Steel Center

Friday Afternoon Discussions: Conversations in the Liberal Arts

Upcoming Discussions  

All Discussions at 3:30 in the Religion and Philosophy Commons

Previous Discussions 2015-2016

December 2, 2016

How is Environmental Disobedience Morally Justified; Philosophy Seniors leading the Discussion with Dr. James Dow Facilitating  

On the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, protesters have engaged in environmental disobedient actions to attempt to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline from crossing beneath the Missouri river. How are such actions morally justified? The moral justifications of such actions could be in terms of the consequences, could be in terms of the intentions, or could be in terms of virtues. However, cultivating empathy for the point of view of the person thinking through the ends of environmental justice— concern for the air, the water, the land, etc.— is often difficult. Dr. James M. Dow, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the Philosophy Department Seniors will discuss the environmental ethical arguments justifying environmental disobedience.

* In addition to the Friday Afternoon Discussion, a film screening of "If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" will be held in the RaPC at 4 pm on Thursday, December 1st. 


November 11, 2016

Shaping the Group Mind Presented by Dr. Deborah Tollefsen

In the social sciences and in everyday speech we often talk about groups as if the were agents, thinking and acting as a singular being. We say, for example, that "Google intends to develop an automated car, " that "the US government believes that Syria has used chemical weapons on its own people, " or that "the NRA wants to protect the rights of gun owners. " We also often ascribe legal and moral responsibility to groups. What are we to make of this practice? Are groups literally intentional agents capable of acting in the world and being held responsible for those actions? In this talk I argue that our practice of treating groups as agents is simply an extension of our practice of treating individual human beings as agents. Just as folk psychology allows us to shape human minds and makes them more predictable, so too, our practice of attributing beliefs, intentions, and responsibility to groups helps to shape groups and makes group action more predictable. 


November 4, 2016

The Definitive, Non-negotiable, Best Ten Albums of All Time Presented by Dr. Fred Ablondi 

An hour of fun conversation and musical debate 

- “I will talk about 10 rock albums that come as close to perfect as I think possible.  In the discussion that follows, I hope those in attendance will point out my glaring omissions, but also that we can talk about the aesthetic criteria for judging the greatness of a recording, as opposed to it being a personal favorite.” Dr. Fred Ablondi

Visit Jesus, Jazz, Buddhism to preview the list, hear a few samples of the music, and view Dr. Ablondi's grading scale. 


October 28, 2016

“How I’m Thinking About the Election” Presented by Dr. Jane Hrris and Dr. Kim Maslin, Facilitated by Dr. Jay McDaniel 

What’s happening this election season? How important is religion? How important is politics? How, if at all, can they be separated? How we answer these questions will be influenced by the academic disciplines we bring to the discussion. Jane Harris (Religious Studies) and Kim Maslin (Politics) will help guide us in our thinking by sharing their own perspectives on “what’s happening.”

harris Maslin 

October 21, 2016

Let’s Compare Origin Stories! Presented by Dr. Robert Williamson, Facilitated by Annie Meek

While it is common to talk about “the biblical creation story,” in fact there are multiple creation stories in the Bible. This talk will compare three of them (Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and Psalm 104), discussing what each may contribute to our understanding of the nature of humankind and our place in the world.

Williamson FAD 

October 7, 2016

Convo with P-Safe Presented by Director Mike LeBlanc, Facilitated by Miranda Donakey

Take this opportunity to get to know the new director of Public Safety, Mike LeBlanc! Director LeBlanc has a passion for the community and safety of Hendrix College and wants to share that passion during an informal, interdisciplinary discussion! It’s a good time to hear what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to keeping our campus safe and enjoy an open discussion.


September 30, 2016 

Theology in the Flesh Led by Dr. John Sanders

“How human embodiment and cultures shape the way we think about topics such as truth, morality, and God.” Sanders

John Sanders’ Theology in the Flesh (August 2016, Fortress Press) breaks new ground for a contemporary generation. It shows how concepts important in Christian theology – God, truth, sin, salvation, and community, for example – do not drop from heaven, but instead emerge from our bodily interactions with the world, as rendered into metaphors which guide thought, feeling, and action. Our minds are “embodied,” John explains, drawing insights from neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and cognitive linguistics. For those affixed to overly literal approaches to life, the book comes as a challenge; for those seeking a more flexible humble approach to Christian life, open to diversity and dialogue, the book comes as breath of very fresh air. Please join us for a reception in appreciation of John’s book and his work in the world. He will give a short presentation, followed by open discussion and food aplenty.

September 23, 2016

The Hermeneutics of a Scientific Fact Led by Dr. Lawrence Schmidt 

How objective are scientific facts? There seems to be a good amount of interpretation and coming to agreement (i.e. hermeneutic aspects) involved in establishing scientific facts. How does this impact scientific knowledge?


September 16, 2016

Civil Engagement in Communities of Discord: Obama’s Vision Led by Dr. Peg Falls-Corbitt

In his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama sets forth a vision of how we should engage one another across political, ideological, and social divides. After showing a short clip from that speech, Dr. Falls-Corbitt will lead a discussion examining the model for civil but passionate civic engagement with which Obama challenges us.   

Falls Corbitt

September 9, 2016 at RaPC 3:30 to 4:30 pm

Welcome! Hosted by Steel Center, Dr. Jay McDaniel, and Dr. Fred Ablondi

Meet the Religion and Philosophy Commons (RaPC). It’s a home away from home where conversations erupt at the drop of a liberal arts idea, students study, imaginations are stirred, and the coffee is always free. We’re having an Introduction to the new location on September 9, featuring live music (by international students), a brief discussion of this year’s theme for Friday Afternoon Discussions – “Conversations in the Liberal Arts: Dialogue Across Difference” and food…don’t forget the food. Everyone is welcome! Come enjoy from 3:30 to 4:30. It’s a fandango!RaPC     

April 29, 2016

Photography on the Streets: Beauty as Service Led by Dr. Robert Williamson, Emma Carlson, Christopher Carver, Alice Fan, Hanna Lieberman, and Susannah Stubbs

While we may think of “service” as providing directly tangible goods or resources to people in need, Mercy Community Church of Little Rock views the essential task of service as recognizing and uplifting the humanity in another person. Mercy Church focuses on people experiencing homelessness, which can be a dehumanizing and objectifying experience for many people. As a result, Mercy seeks to create relational spaces rather than transactional spaces, preferring small-scale, relational projects to the distribution of goods and services. In particular, Mercy is interested in the arts as a form of service. By engaging people’s creative and aesthetic abilities, we offer them an opportunity to cease being recipients of services and start being contributors to the beauty of the world. This project brings Hendrix students together with Mercy Church members to learn about photography and to create works of beauty together.

*This is the last FAD in the Raney building. There will be a display of photographs from this project in the Raney entrance hallway. 

Free with Camera 

April 22, 2016

"Before I Die" Presented by Kaylee Davis

In 2011, after losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang covered a crumbling, abandon house in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and the repeated  stenciled words “Before I die I want to…” The project has since spread internationally and has now spread to the Hendrix Community. What is the real purpose of the wall? What sorts of questions and concerns about the perspectives people take about death does it raise? And how should we have conversations about these concerns?

Before I Die               

April 15, 2016

The Comfy Couch Effect Presented by Miranda Donakey '18

How do non-classroom, academic environments effect you? What effect, if any, does the physical space and the “personality” of the area of your studies have on you?  If you are an art major, does the Art Department building make you feel welcome and comfortable?  If you are studying Chemistry, is there a study space that makes you feel like you are an involved participant of that department?  Do Religious Studies or Philosophy students enjoy comfortable relationships with other students and professors in their areas of study based on, or effected by, the Raney lobby? Is there a comfortable area that allows positive and genuine interaction between students, faculty and staff?  If yes…or no, what effect does that have on a student and their connection to their preferred areas of study?  Are you more involved (outside of class), depending on the available space and the type of environment that’s been created?  Does this effect you at all?

April 8, 2016

Moral accounting in Matthew: How metaphor guides reasoning in religion Led by guest speaker Dr. Eve Sweetser Professor of Linguistics, University of California – Berkeley; Hosted by Dr. John Sanders

One way that many languages think of morality is in terms of accounting… If you do something good for me then I owe you in return. The Gospel of Matthew makes extensive use of this metaphor yet contains some intriguing twists on it that are counter cultural. 

*Dr Eve. Sweetser will also give a presentation on April 7 at 7pm in Mills. This event is free and open to the public. 

Campus Map


April 1, 2016

Empathy and Morality; Presented by Dr. James Dow and the Teaching Empathy Group

Is empathy sufficient for morality? Think of empathy as feeling emotions that someone else feels, taking another person’s point of view, and yet maintaining a differentiation between another person and oneself. While empathy might seem to be enough to have compassion towards others, having empathy doesn’t seem to be enough for moral motivation. An empathetic torturer might have empathy and nevertheless use it to increase the pain and suffering of another person. Is empathy necessary for morality? We make moral judgments about things that do not seem to have emotions, for instance natural environments, nations, and our future selves. And we rely on other moral sentiments, for instance, anger, disgust, shame, and which are not based on empathy to make moral judgments. While psychopaths’ lack of empathy seems to account for a lack of moral development, they also seem to lack the moral sentiments generally. While some argue that there is strong positive correlation between empathy and pro-social motivations, either empathy is defined as empathic concern and  so the finding is trivial or if it is defined as feeling anothers’ feelings, then the correlation is not as robust. So, should moral systems that promote empathy be encouraged? If empathy on occasion leads to preferential treatment, is prone to in-group biases, can be easily manipulated, and is highly selective, then maybe we should regard the cultivating of empathy with caution. 

Dow in Austria 

March 11, 2016

For Freedom and for Dignity - Women Biblical Interpreters Presented by Carol Newsom, Hosted by Dr. Robert Williamson

"Few people today know the names of Isotta Nogarola, Moderata Fonte, Archangela Tarabotti, and Amelia Lanyer, but in the 15th and 16th centuries they were among the first women to write books in defense of the equal dignity of women and to argue for their freedom to determine their own lives. Given the importance of the Bible in European culture, they often made their arguments through fascinating reinterpretations of the figures of Eve and Adam. Rediscovering their lives and their ways of interpreting the biblical narratives opens up a forgotten chapter both in biblical interpretation and in the history of women 's struggles for freedom and respect." - Dr. Carol Newsom of Emory

Carol Newsom                             

March 4, 2016

A Modern Pilgrimage on Meditative Practices: A Reflection on our Odyssey Trip to the United Kingdom & Taizé, France Presented by Melissa Rooney and Liz Forester

During the summer of 2015, Melissa and Liz traveled to Lindisfarne, United Kingdom and Taize, France  to explore different Christian meditative practices associated with the Celtic  tradition and Taize community. We participated in weeklong retreats at both places, meeting  and learning from people from all over the world. 

FAD March 4 2016                 

February 26, 2016

Why We Need Monsters, Presented by Dr. Bill Tsutsui

“If there is one thing that Godzilla teaches us…it is how much we all need monsters. We need them for the joy of being frightened, for that thrilling rush of adrenaline that only a creature can bring…… Monsters in other words let us truly live and let us understand what it is to be human. We should not become too cynical, too wise, too mature, too sophisticated for monsters. They are companions we all can use in navigating the complexities and uncertainties of life and a world in constant flux.” Dr. Bill Tsutsui 


February 19, 2016

Lamentations & Black Lives Matter Presented by Dr. Robert Williamson

In Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere, Black Lives Matter protestors met with criticism for expressing anger over the devaluation of Black life in America. In particular, some Christians appealed to the biblical principles of love and forgiveness in order to silence the anger of the protestors. This talk will explore the book of Lamentations as an alternative biblical model for communities facing violence and dehumanization—one which centers anger and protest as a faithful and necessary response.

Dr. Williamson           

February 12, 2016

Music as Resistance, Dr. Jay McDaniel as Facilitator and Leading the discussion: Tonya Hale – LGBTQ Indie and Ty Glanville – Hip Hop

Ethnomusicologists understand some forms of popular music as forms of resistance to conventional norms and repressive conditions. With help from Ty Glanville, Tonya Hale, and James Dow we will be reflecting on ways in which hip-hop, punk, and indie oriented LGBTQ musics do this with regard to race, class, and gender. Come join the discussion and share your impressions. Open to all.

February 5, 2016

Moving Toward Effective Allyship in Social Justice Work Presented by Dr. Leslie Zorwick

Many communities want to become more open and inclusive, while privileged individuals sometimes struggle with the roles they can and should play in the work of inclusion. So, what does it mean to be an ally? How can we become better listeners to perspectives other than our own? And, what role should we all play in addressing intolerance?

January 29, 2016

What is Ecotheology? Presented by Dr. Jay McDaniel

How can religious people serve the common good of the world?  How can they help build communities that are creative, compassionate, ecologically wise, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind?  How can their spirituality nourished, not simply by great ideas enunciated in books, but by the palpable presence of rocks and trees, hills and rivers, animals and stars?  These are the concerns of eco-theologians around the world of different religious persuasions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist.  This Friday Afternoon Discussion provides an opportunity to learn about eco-theology and discuss it among peers.