history and structural causes."

People need to think structurally, analytically, and "outside the box" with "relentless inquiry", and good philosophy students do just that.

In the article from The Atlantic, Lydia Frank explains that,

“We hear again and again that employers value creative problem solving and the ability to deal with ambiguity in their new hires, and I can't think of another major that would better prepare you with those skills than the study of philosophy. It's not terribly surprising to see those graduates doing well in the labor market. We've seen quite a few executives—CEOs, VPs of Strategy—who studied philosophy as their undergrad program.”

Citing a 16-17 report by PayScale, philosophy major earnings are at the top of the humanities bachelors degrees in their ranking—from early career all the way through later career.

All of this is great for the discipline from a certain vantage point. It is important to recognize that Philosophy can be practical and lucrative. We train doctors, and lawyers, and businessmen, and politicians, and many other successful professionals.

But who cares.

While I understand the focus on ROI, let me say that I'm tired of it. I'm tired of having to give an explanation for Philosophy, which is the discipline of Explanation Itself. I'm not tired of students, by the way, who are excited about learning and making a better life for themselves. No, I'm tired of those who demand such an explanation. I'm tired of those who should know better, and who make decisions about our programs which are contrary to right reason and economic feasibility.

Philosophy matters; Everyone should study it. To not understand this is to express the worst of all ignorance, or the most depraved of all values. I think that's a fairly exclusive dilemma. For someone to even disagree with me would require them to provide some explanation or argument, and at that point they're using what they are trying to refute. To undermine the value of Philosophy is itself to make a value choice--to see some value in the discipline itself--if only to minimize it and use it as a tool to further their own agenda.

All too often, university administrators focus on the superficial issues, follow the shiny trinkets and changes of culture, or obsess about quantifying over "skill-sets" (whatever that means). Yet we have forgotten why our culture has advanced at all, and what it truly means to be educated (If you think science is the answer, it would do you well to remember what the scientific method actually is. That's a discussion for another day.).

This forgetful attitude has trickled into every aspect of our society, and even affects the attitudes of our current legislators. For example, consider the following letter by Julie Rine, who teaches Honors English classes at Minerva High School in Ohio: A Letter to Gov. Kasich.

In her letter, Rine expresses confusion about Kasich's proposal that all teachers applying for a license should get some “on-site work experience with a local business or chamber of commerce…[because] it would help teachers get a better idea for what jobs are available to students and what skills employers need.”

After her opening summary, Rine offers the obvious truism that every teacher already knows:

"Governor, even if your proposal does not become a requirement, you don’t need to worry. Teachers know the skills that employers value, whether the job requires a college degree or not: a willingness to work hard, to ask for clarification if a job expectation is unclear, to show up on time, to demonstrate respect when speaking to others, to take initiative and go beyond basic expectations, to work just as hard whether under direct supervision or alone, to accept criticism, to work well with others, to communicate effectively in person, on the phone, or through email. Armed with these skills, a person can be trained in any job from making a pizza to governing a state. Teachers don’t need to shadow a business person to understand what skills make a good employee. We know what those skills are.

And you know what? We already teach those skills.

...Governor, your proposal indicates that you think teachers are in the dark about life after high school. Frankly, we think you are in the dark about life in the classroom." 

This letter could be ever so slightly adjusted and directed towards university administrators, those with and without PhDs, who have forgotten what we do in the classroom, and for what a university education is designed (Hint: it's not for giving people "job skills").

Until administrations and students stop asking about the ROI issue, and focus more on the ROL ("Return on Life") that education is supposed to offer, then we can expect to see continued losses in university enrollment, losses in the arts and sciences, diminished cultural awareness, confusion, petty disagreements, and increased unrest and unhappiness.

Take a Philosophy class.
It's never too late to learn how to think...

Spread the word! Spring 2018 classes...

Undergraduate Conference Opportunities

Students, check out these great opportunities to take your work to the next level!  There are several conferences going on, in a variety of places.  The AU Philosophy Dept. strongly encourages student research, and if you get accepted, we might be able to extend you some funding.

Be sure to take note of the submission deadlines.  Good luck!


Friday, August 25, 2017

Ashland Religion News: Fall Lectures - Mending America

Ashland Religion News: Fall Lectures - Mending America: There is an exciting series of public lectures at Ashland University in September and October that all--in their own way--address the seemin...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ashland Science News: Lecture commemorates 50th anniversary of Science a...

Below is a link to the AU Science blog, which discusses the recent lecture by Dr. Allan Brandt, sponsored in part by the Philosophy Department, Philosophy Club, and Phi Sigma Tau!

Ashland Science News: Lecture commemorates 50th anniversary of Science a...: Prof. William Vaughan introducing Dr. Allan Brandt of Harvard University A lecture presented by Dr. Allan M. Brandt,  Kass Profess...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Material Success!

On Tuesday, February 27, Dr. Kevin Sharpe, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Religious Studies at St. Cloud State University, MN, delivered his talk titled:

“Can a materialist believe in the incarnation?”

The talk was well attended, and Dr. Sharpe skillfully explained the major issues involved in making sense of a materialist view of humanity in conjunction with a Christian picture of the incarnation.

Students and faculty were challenged to evaluate some difficult metaphysical scenarios.  One of the highlights of the afternoon was Dr. Sharpe's challenge to himself, which was to address two of the more complex objections against his view [click link below]:

After the talk, there was a lively and in-depth Q&A session.  All in all, the talk was a success, and gave our students a different way to think about matters concerning the Incarnation.

Thank you again to Dr. Sharpe for his time and commitment!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Upcoming Speaker!

The Philosophy Department, in conjunction with the Philosophy Club and Phi Sigma Tau, are proud to invite Dr. Kevin Sharpe, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Religious Studies at St. Cloud State University, MN, who will be delivering a talk on the following topic:

“Can a materialist believe in the incarnation?”

When: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 4 pm
Where: Schar Ronk Lecture Hall

In his own words: "As a Christian I believe that the divine Son of God became incarnate and in so doing became human, but I also believe that human persons are wholly material substances – specifically, I believe that human persons are animals.  But it seems like it’s impossible for both of these claims to be true.  The problem is straightforward: if human persons are wholly material substances, then in becoming human the Son of God became a material substance and this seems impossible.  After all, isn’t it impossible for a wholly immaterial being to become a wholly material substance?  In this talk, I’ll critically review some of the main reasons for thinking that the divine Son could not become a material substance and I’ll argue that my preferred account of human persons provides an independently plausible way of addressing these objections.  In addressing these objections, I hope to take an important step toward showing that materialists with commitments like mine can also believe in the incarnation."

All are welcome!  Join us for a lively discussion!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Philosophy IS cool...

Descartes and Hegel: Two of the Cool

Philosophy has always been useful, and practical, and theoretical too.  It also has always been cool...People just forget about that part.  The staff at the Houston Chronicle were able to sit down with Professor Gwen Bradford, her department chair Donald Morrison, and Peter Zuk, a graduate student at Rice University, to discuss the joys of philosophy.

"On the NBC sitcom "The Good Place," a young woman dies and gets an undeserved ticket to heaven. Once there, she enlists the help of a philosophy professor to teach her to become — belatedly — a good person. It's not just a shtick: Aristotle, David Hume and others, including the modern philosopher T.M. Scanlon, get not just name-checks but actual discussion."

To read the full article: CLICK HERE

By the way, if you want a philosopher's take on what it means to be cool, you can check out this article from Philosophy Now by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein: 

What Does It Mean to Be Cool?