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Tennessee Philosophical Association
39th Annual Meeting: Oct. 26-27, 2007
Vanderbilt University

 

Keynote Speaker: John Lachs, Vanderbilt

‘‘Operational Independence’’

 

Friday, 7:30 P.M., 114 Furman Hall, followed by a spirited reception

 

 

Sessions: Saturday, Furman Hall

 

9:00 - 9:55 A.M.

Faith as an Intellectual Virtue, James Montmarquet (Tennessee State University)
Response: Brian Ribeiro (UT - Chattanooga)
Furman 106

Value of Philosophy, Charles Cardwell (Pellissippi State)
Response: Jack Simmons (Armstrong Atlantic University)
Furman 109

What Content Is Allowed by Kantian Formalism? Diane Williamson (Vanderbilt)
Response: Allen Coates (East Tennessee State University)
Furman 132

Medically Valid Religious Beliefs, Greg Bock (University of Tennessee - Knoxville)
Response: Rick Quinn (Fisk University)
Furman 217

10:00 - 10:55 A.M.

Does Pluralism Entail Liberalism? Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt)
Response: Mark Michael (Austin Peay State University)
Furman 106

The problem of women's particularity in the discourse of rights, Cheri Carr (Memphis)
Response: Erin Tarver (Vanderbilt)
Furman 109

The Responsibilities and Dangers of Pragmatism, Eric Weber (University of Mississippi)
Response: Jeff Edmonds (Vanderbilt)
Furman 132

Intra-professional Conflict of the Military Physician, Kevin Bond (UT - Knoxville)
Response: Matt Deaton (UT - Knoxville)
Furman 217

11:00 - 11:55 A.M.

John Lachs: Symposium and Retrospective
Andy Cling (University of Alabama - Huntsville), Ben Letson (Emory & Henry University), Daryl Hale (Western Carolina University), Jim Kramka (Vanderbilt), Michael Principe, (Middle Tennessee State University), Phil Oliver (MTSU).

The panelists were graduate students and teaching assistants of John Lachs in the (early) Reagan era
.
Furman 109

Abstractions on Leadership: Taoist Thought and Possibilities of Leading, Mike Jost (Southern Illinois University - Carbondale)
Response: Greg Bock (UT - Knoxville)
Furman 106

Black Church-Black Community: Free at last for Love, NaKeisha S. Sylver (independent scholar)
Response: Jen Crawford (UT - Knoxville)
Furman 132

Practicing Goodness, Robert Shields (Milligan College)
Response: Matthew Pamental (Northern Illinois University)
Furman 217

12:00 - 12:05 P.M.

Business Meeting, election of officers
Furman 109

1:30 - 2:25 P.M.

Lachs’ and Dewey's "Recovery of Philosophy": pragmatic not practical, Chad Wilson (UT - Knoxville)
Response: Robert Shields (Milligan College)
Furman 106

Liberalism and the Problem of Religious Justification, Michael Harbour (Vanderbilt)
Response: Rachel Smith (Cornell University)
Furman 109

Tu Quoque Arguments and the Significance of Hypocrisy, Scott Aikin (Western Kentucky)
Response: Carolyn Cusick (Vanderbilt)
Furman 132

On Wanting to Write This as Rose Selavy: Reflections on Sherrie Levine and Peircian Semiotic, Mary Magada-Ward (Middle Tennessee State University)
Response: Jonathan Neufeld (Vanderbilt)
Furman 217

2:30 - 3:25 P.M.

Deweyan Democracy and Pragmatic Legitimacy, Zach VanderVeen (Vanderbilt)
Response: Peter Limper (Christian Brothers University)
Furman 106

Why It Is Impossible To Justify Belief In The Existence Of A Changeless Duration, Nicholaus Jones (University of Alabama - Huntsville)
Response: Scott Aikin (Western Kentucky)
Furman 109

The Problems of Judgment and the Categories: Heidegger's Thinking about Transcendental Logic, Leslie MacAvoy (ETSU)
Response: Tom Nenon (Memphis)
Furman 132

Pyrrhonism and Religion in Sextus and Montaigne, Brian Ribeiro (UT - Chattanooga)
Response: James Bednar (Vanderbilt)
Furman 217

3:30 - 4:25 P.M.

The Necessary Entanglement of Fact and Value, Matthew Pamental (Northern Illinois University)
Response: Leslie MacAvoy (ETSU)
Furman 106

A Lesson on Free Speech from the Greeks, Jack Simmons (Armstrong Atlantic University)
Response: Chad Wilson (Emory University)
Furman 109

Fear and Hope in "The Will to Believe," James Bednar (Vanderbilt)
Response: Nicholaus Jones (University of Alabama - Huntsville)
Furman 132

The Possibility Requirement in Plato's Republic, Mason Marshall (Vanderbilt)
Response: Matt Whitt (Vanderbilt)
Furman 217

4:30 - conclusion

Aristotle on Practical Activity and Contemplation, John Fitzpatrick (UT - Chattanooga)
Response: James Grady (Vanderbilt)
and
Aristotle and Sinful Pleasures, Rachel Smith (Cornell University)
Response: John Fitzpatrick (UT - Chattanooga)
Furman 106

Schopenhauer was an Optimist, Kenneth Faber (Vanderbilt)
Response: Sarah Tyson (Vanderbilt)
and
Seeing the World ‘Sub Specie Aeterni’: Schopenhauer’s Influence on Early Wittgenstein, Sam von Mizener (Belmont)
Response: Andrew Moser (University of the South)
Furman 109

On the Moral Wrongness of Cannibalism, Mathew Lu (UT - Knoxville)
Response: Joel MacClellan (UT - Knoxville)
Furman 132

 

 

Abstracts of papers

 

Abstractions on Leadership: Taoist Thought and Possibilities of Leading, Mike Jost
(Southern Illinois University - Carbondale)

This paper is an exploration into the Tao Te Ching and seeking out the limits and possibilities of leadership in the text. Since the text is extremely abstract but interestingly attempts to deal with such a practical problem the possibility of delimiting the requirements and qualities of a leader is a bit difficult. Inevitably the construction of the state will be close to an Anarchistic Communism with the leader pushing the direction of the people in the background. Along with that there is no possibility of a Democracy in the work because of the negative view of the masses it takes

 Aristotle on Practical Activity and Contemplation, John Fitzpatrick
(University of Tennessee - Chattanooga)

A question that is at least as old as Philosophy itself is: what is the good life and how is one to live it? It is therefore not surprising that a philosopher of the magnitude of Aristotle answers this question; what is interesting is that he seems to have two different answers to it. In Book One of the Nicomachean Ethics he appears to suggest that the best life is one that is devoted to practical activity. In Book Ten, however, it seems that he recommends the life of philosophic contemplation as the best way to live. The purpose of this essay will be to examine these two views and suggest a resolution to the apparent dichotomy in Aristotle's thought

 Aristotle and Sinful Pleasures, Rachel Smith
(Cornell University)

Even the most cursory reading of the Nicomachean Ethics will make it clear that pleasure has great moral significance in Aristotle's account of the good life. In many passages, he seems to take it to be an unqualified good, and in fact, understanding it as such may be necessary for making sense of his views on virtue and habituation. At the same time, Aristotle acknowledges the obvious fact that vicious people can take pleasure in wicked or perverted things. How can he make sense of this phenomenon? This paper will borrow an idea from medieval metaphysics in an attempt to solve the problem of sinful pleasures.

 Black Church-Black Community: Free at last for Love, NaKeisha S.Sylver
(Independent scholar)

Much of the angst presently suffered within the African-American community traces to a subtle, yet persistent, hostility between black men and women. Following a reflection on some of the historical and theological underpinnings of this tension steeped in patriarchy, this paper moves to endorse a holistic reading of the Genesis creation account that leaves room for the type of intra-community freedom and love thinkers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused - even while acknowledging the two men's failure to have fully extended their visions of authentic unity to the women of their times.

Deweyan Democracy and Pragmatic Legitimacy, Zach VanderVeen
(Vanderbilt)

This paper seeks to clarify the importance of Dewey's pragmatism for contemporary discussions of democracy. Today's democratic theory is often mired in the problems and pitfalls of foundationalism and relativism. In order to begin a new kind of democratic theory and practice that neither posits a foundational norm nor is content with agonism, I will reconstruct a contextualist and pragmatic notion of political legitimacy. Towards this end, I will make reference to Dewey's work as well as to accounts of democratic process set forth in the work of Noëlle McAfee.

 Does Pluralism Entail Liberalism? Robert Talisse
(Vanderbilt)

Isaiah Berlin repeatedly attempted to derive liberalism from value pluralism. It is generally agreed that Berlin's arguments fail; however, neo-Berlinians have taken up the project of securing the entailment. This paper begins with an account of why the Berlinian project seems attractive to contemporary theorists. I then examine Berlin's argument. With this background in place, I criticize William Galston's most recent attempts to rescue the Berlinian project.

Faith as an Intellectual Virtue, James Montmarquet
(Tennessee State University)

On the view defended here, faith is an intellectual - not a theological - virtue. Generically, faith in X, I identify with openness to experiences of (or with) X and relationship to X; thus, religious faith, with openness mainly to religious experiences. One of my main concerns, then, becomes to defend the virtuousness of such a restricted type of openness - against such objections that only a wider ranging openness to truth is intellectually virtuous.

 Fear and Hope in "The Will to Believe," James Bednar
(Vanderbilt)

In The Will to Believe James claims one's passional nature determines one's attitude toward epistemic risk: privileging believing truths is an expression of preponderate hope; privileging not believing falsehoods is an expression of preponderate fear. While James's observations regarding the operation of fear and hope in this regard are psychologically astute, the question remains as to whether (to borrow from James in a different context) we should espouse and endorse these psychological tendencies or treat them as weaknesses of our nature from which we must free ourselves if we can. James holds the former. I argue for the latter.

Intra-professional Conflict of the Military Physician, Kevin Bond
(University of Tennessee - Knoxville)

The military physician is, in a sense, doubly a professional. She is a professional in her role as a physician, and professional in her role as an officer. However, when we try to tease out the specific role of the military physician, it becomes problematic to identify the professional norms that regulate her actions. In this talk I want to highlight the differences between physicians and military officers which make it especially difficult to combine the two professions. I will end it with by suggesting that the resulting moral distress fostered by this union should concern us.

Lachs' and Dewey's "Recovery of Philosophy": pragmatic not practical, Chad Wilson
(University of Tennessee - Knoxville & Emory University)

In this essay I seek to dispel reductive understandings of the pragmatic character of both Dewey's call for recovery of philosophy and John Lachs's vision of philosophy's future. I begin by developing an understanding of Dewey's call as pragmatic rather than practical. Then, I reexamine the pragmatic meaning of Dewey's statement- often cited by Lachs - that philosophy will recover itself when it becomes a method for dealing with the problems of men. Finally, I conclude by articulating an understanding of Lachs's recent reflections on philosophy as a call for a 21st century pragmatic recovery of philosophy.

 A Lesson on Free Speech from the Greeks, Jack Simmons
(Armstrong Atlantic University)

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published the report, A Nation at Risk, suggesting that failing educational standards could lead to the collapse of American society, culture, economy and national defense. The commission's recommendations included greater standardization of academic content and testing. At roughly the same time Greece's government passed legislation that guaranteed university students and faculty freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and maintained free higher education to all Greek citizens. Though the Greek system currently faces a serious crisis, the American educational establishment may learn an important lesson about educational ethics from the Greek crisis.

 Liberalism and the Problem of Religious Justification, Michael Harbour
(Vanderbilt)

In this paper, I argue against Christopher Eberle's contention that religious conviction can serve as a legitimate basis for policy making in liberal democratic regimes and that the attempt to exclude them itself constitutes a violation of liberalism. In response to Eberle, I contend that citizens who want to pursue such policies are ultimately forced into a bind: either they are committed to the epistemic superiority of their religious beliefs, in which case they have no reason to be committed to liberalism, or they are committed to kind of epistemic relativism, in which is deeply at odds with their strong religious convictions.

 Medically Valid Religious Beliefs, Greg Bock
(University of Tennessee - Knoxville)

Patient requests for inappropriate medical treatment (violations of the standard of care) based on religious beliefs should have special standing. Nevertheless, not all such requests should be honored because some are morally disturbing. The trouble is in drawing the line. This paper proposes criteria that would qualify a religious belief as medically valid to help physicians decide which requests to respect. The four conditions I suggest are (1) the belief is shared by a community, (2) the belief is deeply held, (3) the belief would pass the test of a religious interpreter, and (4) the belief does not harm others.

 The Necessary Entanglement of Fact and Value, Matthew Pamental
(Northern Illinois University)

John Goldthwait defends the fact/value dichotomy. However, Goldthwait's position is unsustainable, its plausibility enabled by a truncated view of moral experience. First, he has erroneously dichotomized means and ends. Second, he has blocked experience from serving as a test of the enactment of final ends, making it impossible to understand how we could judge their worth, or how judgment could improve. Third, he has mistakenly ontologized the results of his analysis. Once past these mistakes, we can see how the fact/value distinction is not a dichotomy, how value judgments can be evaluated objectively, and how judgment can be improved

 On the Moral Wrongness of Cannibalism, Mathew Lu
(University of Tennessee - Knoxville)

Just why is cannibalism wrong? I suspect that for the vast majority of people the intuition that cannibalism is wrong is practically as strong as the intuitions against rape or murder, yet on reflection it becomes surprisingly difficult to give clear grounds for saying why cannibalism per se is wrong. In this paper I take up the question of cannibalism as a particularly interesting test case for our moral theories. I will ultimately argue that we need some way of recognizing the objective moral value of non-personal objects if we are to make sense of the idea that something like cannibalism is per se wrong.

 On Wanting to Write This as Rose Selavy: Reflections on Sherrie Levine and Peircian Semiotic, Mary Magada-Ward
(Middle Tennessee State University)

This essay is an attempt both to explore the work of the contemporary artist, Sherrie Levine, in light of Peirce's claim that "men and [signs] reciprocally educate each other" and to use Levine's work to illuminate the contemporary significance of Peirce's claim. Because Levine's art consists in the appropriation, adaptation, and extension of the work of modernist male artists - perhaps most successfully, that of Marcel Duchamp - it necessarily emphasizes the roles of gender and sexuality in semiotic comprehension and production.

 The Possibility Requirement in Plato's Republic, Mason Marshall
(Vanderbilt)

Myles Burnyeat has maintained that for Socrates and his interlocutors in the Republic, the effort they put into describing their hypothetical aristocratic city will have been “idle daydreaming, mere wish-fulfillment” unless they show that this city is possible. Burnyeat’s argument, though, is not conclusive, and other commentators (such as Julia Annas) have denied that possibility ends up being a significant concern in the Republic. To the contrary, and in line with Burnyeat, I argue that throughout the dialogue Socrates and his interlocutors adhere to the possibility requirement: they proceed as if a city is best only if it is possible.

 Practicing Goodness, Robert Shields
(Milligan College)

Assuming that the primary concern of Ethics is how we choose to act in such a way as to be good, I wish to propose that the starting point for any analysis of what goodness is should be an examination of how we are good or fail to be good in our mundane, everyday lives. This being the case, I wish to suggest that the resources for this analysis might be found in the Wittgensteinian influenced theories of Social Practices currently being developed in Philosophy and in Social Theory.

 The problem of women's particularity in the discourse of rights, Cheri Carr
(Memphis)

The traditional discourse of universal human rights has been treated with distrust by contemporary feminist thinkers. The gap between the declaration of universal rights and their implementation in practice has led some, such as Susan Okin and Onora O'Neill, to develop a body of work meant to recuperate the rights discourse. This essay attempts to redirect these theoretical resources to aid a more radical end: rejecting the rights discourse entirely. By using Okin’s criticisms of the public/private distinction and O'Neill's shift of the rights discourse to one of obligations, “post-structuralist” feminists can meet the challenge of interceding in the realm of rights while maintaining their skepticism of universalization.

The Problems of Judgment and the Categories: Heidegger's Thinking about Transcendental Logic, Leslie MacAvoy
(ETSU)

This paper offers a critical reconstruction of Heidegger's reading of transcendental logic, based on his writings in the Fruhe Schriften. I argue that one of Heidegger's primary interests is the problem of the categories and that he ultimately does not find a solution in neo-Kantianism because it lacks an account of subjectivity adequate to address the issues of judgment raised by this problem. Finally, I suggest that Heidegger may have realized that a notion of meaning developed in relation to a theory of intentional subjectivity promises more for resolving the problem of the categories than the notion of judgment.

 Pyrrhonism and Religion in Sextus and Montaigne, Brian Ribeiro
(University of Tennessee - Chattanooga)

Both Sextus and Montaigne articulate views about the status religion will have in the life of a mature Pyrrhonian skeptic. And while their views appear to differ, I will argue that Sextus and Montaigne belong to a unitary Pyrrhonist tradition. In this tradition, Pyrrhonizing doubt serves to chart the boundary of that-which-resists-doubt, thereby simultaneously charting the shape of that complex of nature and custom which constitutes the bedrock of human life. I will argue that the apparent divergence between Sextus and Montaigne over religious matters is not philosophical in nature, but empirical, having to do with questions of human psychology or historical circumstance,

 The Responsibilities and Dangers of Pragmatism, Eric Weber
University of Mississippi)

John Lachs has argued that the value of academic philosophers rests not in their scholarly writing, but in their ability as teachers of critical, thoughtful minds. In this paper, I show the continuity of this outlook on the work of philosophers with Lachs's stoic pragmatism. Stoic pragmatism is the view that the pragmatic optimism of thinkers like James, Royce, and Dewey must be tempered by a stoic acceptance of our limitations as human beings. While I support Lachs's controversial claims regarding stoic pragmatism, I argue that we can employ the skills of philosophers beyond the classroom as well. Eric Weber (Mississippi)

 Schopenhauer was an Optimist, Kenneth Faber
(Vanderbilt)

In our attempt to come to terms with the nature of the universe and our place within it, we may wonder whether it is reasonable to be optimistic concerning our situation. Is the universe friendly, hostile, or indifferent to our personal interests and aims? For Kant, it is a fundamental question of philosophy: "Was darf ich hoffen?" What may I hope for? The philosophical response to this question has been various, with some endorsing optimism, some endorsing pessimism, and some a middle way. Schopenhauer is generally counted among the pessimists, and, in certain respects, this is undoubtedly a fitting assessment. In the final analysis, however, Schopenhauer, far from being a pessimist, is a decided optimist. Our central aim this present hour is to explain why this is true.

 Seeing the World 'Sub Specie Aeterni': Schopenhauer's Influence on Early Wittgenstein, Sam von Mizener
(Belmont)

One can better understand Wittgenstein's cryptic remarks about the "metaphysical subject" and what it means to "see the world from the point of view of eternity" in the Tractatus by closely examining Schopenhauer's remarks about the "pure knowing subject" and the "purely knowing subject" in the World as Will and Representation. The sense of the "purely knowing subject" is akin to the most objective state of perceptual knowledge with which an individual can be engaged. And what I am calling Wittgenstein's "transcendental perspective with respect to the world" is just the sort of perspective that could be taken up by Schopenhauer's "purely knowing subject."

 Tu Quoque Arguments and the Significance of Hypocrisy, Scott Aikin
(Western Kentucky University)

Though textbook tu quoque arguments are fallacies of relevance, many versions of arguments from hypocrisy are indirectly relevant to the issue. Some arguments from hypocrisy are challenges to the authority of a speaker on the basis of either her sincerity or competency regarding the issue. Other arguments from hypocrisy purport to be evidence of the impracticability of the opponent's proposals. Further, some versions of hypocrisy charges from impracticability are open to a counter that I will term tu quoque judo

Value of Philosophy, Charles Cardwell
(Pellissippi State)

A sketchy history of the question "What is the practical value of philosophy?" shows that the question is ambiguous. It may concern philosophy as a corpus or philosophy as an activity informed by specific approaches to problem solving. In either case, philosophy carries considerable practical utility. Thales, however, inspires my ultimate focus: philosophy's practical value for making a living in the world of stocks and bonds

 What Content Is Allowed by Kantian Formalism? Diane Williamson
(Vanderbilt)

This paper examines reasons that Kant could not possibly have intended moral decision-making to exclude the consideration of the end and consequences of the action. As a result, I examine possible relationships between moral goodness and pragmatic benefit other than the injunction that they are to have no relationship. For example, I consider the idea that Kantian moral theory relies on the notion of the inherent goodness of necessary ends, like rational being.

Why It Is Impossible To Justify Belief In The Existence Of A Changeless Duration, Nicholaus Jones
(University of Alabama - Huntsville)

Sydney Shoemaker claims to have described a world in which the inhabitants have good reason for thinking that there are time intervals during which no change occurs. I aim to show not only that Shoemaker's thought-experiment fails, but also that it is impossible to justify any belief in the existence of changeless duration.

 

Appendix

John Lachs 

In my intellectual development and professional choices, no one has been more instrumental and instructive than John Lachs.  A masterful teacher and remarkable scholar who in rigor of thought and analysis maintains the essential human quality of sympathy and understanding.  His scholarly work ranges through many fields of inquiry: naturalism, ethics, American philosophy, George Santayana, contemporary philosophical issues, many social and philosophical inquiries into the condition of human society, to name a few.  He has a publication record that is hard to surpass, a teaching record that is unparalleled in my experience, and the ability to draw the interests of both graduate and undergraduate students.   
 

He spoke at my inauguration as President of Richard Stockton College, and to this day, his remarks are the most requested from that occasion.  He captured the essence of being a president in a few short remarks that will be found on the Stockton website for as long as I am president.  
 

On a professional note, he is the model teacher/scholar we all hope to become.  On a personal note, he is that faculty member who makes the unusual progression from being a mentor and advisor to being a friend and colleague who not only respects your independence and difference but also encourages it.  No better friend and colleague can I imagine.  And my sentiments are shared by all of his students, past and present.  We are ever grateful.

 
Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr.
President
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

 

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