Category Archives: Actual philosophical discussion!

World Philosophy Day!

“Philosophy calls us when we’ve reached the end of our rope. The insistent feeling that something is not right with our lives and the longing to be restored to our better selves will not go away. Our fears of death and being alone, our confusion about love and sex, and our sense of impotence in the face of our anger and outsized ambitions bring us to ask our first sincere philosophical questions.”

More here!

Arina Pismenny: “Implicit Biases and Rationality”

“Implicit Biases and Rationality”

Arina Pismenny

Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Utah State University

We all have implicit biases – basic attitudes that shape our value judgments. How do such biases relate to being rational as we guide our way through the world? Sponsored by the USU Philosophy Club.

Monday, November 12, 4:30 p.m. Main 207

All are welcome!


Holy crapola, we have a lot of events coming up! Don’t forget our on-going film series on gangsters; and also, Rachel Robison-Greene’s discussion TODAY about the ethics of in vitro meats. And there are more events to put on your calendars:

“Restoring Dialogue: Philosophy at Large” – Come discuss our fractured society, and explore ways we might restore dialogue across our many social and political divisions. Tuesday, October 23rd, 7 p.m., Main 304. Sponsored by Utah State Society for Women in Philosophy.

“Politically [irrational] Animals” – A panel discussion on the role of politics in our lives – and the night before election day! Speakers will be Erica Holberg, Arina Pismenny, and Rachel Robison-Greene. Monday, November 5th, 7 p.m., in Main 115. Sponsored by the USU Philosophy Club.

keep calm

“Having Grandma for Dinner?”

Philosophy Lecture

Having Grandma for Dinner?

In Vitro Meat, Dignity, and the Ethics of Edibility

Rachel Robison-Greene
Postdoctoral Fellow
Utah State University

The production of in vitro meat through the process of cell culturing gives rise to the exciting possibility that we may soon be able to reduce or even eliminate the production of meat in inhumane factory farms.  This technology is revolutionary in more than one respect—it also challenges us to rethink the moral parameters of our conception of edibility. What or who is it acceptable to eat?

Monday, October 15th

4:30 p.m.

Main 207

All Are Welcome!


Teachers & students

Here is a philosophical question for students and teachers alike:

What should the relationship be between students and teachers?

I’ll say a bit more to motivate the question. One model, maybe a traditional one, is that teachers are sort of “totally other” from the students: they have the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise, and they should command respect from the students and serve as a kind of challenge to the students. The icon here is Professor Kingsfield, the law professor in The Paper Chase — students do whatever they can to earn his respect, and he is constantly raising the bar for them.

A second model is the teacher as friend of the student, or a co-learner. In this case the teacher might even pretend to know less, to make the student feel as if he/she is making new discoveries along with the teacher.

I’m sure there are other models, or compromises between these two. What do you think?

Brains and math

Here is a strange but true brain story about a guy who has trouble figuring out what number “5” represents, let alone adding and subtracting, but who has other unimpaired comeptencies. I find this interesting because the rationalist in me has always found the ability to comprehend math simply basic to having an intellect. I need to study the article further, but a quick read suggests he has an intellect without even a minimal capacity for math.

Universal condition of despair?

In the long chain of comments following Kleiner’s “Are we alone?” post, Vince suggests that there are some basic truths any human can recognize, if they are paying attention, and recognizing them forces a move in one direction or another:

1. I am not who I want to be.
2. I cannot change things of my past.
3. I have a dead end in the future.
4. I cannot completely control my relationship with others.
5. The world around me is full of terror and sadness that I cannot erase.

… I sound a bit like Schopenhauer (”the worst of all worlds”).

But these conditions bring angst when a finite person reflects on his very large and (mostly) uncontrollable environment. The Buddhist hopes to remove the desires that bring this angst. The Christian hopes to receive forgiveness and an new life to remove this angst. Sartre hopes to remove angst by being free to choose his experience (his estimate of freedom is rather optimistic). Nietzsche, who seemed to be full of alienation and despair, required of himself the complete embracing of his actions in the presence of his alienation and despair — to live his actions (and angst) eternally.

I still hold that anyone with a human self-consciousness experiences angst over something or they are not working as a complete human in some way. The existentialists seem to be saying that these discoveries and decisions of the finite self in the midst of this large world are the essence of a human. I don’t believe this is necessarily metaphysics. It is observational sociology. Once the existentialists start relating the human condition to Other or Being or No Other, then this is metaphysics.

This does seem to me to be a plausible list of items we typically try to ignore in our day-to-day lives, but once we recognize them, we can either try to do something or try to forget. And “doing something” means, in part, doing philosophy.

Any thoughts?

New Philosophers’ Carnival…

… can be found here. This time the focus is on comedy in philosophy, or philosophy jokes, or philosophical satire. There are some interesting links, though I wish someone would treat the philosophy of humor with the seriousness it deserves.

To what extent might philosophy require humor, satire, and buffoonery? It seems to me that there is a kind of skepticism that is built on satire. It’s a simple as the Dr. Phil question: “how’s that working out for you?” Imagine Kant laying out the categorical imperative at length, only to be faced with that question. The question undercuts his whole enterprise, in the sense that it trades upon viewing his moral philosophy as a kind of psychological coping mechanism, and raises the question whether a moral philosophy, at bottom, is anything more than that.

There, I just spoiled a good line. doesn’t the fact that I spoiled it reveal something about the significance of satire for philosophy?