Past PHRE Conference – 2009


The 20th Annual Undergraduate Philosophy & Religion Conference

Saturday, November 14, 2009 9:00 AM – 5:15 PM Alumni Room, Student Union Building

Hosted by the Truman State University Department of Philosophy and Religion


Conference   Schedule
9:00   a.m.Welcome Dr.   Mike Ashcraft
9:05   a.m.William   Franks
Truman State University
The Case for Perfectionist Happiness
Happiness.    Perhaps no other goal is so commonly sought, but so nebulously defined.    With so many conceptions about that ephemeral ideal, we need to get   down to asking what it is and what it does. More than any other question, we   wonder how to achieve happiness. This discussion covers several connotations of happiness: Aristotelian perfectionism, preference-satisfactionism, and   hedonism.  Ultimately, the limitations and costs of each will become   apparent, allowing for a modified, personalized version of perfectionism to arise as our preferred model.  This perfectionism’s “thicker” sense of   happiness offers the breadth of modern pluralism and the drive of modern progressivism.
9.35   a.m.Joseph   M. Kinzer
Illinois State University
An Examination of Possible
Contradictions in Bodhisattva Compassion

In Mahayana Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is one who is able to achieve nirvana, but postpones it in order to help others do the same.  In this ideal, there is absolute and   ultimate compassion, or what Western philosophers might deem perfect  consequentialism, where there is no distinction between beings with regard to   the administering of such compassion. The question is whether or not this is actually possible given the limits of a single “person.”  I will argue that if we take the goal of nirvana qua cessation of suffering as the basis for moral decisions, that there are situations where acting in “selfish” ways, sparing one’s own suffering over others’ may actually contribute to the highest consequential reduction in suffering, while not compromising the ultimacy of the Bodhisattva’s compassion.
10:05   a.m.Nikolaus   Briener
Columbia International University
Responding to Hume’s   Argument against Belief in Miracles: Plausibility, Context, and Background   Beliefs
More than 250 years ago, David Hume, according to some, definitively demonstrated that reports of miracles were beyond the reach of rational belief.   In this essay, I give an account of Hume’s  argument and offer a response to it.  I argue that, contra Hume, experience does not render miracles implausible when they are properly characterized.  Instead, their   plausibility is determined by one’s background beliefs and the historical context of the event. In conclusion, I claim that given particular background beliefs about divine action, the rationality of those beliefs, and   the appropriate historical context of a miracle, it can be rational to believe the evidenced report of a miracle.
10:35   a.m.Break
10:45   a.m.Robert   Whitaker
Murray State University
CORNEA and Inductive Evidence: A  Response
For the theist, particularly the Christian theist who holds God to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, the problem of evil and suffering has long been one of the greatest objections to faith, and one of the most potent weapons in the hands of the thoughtful atheist. Recently, the   so-called ‘logical’ version of this problem has been largely abandoned in favor of an ‘evidential’ form of the argument. Rather than logical contradiction, the evidential argument establishes the probability, or as William Rowe has argued, the rational belief, that God does not exist. In response to such arguments, Stephen Wykstra has persuasively argued for an epistemic principle known as CORNEA, which blocks the evidential argument by   restricting our ability to have knowledge of certain kinds of things. This paper is a defense and reformulation of that principle.
11:15   a.m.Ruth   Babb
Truman State University
Norse Gods, Folk Songs, and Nazis:   Understanding Neo-Heathen Trends in Modern Society
Norse mythology has   returned to the realm of legitimate theology.  This return, when   examined, is much more complex than it first appears.  The history of   the tradition in ancient times and at the turn of the 19th century provided a   fertile ground for growth.  Motivated by romanticism and reacting to the   pressure of globalization, Neo-Heathenism has become a vibrant and varied tradition   in its own right. It is split into racist Odinism, ethnic heathenism, and   syncretic Asatrú, each of which has its own form of music. By studying these   traditions and that of Neo-Paganism, a better understanding of religious   music and its relationship to dogma can be attained.
11:45   a.m.Adam   Rowlett
Truman State University
Writing the Other, Writing the I
This paper is an imagination of how, through the lens of the post-modern   feminist Hélène Cixous, one might undertake the responsibilities endowed by   Heidegger’s notion of Dasein, with   specific focus on the possibilities of human existence and interpersonal   relations. To be more precise, it is a furthering of the old philosophical   question, “I know that I am a Self, but how do I know that you are?” It is   extended to include the significant problems that follow when one says, “And   if you are a Self, I’d sure like to get to know you.”
12:15   p.m.Lunch Keynote   Speaker: Dr. Adam Potthast Animals, Angels, and Us: Kantian Ethics and   the Meaning of Life
There has been a great deal of debate about whether a   meaningful life needs to be an ethical life. But this debate tends to assume   that living a meaningful life is consistent with living an ethical life. For   ethical theories that stress living by reasonable principles, like Kant’s,   the emphasis on emotions and personal commitments in a meaningful life can   seem problematic. In this talk I try to clarify how deep this tension runs   and attempt to show how Kantian insights about human nature might shed some   light on how ethics and emotions can be integrated in a meaningful life.
2:00   p.m.Kevin   Haar
Truman State University
The Shaman as Natural Phenomenon:   How Evolutionary Biology Can Explain Early Religious Development
The   first tribal people of the world practiced religion, at least in an animistic   sense, as evident by various drawings and ceremonial artifacts that have been   recovered. Evidence also shows that throughout history and pre-history,   shamanic cultures have interpreted events, such as rain clouds and   earthquakes, to an animistic extreme. This study examines how evolutionary   biology can help explain the rise of shamanic religions. By examining the   biological basis of the human tendency towards animism, this study argues   that shamanic religions prospered and new religions evolved from archaic   ones, partly due to the biology of evolution. Although many scholars of   religion ignore or criticize the attempt to look at religion from a biological   viewpoint, this study also argues for the benefits of such a perspective to   the study of religion.
2:30   p.m.Sean J.   Cooksey
Truman State University
Concepts of Well-Being in Existential   Thought
How can an existentialist live a desirable life and achieve a   state of well-being? It would seem with a chaotic universe, the inevitability   of death, and a lack of intrinsic meaning in human existence that this is no   easy task. However, through the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin   Heidegger, and Albert Camus, I will argue that well-being is in fact possible   through existentialism if a person embraces his existential freedom. This   requires living authentically, a proper response to the Absurd, and the   creation of individual meaning. In this way, the good life does not depend on   what you do, but rather how you do it.
3:00   p.m.Mark   Lambert
Truman State University
Baldwin IV, a Curious Case of   Leprosy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem
Baldwin IV was the sixth king   of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.  During his rule, Baldwin languished   from leprosy, a debilitating disease that would claim his life before he was   twenty-four.  The historical lineage of the “Leper King” unfortunately   became one wherein Baldwin was regarded as a sickly, jejune marionette.    In truth, Baldwin commanded great respect from his subjects and was one of   the most formidable Crusader kings.  His curious case is enlightened by   an inspection of the religious and social milieu of leprosy; it becomes   probable that the Leper King was viewed as a contemporary “suffering servant”   or Christ figure.
3:30   p.m.Break
3:40   p.m.Seth   Lloyd Norris Thomas
Lincoln Christian University
I and the Other: The Relation   of Self-Love and Neighbor-Love in Søren Kierkegaard’s Works of Love
In this paper I will be engaging   the ethics explicated by the 19th century Danish philosopher and   theologian Søren Kierkegaard in his Works of Love.    My goal is threefold: First, I will demonstrate that Kierkegaard’s   articulation of self-love’s proper form and function is the backbone of a   full understanding of his project – that self-love, rightly understood, is   the issue upon which the rest of the work depends. Secondly, I will provide   an analysis of what Kierkegaard actually asserts this looks like — how he   thinks self-love is to be properly understood and actualized.  Lastly, I   will explore and the way Kierkegaard believes that the self, God, and the   other are related, and offer some closing comments as to the   implications this fuller understanding has for the common critiques of this   work.
4:10   p.m.Andrew   McCall
Truman State University
Against Supervenience
Michael Tooley’s perdurantist theory of persistence includes the claim that   facts about persisting objects supervene on instantaneous states of affairs.   While this Supervenience Claim is necessary to explain commonsense   metaphysical notions of persisting objects, I argue that support for it comes   only from these commonsense notions themselves, and so its acceptance should   be reexamined. In doing so I scrutinize the least perceptually-biased access   we have to an allegedly persisting object, our own personal identity, and   consider evidence for or against belief in persisting identity. I conclude   that experience alone offers no strong evidence for such belief, and since   preserving notions of identity was the main purpose of the Supervenience   Claim, it should be dropped from Tooley’s metaphysical theory.
4:40   p.m.Heidi   Geisbuhler
Truman State University
Prepare to Meet Your God: Amos and   Social Justice
Eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos incited the anger of   the Israelites when he prophesied the impending demise of their nation.    Because of the social injustices being committed by upper-class Israelites   against the poorer and weaker classes, God had doomed the nation of Israel to   destruction.  Though the Israelites claimed that the opulence of their   culture was a sign of God’s blessing, Amos saw clearly that the extravagance   and social ills of the Israelites would actually be their downfall at the   hands of the God of justice whom they claimed to follow.
5:10   p.m.Closing   Remarks

The Truman State University Philosophy and Religion Department wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations:

Dr. Mike Ashcraft Dr. Dereck Daschke Dr. Adam Potthast

The SUB Staff ITS Sodexo

Center for Student Involvement

Brenna Hale Mike Bova Conti Christian Johns