Philosophy Club

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The Emory Undergraduate Philosophy Club seeks to foster philosophical discussion among interested students in an informal, student-friendly environment. It aims to provide students an outlet for discourse about philosophical questions that are important to them. Since Spring 2009, we have held a weekly student-only meeting (Tuesdays at 7 pm) led by different undergraduates on a range of topics, from contemporary moral issues (death penalty, genetic engineering) to more abstract questions (the human condition, the good life). There is no formal membership requirement: all undergraduates are welcome, including (and especially) those who have never taken a philosophy course. If you would like more information or would like to receive meeting notices by subscribing to the Philosophy Club Listserv, please email Adrian Brooks; Michael Kim, Jr.; Tahmeed Hossain or the club advisor, Dr. Frederick Marcus. Each year we have a booth at the Fall Student Activities Fair, so if you are new to Emory or just interested, come on by! We look forward to telling you about the Club.

Since the life of philosophy is in the details, here is a list of our past meeting topics. We would love to have your participation in future meetings:

Fall 2016-Spring 2017

  • September 6: What is Philosophy?
  • September 13: The Trolley Problem: Is it Moral to Sacrifice One for the Sake of Many?
  • September 20: What is Free Will? Does it Exist? If so, Can it be Alienated from the Individual?
  • September 27: The Ship of Theseus: Problems of Identity
  • October 4: Movie Night: The Matrix-What is Reality? How do We Know?
  • October 18: Nozick's Experience Machine: Ethics of Simulation
  • October 25: The Knowledge Argument: Questioning Physcialism
  • November 1: Parmenides on Change: The Timelessness of Existence
  • November 15: How do we Determine a Code of Morality? Are there Objective Guidelines?
  • November 29: To What Extent is Human Alteration of the Environment Moral?
  • December 5: Objectivism
  • January 17: Newcomb's Paradox
  • January 24: The Hard Problem of Consciousness
  • January 31: Pascal's Wager
  • February 7: Buridan's Ass
  • February 14: Philosophy Club Movie Night: Her
  • February 21: Euthanasia
  • February 28: The Infinite Checkerboard Dilemma
  • March 14: Zeno's Paradoxes
  • March 21: Fake Barn Country
  • March 28: Sen's Paradox
  • April 4: Drowning Child Thought Experiment
  • April 11: Myth of Sisyphus
  • April 18: Violinist Thought Experiment
  • April 26: Why Be Moral?

Fall 2015-Spring 2016

  • September 14: What is philosophy?
  • September 21: What is love
  • September 28: Is it right or wrong to interfere in the affairs of others?
  • October 5: Is morality just a pursuit for self-satisfaction?
  • October 19: What is the difference between faith and reason, and how should we negotiate that difference?
  • October 26: Can a clear distinction be made between philosophy and religion? If so, how?
  • November 2: Should the government mandate that art conform to its political norms?
  • November 16: Can we know anything with certainty?
  • November 22: What motivates political contentions?
  • November 30: Can we and how would we say that there is an absolute truth about reality?
  • January 25: How does philosophy shape our lives?
  • February 1: Is affirmative action morally good?
  • February 8: How are being, self and consciousness related?
  • February 22: Would you kill one to save five?
  • March 21: Is capitalism moral?
  • March 28: Should politicians listen to scientists? (Robert Crease, SUNY Physics Dept.)
  • April 18: What is freedom, and how much should an individual in society have?
  • April 25: Is identity maintained over time?

Fall 2014-Spring 2015

  • September 1: Personhood
  • September 29: What is the role of philosophy in the age of science?
  • October 6: Are ethics universal, or are they merely contrived?
  • October 20: To what degree can we be confident that our perceptions accurately describe the world?
  • October 27: Justice and law.
  • November 3: What is the source of the fundamental axioms of mathematics?
  • November 7: Philosophy Movie Night: Save the Tiger (Professor Lysaker)
  • November 10: What is beautiful? Why is art important?
  • November 17: How is metaphysics possible in philosophy? Is it justified? What are the methods for metaphysical deduction?
  • November 24: What is a promise? Is committing to a promise an exercise or relinquishment of free will? How is either possible?
  • January 26: What is the role of philosophy in education?
  • February 23: What is experience? How do we talk about experience?
  • March 2: How does one measure the value of a human life?
  • March 23: Environmental philosophy.
  • March 26: Philosophy Movie Night: The Third Generation (Professor Mitchell)
  • March 30: Does empathy play a role in moral decisions? What is its cognitive and moral function?

Fall 2013-Spring 2014

  • September 9: What is Philosophy?
  • September 16: What is the nature of nature, and what does that mean for us?
  • September 23: What is the relationship between wisdom and happiness?
  • September 30: To what extent are we morally accountable for our actions?
  • October 7: What is the essence of technology and our relationship to it?
  • October 14: General discussion at a member’s house.
  • October 21: To what extent, if any, does law determine, influence or correlate with morality?
  • October 28: What is the relationship between evolution and morality?
  • November 4: What is the relationship between wisdom and knowledge, and if they are different, what does that entail?
  • November 11: How should we understand the relationship between language and consciousness?
  • November 18:  Assess the following question: Since morality is subjective, no moral code is more correct than another.
  • November 25: What is the relationship between religious and philosophical modes of thought?
  • December 2: Are all human actions determined? If so, what does this mean for free will?
  • January 27: Under what conditions, if any, is censorship justified?
  • February 3: To what extent do the use of procedures and concepts, such as falsifiability, in the sciences affect the way we do philosophy?
  • February 10: How can a non-philosopher use ethical philosophy to make decisions in personal life?
  • February 17: How ought we make aesthetic evaluations and approach the problem of aesthetic judgment?
  • February 24, in partnership with the Bioethics Society: How should we respond to end-of-life dilemmas? Who should have the final say?
  • March 3: How do ethics change, if at all, during wartime (broadly construed), including war initiation, termination and intervention?
  • March 17: Is there such a thing as an obligation to oneself, and, if so, what is its character?
  • March 24: Does culture evolve? If so, what are the driving forces? How has the internet changed or catalyzed these forces?
  • March 31: Is rationality a delusion in terms of moral judgment?
  • April 7: To what extent are we free? How should our freedom, or lack of such, influence morality and law?
  • April 14: Is violence a good mechanism for democratic transition, and, if so, are some forms of violence better than others?
  • April 21: Is beauty universal?
  • April 28: Is idealism dangerous?

Fall 2012-Spring 2013

philosophy club

  • September 10: What is Philosophy?
  • September 17: Do we have an ethical obligation to give to the poor?
  • September 23: GRADUATE STUDENT COFFEE TALK (Osman Nemli): Critical theory as a school of philosophical thought
  • September 24: Getting out the vote: what are the responsibilities of a member of a democracy, and what sort of relationship should one have with the government?
  • October 1: What influence can or should art have on our values and actions?
  • October 8: Are there moral justifications for utilitarianism?
  • October 22: Post-humanism: What (if anything) characterizes the human condition? Can we transcend or go beyond this condition?
  • October 29: Are human beings capable of altruism or selflessness, or is human action and thought rooted in self-interest alone?
  • November 5: Nietzsche once famously proclaimed “the death of God.” What does this mean and, if true, what impact would it have on values?
  • November 9: PHILOSOPHY FILM NIGHT (co-sponsored with Phi Sigma Tau): The Big Lebowski
  • November 12: How are we to understand the relationship between the letter and the spirit of the law?
  • November 14:  GRADUATE STUDENT COFFEE TALK (Alex Robbins): Kierkegaard and Theater.
  • January 28: Under what conditions, if any, are Western human rights interventions justified? Are there any actions reprehensible enough to merit intervention into other nations’ affairs?
  • February 4: So governments have the same moral duties that individuals do?
  • February 11: What is our moral relationship with animals? How should humans treat animals?
  • February 18: Although the Constitution does not state it explicitly, common law frequently holds that we have a right to privacy. Do we have such a right, and, if so, why and how should we value that right when it conflicts with other rights?
  • February 25: To what extent, if any, do the contours of language affect the way we think, control how we do philosophy, and make possible or restrict moral and ethical systems?
  • March 1: PHILOSOPHY MOVIE NIGHT (co-sponsored with Phi Sigma Tau): Last Year at Marienbad.
  • March 4: Multiculturalism has become a cultural mainstay. How should philosophy treat cultural values, other societies, and diversity?
  • March 18: What ethical implications, if any are presented by the possibility of human cloning? Would human cloning change our notion of what it means to be a person?
  • March 25: Refugees and exiled political dissidents create great problems for bordering countries and the international community at large. How should states act towards individuals and states with regard to including or excluding these persons?
  • April 1: Democracy as a system of government and a system of thought has been discussed since the birth of philosophy. How should be understand democracy, and how should be act on this understanding?
  • April 8: Aristotle referred to metaphysics as “first philosophy.” What does or should metaphysics concern, and to what extent must we understand it in order to make moral claims?
  • April 15: Mathematics is a widely-used philosophical topic. What are mathematical concepts, and how does their nature affect the way we think about reality, infinity and knowledge?
  • April 22: Young adults are often drawn to the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, especially his commitment to the value of self-definition and creativity over traditional morality. How important should Nietzsche’s notion of individuality be in constructing the good life?

Fall 2011-Spring 2012

  • August 29: What is philosophy?
  • September 12: What do we mean when we call a culture “primitive”? When does a culture stop being primitive?
  • September 19: What is the individual’s importance (or role) in the modern world?
  • September 26: Should the death penalty (capital punishment) be used in the United States?
  • October 3: Is college (undergraduate education) all it’s cracked up to be? What’s the point?
  • October 17: Questions of conscience: What is the conscience? Does it even exist? What role does it play in morality, if any?
  • October 24: What do standardized test scores (SAT, GMAT, LSAT, GRE, etc.) tell us about the test taker? Are they accurate indicators of intelligence or of diligence?
  • October 31: How does the internet, and the anonymity it affords, change an individual’s moral responsibilities?
  • November 7: Does science describe or explain the world?
  • November 14: There is a Latin maxim, de gustibus non est disputandum (there is no disputing matters of taste). Are there such things as good and bad taste? Can taste be cultivated?
  • November 28: Should truth be pursued at all costs? If so, why? Are truth and happiness related?
  • January 21: How are we to understand the balance between copyright (intellectual property) law and the free exchange of ideas?
  • January 30: Libertarians and liberals both speak about “liberty,” but their concepts of liberty (negative and positive, respectively) are quite different. Which of these two ideas of liberty do you find more compelling, or more suitable, for Western society?
  • February 6: What is the value or role of etiquette (i.e., decorum, propriety) in society? How do the norms of etiquette come about?
  • February 13: What can (or do) we learn from history? What is the value of history as a resource? Is it possible to theorize about history (macro or micro) without being reductive, i.e., forcing it to fit a mold?
  • February 20: Who provides the primary impetus for social and political change: the individual or the masses (i.e., the people, broadly)? Consider this question both historically and in terms of present conditions.
  • February 27: Is war ever morally justifiable? Does such thing as a just war exist?
  • March 3: How well does language describe the external (physical) and internal (thoughts, feelings, emotions) worlds? Is language really a “good” tool for communication?
  • March 19: Are cloning, genetic enhancement, and gene therapy morally permissible?
  • March 26: Immanuel Kant once said that consistency is the philosopher’s virtue. Is it important to both practice philosophy consistently and live a consistent life? What is the value of consistency?
  • April 2: Is there anything good in itself (i.e., intrinsically good), or can things only be good for what they bring?
  • April 9: Love and friendship: What is the nature of love? What is “true” friendship? Are love and friendship related?
  • April 16: What is “diversity”? How important is it for academic institutions, work-places, and other organizations to be “diverse”? What are the benefits and drawbacks of diversity?

Fall 2010-Spring 2011

  • August 30: Is humanity fundamentally selfish or benevolent?
  • September 13: The social networking self: person or persona, real or abstract?
  • September 20: What is moral decay? Can we trace the start of it? Has it already begun?
  • September 27: How should we define Western globalization? Does it cause harm or good?
  • October 4: What are human rights? Should these serve primarily to preserve liberty or to confer benefits?
  • October 18: Are we, or are we not, products of our respective environments? If we are, to what extent?
  • October 25: Do American citizens have a social responsibility to become educated? Why or why not?
  • November 8: Since modern Western society places an imperative on productivity and contribution, should the life of withdrawn contemplation be considered moral or immoral?
  • November 15: Do humans have the right to exploit the environment to their own advantage? If so, to what extent? Additionally, do we have the responsibility to preserve the environment for future generations and other living beings? If so, to what extent?
  • November 22: Is genetic enhancement of humans prior to birth morally acceptable or immoral?
  • January 24: Batman in Gotham: Is the “Batman-brand” of vigilante justice moral or immoral?
  • January 31: Would your human utopia (or ideal state) have private or communal property? Why?
  • February 7: Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest: Is Robin Hood’s “redistribution of wealth” moral or immoral?
  • February 14: Is the use of torture ever morally justifiable?
  • February 21: Do external factors or conditions that are out of one’s control affect moral culpability for one’s actions?
  • March 14: Are we authorized to endorse the works of a morally despicable person (e.g., Heidegger)? Should we consider the value of such works apart from the thinker’s character?
  • March 21: Do moral and cultural relativism contribute to, or detract from, intellectualism?
  • March 28: Do philosophers need to obscure the messages in their philosophy to avoid persecution? Should we, as readers, take their messages at face value, or try to read between the lines?
  • Karl Marx is famous for saying, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.” Do you agree or disagree with Marx’s characterization of philosophy and its task?

Fall 2009-Spring 2010

  • September 7: What has been your Emory philosophical experience, and what would you like it to be?
  • September 14: What is the human condition?
  • September 21: Happiness: Object or result of desire?
  • October 5: What is the love of wisdom, and why or why not pursue it?
  • October 19: How does one balance duty (justice) and personal interest (advantage)?
  • October 26: Are genetic cloning/enhancement initiatives morally permissible or fundamentally immoral?
  • November 2: Is the death penalty ever morally permissible? If it is, in what instances and why?
  • November 9: Legal paternalismñIs it appropriate for a government to pass laws to protect individuals from harming themselves? Or should laws only exist to prevent individuals from harming others?
  • November 16: Facebook and text messaging have fundamentally changed the way people interact and relate to one another in Western society. Has this change been positive or negative? Why?
  • January 18: Is life meaningful or absurd?
  • February 2: Happiness, the Good, and What is Right - are these terms related, or not?
  • February 8: In forming a functional society, should laws focus on individuals or embrace the collective?
  • February 15: Is the use of torture ever morally justifiable?
  • February 22: Have recent technological advances been beneficial or detrimental to society? Do you see any future issues for civil society as a result?
  • March 22: What is the nature of love? Is love cultural, biological or spiritual (or some combination)?
  • April 5: Do you think people ought to adopt a more environmentalist ethic? Do you think it is right or wrong for humankind to separate itself from nature?

Spring 2009

  • February 9: The Philosophical Experience at Emory (studentsí views)
  • February 16: What is moral decay? Has it started, and can we trace the start of it?
  • February 22: What is the best life?
  • March 2: Have technological improvements been beneficial or detrimental to society? (Focused on social networking technologies.)
  • March 16: Have technological improvements been beneficial or detrimental to society? (Focused on healthcare technologies.)
  • March 23: What is the best form of government, and why?
  • March 30: How does one reconcile the individual and society?
  • April 6: If God were not to exist, would morality be absurd, or worthwhile? Why?
  • April 13: Does absolute intrinsic value actually exist? Why or why not?
  • April 20: Is there such a thing as a truly selfless act?