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?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Episteme Journal: Call for Papers

Students, here's another opportunity to do some Philosophy and show off what you have been working on in your classes.  If you are working on a thesis, or project, it's also a great venue for getting some external feedback.  Get it done!

For more information, or to download a volume of the journal, you can click on the following link: Episteme Journal

Thursday, November 3, 2016

OPA Undergraduate Call for Papers!

Students, this year the Ohio Philosophical Association will offer special student sessions at the annual meeting!  This is a great opportunity to do some work and get involved at the academic level.  If you're interested, take note of the deadline and conditions below.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Do Atoms Exist?

Most of us in this day and age consider our belief in atoms as old news in the ontology of the universe.  Why would we ever question their existence?  Yet if you think carefully about the history of science, the principles of induction, and the practical evidence we have available to us, we ought to wonder for just a moment: Why do we believe that atoms exist?  More specifically, what evidence do you have--your average educated person--for belief in the existence of atoms?

Imagine that you’re back in 1860, at the first international Karlsruhe Congress.  The topic then was whether in fact atoms existed or not.  The players: Mendeleev, Meyer, and a series of other big name scientists in the history of chemistry.  During this time, you have to remember, chemistry, along with many of the other sciences, was in a state of complete transition.  Most chemists believed in atoms and molecules, of course, but nobody could agree about their formulation or could give rational justification for their existence.  Consider for example, that in 1860 chemists didn’t even agree about the molecular formula of water, with many leading chemists believing at the time that water’s molecular formula was OH, and not H2O.

So seriously, why do we believe that atoms exist?  Let’s think about this.  Why do you believe that atoms exist?  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Philosophy Opportunity

Philosophy students, if you would like an opportunity to get some experience doing academic philosophy, consider being a reviewer for the undergraduate journal STANCE.  See the information below.


An International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal


Stance seeks undergraduate philosophy students to serve as external reviewers. This is an exciting pre-professional learning opportunity. Reviewers hone their writing, researching, and reviewing skills by collaborating with a groundbreaking journal. Reviewers must have advanced undergraduate experience in philosophy, strengths in writing and editing, and the self-motivation necessary to complete work by given deadlines. As such, in addition to this application form, one letter of recommendation is required.

Chosen reviewers will be given one of two opportunities. Most will be External Reviewers and will be responsible for reviewing one or two papers in early January. A few will be selected to serve as Assistant Editorial Board members on our review teams. Assistant Editorial Board members will read and review approximately 20 papers in December. All reviewers receive training material that explains what is expected in the review of each submission. Reviewers will also be credited in both the print and electronic versions of the journal.

If you are interested, please provide us with the following information:


Name of School:

Year in School:


Philosophy Courses Taken:

What is your specialty or concentration?

What experience do you have that would qualify you for this project?

What goals do you have that working on Stance will support?

What, in your opinion, are the makings of a good philosophy paper?

Students should:

(1) return this application to (include "External Reviewer Application" as the subject heading) and

(2) arrange for a philosophy professor to send a letter of recommendation to (include "LOR" as the subject heading for recommendation letter). These can be found at

For more information, see

Deadline: October 21, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Killing for one's "Best Interests"

The distinction between killing (act) and letting die (omission) is nuanced and controversial in ethics.  It divides theorists into many different camps given its potential application and implications in medical scenarios.  On the other hand, Trolley Problem cases appear purely theoretical.  More often than not, testing our moral intuitions by thinking about whether we'll pull a lever or push someone onto some railroad tracks appears useless...interesting sometimes, but not really helpful.

What if we combined the issues, however?  In a recent paper, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (31 August 2016), Dr Zoe B. Fritz of Warwick University proposes a way to determine whether we should actively kill an "incapacitous patient", i.e., a patient that is in a permanent vegetative state, in order to harvest their organs.  Is it possible to evaluate what the "best interests" of that patient might be in order to make this decision?  Dr. Fritz suggests the use of trolley problem scenarios to help answer this question.


"In this paper, I explore under what circumstances it might be morally acceptable to transplant organs from a patient lacking capacity. I argue, with a developed hypothetical based around a mother and son, that (1) ‘Best interests’ should be interpreted broadly to include the interests that people have previously expressed in the well-being of others. It could, therefore, be in the ‘best interests’ of an unconscious patient to donate a non-vital organ to a family member. (2) Further expanding upon this case, and developing a variation on the ‘trolley problems’ I argue that where it is inevitable that an incapacitous patient is going to die—and specifically when it has been agreed through the courts that a patient in a permanent vegetative state is going to have clinically assisted nutrition and hydration withdrawn (with the inevitable consequence of death, and causing desiccation of the organs such that they are no longer able to be donated)—it could be in a patient's best interests to actively end their life with a drug that would stop the heart both to minimise potential suffering and in order to be able to have vital organs donated. I argue that in this case the strict adherence to the distinction between acts and omissions is not in the patient's best interests and should be reconsidered."

To read the full article, click HERE

Friday, August 26, 2016

STEM and 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