6th Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference a success

The SIUE Chapter of the Phi Sigma Tau Philosophy Honor Society and the SIUE Department of Philosophy hosted the Sixth Annual Philosophy Undergraduate Conference this past weekend.

The event continues to build off of the success of the past years. The conference this year had 17 different presenters from 13 different schools along with a keynote address from Eric Brown, a philosophy professor from Washington University.

Brown makes a point about the friendships that sages can have, even though they may never meet.

The topics ranged from “The Problem of Evil: The privation defense and meaningful belief” and “The Faces of Death: Epicurus, Heidegger, and James,” to “The End of Climate Change,” “Justice Blinded: A philosophical analysis of the Nuremberg trials,” and “The Gendered Body of Perception”.

The sessions were spread over two days allowing many students and faculty to engage the topics and the presenters in constructive dialogues.

The keynote address was the highlight of the weekend, with a full room. The keynote address was titled “Cosmopolitans and Unmet Friends”. Brown set out to explain that, in his understanding, the Stoics carefully revised common sense.

Brown’s presentation was set up in the following statements: 1st commonplace: the fellow-citizens in a good polis are friends; 2nd commonplace: friends are acquaintances; obvious fact: the larger a polis, the less likely that all the citizens have met each other, all the way to the point past which it is not (in any interesting sense) possible for all the citizens to be acquaintances; consequence: there is a limit to how large a good polis can be; the Stoic doctrine of the cosmopolis: the cosmos is a good polis; so: either this is a mere metaphor, without practical import or the Stoics flout common sense; goal: to show how the Stoics carefully revise common sense.

Brown then used a series of different text excerpts to construct the argument. The excerpts ranged from Diogenes Laertius to Cicero to Stobaeus to Plutarch. Once Brown finished his 45 minute presentation, the floor was opened for a questions and answers session.

The audience engaged Brown in a defense of his arguments. Many of the questions centered around the premise from Brown’s title that it is possible to be friends with people that one has not yet met. Brown had argued that sages–wise people–with similar interests and goals were friends even though they may never meet, as long as they engage in the greater pursuit of their beliefs. By doing this, each helps the other because the world is better for their work. One audience member suggested that this may not be true because sages are often at odds on their beliefs. The audience member suggested that the pope is a wise man but that he and the pope would never be able to be friends.

Brown engages the audience in a lively question and answer session.

Another audience member asked Brown about friendship in terms of competitive sports.  The audience member asked in regards to boxers if there was friendship between the boxers, in spite of the harm they may cause the other boxer. Brown suggested that this posed an interesting question. He suggested that even though he was never a boxer that he would assume that even in the bout that each boxer would most likely not wish to harm the other past the point of winning the competition.

The formal discussion last for more than an hour after which many audience members stayed around and spoke at greater length with Brown.

The conference is an annual event and will now enter the planning phase for next year. The Philosophy Department is looking forward to another successful event.

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