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.
Wednesday, April 28th, 2021
"Aesthetic Sustainability and Intergenerational Environmental Aesthetics"
Natural environments are undergoing rapid change globally. Anthropogenic change becomes experienced for example in the form of changes in landscapes and weather conditions. In environmental aesthetics, this change has been examined through recognizing a break in how we experience or assess environments and what we know of them and the reasons behind the change. Anthropogenic environmental change is thus approached through changes in the perceivable, aesthetic qualities of environments. However, also more nuanced understanding of the process of the change in values themselves is needed. This talk will present the concept of aesthetic sustainability and discuss how it is linked to the idea of intergenerational aesthetics. In philosophy, intergenerational thinking in general emphasizes taking into consideration the perspective of the future generations. Besides future human generations, decisions made today affect also the multitude of non-human species. As examples of friction between changing aesthetic values and the features of familiar environments, this talk will present some different types of traditional landscapes, that are undergoing significant change in how they are valued. This will illustrate the idea that some values sustain while others change from one generation to another.
Wednesday, April 21st, 2021
"Secular Adaptations of Buddhist Meditation Practices: Mindfulness, Emotional Balance and Compassion"
In recent years there has been an increasing interest in meditation. In response to this, numerous secular meditation programs have been developed that draw their inspiration from traditional Buddhist meditation practices. In this presentation, Dr. Gitchel will give a basic overview of this trend and will highlight three areas that have been targeted in secular meditation programs: Mindfulness, Emotional Balance and Compassion Cultivation. An overview of these topics will be presented, including brief descriptions on how they are defined and cultivated and how they relate back to traditional Buddhist concepts. Three short experiential exercises will be imbedded in this presentation, and there will be an opportunity for questions.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2021
“Creativity in Creation”
“In this paper, I highlight several ways in which the world-actualization model of creation (WAM) is in tension with divine creativity. First, I introduce three types of creative thought processes described by Margaret Boden and argue the God of WAM fails to exhibit any of them. Next I explore ways to ease the tension between divine creativity and the world-actualization model. I then consider potential transformations of WAM that might be friendlier to divine creativity, but conclude that it is difficult to maintain divine creativity in conjunction with WAM. Finally, I offer three desiderata to keep in mind in the search for a creative model of creation.” – Dr. Meghan Page
Wednesday, March 31st, 2021
“Games and Gamification”
If we understand why games are great, we’ll understand why gamification is terrible. Games give us the pleasures of value clarity, by giving us a temporary world where our purposes are clear, and our abilities fit our goals. Gamification promises us that pleasure in the real world – by changing and simplifying the goals of our real-life activities.
Previously This Year
Steel Center Visiting Scholar Dr. Reggie Williams to Speak at Two Online Events, March 17 and 18
Hendrix College welcomes expert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer
CONWAY, Ark. (March 9, 2021) — The Marshall T. Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy at Hendrix College welcomes Reggie Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of Christian ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary, as its Steel Center Visiting Scholar for 2021. His visit will occur remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions; nevertheless, he will speak at two Hendrix-based events, both of which are free and open to the public:
· Wednesday Afternoon Discussion/Virtuous Conversations Series, 4:10 to 5:10 p.m. CDT: “Learning to Be Troubled: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Experience in Harlem”
· Steel Center Lecture on Thursday, March 18, 2021, 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. CDT: “What Killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer?”
Dr. Williams’ book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Baylor University Press, 2014) was selected as a Choice Outstanding Title in 2015 in the field of religion. The book analyzes German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s exposure to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals, and worship at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, during his year of post-doctoral study at Union Seminary in New York, 1930-31. Williams will focus on this particular time in Bonhoeffer’s life, and how it influenced his resistance of the Nazi regime, for the content of the Wednesday Afternoon Discussion.
In addition to Bonhoeffer, Williams’ research interests include Christological ethics, theological anthropology, Christian social ethics, the Harlem Renaissance, race, politics and black church life. His current book project includes a religious critique of whiteness in the Harlem Renaissance. In addition, he is working on a book analyzing the reception of Bonhoeffer by liberation activists in apartheid South Africa.
Williams received his Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2011. He earned a master’s degree in theology from Fuller in 2006 and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Westmont College in 1995. He is a member of the board of directors for the Society for Christian
Ethics, as well as the International Dietrich Bonhoeffer Society. He is also a member of the American Academy of Religion and Society for the Study of Black Religion.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the kind of German the Nazis considered ideal. Yet, he was also among the earliest German voices of opposition. Nazis became genocidal. How did Bonhoeffer see the evil, so early? He learned to be troubled by white supremacy, in New York,1930-31.
Wednesday, March 10th, 2021
Hegel’s Concept of Life
In the Western philosophical tradition, there are few who rival Hegel’s status as an arch-rationalist, for whom reason rules the world. Although this reputation is not entirely unfounded, I contend that many have overlooked the basis of Hegel’s rationalism, namely, an organic conception of life. For Hegel, the activity of reason grows out of the activity of life, and there are even certain general features of living activity that have bearing on how we think about logic. Understanding the essential connection between life and reason offers a powerful way to rethink the significance of philosophical rationalism, and moreover, provides new insight into Hegel’s relationship to his contemporaries as well as his ongoing philosophical legacy. – Dr. Karen Ng
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021
The Shape of Agency
The Shape of Agency develops, over the course of the book, views on control, non-deviant causation, intentional action, skill, and knowledgeable action. The result is, I hope, a satisfying picture of the shape of agency. In this talk I will offer a brief sketch of that picture, by introducing some of the main themes of the book and how they fit together.
Wednesday, February 24th, 2021
Wednesday, February 10th, 2021
Video Games, Violence, and the Ethics of Fantasy: Killing Time
Many video games allow players to commit numerous violent and immoral acts, like sexual assault, theft, and murder. This begs the question, should players worry about the morality of their virtual actions? A common argument that gamers often use is that games offer merely the virtual representation of violence. It cannot be morally wrong to perform such acts because no one is actually harmed by committing a virtual act in a game. While this is an intuitive defense, it does not resolve the issue. Some representations in games are genuinely disturbing and invite moral revulsion. Video Games, Violence, and the Ethics of Fantasy approaches these issues by examining recent debates in philosophical aesthetics over the ethical criticism of works of art. Ultimately, video games are works of fiction that enable players to entertain a fantasy and a full understanding of the ethical criticism of video games must focus attention on why individual players are motivated to entertain immoral and violent fantasies. Indeed, video games raise a general and important philosophical question: is it ever morally wrong to enjoy fantasizing about immoral things?
Wednesday, November 18th, 2020
Steel Center Scholars Discuss Dehumanization
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.
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