Past PHRE Conference — 2021

The 31st Annual

Philosophy and Religion

Undergraduate Conference

November 6, 2021


Click here to attend the conference via Zoom.

2021 PHRE Conference poster




Saturday, November 6, 2021 9AM-5PM

In-person sessions in the SUB ACTIVITIES ROOM.

Talk abstracts appear below the schedule.


Dereck Daschke


10 min


John Eritreo



“The Exploration of Classical Rhetoric”


Kimberly Ramos



“To Choose B or Not to Choose B: Ruth Chang’s Account of Practical Reasoning”


Clayton Hicks



Auxiliary Hypotheses and the Failure of Falsification to Demarcate Science from Pseudoscience”



10 min



Anastasia Popham

Nebraska Wesleyan University


“Christian Interpretations of the Afterlife”


Carter McLaughlin

Southwest Minnesota State University


“Master Morality for All? An Exploration of Nietzsche’s Morality”



70 min



Cabell Hankison Gathman



This is a story about witchcraft: Narrative, social & cultural studies, and the worlds that shape & are shaped by us”


Jacob Nicholson



“Reprimand and Revealed Repercussion: some Functions of Jeremiah 7 in the Gospel of Mark”


Rosalie Looijaard

Augustana College


“The Stained River of the Immaculate Conception”


Gabby Tremblay

Creighton University


Addressing Domestic Abuse in Modern Society: A Case for Marital Friendship.”



10 min



Jacob Nicholson



Descensus and the ‘Dying and Rising God’: An Examination of Metaphorical Death”


Will Henrickson



“Radically Alive: an absurd manifesto”


Talk Abstracts

John Eritreo, Truman State University: “The Exploration of Classical Rhetoric”

Within the field of classical rhetoric and Greek philosophy there exist two distinct schools of thought, each containing their own beliefs and methodology for understanding the world around them. One originated with the ideas of Plato, while the other was formed by a group of traveling teachers known as the Sophist. Through close examination of the fundamental ideas of each group, I was able to isolate the foundational principles of each school’s worldview and perceived objectives. This side by side comparison revealed not only how the two philosophical ideologies perceived the world through a different lens but held varying opinions of how rhetoric should be used as well as differences between debate and discussion.

Kimberly Ramos, Truman State University: “To Choose B or Not To Choose B: Ruth Chang’s Account of Practical Reasoning”

When faced with difficult decisions, such as a choice between careers or spouses, one might find themself at an impasse. Should they become a lawyer or a philosopher? Should they marry Jim or Jane? Either option has its own merits, but these merits do not amount to any sort of conclusive, rational decision—at least, not at first glance. Ruth Chang argues that difficult decisions are rationally resolved through acts of will. Even more, these difficult decisions are opportunities to form one’s rational identity. Her account of practical reasoning offers a way of rationally overcoming the incommensurability of difficult decisions. Though she faces potential objections from volitional predispositions and the varying degrees of rational identity formation, both of which I will elucidate later in this paper, her account of practical reasoning ultimately provides a course of action in difficult, life-changing decisions

Clayton Hicks, Purdue University: “Auxiliary Hypotheses and the Failure of Falsification to Demarcate Science from Pseudoscience”

Since the 1700’s, Hume’s Problem of Induction has loomed as a challenge for the justification of scientific knowledge. Karl Popper proposed falsification as an answer to this problem, but under deeper analysis considering the role of auxiliary hypotheses, it seems that falsification can only weakly, or not at all, help demarcate science from pseudoscientific claims. Considering the discover of Neptune, I argue that one must hold contradictory critical and dogmatic attitudes if falsification alone demarcates science from pseudoscience. Although this does not discredit falsification’s role in science, it seems that falsification alone is not a sufficient criterion.

Anastasia Popham, Nebraska Wesleyan University: “Christian Interpretations of the Afterlife”

Political ideologies and cultural values shape religious afterlife views rather than reflect them. Political ideologies and ever-changing religious trends result in a distorted view of the afterlife and which factors in a Christian’s life qualify them for different outcomes. This lack of a well-defined afterlife results in many Christians forming views about the afterlife independently from mainstream denominational views. This paper consults Kathryn Gin Lum and David San Filippo to identify Christian views on the afterlife alongside political and cultural values that influence perspectives of the afterlife. Avenues for future research include researching when and what prompted the afterlife to become politicized and shift from political propaganda to accepted theological doctrine.

Carter McLaughlin, Southwest Minnesota State University: “Master Morality for All? An Exploration of Nietzsche’s Morality”

Morality is a term commonly used by most individuals, yet the full extent of the word is often overlooked or taken for granted. People tend to assume that morality is equal across the board for all individuals. It is as if there is some universal tacit meaning for the word. However, this is not the case. Many moral theories exist on Earth. In this essay I examine Friedrich Nietzsche’s interpretation of morality. According to Nietzsche, there are two distinct types of morality: master morality and slave morality. I begin by defining both forms of morality, how they originated, and outline some of their key characteristics. I conclude this essay by reflecting on the relationship between the two types of morality, the impact they have had on the current Western conception of morality, and, ultimately, seek an answer to the question of whether Nietzsche believed that master morality was for everyone.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS, 1 PM: Dr. Cabell Hankison Gathman

This is a story about witchcraft: Narrative, social & cultural studies, and the worlds that shape & are shaped by us”

Growing up queer in a progressive family in southeast Missouri, I was always interested in how people make sense of the world through a religious lens: not only the conservative Protestant one that dominated my community, but also more radical interpretations of Christianity and new religious movements like neo-Paganism. As a philosophy & religion major at Truman, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of nuclear weapons on Japanese cosmology, particularly new religious rituals that transformed traditional funerary rites in a world that had faced the threat of annihilation. Then, fascinated by the popularization of online memoir in the early 2000s and deeply curious about how human interaction might be shaped by new communication technologies, I applied to PhD programs in sociology. I wrote my dissertation on the construction and revelation of self, particularly in regard to sexual identity, on social media. Almost 20 years later, I am a contingent instructor in sociology and gender studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; I am also a parent, a storyteller, a world maker: a professional bisexual witch. How have my roots in philosophy & religion shaped me? How will they shape you?

She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches, changes.” –Starhawk

Cabell Gathman is a cisgender bisexual cyborg with experimental hair and a PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her dissertation research explored how people reveal identity-relevant information on social media, particularly in regard to sexual orientation. In her teaching, she focuses on issues of digital communication and community-building, queerness and embodiment, and the sociology of health and medicine, particularly in regard to marginalization and inequity. She received her B.A. in Philosophy & Religion from Truman State University in 2003.

Jacob Nicholson, Truman State University: “Reprimand and Revealed Repercussion: Some Functions of Jeremiah 7 in the Gospel of Mark”

In the field of Biblical Studies, two main tasks of a scholar are deciphering a biblical author’s message (what they were trying to communicate) and identifying their mode (how they were trying to communicate it). This paper examines one of the messages and modes of the Gospel of Mark. It will argue that by incorporating elements of Jeremiah 7 into the gospel (the mode), the author of Mark attempted to demonstrate that the Christian God was punishing the Roman Jews for their involvement in Nero’s persecution of the Roman Christians in 64 CE (the message).

Rosalie Looijaard, Augustana College: “”The Stained River of the Immaculate Conception”

This paper analyzes how the Mississippi River and its surrounding land were co-opted by European explorers to establish Christian dominance in hopes of remaking the Garden of Eden. Christian colonizers both deified and dominated nature to both justify colonization and display their own power over space and religion. This paper first analyzes Hernando de Soto’s and Jacques Marquette’s naming of the river, and then argues how this initial naming is indicative of a larger trend of occupying and deifying perceived virginal nature and wilderness in order to establish a Christian space on the North American Continent.

Gabby Tremblay, Creighton University: “Addressing Domestic Abuse in Modern Society: A Case for Marital Friendship.”

I explore how John S. Mill’s concept of marital friendship can solve the contemporary issue of domestic abuse as opposed to paternalistic oversight, which denies a woman’s right to refuse prosecuting her abuser. Paternalism is an inadequate solution because it rests on the assumption that a woman is freely choosing an abusive relationship. However, I show that she is not free in this choice and define this as marital slavery perpetuated by the same inequality characteristic of every form of slavery. Thus, marital friendship, with its foundation in equality, is the perfect remedy to domestic violence.

Jacob Nicholson, Truman State University: “Descensus and the ‘Dying and Rising God’: An Examination of Metaphorical Death”

While scholarship on the category of “Dying and Rising Gods” (DRG) has generated much disagreement, virtually all scholars agree that, as the name implies, a DRG must be a god who dies and comes back to life. Trygvve Mettinger, the category’s leading proponent, allows metaphorical deaths, as represented by a figure’s descent into the Underworld (a descensus), to fulfill the death criterion. However, Mettinger does little to show that some descensus actually are metaphors for death. This paper will justify this assumption by arguing that Persephone’s descensus in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter is a metaphor for her death.

Will Henrickson Truman State University: ““Radically Alive: An Absurd Manifesto”

Radically Alive is a synthesis of the work of 20th century Absurdist philosopher Albert Camus. In this paper, Camus’ two main works The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel are combined to create a central thesis focused primarily on how to live. In this paper, the absurd is analyzed from an individual basis; then critiqued from the perspective of collectivization to the lead to the conclusion that to rebel in this life, one must become a Rebel and form a collective of other Rebels to reject societal ills that create suffering. To be Radically Alive, is the ultimate rebellion.

The conference organizers gratefully acknowledge the support of the Department of Philosophy & Religion, the Dr. Patricia Burton Honorary Endowment, and the Student Selection Committee.


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