Spring 2014 Events

Second Annual D.C. Ethics Bowl

This year sophomore Maha Hasen volunteered as an assistant coach for the School Without Walls’ Ethics Bowl teams. The unique high school Ethics Bowl allows students the opportunity to reason through arguments in hopes of finding an ethically permissible conclusion to current issues. Interestingly, teams are not urged to take sides on an issue; the competition revolves around the analytical process rather than the common “debate team” scenario. Due to the high number of students eager to participate in the competition, the School Without Walls formed two teams. Both teams were extremely successful in the regional competition, so much so that they were pitted against each other in the final round. One of the SWW’s teams took first place and the other secured second; the winning team went on to compete in the national competition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Maha would like to extend a special thank you to Kerry Sylvia, the teams’ coach and instructor at the School Without Walls, for allowing her to join in on this wonderful experience. She also wants to thank the students for their active dedication throughout the year, and for welcoming her into this engaging and stimulating experience.

Thacher Lecture

Otávio BuenoOtávio Bueno, professor of philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Miami, delivered the annual Thacher Lecture on February 28, 2014. Dr. Bueno (right) is the author and editor of several books in addition to being the editor-in-chief of the contemporary philosophy journal Synthese. He publishes widely in the areas of philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logic and epistemology. His lecture was entitled “What Does a Mathematical Proof Really Prove?” Here is the abstract:

Mathematical proofs have multiple functions in mathematics. They are, of course, primarily used to establish the relevant theorems. But it would be inadequate to conclude that this exhausts the role they play. Some proofs also provide explanation: an understanding of why a particular theorem holds, rather than simply establishing it. Proofs also develop ways of refining concepts, typically in the context of alleged counterexamples that need to be taken into account and avoided. Some proofs also connect different parts of mathematics that were thought of as being unconnected. In the end, different types of proof play different roles in mathematics. In this talk, Dr. Bueno explores these issues and provides a framework to classify proofs and assess them. In the end, he argues that there is a plurality of kinds of proofs in mathematics and that mathematical practice is far less unified in this respect than it has been suggested.

The annual Thacher Lecture is made possible through a generous contribution from philosophy alumnus Michael Thacher, BA ’70.

Griffith Lecture

The department’s annual Goutman Lecture was renamed this spring in honor of the late Dr. Griffith, in accordance with the wishes of his former student and our generous donor, alumnus Thomas Goutman. The first annual Griffith Lecture featured Mark Wrathall, professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, who spoke on March 21, 2014. Author of Heidegger and Unconcealment: Truth, Language and History and How to Read Heidegger, in addition to being the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger’s Being and Time, Dr. Wrathall’s lecture reflected his expertise on Heidegger and was called “Heidegger on Authenticity as an Extra-Moral Ideal.” His abstract is below:

In Being and Time, Heidegger argues that authenticity is an ideal of agency – that is, that someone is a good agent to the degree that her bodily movements express who she is as an individual, rather than merely expressing the shared conventional values to which she is expected to conform. This view presents certain complications. For instance, how should we understand authenticity, or being true to oneself, given that Heidegger denies that there is an inherent, substantive self? For another, authenticity’s hostility toward conformity naturally raises concerns about the moral and ethical status of an authentic life. It suggests that being true to oneself requires a willingness to place in question or suspend the hold that conventional morality and ethical norms have over us. So if we accept authenticity as an ideal of agency, are we committed to a profoundly immoral stance on the world? I shall argue that a proper understanding of authenticity will allow us to see that authenticity need not be incompatible with morality. Indeed, I shall follow Heidegger in arguing that authenticity is a component of a moral existence, in that it is directly relevant to determining the degree to which an agent is morally good or morally evil.

Undergraduate Conference

The Philosophy Club held its annual undergraduate conference on Friday, April 11, 2014. Troy Gibb, club president, moderated the event which featured four theses presentations by GW philosophy seniors Georgios Skandalidis, Kelly Singleton, Preston Bell and Chelsea Murtha.

Philosophy Club Update

This year the GW Philosophy Club met to discuss a diverse set of topics including: the philosophy of environmental consumption, guided by Professor Friend; the legitimacy of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; and “love” through Plato’s Symposium. The e-board is currently conducting online elections for philosophy club positions in 2014-15. In other news, for the first time, the club designed and sold sweatshirts that display a newly-designed crest, featuring the Greek word for “truth.” The back of the sweatshirt states “What is?” Sweatshirts will be for sale again in the fall. E-mail [email protected] if you are interested!

Phi Sigma Tau Honor Society

The Spring 2014 Induction Ceremony for new members into GW’s recently re-activated chapter of the international honor society in philosophy took place on Friday, April 18, 2013. The department is proud to announce that the following students were inducted after careful consideration of their academic records: Mary Arbor (junior), Devin Bageac (senior), Elaine Bailey (senior), Nicole DiSarno (junior), Andrew Hori (senior), Zachary Klein (junior), Chelsea Murtha (senior), Kelly Singleton (senior) and Maggie Taylor (graduate).