Steel Center

Friday Afternoon Discussions: Conversations in the Liberal Arts

Upcoming Discussions  

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

October 28, 2016

“How I’m Thinking About the Election” Presented by Dr. Jane Harris 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


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. 

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.

Previous Discussions 2015-2016

September 4, 2015

Contextual Bible Study: South Africa...the Beginning Presented by Dr. Robert Williamson and Contextual Bible Study Student Group

September 18, 2015

Collective Self-Awareness: Can we be aware of us? Presented by Dr. James Dow

Dr. James Dow has just returned from the Collective Self Awareness conference in Vienna, Austria.  He will pose the question:  Is there such a thing as collective self-awareness?  The discussion will include questions from the conference, as well.  Such as - Do insights and theories about 1st person singular self-awareness straightforwardly translate to the 1st person plural, or does the 1st person plural need to be treated in an essentially different way? Are there 1st person plural non-conceptual, pre-reflective forms of self-awareness as has been suggested for the singular case? Do we need different accounts of self-awareness for different groups, or can a uniform account be given? What is the nature of the collective selves that we are aware of?  

September 25, 2015

Art & Spirit Presented by Dr. Jay McDaniel and Dr. Danny Grace

“How might listening to jazz help a person’s soul grow bigger and enrich her capacities to heal a broken world?   Ask the participants in Art and Spirit, an Engaged Citizen course.   The class focuses on how the creative and performing arts can enhance a person’s capacities for open-mindedness and open-heartedness, thereby becoming a fatter soul;  and motivate him or her to build communities that are socially just and ecologically sustainable, with no one left behind.   Come to the Friday Afternoon Discussion, meet the two people who teach the course, Danny Grace and Jay McDaniel.   Listen to a little John Coltrane and take “the spirituality quiz.”  Don’t worry; you’ll do fine.” -  Dr. Jay McDaniel

October 2, 2015

Is Faith an Intellectual Virtue? Presented by Dr. James Dow

Is the holding of beliefs based on religious faith consistent with being an intellectually virtuous thinker? Does being an intellectually virtuous thinker require aiming at justified true beliefs grounded in public evidence? Is faith based on private evidence or public evidence? Suppose intellectual virtue is a personal-level excellence of intellect.  Is believing on faith a reliable belief-forming route, for instance like logical deduction, perception, or the scientific method? Is believing on faith responsible believing, namely is it conscientious believing or careful believing? If faith is a practical commitment that is independent of belief or evidence, then is it unrelated to the cultivation of intellectual virtues? Is there a distinction between intellectual virtue and practical virtue such that one may hope or act on a hope based on faith? 

October 9, 2015

Religion, Nation, & Violence - Asia; Presented by Dr. Bill Gorvine and Dr. Michael Sprunger

Suicidal monks? Christian assassins? Patriots? Traitors? Using examples from recent Tibetan and Korean history, this course examines the relationship between identity (how we identify ourselves and are identified by others) and various forms of political and social action. It encourages students to consider what it means to be part of religious, national, ethnic, and other types of communities, how such communities form and change over time, and what actions are appropriate and justifiable in their names. 

October 23, 2015

Community and Anarchy: A Discussion on Utopia Presented by Laela Zaidi and David Tate

A discussion of our visit to Twin Oaks, an intentional egalitarian community in rural Virginia. -Egalitarian communities are planned residential cooperatives that embrace radical feminism,common ownership of property, and environmental stewardship. Join Laela Zaidi and David Tate for a discussion over their summer living as members of Twin Oaks community in Louisa, Virginia. Laela and David will briefly share some information about the ways in which members of Twin Oaks approach gender, government, education, cultural identity and sustainability, but most of the hour will be devoted to Q+A. Come with questions!

October 30, 2015

A God Beyond Being? Presented by Dr. John Sanders and Dr. Fred Ablondi

If God is the greatest possible thing, does it mean that God is greater than, or beyond, Being? If so, is there anything we can say about God? If not, does that mean Being is superior to God? If God is not beyond Being does this imply that God is limited (like creatures)? Drs. Sanders and Ablondi will discuss why some philosophers and theologians have placed God ‘beyond being,’ as well as some of the objections to making this move.
FAD Sanders and Ablondi                                       

November 6, 2015

The Galactic Citizen Presented by Dr. Lars Seme and Dr. Gabby Vidal-Torreira

Using science fiction novels, short stories and television episodes to explore issues affecting humanity - and even what it means to be human. How does the advancement of technology affect who we are? How can we determine what is and is not plausible scientific advancement? How does a writer whose characters are pointed-eared aliens use space battles and lasers to tell a story about racism? What literary and cinematographic techniques do authors use to write Sci-Fi? Join us Friday with Professor Lars Seme and Professor Gabby Vidal-Torreira who teach this Engaged Citizen course.

November 13, 2015

Interfaith Dialogue and Fostering of Religious Community at Hendrix Presented by Latanya Lane, Hosted by Desh Depak and J.J. Whitney

LaTanya Lane is a graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary, she works as the Mission Delivery Associate for IFYC - Interfaith Youth Core.  Ms. Lane has years of community organizing experience on Chicago’s South Side, supporting communities from different religious and non-religious backgrounds as they came together to improve their neighborhoods.  She uses her experience as a community organizer, along with her involvement with non-profits, in her work at IFYC.  Ms. Lane builds collaborative relationships between IFYC campus partners and engages these partners in meaningful conversations about the ways they are working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm on their campuses. During the discussion LaTanya Lane will talk about fostering climate religious acceptance and expression of religious identity.  Latanya Lane           

December 4, 2015

Contextual Bible Study...Little Rock Presented by Dr. Robert Williamson and Contextual Bible Study Student Group

This summer, a group of students travelled to South Africa to learn about contextual Bible study: a Bible-reading methodology that facilitates discussion and ownership of the texts. The students then took this method of study to Mercy Church, a church for those experiencing homelessness in Little Rock. Join them Friday as they reflect on their time at Mercy Church and the influence contextual Bible study has had on community consciousness.

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.

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?

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 19, 2016

Dr. Williamson

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.

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 

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                                       

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                             

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 


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 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 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 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

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

Falls Corbitt

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.   

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 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.

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.Leblanc


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