Past PHRE Conference – 2011


The 22nd Annual
Undergraduate Philosophy & Religion Conference

Saturday, November 12, 2011
Alumni Room, Student Union Building

Hosted by the Truman State University Department of Philosophy and Religion

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Robert Jewett
University of Heidelberg, Germany
Author of the commentary on Romans in the Hermeneia series

The subject of his talk is “Jesus, Captain America and Barack Obama and the Superhero Myth in Contemporary America.”  The talk will be delivered during lunch at 12:00 p.m. in the Student Union Activities Room (SUB 3200).


Conference Schedule

All talks, with the exception of the lunchtime keynote, will be held in the Student Union Alumni Room.
9:00 a.m.
Dr. Mike Ashcraft

9:05 a.m.
Zach Vicars
Truman State University
Beyond the Rhetoric: The Ethics of Genetic Engineering
The genetic engineering of agricultural plants has been on the rapid rise since the mid-1990s. Today, most of the clothes we wear, food we eat, and gasoline we burn are results of genetic engineering. As a response to this revolution in agriculture, a diverse number of participants have entered into the ethical dialogue – from theologians to policy makers. In this talk, we will try to pinpoint the underlying issues of the debate and explore the ethical implications of genetic engineering at the level of the farmer, the environment, and human society.

9:35 a.m.
Jerad A.I. Smith
University of Louisville
Thomistic Epistemology and Lonerganian Revitalization
The Catholic philosophical tradition has produced no finer theologian or philosopher than  Thomas Aquinas.  The Thomistic philosophical school, rooted in Aquinas’ medieval theological works, proposes a strong epistemic realist and foundationalist approach in order to supplement a Christian metaphysic.  Father Bernard Lonergan, a 20th century Jesuit theologian and philosopher, synthesized Thomism with a modern ontological approach in an effort to modernize Scholastic epistemology.  In this paper I will lay out Aquinas’ theory of knowledge as well as the problems inherent with both Thomistic scholasticism and epistemic foundationalism.  I will then trace the thought of Lonergan demonstrating that his Neo-Scholastic approach revitalizes the Thomistic epistemic tradition.

10:05 a.m.
Ann N. Rosentreter
Truman State University
Rainbows and Crucifixes: Gay and Lesbian Catholics and Their Faith
In today’s society it is common knowledge that the Catholic Church does not allow gay marriage, but other aspects of Catholicism pertaining to gays and lesbians do not receive the same attention. Gay and lesbian Catholics are in a unique position considering the Church’s views on their sexuality. Examining these views, as well as the stories of  and groups for gay and lesbian Catholics, can lead to a better understanding of the challenges that gay and lesbians Catholics face, the ways that they live their faith, and the reasons that they stay within or join the Church.

10:35-10:40 a.m.

10:40 a.m.
Nathan Hardy
Truman State University
Al-Ash’ari and the Mu’tazila: Muslim Theology and its Role in the Development of Muslims’ Intellectual Lives
Exposure to Islam is everywhere in America, but often only available through certain mediums and news networks. As these mediums do not always provide a full understanding of the Islamic faith, it can become easy to believe that Islam as a whole is a fundamentalist, terrorist religion with no concern for reason, thinking, argument, or understanding. But this is not so. This paper explores and analyzes 9th-10th century theologian al-Ash’ari’s Kitab al-Luma’ as an educational tool by explaining the content, context and method applied to the text. As a result, I hope to show that the Kitab al-Luma can be seen as an important tool for teaching orthodox Muslim theology and apologetics.

11:10 a.m.
Kenneth Jones
Truman State University
Existence Within Body: Physical Fitness and the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche
Physical fitness is an issue found in books, movies, trends, government policies, and in the minds of numerous people; an issue which greatly affects contemporary culture. The activities within the ethic of physical fitness which encompass nutrition, the repetition of bodily actions, and the striving of the individual reveal much about the human condition. The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche provides clarity on the underlying drives and aspects of the fitness ethic as well as provides explanation on what an individual is accomplishing by pursuing physical fitness. The corporeal changes of a person pursuing physical fitness are a manifestation of the universal will to power. The self is the physical body and existence is only possible via existence-within-body. Thus the process of physical alteration is also the process of the alteration of self. Individuals who participate in the fitness ethic must allow the self to become an instrument of the will to power and then allow that will to reflect back upon the self. The drive to pursue physical fitness is the will to power commanding change and the self acting as its own creator.

11:40 a.m.
Topher Smith
Centre College
Foundationalism’s failure to account for its foundations: a discussion of justification from foundational belief states
Foundationalism provides an unsatisfactory basis for empirical knowledge in that it relies both on an arbitrary stopping point for justification and on an a posteriori understanding of perception.  In this paper, I intend to show that the very foundations of foundationalism are unable to support its own weight and that the nature of impressions is not a posteriori.  It is important to note that I will only address strong and moderate foundationalism in this paper and not foundationalism as a whole. I discuss only strong foundationalism, as it presents the clearest case for using foundational beliefs to justify further beliefs. I consider the tenets of foundationalism in turn and show how each fails due to its own consequences or shortcomings.

12:10 p.m.
(Student Union Activities Room, SUB 3200)
Lunch and Keynote Speaker:
Jesus, Captain America and Barack Obama and the Superhero Myth in Contemporary
Dr. Robert Jewett

1:45 p.m.
Kimberly Finoch
Lindenwood University
John Zizioulas and Trinitarian Thought
In “Being As Communion”, John Zizioulas states that Eastern and Western Christians should work together to try to find common theology on the Trinity.  He references several Eastern theologians to support his Trinitarian thought, but the majority of his focus is placed on the Cappadocian Fathers.  While presenting the benefits of their views regarding the Trinity, he fails to mention much about the West.  For there to be meaningful dialogue on the Trinity between East and West both theologies must be treated equally, with a focus on their similarities, not their differences.

2:15 p.m.
Jakub Voboril
Newman University
Reconsidering the Akedah: A Natural Law Solution to the Interpreter’s Dilemma
The binding of Isaac, or Akedah, described in the book of Genesis is a somewhat problematic text for Jews and Christians who have a rationalist view of ethics.  One problem is the apparent conflict between the ethical prohibition against killing and the God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  I examine a number of proposed solutions to this problem, giving particular attention to the way Emil Fackenheim construes the problem.  I attempt to provide a solution to the problem that successfully reconciles the just claims of both ethics and religion by drawing on the resources of new natural law theory.

2:45 p.m.
Henry Yeagle
Conception Seminary College
Adam and Eve, the Theology of the Body, and the Sexual Revolution
In a series of General Audiences from 1979-84, Pope John Paul II applied methods of Christian anthropology to a consideration of the meaning and purpose of the human person. Using principles of natural law, practical pastoral experience and personal spiritual insight, he articulated a coherent vision that became known as the Theology of the Body. Throughout history the human body has been variously evaluated. The Theology of the Body affirms the positive value of our physical being, establishing the meaning and purpose of the body as no mere corporeal container, but the very sacrament of divine love in physical reality.

3:15-3:20 p.m.

3:20 p.m.
Kevin Marren
Missouri State University
Criticism of BioLogos and Natural Theology
According to the geneticist Francis Collins, the genome is evidence of God’s existence.  Noting the historical criticisms posed by Hume against Paley’s natural theology, I have critically assessed Collins’ ‘new’ natural theology, a kind of analogical argument, and where it differs from Paley’s argument, I have provided a unique criticism against it.  Ultimately I will argue that first:  Collins’ BioLogos is mislabeled as natural theology because it relies entirely on faith; and second, that although faith based worldviews are not necessarily incoherent on their own, they are incompatible with some commonly assumed goals within the scientific disciplines.

3:50 p.m.
Ross Whitehurst
Ursinus College
Hallucination and the Veil of Perception
Within the philosophy of perception, one is faced with two very difficult and pressing questions: the first being how does a human being perceive the world around him and what is his relation to that perceived world? The second question, once one has answered the first, asks what are the epistemological consequences of the first answer? The purpose of this analysis is to examining the various theories on the function of sensory perception. Once these theories have been examined and the most accurate have been chosen, I will attempt to answer the latter question stated above, showing that the two most capable theories of sensory perception have unforeseen consequences about man’s relation to the external reality.

4:20 p.m.
Kevin Sar
Centre College
A Tale of Two Socrates: Plato’s Two Messages in the Apology
Readers have often felt that the Socrates of Plato’s “Apology” acquits himself of the charges brought against him and shows himself to be a pious individual. But what is Plato trying to say about these matters? I will argue that Plato crafts his “Apology” such that it contains two divergent accounts of Socrates. The first is the safer superficial account, which Plato intends for the Athenian citizenry at large. It depicts Socrates as a law-abiding, heroic, and pious citizen. The second is the more subversive substantial account, which Plato intends only for his close associates. It paints Socrates more honestly as a lawbreaker who is heroic and pious nonetheless.

The Truman State University Philosophy and Religion Department wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations who have helped to make the conference possible:

Dr. Mike Ashcraft
Dr. Mark Appold
Dr. Robert Jewett
Samantha Wickam
Chelsea Beary
The SUB Staff
Center for Student Involvement