The University of Oklahoma
A newsletter published by the University of Oklahoma Department of Philosophy
What a year full of changes – some good, some not so good, but all sufficient to make life interesting. First, as some of you may know Manyul Im decided to return to Cal State LA at the end of last spring to coordinate their Asian and Asian American Studies program. He was an excellent colleague while he was here and we were sorry to see him go, but we congratulate him on his new position. I also regret to announce that Adam Morton will be leaving the department after this term to take up a Research Chair at the University of Alberta. Once again we are sorry to see Adam go. He made an important impact on the department during his stay with us. He will be missed (not least as editor of this newsletter), but we congratulate him too on his new position.
On the up side, we are happy to announce that Stephen Ellis (Ph.D. Rutgers) has joined the department as a tenure- track Assistant Professor, and that Amy Olberding (Ph.D. Hawaii, Manoa) has also accepted a position as a tenure-track Assistant Professor beginning next fall. We are very excited about these new additions to our faculty. We were also fortunate to have benefited this year from the philosophical skills of three extremely bright and capable visiting assistant professors: Daniel Farnham (Ph.D. Arizona), Jay Newhard (Ph.D. Brown) and Dan Coyle (Ph.D. Hawaii).
In addition to these personnel changes the Department continues to flourish. We continued our active colloquium series and hosted our eighth annual undergraduate colloquium with Professor William Wainwright of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee as our keynote speaker. Our pilot program to improve the philosophical writing skills of our undergraduate majors has been so successful that we anticipate making it a permanent part of our major. The Department taught over 2,900 students and awarded 12 B.A.’s in philosophy and ethics and religion, 8 M.A.’s and 3 Ph.D.’s in CY 2003. We placed three graduate students in good positions across the country and continue to be extremely proud of the success of our graduates. Moreover, the faculty continues to be productive in their research. Nearly 20 articles or book chapters appeared in print in 2003, and Linda Zagzebski co-edited a new collection of essays.
Next year promises to be exciting as well. This spring we will be hosting our ninth annual undergraduate colloquium, with Robert Solomon of the University of Texas, Austin as the keynote speaker. We continue to receive excellent undergraduate submissions and we look forward to another invigorating colloquium. In the Fall, we will begin a tenure- track search, host the eighth annual David Ross Boyd lectures featuring Julia Annas of the University of Arizona, welcome the arrival of new and promising graduate and undergraduate students, and much, much more. As you can see this continues to be an exciting time in the life of the program, and we have no intention of sitting still.
Finally, I would like to thank all our alumni who have responded to our previous newsletters and various questionnaires. A special “thank you” goes to those of you who have contributed financially to the department. It is important, however, to hear from all of you, especially as we try continually to improve our program. The Philosophy Department has a Web site at
Among other things, the site has an on-line form alumni can fill out to provide information about themselves. Please, let us know how you are doing!
Hugh H. Benson, Chair
The Philosophy Department is working to give its majors more intensive instruction in writing. The centerpiece of its efforts is a new course, the Philosophy Writing Workshop. The Workshop has been offered for several semesters as a special topics course; we will soon apply to make it a permanent, regular course, required of all majors. The workshop is open to majors who are enrolled in one of several designated “target courses”: the core 3000-level courses required of all majors. Majors in these courses can enroll in the Workshop for an additional hour of credit. The Workshop meets weekly; students spend the first part of the semester reviewing basic principles of good philosophical writing, and then the remainder of the semester working intensively on the term paper assigned in their target course. The goal of the program is to help students recognize what qualities make for good philosophical writing, and to get them to adopt writing habits that help them give their own papers those qualities. The department hopes that its efforts to emphasize writing in its major will complement the efforts across the university to improve undergraduates' writing generally.
“Welcome Aboard” tempered with “Hope you know what you’ve signed up for” to Emma Kathryn and Sarah Jennifer Durand, and to Owen Matthew Hodge. Emma and Sarah were born to Kevin and Jessica Durand at 7:46 and 7:47am on 7 November 2003. The babies were delivered at 37 weeks, and weighed in at 5 lbs 8 oz and 5 lbs 11 oz. Everyone's doing well, and Kevin reports that the girls are "as cute as buttons.” Owen was born to Matthew and Elizabeth Hodge at 9:16am on 20 October 2003. Owen was 19 1/2" long and weighed a whopping 6 lbs 15 oz. Matthew reports that everyone's doing well.
OUR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS
The following students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy or ethics and religion during the calendar year 2003: Joseph Bonifeld, Michael Branch, Stefanie Collins, Sarah Fox, Charlina Frazier, Wyatt Hockmeyer, Sean Lohmar, Michael Alex Lowther, Akinkunle Owoso, Kristopher Tate, Joshua Young.
Students who choose to be philosophy majors tend to be bright and intellectually motivated. They know it is a hard subject and they choose it because it interests them. Perhaps that is why philosophy teachers tend to enjoy their work. Almost all of the Philosophy and Ethics and Religion majors, fifty out of ninety-nine, made the Dean’s or the President’s Honor Roll in the Fall or Spring Semester, twenty-two of them in both semesters.
Shyam Patwardhan presented a paper “Reconciling the Plausibility of Continued Existence after Death with the Implausibility of Continued Existence during Life” to the OU Undergraduate Philosophy Conference. The paper argues that throughout a person's life, there is a succession of individuals who die in a matter of perhaps months and are replaced by exactly similar replicas who believe themselves to have existed far longer than is actually the case. On the other hand given certain assumptions many of these replicas will come back into existence after the person’s death. (Quite strong assumptions – editor.)
Jason Smith read a paper on “Ecofeminist Ethics and Strategies” at the conference of the Society of Philosophy and History of Education, in San Antonio in September. The paper will be published in the Journal of Philosophy and History of Education.
OUR GRADUATE STUDENTS
Three students graduated with a Ph.D. during 2003: Stephen Brown, Anthony Flood, and Maria Paleologou. Steve is teaching at Briar Cliff University. Tony is now teaching at North Dakota State. And Maria is teaching at Cal State Bakersfield. The department is proud that all three are so quickly established on their academic careers. Eight students received an MA: Eric Batterson, Kendrick Davis, Gregory Elliott, Aaron James, John Murphy, Ryan “Indy” Rhodes, Richard Power, and Elliot Welch. Congratulations.
Stephen Brown presented “The Scientific Argument from Religious Experience” to the joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Psychology and Wesleyan Theology and the Wesleyan Philosophical Society, in Sherman TX, and “Another way of naturalizing virtue ethics” to the American Philosophical Association, central division. He also commented on a paper at the APA Pacific division meetings.
Kendrick Davis gave a May intersession course on “Mind in the Twilight Zone.”
Dara Fogel taught a May intersession course on “The Metaphysics of Star Trek,” and an August intersession course on “The Ethics of Star Trek.” (When are we going to get the epistemology of Star Trek?) Also “The Matrix and Philosophy” in the December intersession! She hosts the Socrates Café, a philosophical discussion group, twice a month. And she directed a production of “The Tempest” at the Duck Pond in July, which was preceded by an open drumming session (to set up the storm scene?)
Kyle Johnson taught an August intersession course on “The Simpsons, South Park, and Philosophy.” For those who have not noticed, courses and books relating movies and TV shows to philosophical themes are an interesting phenomenon of the past few years. (See the reference to The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy below.) One reason for their popularity is that film provides very expressive techniques that have become essential to the way metaphysical and moral issues are explored in contemporary life. The philosophical research article in video-game form will arrive any day now.
PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT AWARDS
Brett Gilland was awarded the Elizabeth Wade Scholarship, which was established by Larry R and Mary Jane Wade of Elk City in honor of their daughter, Elizabeth Wade, who graduated in 2001 as a philosophy major. The Wade Scholarship is offered to the department’s outstanding junior.
Jennifer Brooke Mullins and Akinunle Owoso shared the J. Clayton Feaver Scholarship for 2002. The scholarship is funded by Audrey Ellsworth Maehl (M.A., 1955) to honor the memory of J. Clayton Feaver (1911-1995), who was the first Kingfisher Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at the University of Oklahoma (1951-1981). Akin Owoso is staying on at OU, in the med school.
Hugh Benson shared with Shad Satterthwaite of Political Science the first annual President's Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Program Outstanding Mentor Award. Hugh has participated in this program since its inception. In recent years, faculty members who participate in this program have been assigned 10 first-semester freshmen to meet with a few times over the course of their first semester to make sure they are not facing any problems adjusting to university life. (Hugh is a renowned Socratic scholar—another famous mentor, but one who was not acknowledged the same way.)
Neera Badhwar is in pursuit of happiness and friendship. She has completed several papers on happiness which should appear soon and has taught a graduate seminar on the topic. Her paper “Friendship and Commercial Societies” will appear, in French, in L'Amitié, edited by Bernard Schumacher for Presses Universitaires de France. She is working on a paper on Friendship and Sexuality for the forthcoming Encyclopaedia of Sexuality. She is also working on the ethics of international relations, preparing a paper “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Make-Believe World of International Relations,” for Social Philosophy and Policy, and directing a Liberty Fund conference on International Ethics.
Jim Hawthorne used his sabbatical in Germany last year well, resulting in a paper in the Journal of Philosophical Logic called, “Three Models of Sequential Belief Updating on Uncertain Evidence” and a paper forthcoming in Philosophy of Science, written with Branden Fitelson, “Re-solving the Problem of Irrelevant Conjunction.” He is working on another paper with Fitelson called, “Bayesian Confirmation and the Ravens Paradox Revisited” and on an article on “Inductive Logic” for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The sabbatical also gave Jim the energy to prepare two completely new courses, “Philosophical Issues in Physics and Cosmology” and “Philosophical Issues in Biology.”
Adam Morton wrote a very small book on a very large topic in a shockingly brief time. On Evil was begun in June and finished in November, and will be published by Routledge by the time this Newsletter is circulated. Adam does not know whether to be proud of working so fast or ashamed to have dared treat this topic in so off hand a manner.
Wayne Riggs is on sabbatical working on a book on epistemic value theory. The book follows on from two recent articles, “Balancing Our Epistemic Ends,” and “Understanding Virtue and the Virtue of Understanding.” The Riggs family continued in their second year as “faculty-in-residence” in the Couch dormitory on campus. They continue to enjoy hosting programs and events for the students, as well as availing themselves of the abundance of babysitters.
Zev Trachtenberg traveled to Oxford in the summer to give a paper at the meeting of the Rousseau Association on the topic of fanaticism. While in the UK he and his family traveled to Scotland, where they visited Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Isle of Mull, seeing enough castles to keep his 4-year-old son jousting for months.
We have two new tenure-track assistant professors.
Amy Olberding works on Chinese philosophy, with a particular interest in comparing Chinese and Western ideas about death. She was born in a town called Normal—Normal to Norman—was a high school drop-out, and has scaled Driskill Mountain, the highest point in Louisiana (that's 535 ft. for the uninitiated).
Steve Ellis works on decision theory and the philosophy of economics. He was born in Tulsa, so OU is a bit of a homecoming. (He was a big OU football fan as a little kid in the '70s: Greg Pruitt was his idol.) He can make stone arrowheads and hand-axes. He spends a lot of his time trying to convince economists that they don't know everything and everyone else that economists know something. He co-hosts the Econ-Phil touch football game most Saturdays.
Jenonne Walker (’56 BA Letters, MA Philosophy), former Ambassador to the Czech Republic, visited the university during FOCAS week. Ambassador Walker wrote a Master’s thesis on existentialism at OU before going on to doctoral studies in London. She gave a talk on “American Security and American Power,” and met with students and faculty for an informal discussion.
Also in FOCAS week Barry Vaughan (Ph.D., 1999), professor, Mesa Community College gave a public presentation entitled “Mishaps of a Philosophical Journey.” The presentation centered on difficulties in giving web-based courses in philosophy.
Susan Alvarado (M.A., 2001) has been appointed Education Specialist and Student Affairs Administrator in the Office of Academic Enrichment Services at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to advising students and coordinating cultural and personal enrichment activities, she is teaching a student development course that has an explicit critical thinking curriculum and will continue to run her “Brain Boosters” initiative.
Gregory Bassham (B.A., 1982; M.A., 1985) is co-editor of the best-selling The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. It was #9 on the National Campus Bestsellers list for paperback non-fiction.
Ed Cox (Ph.D., 2000) has a tenure-track assistant professorship in Philosophy at Murray State University.
Rezi Farzad (B.A., 1997) graduated with an M.D. with honors from the OU College of Medicine. He is now a resident in diagnostic radiology at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Scott Jones (M.A., 1997; Ph.D., 2002) began in February 2003 as associate pastor at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas. He is enjoying going to concerts and shows in Dallas, and recommends that everyone read The Life of Pi.
Richard Neal (M.A. 1992) is president of the American Society for the Communication of Mathematics, and expects to complete a D.Phil. in theology from Oxford University in the next year.
SPEAKERS AND COLLOQUIA
The speakers invited to the Friday afternoon seminar in 2003-04 show the variety of philosophical themes current in the department.
William Wainwright (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), “Jonathan Edwards and the Doctrine of Hell.”
Branden Fitelson (University of California, Berkeley), “Logical Foundations of Evidential Support.” (“My approach will be to isolate a few very simple inductive-logical desiderata, and then show that these determine a unique solution to the problems faced by both Carnapians and Bayesians. The ultimate goal is to provide a logical foundation for a wide variety of theories of evidential support (both Bayesian and non-Bayesian).”
Julia Driver (Dartmouth College), “Dream Immorality.” (“Some virtue ethicists are committed to the possibility of dream immorality—that is, willings that occur in a dream which express bad internal states. While this seems absurd, the author will argue that it isn’t as absurd as it first appears, though a more plausible view of moral evaluation will have an ‘external’ component which will enable it to avoid the dream immorality problem.”)
Nicholas White (University of California, Irvine), “Aristotle’s Wittgensteinian Criticism of Plato’s Ethics.”
Roderick Long (Auburn University), “Wittgenstein and Praxeology.”
Amy Olberding (College of DuPage), “Slowing Death Down: The Ethical Significance of Formal Mourning in the Lunyu.” (The Lunyu is also known as Confucius’ Analects.)
Barry Vaughan (Mesa Community College), “Mishaps of a Philosophical Journey.”
Robert Solomon (University of Texas at Austin), “Nietzsche’s Virtues.”
Robert Solomon (University of Texas at Austin), “Passivity and Passion.” Keynote Address for the Ninth Annual University of Oklahoma Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.
Adam Morton (OU), “Connecting Emotion and Thought, or How Sophistication Gets Around.”
The eighth annual University of Oklahoma undergraduate philosophy conference was held in the department on April 5, 2003. The conference is organized entirely by OU undergraduate and graduate students and attracts participants from far and near. William Wainwright (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) gave the keynote address on “Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the Religious Life.” Shyam Patwardhan presented a paper (see above), and graduate students Rachel Avery, Whitney Edwards, Benjamin Hagy, Matthew Hodge, and Howard Short gave comments.
Tom W. Boyd, David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, gave an address “The Art of Thinking: From the Shallows to the Depths,” on December 5, to celebrate Phi Beta Kappa's Founder's Day. He observed, “It is not sufficient to be ‘smart’ and to make high academic marks. There is this capacity so basic to the highest potential, and it needs once in a while to be illuminated.”
The following is only a selection of works published by members of the department in 2003. The striking thing is the variety of topics addressed.
Hugh Benson, “A Note on Socratic Self-Knowledge in the Charmides,” Ancient Philosophy, 23, 2003, pp. 31-48.
Reinaldo Elugardo, “Conceptual Minimalism and Anti-Individualism: a reply to Goldberg” (with Kent Bach), Nous, 37, 2003, pp. 151-160.
Kenneth Merrill, “Colin Howson. Hume’s Problem: Induction and the Justification of Belief” Hume Studies, 29, 2003, pp. 155-162,
Adam Morton, “Contrastive Knowledge,” Philosophical Explorations, 6, 2003, pp. 74-89.
Wayne Riggs, “Balancing our Epistemic Ends,” Nous, 37, 2003.
Chris Swoyer, “Relativism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online at http://plato.stanford.edu).
Linda Zagzebski, Intellectual Virtue: perspectives from ethics and epistemology (edited, with Michael DePaul), Oxford University Press.
REPORT OF ALUMNI
We welcome your updates and
comments. Please fill out this page
and return it to Editor, OU Philosophy Newsletter, Department of
Philosophy, 455 West Lindsey, Room 605, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
73019-2006; or fax it to
(405) 325-2660. You can also respond online at the department’s web site <http://www.ou.edu/ouphil> Thank you.
Phone number: FAX Number:
Year graduated: Degree(s) earned: