Philosophy student presents research at regional conference

Senior philosophy major Erik Zimmerman was one of 16 students selected to present research at a recent philosophy conference.

Senior philosophy major Erik Zimmerman presents research at the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Luncheon in February. Photo courtesy of Erik Zimmerman

Zimmerman applied to speak at the Midsouth Undergraduate Philosophy Conference along with about 60 other students from around the country last month.

“I think that [presenting at the conference] was an incredible opportunity,” Zimmerman said. “I presented at a couple other conferences, local conferences in St. Louis and at SIUE, but I’ve never been selected to present at national or regional conference such as this one… It gave me the opportunity to dialogue with a lot of other undergrad students from across the country.”

In February, he discussed his research paper, “Addressing the Divine: Rethinking God qua Love.”

The paper focuses on how to talk about God and how to “think about God without turning God into a construct of what we want God to be.” Zimmerman argues against the idea of some philosophers that the moment people begin talking about God, God is not a name anymore; therefore God cannot exist. He also explores the idea of entering into a love relationship in which people “actually experience God.”

Zimmerman decided to research the subject because he said he has always been interested in philosophy and religion.

“I was always interested in how do we talk about God as love…,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) faculty mentor, philosophy professor Matthew Schunke, recommended that Zimmerman apply to speak at the regional conference. Schunke said he did so because Zimmerman plans to attend graduate school and a “big part” of professional philosophy is presenting at conferences.

“It seemed like a great opportunity for him to get some practice with that, and also I think that the project is really interesting and should be out there for people to hear,” Schunke said.

For Zimmerman’s paper to be chosen, according to Schunke, shows SIUE students “are doing high caliber work.”

“In this case, it’s technically a regional conference, but it’s a well-known regional conference,” Schunke said. “So in that way it really does promote the university and gets our names out to academics from all over the country.”

Schunke said he thinks Zimmerman being selected to present at the conference is a “great honor.”

“He’s shown himself to be an excellent student and this shows that it’s not just among his peers at SIUE, but among his peers from around the region,” Schunke said.

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