• Hendrix College

    Wednesday Afternoon Discussions

  • What are they about?

    Conversations in the Liberal Arts happen every Wednesday Afternoon (4:10pm-5:10pm) in Ellis Hall. Informal discussions include a variety of topics such as politics, literature, social issues, scientific questions, as well as religion and philosophy.  

    Fall 2020 Schedule

    Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

    Steel Center Scholars Discuss Dehumanization

    Previously This Year

    Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

    “Winner-Take-All Democracy: The 2020 Election and Beyond”

    Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

    What, if anything, is race?

    Beliefs about race seep into almost every corner of our lives. But despite its pervasiveness and its implications for human lives, few of us ever pause to consider what, exactly, race is supposed to be. What are we talking about when we talk about race? In this conversation, I’m going to tease out the core elements of the ordinary conception of race. It’s the view of race that most of us just slip into when going about the everyday business of life. It’s a conception that we take so thoroughly for granted that don’t even question it. But to understand dehumanization we’ve got to open that Pandora’s box, because beliefs and about race lie at the heart of the dehumanizing process. 

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    David Livingstone Smith is Professor of Philosophy at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He has written or edited nine books, including Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others (St. Martin's Press, 2011), which won the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf award for nonfiction and his latest book, On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It. His work has been translated into seven languages. David is an interdisciplinary scholar, whose publications are cited not only by other philosophers, but also by historians, legal scholars, psychologists, and anthropologists. He has been featured in several prime-time television documentaries, is often interviewed and cited in the national and international media, and was a guest at the 2012 G20 economic summit, where he spoke about dehumanization and mass violence.


    Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

    The Intersection of Race and Nature

    Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

    On the Ramayana: Unpacking the Most Influential Narrative Epic in Human History

    Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

    J. G. Fichte and the Politics of Recognition 

    Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

    Reflections on Change 


    Wednesday, September 11th, 2020


    Wednesday, September 4th, 2020

    Polarization in American Christianity 

    Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

     America on the Jericho Road: A Conversation about Neighbors and Compassion

    The tensions in America are great. Individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds are experiencing a personal internal conflict or interpersonal conflict.  The context in which we live is fraught with difficulties. Compassion represents a very human and deep activity which places an individual in the storm of another individual's experience. We are traveling on a difficult road and we will be afforded the experience to demonstrate compassion to the other. Who is our neighbor today? How are we to respond? What will it cost us? 

    Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

    The Case for Beauty: Theological Aesthetics for an Ecological Age

    In Christian theology, natural beauty has occupied many roles, from comforting pilgrims on their earthly journey to offering a bridge to the divine. Come explore what role beauty might have today in a world of climate change and anxiety.

    Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

    Gratitude and the Good Life: Insights from Epicureanism 

    How can cultivating an attitude of gratitude about your life and the goods it contains help you to have a happier, more pleasurable life? The ancient Greek philosophy of Epicureanism suggests that regularly practicing gratitude has many benefits: It provides resources to cope more easily with setbacks and hardship; it encourages you to maintain a sense of perspective about your desires; and it helps you to come to terms with your inevitable death. More than that, it may make you a better friend and a more generous person in general. In this talk, I explore the roles for gratitude in Epicurean philosophy and how we might apply those lessons to our lives today.

    Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

    What Do I Love When I Love the Earth? Religion and Emotion in the Anthropocene 

    As climate change forces us to reevaluate humanity’s place on the earth, we ought also to reimagine the religious and affective ways we relate to nature. How might our hopes and fears about the future of the planet change how we understand religion?

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

    Standing Up and Social Shaming in a Free Society

    Today’s social media gives us great power to stand up publicly for our own values, a prized good in a free society. What happens, however, when it becomes popular to stand up for one’s position by publicly shaming others for theirs?  Is this a good or bad thing for advancing free speech and should we care?

    Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

    Ecological Virtue and Vice in Chinese Buddhism 

    Ecological self-understanding is veridical recognition of human beings as embodied agents in the world, situated within interdependent relations between self and environment. I propose that ecological self-understanding is an epistemic virtue that can be identified in multiple wisdom traditions across cultures, including those found in Buddhism and its now global diaspora around the world. Here I will investigate to what extent this virtue is identifiable in East Asian Buddhism, with emphasis on forms of Buddhism in China. On the confirming side of this investigation, I will discuss how Buddhism's relational ontology and notion of dependent origination align with ecological self-understanding, and more specifically how Chan Buddhist understanding of karma in terms of transformative intentional agency is especially well-suited to the cultivation of ecological self-understanding. However, there are also relevant concerns that can challenge whether Buddhism in East Asia fully exhibits this virtue. For example, there are animal release practices (known as 'fangsheng' in China) that are performed with the intention of cultivating positive karma but which actually harm the environment, and the pursuit of transcendent salvation in some forms of Pure Land Buddhism stands in stark contrast with the embodied relationality that is central to an ecological understanding of one's presence in the world. With these considerations in mind, I conclude that East Asian Buddhism exhibits a spectrum of virtue and vice in relation to ecological self-understanding. 

    Wednesday, February 4th, 2020

    Envisioning a Tibetan Luminary: Reflections on Fieldwork, Translation, and Interpretation of a (Possibly) Buddhist Biography 

    In this talk, Dr. Gorvine will share reflections upon his new book, Envisioning a Tibetan Luminary: The Life of a Modern Bönpo Saint, and discuss how the project reflected several different dimensions of experience and research in religious studies.   

    Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

    Interfaith Community in America: Muslim and Christian Journeys 

    A Muslim and Christian discuss the dynamics of Interfaith community in America, as illustrated by the interfaith work of the Madina Mosque in Little Rock, AR.


    Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

    Our Vision For Hendrix: The Liberal Arts for the 21st Century 

    Join us as Dr. Todd Tinsley, Dr. Jennifer Penner and Dr. Toni Jaudon discuss Hendrix College's future and where the Liberal Arts will go for the 21st century. 

    Led and facilitated by Dr. James Dow.

    Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

    Clean Air & Energy: A Turning Point

    Our state and nation’s energy production is changing rapidly. Sierra Club Director, Glen Hooks gives an overview of how and why these changes are happening and discusses what it means for our future as we embrace solar and wind energy. His thesis: these changes are important and valuable enough that they will transcend partisan politics and radically transform our nation.

    Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

    Transformation Through Narratives: A Self-Retrospective Discipline

    There is power in personal narratives. Narratives are essential to how we understand ourselves, make sense of the world, and give meaning to our lives. It ultimately leads to life transformation. Each person has many stories to share; stories we tell ourselves and others about our identity, our past experiences, and our anticipation for what the future will be. The speaker will share his own spiritual journey and challenge everyone to utilize their narratives to transform lives. 

    Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

    The Virtues of Aesthetic Conversation

    This is a conversation about conversation. Our discussions about aesthetic matters are complex, and we often end up in disagreements–about which tv shows are good and why, which bands are best, how to decorate the apartment, what food to serve and how to cook it, and so on. What are the virtues of aesthetic conversation? What are we aiming at when we have such discussions?

    Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

    Theorizing #MeToo: On The Political Importance of Being-With

    MeToo represents an important political development. Yet the connection between MeToo and feminist theory remains ambiguous. This moment presents an opportunity to craft a democratic theory that values the role of the Other as constitutive of Being.     

    Wednesday, October 23th, 2019

    Four Worlds as One: An Andean Reading ofNeoplatonic Metaphysics

    The indigenous peoples of the Andes mountains in South America have a way of life that involves a reciprocal relationship between all existent things. The living and the dead depend on ritual practices providing nourishment, conversation, and creativity in order to sustain each other. These rituals are practiced as part of a metaphysical view comprised of four separate worlds (pachas). The four worlds are linked together as one single phenomenon. Neoplatonism also contains a similar view that all reality is linked together. In procession and reversion all reality comes forth from the One and ultimately returns to it. However, in this unfolding we do not have temporally subsequent events, as if the effect first proceeds from its cause and then becomes what it is by reverting. Procession and reversion are both effects of the cause—the One—and as such are not occurring in temporal succession. Now Andean thought does not contain a metaphysical understanding of these pachas coming forth—by emanation—from a first principle. However, the linkage between all things can be read similarly in Neoplatonism. That is, by reading procession and reversion through the lens of Andean metaphysics I show how all things are linked, thus giving credence to the role of rituals in each differing metaphysical scheme. Moreover, by coming forth from the One all things contain relevance and importance in dependence on each other. By entering into the practices of procession and reversion one fulfills the goal of Neoplatonism—returning to the One.

    Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

    THE DEATH PENALTY: Is Retributive Justice Just?

    Whatever the success or failure of the death penalty in deterring the most heinous crimes, many people still feel that there is a deep, significant truth to the principle “a life for a life” and that honoring this truth is the only way to bring justice to the victims of murder and their families. Others argue that killing killers is just exchanging one murder for another murder, multiplying the injustices done. Who is right and why?

    Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

    Discourse of Opening-Up and Reform: An Ontology of Special Economic Zones in Modern China

    This presentation provides an analysis of several threshold documents that initiate the political-economic discourse of "Opening-up and Reform" in contemporary China. Brasovan uses Michel Foucault's philosophy of discourse as a method for analyzing and disclosing the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary Chinese economy with a particular focus on the creation of the "Special Economic Zone" of Shenzhen.

    Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

    Getting Some Perspective on Perspectives

    Perspectives talk is ubiquitous in philosophy. The notion of a perspective is employed in discussions of phenomena as varied as self-consciousness, higher-order knowledge, agency, practical rationality, and epistemic rationality. Usages such as the “first person perspective,” “the perspective of the agent,” and “an epistemic perspective” are familiar enough that it is easy to forget that these locutions employ the concept of perspective as a metaphor. I argue that the use of the perspective metaphor has non-trivial implications for how these phenomena are conceptualized. I begin with a brief discussion of what metaphors are and how they work, focusing on ontological metaphors. I then argue that there are two concepts of a perspective that serve as distinct source domains for perspective metaphors: an indexical objective (IO) perspective, and a holistic interpretative (HI) perspective. These source domains form the basis for quite different ways of conceptualizing phenomena in the target domain. In the final section, I apply this analysis to a particular context where perspective metaphors are frequently employed: that of the first person perspective. Each of these source domains suggests different problems and possibilities in thinking about the first person perspective.

    Led by Sharon Mason

    Friday, September 27th, 2019

    The Best Hendrix Major For Getting A Job

    Should you major in business, Spanish, or biochemistry? Want to be employed after graduation? Find out which Hendrix majors provide the best routes to good jobs.

    Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

    Camus, Existentialism, and The Absurd

    Albert Camus agrees with Jean-Paul Sartre that we are “condemned to be free,” but departs from Sartre as he posits this our freedom as opportunity.  While we might struggle despairingly in an absurd world endeavoring to create meaning, we can also struggle joyfully, for as Camus says, “the struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a [man’s’ heart.”  This talk will address the notion of taking up our tasks—in a world that is, according to Camus, absurd—with joy.

    Wednesday, September 1st, 2019

    Are The Liberal Arts The Liberating Arts?

    Dr. Dow, Associate Professor of Philosophy, will lead a discussion on the question: Are the Liberal Arts the Liberating Arts? And discuss this recommended reading Peter Stuber's "Becoming Free". Refreshments provided and all are welcome.

    led by Dr. James Dow


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