Friday, October 19, 2018

Ashland University to Host ‘An Evening with C.S. Lewis’

On Nov. 15, David Payne will be performing “An Evening with C.S. Lewis” at 7 p.m. in Myers Convocation Center on the Ashland University campus. The event, which is part of AU’s Faith and Society lecture series, is free and open to the public.

Titled “An Evening with C.S. Lewis (My Life’s Journey),” this drama production has proved to be an enthralling theatrical experience for the many thousands who have attended the more than 500 performances. Full of humor, it is a fascinating and enthralling insight into the life of a man who became a legend in his own lifetime. Indeed, it is a testimony to the ongoing visibility of this great British author that this production shows no sign of slowing down

To see a sample of Payne's performance, click here!

An Evening with C.S. Lewis begins with the year being 1963 and C.S. Lewis, the famous British author, is in the twilight years of his life and has agreed to give an informal talk to a group of American writers who are visiting England. They have come to Lewis’ home, just outside of Oxford, and are eagerly anticipating hearing the man whose books have brought him worldwide fame. They are not disappointed. Lewis is in great form and his audience is spellbound as, with a display of oratory and humor that made him one of England’s most famous public speakers, he recounts the significant events and the people that shaped his life. An Evening with C.S. Lewis takes you into the unique world of a man who lived a simple life in a modest house on the outskirts of the city of Oxford from where he wrote many best sellers including the famous Narnia Chronicles.

Payne’s first encounter with C.S. Lewis was when, as a teenager, he was given a copy of Lewis’ best-selling book, Screwtape Letters. Little did he realize that some 40 years later he would be gaining a reputation for his portrayals of its famous author. It all started with an audition notice in a theatrical production to be staged at Nashville’s prestigious Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in 1996 -- “Auditions for Shadowlands, British accents a help!”

Payne, who had never been on stage before but who did have a British accent, decided to audition hoping for a minor part. He staggered everybody including himself when he won the lead role of C.S. Lewis. The TPAC production sold out, Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham flew in for the opening night and director Sylvia Boyd said of Payne afterwards, “I took a chance on someone who had never acted before but was rewarded with a performance of great power and sensitivity – I felt we had found the real C.S. Lewis.”

During rehearsals for Shadowlands, Payne was given a copy of A Grief Observed, Lewis’ diary of grief following the death of his American wife, Joy. Captivated by the brutal honesty of a man bearing his soul, Payne memorized the whole book and then adapted it into a one-man show, Mist in the Mourning. Premiered at TPAC, where all three performances sold out, he then toured this production extensively throughout the U.S. Following these performances, Payne was very often peppered with lots of questions about C.S. Lewis. He was always very happy to answer these questions and then one day, a thought struck him -- “Wouldn’t it be fun if Lewis himself could answer these questions.” That’s when he wrote An Evening with C.S. Lewis, basing the show around the questions that people kept asking and the pivotal occurrences in Lewis’ life. It is now his flagship production.

This will be the fifth lecture in the Faith and Society Lecture Series, which is designed to give AU students the ability to hear experts discuss critical topics of faith and its implications in contemporary society. The Hilda Bretzlaff Foundation is the sponsor for the lecture series.

Those with questions regarding the event can contact Dr. Mark Hamilton, associate professor of philosophy, at or 419.606.0197.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Why We Should Require Philosophy

Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, explains why everyone at university should take (at least) two philosophy courses.  It's worth considering for a variety of reasons.  To read the short article, click on the link below:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Essay Contest Winners

Image result for the thinker 

The Philosophy Club, in conjunction with Phi Sigma Tau, sponsored an essay competition this year.

We requested short essays that clearly argued for a philosophical position or thesis, between 1,000 and 1,500 words (around 3 pages).  Essays were blind-reviewed and independently ranked by the faculty of the Philosophy Department.

We would like to congratulate this year's winners:

1. Matthew Reising, "On the Nature of Truth: Morality and the Scientific Method"
2. Meagan Kemmerer, "Alvin Plantinga's O Felix Culpa"
3. Zula Kile, "Fear and Trembling"

We also would like to acknowledge our runner-up essays:

4. Dennis Clark, "American Rootlessness"
5. Jacob Nestle, "Be Good"

The winners will receive cash prizes of $400, $200, and $100, respectively.

We anticipate that this will become an annual event, and that we will be able to publish the essays in a Philosophy pamphlet, to be distributed to the winners and others on campus.

Image result for philosophy pics

2018-19 PHI SIGMA TAU 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 2018-2019 academic year:


Caleb Boyer
Chad Buckel
Madeleine Emholtz
Zula Kile
Kilee Kimmel
Jacob Nestle
Sarah Rayman
Matthew Reising
Madeline Sluss


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Philosophy T-Shirts!

The AU Philosophy Club has finally designed a t-shirt, featuring our club mascot, Redgie the Hedgie.  For those who put in their orders, the shirts are available.  For those who are interested but didn't order, we printed a small surplus in a variety of sizes!  So come see or contact Dr. Mancha for details.

(, x 5894)

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 distinguished 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!