Past PHRE Conference – 2008


The 19th Annual

Undergraduate Philosophy & Religion Conference

Saturday, November 8, 2008
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Spanish Room, Student Union Building

Hosted by Truman State University Department of Philosophy and Religion

and the College of Arts and Sciences

Keynote Address: The 2008 Smits Lecture
Gregory Pence, University of Alabama
at Birmingham
“How to Build a Better Human”
12:30 pm
Buffet lunch provided at 12:15 pm




By Dr. Mike Ashcraft, Truman PHRE Department


“The Phenomenological Symbol”  Lori Rothermund, Hastings College

Religion is an expression of humanity’s ultimate concern, and it must be expressed symbolically, for it is through the symbol alone that humanity able to express.  Yet without the development of what Hegel entitles the Notion, this concern would lie trapped within the isolated minds of individuals within the human species.  For Hegel’s Notion is itself the symbol – the archetype, which allows for the development of the individual and cultural consciousness, and through which each of these realizes its actuality, and may thus ultimately express itself.  This essential symbol is thus examined throughout Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit in context with Ernst Cassirer, Mircea Eliade, and Carl Jung.


“Causality and the Possibility of Science in Hume’s Inquiry” Corey A. Smith, Western Kentucky University

Central to David Hume’s skeptical philosophy is the belief that all scientific knowledge is founded upon the notion of cause/effect relations—a notion he at lengths argues is beyond the grasp of human reason.  In my presentation, I will argue that Hume’s skeptical position is largely the result of an epistemology that wrongly delimits human reason to the mere manipulation of sense impressions.  Next, I will demonstrate how this epistemology inevitably implicates Hume in solipsism.  Finally, I will end by briefly suggesting a possible account of science that both circumvents solipsism and overcomes Hume’s skepticism.


“Analysis of the Babylonian Terracotta of the Goddess Ishtar” Bailey E. Barnard, University of Nebraska at Omaha

In this study, I propose that religious art has the potential to reveal further aspects of ancient Mesopotamians’ religious beliefs beyond what is preserved in the written texts.  The analysis of artifacts, such as the Babylonian Terracotta of the Goddess Ishtar, provides a glimpse of how religion was presented to and accepted by society.  Data came from interdisciplinary research from historical, mythological, religious, and artistic sources.  Results of the study show that the Babylonian terracotta illuminates the role of Ishtar in Mesopotamian religion, as an important figure and widely portrayed deity, as well as the functional purposes of such representations of Ishtar, as devotional objects.

10:35-10:45  (Break)


“Knowing the Divine:  The Necessity and Failure of the Argument from Religious Experience” Matthew C. Ludlow, University of Memphis

The classic arguments for the existence of God are often used in arguments aimed at proving the existence of a theistic God. However, even if these arguments succeed, nothing about them allows us to deduce anything concerning the nature of the deity. The nature and will of a deity is only proven through the successful use of the argument from religious experience. Should this kind of argument fail, theism fails as a position one should feel duty bound to accept. After examining the arguments from religious experience, I conclude that they are self-defeating and unsuccessful. Thus, religious skepticism is a justified position.  


 “The Role of Women in the Pauline Church”    Amy Fleming, Truman State University

There has long been ecclesiastical controversy over an apparent contradiction in the Apostle Paul’s letters. He writes to the churches in Galatia, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” yet his other letters contain passages that seem to promote misogyny. Historically, the latter texts have been used to create a second-class status for women in the church and, consequentially, the cultures it has shaped. By offering an exegesis of these passages, I seek to show that despite his seemingly harsh commands towards women, Paul was actually one of the first advocates of gender equality. I will also examine the various roles of women in his first-century churches in order to verify that, consistent with his words to the Galatians, his theology is rooted in the belief that no dichotomy lies on a vertical hierarchy.


“Nested Polarities, Categorical Ambiguities, and the Ummah in Ibn Battutah’s Travels to India”  Samuel Ritter, Carleton College

In the 13th century, Ibn Battutah, an Islamic jurist from the Magrhib, left his homeland to travel the world.  His journeys took him to the court of the Muslim sultan Muhammad ibn Tughluq of India. When he returned home, he recorded his experiences for his royal patron.  Using theoretical models from literary criticism (“nested polarities”) and the anthropology of religions (“categorical ambiguities”), this paper attempts to explain how Ibn Battutah constructed Indian court life as both a bizarre spectacle of fabulous riches and a flourishing Muslim sultanate.  Finally, these models enable us to see how Ibn Battutah incorporated Southeast Asia into the ummah — the global community of Muslims — that stretched from Spain to Bengal.

12:15-12:30  (lunch set up)

12:30-1:50  Keynote Speaker — Dr. Gregory E. Pence; Introduction by Dr. David Murphy


“The Accident of Saint Paul” Daniel Thetford, Illinois State University

Saint Paul, on the road out of Damascus, falls off of his horse once again. This time, though, he hits his head on a rock and awakens days later with a severe case of amnesia. After regaining his strength, Paul and his companions travel through Arabia doing the work of their church, and spreading the word of Jesus Christ. One night, though, Paul’s faith is shaken by his amnesia, and with one of his companions he discusses and grapples with several issues related to belief, faith, knowledge, and what things the true God must be and must do.


“Memory in Blade Runner:  The Creation of Emotion and the Certainty of Being” Robert W. Crane, St. Thomas University

In this paper I analyze the film Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) and consider the epistemological question: “what make a human as such?” Employing John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, as well as analyzing the cinematic facets of the film I examine the importance of memory and identity as they play a pivotal role in human emotions. My analysis of Blade Runner under these criteria leads to the conclusion that human beings and their authentic emotions can be manufactured.


“Rothko, Nietzsche and the Birth of Visual Music” Lauren Greenspan, Truman State University

Mark Rothko was not an abstractionist. Rather, his style, though visually adhering to the principles of formalism, sought to prescribe to Nietzsche’s view of the Dionysian and the German philosopher’s conception of the prime aesthetic value of music. The scholarship submitted establishes the links between painter and philosopher as well as explores Nietzsche’s aesthetic theory in The Birth of Tragedy. Rothko’s attempts to raise art to the “level and poignancy of music” has been heavily explored in several biographies, namely Dore Ashton’s  About Rothko and James E. Breslin’s Mark Rothko. Using their scholarship as well as primary commentary from Rothko and Nietzsche, one may attempt to judge whether or not Nietzsche’s aesthetics were manifested in Rothko’s signatures.

3:30-3:40  (Break)


“From Pacifism to Just War in Early Christianity” Nehemiah Rosell, Truman State University

Early Christianity was largely a pacifistic religious movement that taught nonviolence and condemned Christian participation in the army.  However, by the fourth century CE, Christianity had mostly lost this pacifistic conviction.  In its place was a just war theory, which created the conditions in which a war could be initiated and fought in a just manner.  What happened?  I will explore this switch in early Christianity from pacifism to just war theory, especially examining Christianity’s relationship to the Roman Empire during this time.  In this, I will attempt to explain the cause of the switch by analyzing this event from a sociological viewpoint.


“Thou Shalt Watch:  Religion and Film in Study and Dialogue”  Britt Hultgren & Mark Lambert, Truman State University

This paper is an examination of religion and its interplay with film. It makes a case for film as the natural evolution of art, and art as an inextricable artifact of religion. Film also has innately religious qualities, such as ritual, experience, culture, and its ability to provoke transcendence. Further, the paper delves into some of the difficulties involved in creating a course focusing on religion and film. The paper traces the current development of the authors’ nascent methodology, which they wish to apply to analyzing films. A brief example is given in the analysis of the film The Proposition.


Closing Remarks & Thank Yous

*  We still have the room—we can stay after and socialize or feel free to leave