Wheaton College Color Logo

2009-10 Philosophy Speaker Series

Fall 2009 Speakers

Dr. Kevin J. Corcoran, September 22, 2009

Dr. Mette Lebech, October 13, 2009

Dr. Russ Shafer-Landau, November 5, 2009


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dr. Kevin J. Corcoran, Assoc. Prof. of Philosophy at Calvin College

"Who's Afraid of Philosophical Realism: Taking the Emerging Church to Task."

Many authors and practitioners within the emerging church look askance at philosophical realism. One also notices an accompanying allergy to creeds and creedal formulations of Christian beliefs, due to a sense among emerging folk that the language and concepts produced by finite human beings simply cannot capture, contain or express anything abiding and true when it comes to the infinite and iconoclastic God of Christian theism.  Alongside a rejection of realism, and a soft spot for so-called apophatic or negative theology, you are also likely to be struck by a deep and sincere epistemological humility among emerging folk. While I am very favorably disposed to the emerging church and count among my friends some of its most visible leaders and authors, I suggest in this talk that these three issues—realism, an allergy to creeds/beliefs and epistemological humility—are either not distinguished at all in emerging conversations or are not sufficiently distinguished such that participants in the conversation either mistake epistemic humility for anti-realism or falsely believe that embracing epistemic humility requires an embrace of anti-realism and a rejection of or refusal to embrace concrete Christian beliefs. This, I want to show is simply false.


Tuesday October 13, 2009

Dr. Mette Lebech, Professor of Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

"Edith Stein's Value Theory"

Edith Stein’s Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities (Beiträge) were meant to complement Husserl’s Ideas II in respect of the constitution of the psyche and the spirit. Stein’s doctoral dissertation On the Problem of Empathy equipped her well for this task, as the complete constitution of both the psyche and the spirit depends on the mirror perspective offered by the other, accessed by means of empathy. At the heart of the constitutional analysis of the psyche and the spirit stands a value theory which integrates elements from the respective thoughts of Dilthey, Reinach, Husserl and Scheler, but gains, by doing so, in systematic precision, complexity and comprehensiveness compared to theirs. Stein’s theory describes the experience of values, what they are experienced to be, and the effect on the individual psyche, on the community, and in history. Thus she can analyze the formation of the ‘we’ that arises from the sharing of motivational energy and gives rise to communal experience so that with the understanding of the flexible formation of the communal subject a map of the dynamic structure of intersubjectivity is achieved, and with it, as its correlate, an understanding of the intersubjective constitution of the world, a model of what could be called its ‘social construction’.

Dr. Mette Lebech obtained the degree of exam. art. in 1987 from the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Copenhagen and the degree of candidature (1989) and licence (1991) in Philosophy from the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Louvain (-la-Neuve), Belgium. She studied for the Ph.D. at the Centre for Ethics and Law, University of Copenhagen and defended her thesis The Identification of Human Dignity under William Desmond in Leuven, 2005, now published by Koenigshausen und Neuman as On the Problem of Human Dignity. A Hermeneutical and Phenomenological Investigation, 2009.

In 1998 Dr. Lebech was appointed Contract Lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland, where she was made permanent in 2003. She has published widely in the fields of Bioethics, the Philosophy of Human Dignity, the Ethics of Friendship, the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and the Philosophy of Edith Stein.


Thursday November 5, 2009

Dr. Russ Shafer-Landau, University of Wisconsin

"Moral Objectivity Without God."

Many people think that morality can be objective only if God exists. In this talk Dr. Shafer-Landau will try to understand the philosophical motivations behind this view, and then subject them to critical scrutiny. He argues that the objectivity of morality does not depend upon God.

Dr. Russ Shafer-Landau is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author or editor of numerous books in ethical theory.


Spring 2010 Speakers

Matt Halteman, January 28, 2010

Dr. Susan Brower-Toland, February 25, 2010

Timothy O'Connor, March 30, 2010

Del Ratzsch, April 21, 2010

Thursday January 28, 2010

Dr. Matt Halteman, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College

“Animal Welfare and Global Sustainability: Eating as an Act of Christian Discipleship.”

The question of how we ought to treat animals may at first appear distant from our most pressing moral and spiritual concerns.  A closer look, however, reveals that our seemingly trivial daily decisions concerning the use of animals--especially the billions of them raised for food--have serious consequences not just for God's non-human creatures, but for the world's poorest people, the earth’s natural resources, and even the hastening of global climate change.  The good news, in light of this difficult truth, is that the fork and spoon take on a new significance as potentially empowering tools for practicing Christian discipleship.  The simple question of what to eat, Dr. Halteman will argue, can prompt us daily to bear witness to the degradation of God's creation at all these levels and to seek its renewal through daily acts of love, justice, mercy, and good stewardship.

Dr. Matt Halteman teaches philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He is a graduate of Wheaton College (BA) and the University of Notre Dame (PhD) and a Fellow in the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics.  His work has appeared, among other places, in Continental Philosophy Review and Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.  He has an insatiable appetite for vegan desserts.


Thursday February 25, 2010

Dr. Susan Brower-Toland, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University

“What's so bad about stealing? Augustine and the Theft of the Pears.”

It would be an understatement to say that Augustine takes an interest in the topic of sin. Angelic sin, original sin, sexual sin, sin in dreams, even his own personal history of sin—all of these come in for scrutiny in Augustine’s writings.  I want to reflect on his account of one particular sin committed in his adolescence, namely, going out with some pals to steal pears from a neighbor’s yard.  In Confessions 2, Augustine dwells at length on this “crime”, and finds in it evidence of a deep moral “sickness” and depravity.  Contemporary readers often find it difficult to take Augustine’s view of this sin seriously—that is, as little more than an outdated, prudish expression of Christian piety.  For my part, I find his account both interesting and deeply compelling.  My aim in this talk is to win converts to my point of view.

Dr. Susan Brower-Toland is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University.  Her research and teaching interests include medieval philosophy, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion.


Tuesday March 30, 2010

Dr. Timothy O'Connor, Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University Bloomington

“Can There Be a Complete Explanation of Everything?”

There undeniably is a powerful impetus in us to ask the question, 'Why is there this—why is there anything at all?' Yet a little reflection shows that a satisfactory answer to this question would require an altogether different kind of explanation from familiar sorts. Would any sort manage to do? If so, would more than one? Dr. O’Connor wants to lay the groundwork for pursuing these questions in a rigorous and creative fashion. He will try to persuade you that a long skeptical philosophical tradition stemming from Hume and Kant has little to recommend it. Indeed, given recent trends in philosophy and science, it is time for us to return the question of existence itself to the center of the philosophical agenda.

Dr. Timothy O’Connor is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Indiana University Bloomington and a member of its Cognitive Sciences Program. He has published over fifty articles in metaphysics, philosophy of mind and action, and philosophy of religion. He is the editor of Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will (Oxford 1995), Philosophy of Mind:  Contemporary Readings (Routledge 2003), Downward Causation And The Neurobiology Of Free Will (Springer 2009), and the forthcoming Emergence in Science and Philosophy (Routledge) and A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (Blackwell). He is the author of Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will (Oxford 2000) and Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency (Blackwell 2008).


Wednesday April 21, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Del Ratzsch, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College

“Science and Religion: The Alleged Evolutionary Divide.”

Critics of religion frequently cite both cognitive science and the evolutionary history of religion as undercutting the rational legitimacy of religious belief - as "explaining away" the reliability of the cognitive faculties upon which religious belief is built.  However, on evolutionary views all of our faculties -including those underlying scientific beliefs - must have evolutionary histories and explanations as well.  Thus, the ultimate foundations and emergence of science and the ultimate foundations and emergence of religion must, for the critic, be evolutionarily and cognitively different enough to justify taking science as rationally legitimate while denying such rational legitimacy to religion. It turns out that such separation is not easy to defend, and indeed some of the more 'obvious' ways of maintaining that separation actually point inexactly the wrong direction for the evolutionary critic of religion.

Dr. Del Ratzsch is professor of philosophy and chair of the Philosophy Department at Calvin College. He specializes in the philosophy of science and has written extensively on issues surrounding design arguments.