Thinkers Gather at Annual Philosophy Conference

Brittany Hayes, Reporter

The Eastern Pennsylvanian Philosophical Association Conference was a massive hit with almost 90 philosophy lovers, students and scholars in attendance.

The event, which was sponsored by the philosophy department and The Living Philosophy Project, was made up of four sessions with options for students and scholars to attend multiple presentations, as two or three presentations were offered per session.

Philosophy professor Dr. Melanie Shepherd gave a presentation titled “Metaphysics and Myth in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy” in which she explained that Nietzsche’s use of the Apollonian and Dionysian, an analysis of Greek tragedy, is often viewed as Nietzsche’s version of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics.

Shepherd argued that the Apollonian and Dionysian are myths that undermine both Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and metaphysics as a concept.

Shepherd spoke about another scholar, Beatrice Han-Pile, whom she believes missed the mark when interpreting the Birth of Tragedy.

“This suggests that rather than one metaphysics there are multiple metaphysics in the Birth of Tragedy, which undermines the idea that he was making metaphysical claims in the first place.

Han-Pile does not treat the second metaphysics as a genuine second because she ultimately connects her understanding with the first metaphysics to what Nietzsche truly believes,” said Shepherd.

Shepherd explained that recognizing the Birth of Tragedy’s multiple myths significantly complicates the effort to make myths symbolize a metaphysical truth.

During a question and answer session, Shepherd explained

that she was trying to bridge Nietzsche’s earlier work with the Birth of Tragedy and his later work.

Michael Parisi, a senior studying philosophy and theology at Saint Vincent College, also gave a presentation on Nietzsche in which he linked the historical Leopold and Loeb case with Alfred Hitchcock’s film, “The Rope.”

Parisi said Nietzsche never calls for a complete abandonment of morality as he is not staunchly anti-morality as some believe. Martin Weatherston, of East Stroudsburg University, gave a presentation titled “Kant and Hegel on the Scope of Human Consciousness” in which Weatherston took the side of Kant.

“Hegel’s’ assault on the unknowable thing in itself is more focused here than in the phenomenology sphere in that there is no suggestion here that the thing itself has a metaphysical cause beyond phenomenon. The thing in itself is a negative of experience in that the contribution of consciousness and the act of knowing are abstracted leaving only the thought of a thing stripped of all by which we know it,” said Weatherston

Weatherston explained that one must truly think about the valid- ity of an argument before harshly criticizing it.

“There are some arguments that one has to hesitate in criticizing because you might think this has got to be a joke, and I’m going to look like an idiot if I make a serious attack on this argument because it’s so bad. So the fact that we can see that Hegel is quite serious about this argument is that it’s fundamentally the same argument that he presents in the Phenomenology of Spirit,” said Weatherston.

Weatherston also used an everyday example to argue for Hegel’s belief in the thing in itself because Hegel believes he created the thing in itself.

“It would be kind of like saying something is getting into my garden at night and eating all of my vegetables. Now, I realize something is a concept and as such it’s a product of thought, and so I always know products of thought so therefore I know what’s eating my vegetables, but of course the whole point you don’t know what the something is. The something refers to that unknown thing be- yond the concept not the concept itself,” said Weatherston.

Weatherston went on to solidify his agreement with Kant that Hegel has the burden of proof.

“Are we finite or are we infinite? Well let’s start with I know I don’t have godlike powers and its equally clear that I have to say that I am finite in my knowledge as there is stuff that I don’t know,” said Weatherston.

Lissa Skitolsky, Susquehanna University, gave a presentation in which she took the perspective of Socrates concerning the problem of being a prisoner-functionary in Nazi Germany.

According to Skitolsky, prisoners disposed of bodies in concentration camps because it ensured their own survival.

For Skitolsky, the issue was questioning whether the prisoners did the right thing or if they made the wrong choice by perhaps abandoning a good life by doing so.

Students from Desales University, Lafayette College, University of Scranton, King’s College, and King’s College, London also gave presentations, which included “Existential Macbeth”, “Problems the History of Science Pose for Accepting Counter-Closure”, “Frey on Suicide,” “Capitalism Culture and Community,” “The Experience of Temporal Flow in the Block Universe” and “Biosocial Moral Theory: A Practical Approach to Climate Change.”

The conference also featured presentations from Donna Castelblanco and Maria Barcells of MU. Dr. Irene J. Klaver, director of the Philosophy of Water Project and professor of philosophy at the University of North Texas, gave the keynote address titled, “The River as a Bridge: Re-Connecting to Water.”

Klaver explored how water is viewed in modern culture. Klaver said she recently entered an H2O store in Vancouver because she was highly intrigued by its name, and it turned out that it was a high-end makeup store.

“If you want to know about what’s going on in culture, then you must look at the advertisements,” said Klaver.

Klaver went on to talk about modern-day revitalization of river projects, not only around the country but around the globe as the 21st century marks a reconnection to water with the development of urban cities.

Many urban cities are updating waterfronts, such as river parks, in a way to sustain development, Klaver said.

Klaver also talked about how modern water use is often unnecessary and how many people use water as a way to show off their wealth.

“I don’t know about the Dallas here but my Dallas (Texas) uses about 60 to 70% of the water on keeping their lawns done,” said Klaver.

Klaver also explained that the reason bottled water has an expiration date is that the plastic that seeps into water, possibly causing cancer-causing contamination. Klaver ended her presentation by saying that nature can and should be a public space for all to enjoy.

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