Conversations in the Liberal Arts happen every Friday Afternoon 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 24th, 2019
The Body of Empathy: Can Art Cultivate Empathy?
“Hendrix College cultivates empathy” is the first clause of our statement of purpose. The Ellis art exhibit The Body of Empathy, curated by Dr. Dow and Dr. Lopas, asked the question of whether engaging with art can enable us to cultivate empathy. Dr. Dow will lead a discussion about the aesthetics of portrait paintings, discuss the artworks in the exhibition, and will argue that empathizing with personas and scenes in portrait paintings cultivates empathy in ways that differ from interacting with people and nature.
Led by Dr. James Dow
Wednesday, April 17th, 2019
Debates About Pornography
What are the different objections to pornography? What things can be said in favor of it? One question we’ll want to keep in mind as we discuss pros and cons is whether we can speak of “pornography” in general, or we need to be more specific about the particular kind of pornography in question.
Led by Dr. Anne Eaton from the University of Illinois
Friday, April 12th, 2019
On the Sense in Which Islam Requires More Enlightenment
"As several writers have observed, what contemporary Islam lacks is not so much reformation but enlightenment. Some authors have argued that this advice, however well intentioned, bespeaks of Western arrogance. They point out that Islam has a long and venerable history of religious and legal scholarship. While it is undeniably true that the Muslim world has a long-standing internal practice of scholarly criticism and interpretation, I will argue that there is nevertheless at least one regard in which Islamic scholarship has failed to sufficiently exploit the contemporary possibilities for critical self-understanding. One of the most important of these modern techniques is “scientific” historiography, particularly as described by R.G. Collingwood in his philosophy of history. In the Muslim world, scientific historiography has yet to be fully and systematically applied to thought about human affairs, including religion, law, and politics. In my talk I will endeavor to show how Islamic scholarship involving the hadith (i.e, the body of tradition about the words and deeds of the Prophet and his companions) could benefit from fully adopting the scientific approach to history. I will provide a detailed illustration of this approach by analyzing the Chappaquiddick incident of 1969, the infamous single-vehicle accident involving U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, which resulted in the death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, and forever scuttled his chances of becoming President."
- Dr. Jeff Mitchell
Friday, April 5th, 2019
The Study of Religion: My Fifty Year Journey
Join us as Dr. Harris takes a trip down memory lane revisiting who and what shaped her career, time at Hendrix and her faith. Dr. Harris is retiring at the end of May and we would like to join her in celebrating her career. Alumni are welcome.
Dr. Jane Harris, Professor of Religious Studies leading the discussion
Friday, March 29th, 2019
Strangers and the Land: A Problem of Place and Identity
Drawing from the Torah and Wendell Berry’s agrarianism, this discussion focuses on an apparent tension between two moral priorities: the land ethic and the stranger ethic. Does care for the land run into conflict with welcoming the stranger?
Led by Dr. Dave Daily from the University of the Ozarks
Friday, March 8th, 2019
Race and Bio-cultural Social Groupings
How should we understand, and refer to, reproducing human socio-cultural groupings, historically (in terms of evolution) and contemporarily, if not as “races”?
Led by Dr. Lucius Outlaw, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vanderbilt. Dr. Outlaw specializes in Racial-Matter in Socio-Political life, Africana Philosophy, and Social and Political Philosophy.
Friday, March 1st, 2019
Buying and Selling Your Body: Medicine and Culture in the 21st Century
A discussion of some issues in medical ethics that raise questions about what it mana to "have" a body. Is your body yours? Should it be? Let's talk about it.
Led by Dr. Campolo, Professor of Philosophy at Hendrix College
Friday, February 22nd, 2019
Philosophizing Like A Girl: Or Why Philosophy Needs Intersectional Gender Theory More Than Ever
In 1980, Iris Marion Young published the groundbreaking essay “Throwing Like A Girl” to provide a phenomenology of gendered embodiment and to explain the negative ramifications of sexist gender conformity. In this talk, Duncan will explain how forty years on, the lessons of gender bias, sexist institutions, and restrictive norms of embodiment matter for a responsive critical philosophy in the 21stCentury.
Dr. Taine Duncan of the University of Central Arkansas – leading the discussion
Friday, February 15th, 2019
“On the Border: Integrating Faith, Service, and Call”
Over winter break, Caitlin Camper explored how her faith and her call to service intersect through the framework of immigration. She traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to learn about the daily work done by The Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, a non-profit organization that provides free legal and social service to detained men, women, and children who are under threat of deportation. Outside of working with FIRRP, Camper also visited Eloy Detention Center, witnessed Operational Streamline, and worked with other faith-based organizations that advocate for the rights of immigrants.
Friday, February 8th, 2019
A Second Shot at the Ouachita Trail
During the 2018-2019 winter break, seniors Grant Gartner and Luke Lefler reattempted backpacking the Ouachita National Recreational Trail after failing two years prior in an unsuccessful through-hike. As a Special Projects Odyssey credit, Gartner and Lefler successfully hiked through the one hundred and thirty miles of the Ouachita National Recreational Trail left unfinished from their first hike, completing the trip in 9 days. For the hike, Gartner and Lefler used the works Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzalez, Trying edited by Joshua Shepherd, and Achievement written by Gwen Bradford in application to trials experienced during the hike and in reflection with past failures and successes through hiking the Ouachita Trail. The project culminated in a greater understanding of effort and achievement and a successful completion of the Ouachita Trail.
Friday, February 1st, 2019
Political Theology and White Christian Nationalism
“Political theology treats the way religion and politics cannot be separated in our modern world. This talk discusses the formation of white Christian nationalism in the US.” – Dr. Clayton Crockett
Featuring Dr. Clayton Crockett, Professor and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Central Arkansas
Friday, January 25th, 2019
Why Legal Argumentation Is Not a Good Model for Philosophical Argumentation
Philosophy and jurisprudence are often considered to be of a piece with each other, but there are, I contend, several important dis-analogies between philosophical and legal discourse, such that the ‘jurisprudence’ approach is detrimental to philosophical progress.
Friday, November 30th, 2018
The Becoming of Hendrix: Hopes for the Future
This discussion features five Hendrix Professors that are retiring this year – Jay McDaniel, Jane Harris, Stella Capek, Danny Grace and Joyce Hardin. Join us for an opportunity to listen to their experiences at Hendrix College and their desires for the college’s future. Everyone is welcome and we encourage you to join us for this fun occasion.
Friday, November 9th, 2018
Art as Educator: Why and How
It is often thought that art, and other aesthetic phenomena, can teach us about the world and ourselves, and that artistic and aesthetic activity can help us to learn truths and acquire and develop such knowledge (often in ways that suggest that we could not have accomplished these things via other means). But just how does this happen, exactly, and why? What are some of our reasons for engaging art and other aesthetic phenomena for this sort of purpose? In what ways can art, and other aesthetic phenomena, be morally and epistemically good, and in what ways can they be bad—and how can these different types of value interact (if they can)? Finally, how do different philosophical traditions—such as South or East Asian or European-influenced—address these kinds of questions? This interactive discussion will address these, and other related topics, all depending on audience interest.
Friday, November 1st, 2018
The Forgotten Books of the Bible
While the biblical books of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther serve as festival scrolls in the Jewish tradition, the Christian church has all but forgotten about them. In his book The Forgotten Books of the Bible: Recovering the Five Scrolls for Today, Robert Williamson insists that these books have urgent significance for contemporary life. In this talk, he will present some of the ideas in his book, covering topics ranging from human sexuality to immigration reform to resistance against ethnic nationalism.
Friday, October 26th, 2018
Ecoglogical Self-Understanding: A Cross-Cultural Epistemic Virtue
Dr. Jesse Butler
Cross-cultural analyses often emphasize differences between worldviews. While there are significant differences across the diverse ways that humanity has understood itself, however, the tendency to emphasize differences can obscure important and revealing commonalities between worldviews as well. The goal of this talk is to identify one such commonality among indigenous worldviews and their capacity to address our collective ecological well-being together on planet Earth. Specifically, I will argue that contemporary philosophers Viola Cordova and Tu Weiming exhibit ecological self-understanding as an epistemic virtue in their conceptions of human existence. Ecological self-understanding (ESU) is veridical acknowledgement of human beings as embodied agents in the world, fundamentally situated within interdependent relations between self and environment. As contemporary exemplars of Native American and Confucian philosophy, respectively, Cordova and Tu illustrate how both worldviews exhibit ESU and thereby serve as models toward the cultivation of ecological well-being through their understanding of the human condition.
Friday, October 19th, 2018
How Should Moral Disagreement Inform Health Care Policy?
Dr. Michael Brodrick
“My argument has four parts. First, there is such a thing as - what I call- moral disagreement or moral diversity; second, Western intellectuals have long believed that rational deliberation can eventually eliminate moral disagreement and discover the one true morality that applies to all humans; third, this cherished belief of Western intellectuals is false; fourth, this has important implications for the ethics of health care policy. In particular, health care policy should rely as much as possible on rules that treat different people the same and avoid rules that treat different people differently. In other words, health care policy should be constrained by the Rule of Law and should, whenever possible, avoid legislation and regulation. This amounts to a moral argument for significant reform of the current health care policy landscape in the United States.” – Dr. Michael Brodrick
Friday, October 5th, 2018
In the Midst of the City: The Gospel and God’s Policies
Faith communities are often politically involved, but what shape should such involvement take? The Very Rev. Barkley Thompson's new book God in the Midst of the City: The Gospel and God's Politics argues that the Gospel is never partisan, and that Christian people must immerse themselves in the Gospel as a prelude to determining their social and political commitments. Thompson, who serves as dean of historic Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, will read from his new book and answer questions from attendees. Longtime NPR host Diane Rehm says of Thompson’s book, “…Those who read this book will feel [Thompson’s] extraordinary ability to help us interpret both the divisions and connections we experience as we move through this complex religious, secular and political world.”
Friday, September 28th, 2018
Human(un)kind and the Rape of the World
This paper sketches the history of unethical behavior of Homo sapiens to other forms of life on planet Earth. I ask, and sketch responses to, the question: How and why is it that we, the so-called “ethical animal,” have been the worst of all animals in relation to other life-forms on our planet? In response to the answers to this question, I claim that we know, and have known for a very long time, what it means to be morally good. But in light of the natural bases of our behavior, I wonder if it will ever be possible for us, as a species, to become so. Led by Dr. Charles W. Harvey, University of Central Arkansas.
Friday, September 21st, 2018
Religion in a Warmer World: Cosmotheism and the Anthropocene
The term "Anthropocene" is much discussed lately as a way of thinking about large-scale shifts in earth systems—including but not limited to global warming—caused by human activity operating at the level of a geophysical force. Though not without confusion and controversy, the term is gaining currency as it emphasizes the increasing untenability of distinctions between the human and the natural. If such distinctions are untenable, what consequences are there for our understanding of religion? This talk will offer an approach to religion in the context of the Anthropocene, first by critically examining the heritage of monotheistic thought with regard to the relation between humans and the nonhuman world, and then by suggesting an immanent and materialist understanding of both divinity and religious practice. Led by Dr. Michael Norton, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Friday, September 14th, 2018
Antonio Damasio and the Implications of Neuroscience for Developing a Philosophy of Life Today
Antonio Damasio explains recent discoveries in Neuroscience, especially the integration of mind and brain. Dr. Beck explains Damasio’s view of the goal of life as “homeostasis,” or human flourishing. She then explains Aristotle’s notion of eudaimonia and the way Greek culture cultivated it. Led by Dr. Martha Beck of Lyon College.
Friday, September 7th, 2018
Nosewise Dogs and Perceptual ‘Smell-how’ in Human-Canine Dyads
It is no secret that dogs have a much richer olfactory picture of the world than humans, but little is known about the mechanisms subtending this skill. There is also not much by way of philosophical discussions of olfaction generally, whether in humans or in other species. In this paper, I show why this lacuna is an unexplored treasure trove for philosophy of cognitive science, particularly when it comes to debates concerning mental and perceptual content. I argue that current enactivist conceptions of cognition – those that are radically anti-representational in nature – are the best fit for explaining how dogs ‘see’ the world through their noses. This perceptual capacity is a sort of know-how whereby dogs are not representing the world internally, but instead, when they interact with the environment, they are constituting information-for action. Smells, in other words, are natural signs for how best to engage with the world. While humans have largely ignored olfactory input as a source of ‘smell-how,’ they are not entirely ‘smell-deaf’, and the enactivist account of cognition is further strengthened by examining how smelling, like other skills, can be improved with practice. Even more compelling is when humans and dogs are paired together for smelling-specific tasks, such as bomb or human remains detection. In the final parts of this paper, I examine how these human-canine dyads suggest ways in which interspecific relationships can afford even more perceptual know-how for each member of the dyad, all without appealing to an overtly representational or cognitivist framework. - Dr. Michele Merritt, of Arkansas State University. Dr. Merritt will be leading the discussion.
Friday, August 31st, 2018
What makes a good conversation possible? What are some virtues of good conversations? Open-mindedness? Empathy? Charity? What are some vices? Closed-mindedness? Lack of listening? We will discuss the values that structure virtuous conversations. Led by Dr. James Dow