Friday, August 26, 2016

Teaching Kids Philosophy

Philosophers have always known that logic, critical thinking, and proper value judgements are the foundations of a productive and educated society.  Every discipline that we teach at university requires them.  Every practical life skill benefits from them.

Yet in our current academic climate, which puts "marketable" skills and economic efficiency above liberal education, Philosophy programs are being whittled down and judged as impractical.  Focus on STEM programs has become the new norm, to the exclusion of the liberal arts.

"Schools face relentless pressure to up their offerings in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. Few are making the case for philosophy."

In the following article (linked below), a case is made for bringing Philosophy back to its proper role, especially among middle school children:

"Kids who took the [philosophy] course increased math and reading scores by the equivalent of two extra months of teaching, even though the course was not designed to improve literacy or numeracy. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds saw an even bigger leap in performance: reading skills increased by four months, math by three months, and writing by two months. Teachers also reported a beneficial impact on students’ confidence and ability to listen to others."

[Continue Reading]

Monday, August 1, 2016

2016-2017 PST Inductees!

Ashland University's PHI SIGMA TAU, Ohio Mu Chapter, honors students who have demonstrated academic excellence in philosophy.  Membership is by invitation, based on significant academic achievement.  We would like to present the new members for the 2016-2017 academic year:


Logan Darsee
Melissa Haber
Morgan Harrison
Clayton Hrinko
Bethany Schlemmer
Sebastian Vidika
Tucker Wilkinson

Congratulations to our new (and returning) members!  Have a great semester! 


Monday, June 13, 2016

New Technology for an Old Dilemma

Most philosophers are familiar with the Trolley Problem.  It's a theoretical scenario where our moral intuitions are tested: Can we provide a moral reason to distinguish between pulling a lever to divert a threat, or actively putting a person in harm's way to prevent a worse consequence?  Is there a moral difference between intentions and consequences in these situations?  Does it matter?  How do we make sense of the conflict of moral intuitions and values that your average person feels when evaluating these cases? 

There are a few conditions to keep in mind when evaluating the Trolley Problem:

1.  The question to ask is, “What is the best or moral thing to do in the situation?”  

2.  We should recognize that this is a thought experiment, and the option is forced.  So you can’t try to get out of the experiment. 

3.  You do not know the people on the tracks.  Such knowledge is a game changer, and may significantly alter the way you think about the situation.

Although the Trolley Problem was conceived as a thought experiment, its application has become more prevalent in the areas of psychology and computer technology (among others).  Below are some links that explore more practical reasons for considering the morality of our intuitions in these "lesser of evil" type situations.

Here's a video on the traditional problem:

Virtual reality and neuroimaging are helping us discover what goes through our heads when we decide.
A. New Technology for an Old Dilemma

Driverless cars will (hopefully) be programmed to avoid collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles. They will also be programmed to protect the safety of their passengers. What happens in an emergency when these two aims come into conflict?

B. The Problem of Self-Driving Cars 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dr. Moser is Taylor Award Winner


The Philosophy Department would like to congratulate Dr. John Moser, Professor of History, on winning this year's Taylor Teaching Award!  Click the link to read more! 

 Ashland University College of Arts

Monday, March 28, 2016

Upcoming FALL 2016 Classes!

The End is Near!  Take a Philosophy Class Before It’s Too Late…
Check out these great Fall 2016 courses!

Phil 311: History of Ancient & Medieval Philosophy
Dr. Louis Mancha [TTh 12:15-1:30 pm]

This course will evaluate some of the basic theories and problems of Ancient and Medieval philosophy. We will study Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas primarily, but will have the opportunity to evaluate some Pre-Socratic thinkers and a few selections from Boethius, Scotus, and Ockham. The major topics to be covered will include the nature of being and substance, Platonism vs. nominalism, modality, causality, truth, free will, & evil.

Phil 318: Topics in Philosophy—Aesthetics
Dr. William Vaughan [TTh 9:25-10:40 am]

What is art? Are some works of art better than others? Does art have as much claim to truth as other fields?  In trying to answer these questions, this course takes a traditional approach in reviewing some major classical (post-Kantian) expressions of aesthetics, and their standard arguments and objections. This course satisfies a core humanities requirement.

Phil 330: Readings in Love & Friendship
Dr. Mark Hamilton [MWF 10-10:50 am]

If your boyfriend says to you, “I love you,” how should you respond?  Should you ask him to define his terms? This is a course on love, the highest expression of human affections. What is love? What have great minds and great lovers said about love? We will explore what thinkers such as Solomon, Plato, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Sartre, and others have said about this deepest of human emotions. After reading these classic works you should be able to unravel the confusion of your boyfriend or girlfriend’s utterances. If you are not interested in love or the meaning of friendship then please stay clear of this course. Yet if love is something you have been looking for in all the wrong places, then please look for it in one of the right places, specifically, this course! (Which satisfies a core humanities requirement).

COMPLETE YOUR CORE with these offerings!

FALL 2016

Humanities: Phil 210 OL: Phil. of Human Nature, Dr. Tiel
Phil 215: Ethics, Dr. Hamilton or Dr. Mancha
Phil 280D: Bioethics, Dr. Hamilton
Religion:     Phil 217 OL: Thought & Belief, Dr. Tiel


Humanities: Phil 215: Ethics (Sum B), Dr. Mancha

It’s never too late to learn how to think, we hope…

Friday, March 18, 2016

Vagueness was a hit!

Ready to compose...

On Thursday, March 17, Professor Jonathan Parsons delivered his talk on "The Vagueness Argument for Unrestricted Composition", to a well-attended audience.

At first the students were perplexed, and wondered why anyone would believe a theory like this, but quickly they saw both the problems and the solutions that unrestricted composition reveals. Parsons gave a variety of examples to help the students understand why problems concerning vagueness influence our talk about composition and substances.


The presentation generated a healthy Q&A discussion afterwards, and our students were ready to engage our speaker.

The AU Philosophy Dept., Philosophy Club, and Phi Sigma Tau want to thank Prof. Parsons for a wonderful talk, and hope he will have the opportunity to fit us into his schedule in the future!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Show Your AU Pride

The Ashland Fund announces the first Ashland University Day of Giving. Up to $10,000 can be won for different areas across campus based on votes.  A gift to the Ashland Fund on that day allows the person to vote for the area they support.  Throughout the day there be hourly challenges where the winner will receive $1,000 along with an overall winner for the day with the most votes receiving $5,000 for that area.  

Across campus we will be passing out t-shirts to get everyone to show their #AUeaglepride!  We also will have a social media toolkit that will be available on the day of giving website where we hope everyone will change their profile picture and banner picture to show pride in AU. In addition we will have a caption contest where the best caption can win $500 for the area he or she supports and a selfie contest with another $500 on the line.

Click on this link to contribute:

Friday, March 4, 2016

Philosophy Talk on Vagueness

The AU Undergraduate Philosophy Colloquium
proudly presents: 

Prof. Jonathan Parsons
Interim Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Joliet Junior College, IL

The Vagueness Argument for Unrestricted Composition

Thursday, March 17, 2016
3:30-4:30 pm

Ronk Lecture Hall
138 Schar, COE

In metaphysics, unrestricted composition is a position concerning how parts and wholes are related to each other. On this view, composition occurs any time there are disjoint parts and there are no “special conditions” in which this composition takes place; if there are parts then necessarily there is a whole that those parts compose. So, if there is a trout swimming in a river in Alaska and a turkey walking the plains of South Dakota, then the truth of unrestricted composition implies there is an object—a trout-turkey—that is composed of exactly those two parts. Despite the initial feelings of “huh?” one might have towards such a view, the view does have several attractive features. In particular, one attractive feature of unrestricted composition is that it eliminates cases of ontic vagueness by saying that borderline cases of composition are impossible. In this presentation I will discuss a specific kind of vagueness argument for unrestricted composition

Come join us for an intense and
enlightening philosophical discussion! 
Bring your bodies, and your minds get in for free!

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, the AU Philosophy Club and phi sigma tau

Monday, February 8, 2016

Psychology of Reasoning?

This is a useful video which explains the way a conditional is employed in a deductive argument.  It actually reveals very little about the psychology of reasoning, unless the point is to show that most people do not understand the validity of certain forms of argumentation, namely modus ponens, modus tollens, etc.  Who would have questioned that?  Yet if you actually explain the rule, most people can employ it properly.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Spelman to Talk on Moral Luck

Everyone be sure to check out our colloquium next week (after Thanksgiving)!  Our very own alumnus, Jonathan Spelman, will be delivering a talk on moral luck.  Click on the link for more details!

Philosophy Colloquium to be Held at Ashland University