Philosophy Club Talk by Dr. Megan Fritts, “Gamified Pedagogy and The Crowd: Can Easy Learning Erase the Individual?”

We hope that you’ll join us on Thursday, March 18th at 4:30 p.m. on Zoom for a USU Philosophy Club Talk by our Visiting Assistant Professor, Dr. Megan Fritts. Zoom Link and Talk Description Below.

https://usu-edu.zoom.us/j/85881794026?pwd=Q3JoWkx4NHZPWXRZcnFDa2N1bFdrQT09

“In Thi Nguyen’s paper “How Twitter Gamifies Communication” (forthcoming), he argues that the algorithmic features of the social networking site Twitter make the site popular and addictive largely because it “gamifies” how we communicate with one another. This gamification occurs by providing users with artificial incentives and goals (e.g. likes and retweets), resulting in “value clarity”—namely, unlikely in real life, in games we have clarity about what to value, because the game designers tells us what to value. Nguyen argues that the artificiality of this value-clarity poses a problem for how we communicate with others. The problem is that, when users accept the “seduction” of value-clarity, we trade our original, complex goals of discourse for different, simplistic ends.In this paper, I build on Nguyen’s critique, shifting the focus to “gamified” pedagogy, and argue that his critique is similar to one offered by Kierkegaard against “the crowd” in the work The Point of View. Specifically, I argue that Kierkegaard’s description of crowds as “untruth” is similar to Nguyen’s description of gamification. Individual values, for both Kierkegaard and Nguyen, are too opaque and complex to be utilized by a collective. “Crowds”, therefore, involve group acceptance of a simplistic set of values that no individual in the group originally held. For both thinkers, accepting a simplified set of values can be dangerous, though they disagree on what this danger consists in. I further argue that this should make us wary of efforts to “gamify” pedagogy, despite the appeal of doing so.”



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Fall 2021 courses

For interested students, below is a tentative sketch of what we will be offering in philosophy in the fall semester. I am also posting below a pdf with course descriptions – some generic, some more specific. Again, this is tentative, so realize that there may be changes!

PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy (BHU)
PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy (BHU)
PHIL 1000: Introduction to Philosophy (BHU)
PHIL 1120: Social Ethics (BHU)
PHIL 1120: Social Ethics (BHU)
PHIL 1320: The Good Life (BHU)
PHIL 2200: Deductive Logic (QI)
PHIL 2400: Ethics (BHU)
PHIL 3150: Kant and the 19th Century
PHIL 3530: Environmental Ethics (DHA)
PHIL 3580: Ethics and Economic Life (DHA)
PHIL 3600: Philosophy of Religion (DHA)
PHIL 3700: Political Philosophy (DHA)
PHIL 3800: Philosophy of Literature (DHA)
PHIL 4400: Metaphysics

Some value in the old verification principle

Philosophy students often hear about the logical positivists, or the logical empiricists, or the Vienna Circle, and wonder what all that’s about, and whether there is any value in it. Here is a recent article on finding some value in their cherished verification principle:

“In particular, the verification principle seems like it’s an interesting tool to apply when you’re suspicious of something – when you think things don’t quite add up…. One problem with conspiratorial thinking is that – while often motivated by a critical instinct which is fundamentally laudable – the conspiracy theorist is typically not … the sort of person who, as yet, knows how to think properly. Thus conspiratorial thinking often assumes nonsense epistemic principles like Jim Garrison’s time and propinquity – the idea, pioneered by the godfather of Kennedy Assassination conspiracies, that we can get to the truth by mapping how (for instance) two individuals are secretly linked by having been in the same place at the same time (the Pepe Silvia way of understanding reality).”

Here is the article!

Tea Time! Philosophy and Mormonism

We’ll have an open discussion over Zoom about the adventures in relating philosophical inquiry to one’s faith: Wednesday, Feb 24, 4:30. Below is a description, and a Zoom link. All are welcome! Bring your own beverage of choice!

As a religious tradition, the LDS faith seeks to answer fundamental questions about who we are, what role we occupy in the universe, and how we should live our lives. It represents in many ways a deviation and synthesis of religious concepts and faiths that came before it. Philosophy also deals with fundamental questions about goodness, reality, and truth. It is thus natural that there will be intersections between Mormonism and philosophy. There has been a long debate in various branches of Mormonism about how the LDS faith and philosophy should interact with one another.

This event will be an opportunity to ask some questions that you might have about this interaction. Dr. Otteson has taken different positions on these sorts of questions throughout his life and has been close to a wide variety of people in and around the LDS faith who have also thought a lot about these questions. Join him for a lively discussion!

Zoom link: https://usu-edu.zoom.us/j/89491352291?pwd=WGVGVG1ua0J3NEhwMzY3NEF6ZzBmdz09

Please join us for a Philosophy Club talk by Dr. Michael Otteson titled, “Decisive Indecision: A Critique of Kantian Perfectionism”

We are lucky to have Dr. Michael Otteson with us this year as a Visiting Assistant Professor. On Thursday, February 11th at 4:30 p.m. on Zoom, Dr. Otteson will deliver a talk to the Philosophy Club titled, “Decisive Indecision: A Critique of Kantian Perfectionism”. The Zoom link and talk description are provided below. We hope to see you there!

https://usu-edu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYrf-qsqjkqHtOfrGoDyExEylsF6l-sGlO4

I argue against theories of perfectionism that root normativity in the activity of rational deliberation.  These theories, which I collectively call Kantian perfectionism, assert that the human good is found in making careful, rational choices about what we want to do with our lives that respect and protect our capacity to be rational agents.  I argue that these theories are inadequate as normative theories because they fail the Terminal Requirement.  The Terminal Requirement holds that an intrinsic or ultimate good, whatever that may be, must not be entirely directed at finding some other good, lest it devolve into infinite regress or futility.  Insofar as Kantian perfectionism recommends an activity (rational deliberation) that involves determining what the agent has most reason to do, it will either find some good beyond deliberation itself or fail on its own terms.   

Virtual student symposium

Please find below a call for papers for the Spring 2021 virtual student research symposium, hosted by the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies, to be held April 16, 2021.  The symposium will be held virtually on Zoom this year. 

If you are in a philosophy class, you may want to think about developing a paper you will be writing into a presentation. Talk to your professor about it!

Please announce this in your classes and encourage students to be involved. Students are invited to submit abstracts to Dr. Ko-yin Sung [koyin.sung[at]usu.edu] by Friday, March 19.  Students wanting to be considered for the Best Paper Award should submit complete papers to Dr. Sung by March 26.

Phi Sigma Tau call for members!

USU is home to a chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the national honors society in philosophy. Due to the quarantine, we are long overdue for an admission of new members. But we will go ahead with an online induction ceremony next month.

To join Phi Sigma Tau, you need to meet the following requirements:

• You must have completed 1.5 semesters at USU;
• You must have a 3.3 cumulative GPA;
• You must have completed (or are now completing) three Philosophy classes;
• You must have a B average in your Philosophy classes.

Note that you need not be a minor or major in Philosophy. Membership in the national organization costs $25.

If you meet the criteria, and would like to join PST, please send an email mentioning your interest to charlie.huenemann@usu.edu.

Summer Undergraduate Diversity Institutes in Philosophy

Diversity institutes support students from groups underrepresented in the discipline of philosophy as they hone their philosophical interests, become part of a community, and gain insight into the graduate admissions process. Further details about each institute, including eligibility and application requirements, may be found on the APA page listing summer undergraduate diversity institutes in philosophy. Though these institutes are typically residential programs that occur at university campuses, most institutes will be held virtually this year.

More information here!