Past PHRE Conference – 2016

Truman State University’s
27th Annual Undergraduate Philosophy and Religion Conference

Saturday, November 5, 2016

All sessions will take place in Violette Hall 1010.

(For more information about each conference session, see the session abstracts immediately following the session schedule below.)


Dr. Dereck Daschke, Department of Philosophy & Religion, Truman State University


9:35 AMJulian Rome, The University of Memphis
“Puritan America and Aristotle’s Ideal City”
10:05 AMSofia Paz, Creighton University
“2nd Degree Racism”


10:45 AMNicholas Barabolak, Truman State University
“A Brief Meditation on Judaism, Christianity, and the Concepts of Justice and Love”
11:15 AMChester Pelsang, Truman State University
“Jewish Death and Mourning”





“Can Traditional Theists be Platonists?”

Violette Hall 1010


1:45 PMWesten Gesell, Bethel College
“Determinism and Free Will”
2:15 PMChad Conway, Southwest Minnesota State University
“Should the Truth Be Free?”
2:45 PMZachary Pohlman, Rockhurst University
“Justification by Faith and Good Works”


3:30 PMJoelle Axton , Truman State University
“The Ineffable in Concluding Unscientific Postscript through the Lens of Wittgenstein’s Interpreters”
4:00 PMCaleb Rew, Truman State University
“The Ontological Argument”








Julian Rome, University of Memphis

“Puritan America and Aristotle’s Ideal City”

In my paper, I compare America as imagined by John Winthrop in “A Model of Christian Charity” to Aristotle’s Politics.  Winthrop seeks to solve the problem Aristotle introduces that the natural inequality between the rich and poor could cause rebellion.  In attempting to explain his system through Christianity, Winthrop contradicts his own political philosophy, as well as Aristotle’s conception of divinity.  Both Winthrop and Aristotle profess to value justice in their communities; therefore, if justice were used to promote equality, then each of their communities could exist without the likelihood of revolt.


Clara Bosco, Creighton University   

“Privately Discussing Tchaikovski”

This paper is an exploration of whether music, due to its elusive nature, is in fact an example of a private language. Although Ludwig Wittgenstein explicitly argues for the impossibility of a private language since there could be no objective criterion for correct usage, philosopher Nick Zangwill reinterprets Wittgenstein when he claims private languages are actual as well as useful in instances of music. However, I will argue that the aesthetic experience of a piece of music is not in fact an example of a private language.


Sofia Paz, Creighton University   

“2nd Degree Racism”

For a while, “racism” was understood as the belief that one race was superior than the rest. Today, there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the word “racism.” What exactly makes a person racist? Do the intentions of people matter or is the mere fact they are responsible all that matters? In this paper, I argue that there are various levels of intention and therefore there are different appropriate responses to racist actions based on the level of intention. To this end, I provide a taxonomy which shows the relationship between responsibility, intention, and the responses that correspond with them.


Nicholas Barabolak, Truman State University

“A Brief Meditation on Judaism, Christianity, and the Concepts of Justice and Love”

Investigating the concepts of Justice and Love in the context of Judaism and Christianity presents many interesting avenues of thought to explore.  Ultimately, for this limited meditation on the topic, after deep analysis of several Jewish scholars, we may tentatively conclude (i) if we accept as a definition of Love ‘seeing something as valuable in itself’, then the best definition of Justice is ‘A kind of love; particularly, the love of society’, (ii) The Jewish tradition, as is popularly purported, emphasizes Justice over the sort of Love which is often associated with Christian thought – the sort which contains an element of self-sacrifice in terms of giving one’s life to save another’s, and finally (iii)  The reason that Judaism properly focuses on the Justice-sort-of-love is because their thought does not derive from Greek thought.


Chester Pelsang, Truman State University   

“Jewish Death and Mourning”

This paper is intended to show the various stages of the Jewish funeral and mourning rites, and how Jewish identity is formed from those rites. It is very important to examine these rites in the context in which they are meant to be studied. In doing so, this paper will use various scholarly sources to help explain and understand the aspects of the Jewish funeral and Jewish identity. This examination will be based upon the following areas of importance: moment of death, funeral mourning, observances, and remembrance.


Westen Gesell, Bethel College   

“Determinism and Free Will”

This paper examines how determinism can coexist with free will and, as a result, is compatible with moral accountability. After a brief explanation of determinism (specifically in the context of human action), I explore several arguments by various authors as they seek to reconcile determinism with morality. Following this, I describe scenarios in which determinism is present or could be useful and then briefly analyze the two lenses of determinism and free will in the context of Pragmatism. I also look at how these concepts would work in a religious (Christian) setting.


Chad Conway, Southwest Minnesota State University   

“Should the Truth Be Free?”

Should private corporations be allowed to monopolize access to information, which, if distributed, could advance the public welfare?  Are there circumstances in which this should be allowed?  Is there any information that ought to be denied public access?  The answers to these questions are morally complex, and there are many reasons given for and against them.  In this paper, I seek to demonstrate that although truth should not be freely distributed in all cases, it ought to be freely accessible in many of the cases in which the public is currently denied access.


Zachary Pohlman, Rockhurst University   

“Justification by Faith and Good Works”

In this apologetic piece, the author explains and defends the position of the Catholic Church on justification by faith and good works. The philosophical bases of relevant concepts, namely grace, the will of God, and the will of man, are drawn from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. The author cites this work while making a logical and Biblical argument for a two-tiered soteriological approach. The paper concludes by demonstrating how a philosophical understanding of select theological concepts yields a theology of justification that requires some sort of human response, while always acknowledging that salvation is never earned.


Joelle Axton , Truman State University   

“The Ineffable in Concluding Unscientific Postscript through the Lens of Wittgenstein’s Interpreters”

In this essay, I engage secondary literature comparing the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Søren Kierkegaard in order to arrive at a more nuanced interpretation of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript. After highlighting passages where Kierkegaard describes an ineffable experience in man’s encounter with God, I argue that this ineffability does not closely resemble Wittgensteinian concepts but represents a uniquely Kierkegaardian category. Kierkegaard is neither affirming the necessary inexpressibility of metaphysical truths nor rejecting the ineffable through a reductio ad absurdum argument but is describing the temporary experience of the individual who comes into contact with the paradox of the incarnation.


Caleb Rew, Truman State University   

“The Ontological Argument”

In this paper, I describe the historical development of the Ontological Argument as originally formulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury up to the contemporary philosopher Alvin Plantinga and how it has developed alongside formal logic. My thesis is that although the argument does not “prove” the existence of God, it did act as a powerful instrument for testing the efficacy of the logic of the time. I express that if not for this argument, then we would not have seen development in areas such as Modal Logic. The Ontological Argument has had a rough history of criticism and resurgence, but it has always proved to be an adequate test of the limits of human reason.