• Hendrix College

    Wednesday Afternoon Discussions

  • What are they about?

    Conversations in the Liberal Arts happen Wednesday Afternoons (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 2022 Schedule

    November 30th

    Recollections with President Ellis Arnold: My Time at Hendrix College, featuring Hendrix College President Ellis Arnold

    Abstract

    Join us for afternoon with President Ellis Arnold as he reflects on his time at Hendrix through his various roles. All are welcome and refreshments will be served.

    President Ellis Arnold WAD

    November 16th

    The Ancient and Modern Metamorphoses of Daphne: Myth as Examination, Critique, and Transformation featuring Rebecca Resinski, Professor of Classics

    Abstract

    The myth of Apollo's pursuit of Daphne is found in literature and art from antiquity to the present day. We will consider how the story will be used to explore the dynamics of gender-based hierarchy, sexual menace, and compulsory heterosexuality. 

    Resinski WAD Nov 16

    November 9th

    Heteropatriarchal Desire in Authoritarian Politics featuring Nathan Duford, Assistant Prof of PHIL, PHIL Program Director – University of Hartford

    Abstract

    This talk explores how the conservative politics of masculinity has changed in recent years, developing a theory of heteropatriarchal desire that explains why the new conservative masculinity is an extension of traditional conservative masculinity.


    November 2nd

    Why is “Does God exist?” a nonsensical question featuring  Nathan Eric Dickman, Assistant Professor of Philosophy – University of the Ozarks

    Abstract

    In institutionalized philosophy of religion over the last forty years, the word “god” often is treated as a proper name. Yet we know that (most) gods have personal names, such as Vishnu, Marduk, HaShem, etc. The word “god” is not a name but a title, appropriately positioned on the predicate rather than the subject side of complete thoughts. Thus, the question “Does God exist?” is nonsensical. A better question is, “Who (or what) is my god?” I will discuss elements of this rejection of institutionalized philosophy of religions, and promote a semantics of transcendence rather than a metaphysics of transcendent entities. I discuss this in a chapter in my recent book with Bloomsbury, titled Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Priority of Questions in Religions. https://www.bloomsbury.com/ca/philosophical-hermeneutics-and-the-priority-of-questions-in-religions-9781350202146/


    October 26th

    Evaluative Pluralism and Devotion featuring Visiting Scholar, Dr. Paul Katsafanas, Boston University Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies

    Abstract

    Reasonable people can always find some grounds for questioning their values. Can we remain devoted to our values while acknowledging this fact? Or does this undermine our values? Does devotion to values in a pluralistic world require dogmatism? Help us welcome Dr. Katsafanas, Boston University Professor of Philosophy, Director of Graduate Studies, to campus. All are welcome and refreshments will be served.



    October 19th

    "Taking Your Drugs Well": Healing, Faith, and Anti-Retroviral Adherence in a Nairobi Clinic, featuring Emmy Corey, Instructor of Religious Studies 

    Abstract

    This discussion draws on ethnographic fieldwork in Nairobi, Kenya with adolescents and young adults living with HIV. After a few stories from this research, we’ll consider the ways that seemingly mundane activities like taking medication can take on theological texture. How does “taking your drugs well” become an existential, moral, and even spiritual practice?

    Corey WAD 1

    October 5th

    Jesus and the Canaanite Woman: Postcolonial and Feminist Insights, featuring Dr. Robert Williamson

    Abstract

    The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) raises important questions about ethnicity, gender, and colonialism in the biblical text. We will engage in a close reading of the text together, seeking insights especially from feminist and postcolonial perspectives.


    September 28th

    Energy and Change: A Philosophy of Energy Transformation, featuring Dr. Clayton Crockett, Professor and Director of Religious Studies at University of Central Arkansas 

    Abstract

    This presentation introduces a philosophy of energy based on dynamic transformation of material form across multiple levels of existence. Everything changes, even though energy is conserved, in physics, biology, ecology, and religion.


    Friday, September 23rd

    Expressing Nature’s Value 

    Abstract

     Can we express the value of nature? Experiences of natural environments involve perceptions of the beauty of a flower, the sublimity of a tornado, the wonder of the starry sky. Some theorists have suggested that the value of nature outstrips artistic expression, that there’s always some color, some sound, some movement, or some power missing in attempts to represent nature. However, landscape artists have employed a variety of strategies for trying to capture the beauty, sublimity, and wonder of nature. Expressing Nature’s Value aims to highlight how there are diverse strategies in landscape painting that can be employed to highlight the value of nature. The Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy in Ellis Hall welcomes you to explore those strategies through the works of three artists from across the country that each create landscape works. Shannon Evans, Ginger Knowlton, and Cydney Williams each have two pieces in the Expressing Nature's Value exhibition. Expressing Nature’s Value will run for a year in Ellis Hall and the opening will be held from 4 pm to 5:30 pm on Friday, September 23rd in the Ellis Hall Living Room.  


    September 14th

    Horrific Queers in Cinema, featuring Celeste Reeb, Assistant Professor of English, Film, & Media Studies at Hendrix College

    Abstract

    In James Whale’s 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Pretorius exclaims “To a new world of Gods and Monsters” and brings to life the image of queerness as monstrous. In this talk, we will examine the ways the horror film genre uses anxiety regarding sexuality to create monsters. Horror depends on evoking fear and an ever-present threat is a character who threatens the stability of heterosexuality. While the image of queerness as monstrous is historically present so are queer horror audiences who find different meanings in the images. In this talk we will also consider how queer horror films opens a space for transgression and delights.

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    September 7th

    Embrace Unrequited Love, featuring Alexandra Gustafson, University of Toronto Department of Philosophy 

    Abstract

    If you have ever loved unrequitedly, then you know that it is a bitter experience indeed. In this talk, I'll argue that it can be made bitter-sweet if we simply embrace it. Why embrace unrequited love? For one very good reason: it is sublime.



    Summer News!

    Happy Summer students, faculty, and staff! It has been a successful year of events and programming largely thanks to your thoughtful participation. We appreciate every attendee, contributor, and the perspectives they add to our events. If you would like a piece of the Steel Center to take with you this summer, we are currently accepting students for a new reading group. The book is by David Livingstone Smith titled, Less than Human: Why we Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others Less than Human is the first book of its kind  to discuss and theorize why we sometimes think of others as subhuman. Using history, evolutionary psychology, biology, anthropology, and philosophy, David Livingstone Smith provides a coherent interdisciplinary account of what dehumanization is, how it's used, and how to deconstruct it. The Steel Center will have dinner and discussion in the fall to discuss students' thoughts on the book, so be sure to grab a copy during finals week for summer reading! Email steel@hendrix.edu for more details!



    Spring 2021 Schedule

    April 18th

    The Phenomenology of Natural Engagement, featuring Anna Claire Lawrence, Hendrix '22 leading the discussion 

    Abstract

    The field of nature aesthetics has seen a long debate on the topic of aesthetic appreciation and enjoyment with the landscape. The proper methods of appreciation, concerns of objectivity, and defining natural environment are all at the forefront of the discussion and ask us to consider our philosophical and aesthetic attitudes towards nature. With these considerations in mind, I created an Odyssey project that centers on the works of Arnold Berleant and phenomenological nature experiences. This Wednesday afternoon discussion will highlight these experiences and put them into conversation with the philosophies of Arnold Berleant and other aesthetic thinkers and invite participants to consider their own perspectives on how we should engage with the natural world.


    April 13th

    ‘Like Loving a Lovely Sight’: Knowledge and Action in Chinese Philosophy, featuring Visiting Scholar, Dr. Bryan Van Norden, James Monroe Taylor Chair in Philosophy at Vassar College (USA), and Chair Professor in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University (China)

    Abstract

    The Confucian classic the Great Learning states that one must hate evil “like hating a hateful odor” and love the good “like loving a lovely sight.” In this presentation, I unpack the cognitive content of these metaphors and explain what role they played in Chinese debates over the relationship between moral knowledge and moral action.  In particular, I explain how the great Confucians Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming appealed to the same metaphors in their argument over whether weakness of will is possible.

    Zoom option available, email steel@hendrix.edu.


    April 6th

    What are you Afraid of? The Roles of Collective Fear and Personal Fear in Motivating Prosocial Behavior, featuring Carmen Merrick, Assistant Professor of Psychology

    Abstract 

    Recent research suggests that COVID-19 fear predicts self-reported prosocial behaviors (Cole & Merrick, unpublished; Harper et al. 2020). This phenomenon has not been examined experimentally, nor has the impact of collective fear (fear extending beyond the self) been distinguished from personal fear (fear impacting only the self) on prosocial behavior. We conducted a study in which we compared the effect of COVID-19 fear (a collective fear) with personal fear on real prosocial behavior (charitable giving).


    March 16th

    The Centrum of Being and the Unground: Schelling and the System of Freedom, featuring Christopher Satoor, York University (PhD candidate)

    Abstract

    Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s (1775-1854) 1809 Freedom Essay was his last known publication at the young age of 34 years. The Freedom Essay has the reputation among scholars as being extremely cryptic and difficult. However, this text represents the beginning of Schelling’s mature philosophical project, and a systematic presentation of freedom and the revelation of God. Schelling’s aim in this short essay was to spiritualize Spinozism, remove the baggage of determinism, and reanimate the theory of pantheism, by returning life; and the living back to God and the cosmos. This was no easy task for Schelling, as it would send him face first into the metaphysics of evil and unraveling the foundations of the absolute. At the heart of the essay is its mystical and theosophical disclosure of Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) and Franz von Baader (1765-1841). Schelling appeals to Boehme’s unground as the bond of forces, or “the ground that comes before all ground.”(Schelling, SWI, VII, 406-408). Schelling also uses the Baaderian centrum that is developed deep in the well of being and is the heart of spirit. It is this center that ontologically individuates a subject. The center is formed and binds an agent by their ontological and primordial decision. The de-cision is always an act of pure will. The essay’s guiding thread through its deep philosophical investigations are to tease out the antagonisms of freedom by showing the deep bond between darkness and light, love and wrath, good and evil, individual and ego, center, and periphery; and the releasement of love. My presentation aims at disclosing the following themes by unpacking these difficult Schellingian concepts through his speculative metaphysics. The Freedom Essay’s greatest achievement is that it becomes the first philosophical system in German Idealism to ground freedom ontologically.



    March 9th

    Buddhism, Animals, and the Environment, featuring Jim Deitrick, Associate Professor (Department of Religion and Philosophy, UCA)

    Abstract

    In this talk, Dr. Deitrick discusses Buddhist attitudes toward animals and the environment, concentrating especially on animal consumption and its effects--on animals, on humans, and on the environment. Through this discussion, Dr. Deitrick will also introduce core Buddhist teachings and thus provide a basic introduction to Buddhist life and practice.


    March 2nd

    Leibniz and China: Metaphysics of Reason, Categories of the Ultimate, and Binary Arithmetic,  featuring Dr. Nick Brasovan Associate Professor of Philosophy (UCA)

    Abstract

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is a monumental theologian, philosopher and mathematician. His intellectual endeavors were not only summative. They were creative and precipitous of great advances in theology, philosophy and science. Leibniz is cosmopolitan in the sense that he was on the cutting edge of the theologies, philosophies and sciences of his day. Speaking to Leibniz's creative advance of theology, philosophy and science and his wealth of informative resources, this presentation focuses in on his access to and interpretation of neo-Confucian philosophy, conveyed to him by correspondences with Jesuit missionaries in China. We will demonstrate that he had an astute understanding of the Chinese metaphysics of his time, but he ultimately projected concepts onto Chinese philosophy that were more reflective of his cultural biases than of the Chinese systems in their own rights. This will give us occasion to introduce key concepts and texts of neo-Confucian metaphysics. Finally, we will conclude with an argument that Leibniz's discovery of binary arithmetic is heavily indebted to his study of classical Chinese numerology and the Book of Changes.

    February 21st

    All Dressed Up in Fairy Lights: Queering Divinity in Doom Patrol, Featuring Michael Norton (Associate Prof.) & Jana McAuliffe (Assistant Prof.) of UA Little Rock 

    Abstract

    Comic books (or more broadly: sequential art) have often served as a kind of imaginative laboratory for experimenting with the possibilities of human self-understanding. Likewise, superhero figures—with their extraordinary powers and lofty ideals—function as literary representations of gods, through which readers can explore the ins and outs of existing theological concepts. But comics can also be a means for artists and readers to question, problematize, and subvert traditional understandings of divinity. Some of the best examples of such an approach are found in Doom Patrol, a comic series (recently adapted into a TV show) with a long history of challenging cultural norms and embracing queerness. Utilizing resources from queer theory to examine the characters Larry Trainor and Danny the Street, we suggest that Doom Patrol productively queers the idea of divinity, blurring traditional boundaries between God and world, humanity and divinity, and male and female, and endorsing multiplicity, fluidity, and immanence.


    February 16th

    Heroic Contributions: Horrific Challenges- Psychological Science, Ethics, and Consequences, Featuring David Hawkins, Visiting Instructor of Psychology (Hendrix College)

    Abstract

    A celebration of select early black Psychologists’ contributions to the field, including research, key testimony in the Supreme Court case of Brown versus the Board of Education, and the early and pointed critique of racist assumptions in the conduct and interpretation of much psychological "science." Challenges continued as these assumptions (prejudices) continued and influenced other areas of medical “research” and clinical fields in ways that lead to unethical and/or prejudicial practices. The impact of these ethical lapses continues to negatively impact the health of black communities. Specific reforms and the self-correcting nature of science aids progress in ethical research practices. Also, reforms in related fields seek to write a different future that celebrates the heroic contributions of black scientists while acknowledging the continuing legacy of mistrust and its consequences, engendered by the unethical and/or prejudicial practices of persons in various scientific and medical fields.


    February 9th

    Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice

    Featuring:

    Gregg D. Caruso is Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning, Visiting Fellow at the New College of the Humanities (NCH London), and Honorary Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University. He is also Co-Director of the Justice Without Retribution Network housed at the University of Aberdeen School of Law. His research focuses on free will, moral responsibility, punishment, philosophy of law, jurisprudence, social and political philosophy, moral philosophy, philosophy of mind, moral psychology, and neurolaw. His books include Rejecting Retributivism: Free Will, Punishment, and Criminal Justice (2021), Just Deserts: Debating Free Will (w/Daniel C. Dennett) (2021), Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will (2012), Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (2013), Science and Religion: 5 Questions (2014), Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience (co-edited w/Owen Flanagan); and Free Will Skepticism in Law and Society (co-edited w/Elizabeth Shaw and Derk Pereboom).

    Abstract

    One of the most prominent justifications of legal punishment, historically and currently, is retributivism, according to which wrongdoers deserve the imposition of a penalty solely for the backward-looking reason that they have knowingly done wrong. While retributivism provides one of the main sources of justification for punishment within the criminal justice system, there are good philosophical and practical reasons for rejecting it. The dual aims of this talk will be to argue against retributivism and develop a viable alternative that is both ethically defensible and practical. After sketching six distinct reasons for rejecting retributivism, two of which have to do with the possibility that agents lack the kind of free will and moral responsibility needed to ground retributive punishment, Dr. Caruso will introduce his public health-quarantine model, a non-retributive alternative for addressing criminal behavior that draws on the public health framework and prioritizes prevention and social justice. He will argue that the public health-quarantine model is not only an ethically defensible and practically workable alternative to retributive punishment, it is more humane than retributivism and preferable to other non-retributive alternatives.


    November 17th

    Wednesday Afternoon Open Discussion: Existence, Knowledge, and Values

    Abstract

    Any topic in the academic study of philosophy and religion is open for discussion. 


    November 10th 

    On Liking Aesthetic Value Steel Center Wednesday Afternoon Discussion, Featuring Visiting Steel Center Scholar, Dr. Keren Gorodeisky, Author & Professor of Philosophy (Auburn University)

    Abstract

    We often describe our responses to films, novels, songs, landscapes, walks, meals and other aesthetically valuable objects and activities in terms of feeling: we “hate” or “love” them, “admire,” “enjoy” or “detest” them, or find that they “leave us cold.” Most often, we communicate our aesthetic responses in terms of our likes and dislikes. A long tradition has a succinct explanation of this way of speaking: aesthetic value is essentially connected to a distinctive kind of liking or pleasure. Is that true? Should we endorse a necessary connection between aesthetic value and liking or pleasure? This is The Affective Question, which frames this Virtue Conversation.

    Zoom info available by emailing steel@hendrix.edu

         Click the Steel Center Lectures and Special Events tab on the right of the page for additional events with Dr. Gorodeisky.


    October 27th

    A Social Theory of Humor, Featuring Elizabeth Cantalamessa, PhD Candidate, Philosophy (University of Miami), Instructor (Univ. Houston-Downtown & The Univ. of Wyoming)

    Abstract

    Humor is weird. It’s not clear what purpose it serves, or how it ever came about. Wittgenstein pointed out that laughter itself might look bizarre from an outside perspective - one person says some unusual words, and then another breaks out into a strange kind of bleating. Philosophers have offered accounts of humor aimed at explaining why we laugh, and how the practice emerged. In this talk, I’ll lay out the main theories philosophers have given, and argue that they fail to dispel the mysteries surrounding humor. Then I’ll suggest a new way of looking at the point of laughter - it allows us to acknowledge and reshape the norms we live by. 


    October 6th

    America on Jericho Road: A Conversation about Neighbors and Compassion , featuring Phillip D. Fletcher, PhD – Exec. Dir. Of City of Hope Outreach (COHO)

    Abstract

    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?


    September 29th

    Care Ethics in the Time of COVID: How AAPI Activists are Mobilizing Political Care , featuring Taine Duncan, Assoc. Prof of PHIL, UCA

    Abstract

    Care ethics has often been criticized for being essentialist, sanitized, or uncritical of the power relations which undergird the relations of interdependency that guide care ethical behavior. In the past year and a half, however, practitioners in nursing, mental health, political science, and education have begun critically engaging care ethics as the best ethical response to the pandemic. Because care ethics allows us to evaluate disparate impacts, showcases the responsibilities we have to one another, and emphasizes the impossibility of universal solutions, care ethics is a responsive ethical framework in a time of global health crisis. At the same time, members of Asian American and Asian American/Asian Pacific Islander communities have been deploying a form of activism which relies on care ethical principles of interdependence and mutual obligation --while challenging unequal power and privilege on display during racist violence sparked by politicization of COVID-19. How might we examine these two prongs of care ethics applications in the contemporary context? What might an intersectional understanding of care ethics provide to our practical capacity for social change and collective well-being? This presentation examines the intersection and argues that AAPI activism is an excellent model for intersectional, applied, and responsive care ethics.


    September 22nd

    Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: From Epistemic Injustice to Situated Knowledge , featuring Sharon Mason, Assist. Prof. Of PHIL, UCA 

    Abstract

    Standpoint theory describes how social location influences the generation of knowledge. I develop an account of standpoint theory that avoids some well-known objections and clarifies its relation to recent work on epistemic injustice.


    FRIDAY, September 17th

    Nature in Abstraction (discussion & exhibit opening): featuring Dr. Melissa Gill (Hendrix College), Dr. Dustyn Bork (Lyon College) & Dr. Jessica Mongeon (Arkansas Tech University)

    Nature in Abstraction includes 6 works from artists Jessica Mongeon, Melissa Gill, and Dustyn Bork. Each piece engages with the theme of abstraction from nature in different ways. Please join us at 4:10 pm for panel discussion and gallery walkthrough at 5:10.


    September 8th

    Country Music and the Aesthetics of Simplicity , featuring John Dyck, Teaching Fellow in Aesthetics & PHIL (Auburn) 

    Abstract

    In this paper, I consider the aesthetic value of country music. I argue that the value of country music, like the value of other genres, lies in its simplicity: country songs are often good precisely because they are simple, unsophisticated, and unsubtle. I explain what this means, and I explore what this implies for aesthetic value in general. In emphasizing the aesthetic values of subtlety and sophistication, philosophers have forgotten about the value of simplicity.



    September 1st

    Religious Inclusivity in Higher Education and the Hermeneutic Priority of Questions in Religions , featuring Nathan “Eric” Dickman, Assist. Prof of PHIL Univ. Of the Ozarks 

    Abstract

    How can religiously affiliated institutions that promote liberal arts maintain commitment both to religious inclusivity and their affiliation? What principles of accreditation should be used by agencies—such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges—in assessing religiously affiliated institutions? Many religiously affiliated institutions claim to value liberal arts learning and critical inquiry, to prepare students for a diverse world. Yet affiliation often brings with it pervasive structures of religious privilege that inhibit questioning and critical thinking, especially with regard to religious diversity. My proposal is that this is due, in large part, to suppressing questions prevalent in religions themselves (as I develop in my forthcoming book). I argue that questioning has priority in interpretation of religious texts, despite the propensity of religious leaders claiming to have all the answers. I will look at a few case studies in Jewish, (Zen) Buddhist, and Christian contexts to illustrate roles of questions both in the discourse of gods and buddhas themselves and in the process of interpretation of texts. By isolating and emphasizing the priority of questioning, we can identify one way in which religious affiliation can be compatible with liberal arts learning, and I use this to suggest two principles of inclusivity to use for assessing and accrediting religiously affiliated colleges and universities.

    Links to forthcoming book (and article on higher ed):

    https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/philosophical-hermeneutics-and-the-priority-of-questions-in-religions-9781350202146

    https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781793638267 (chapter 10)

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    Spring 2021 Schedule

    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

     

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    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.

    While both events are free, pre-registration is required for access to the Zoom platform. Email steel@hendrix.edu by noon on the day of the event to make a reservation and receive event access.

     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 

    Religious Politics 

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    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? 

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    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. 

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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

    CYBORGS!



    Wednesday, September 4th, 2020

    Polarization in American Christianity 



    2019-2020 Schedule 

    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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