The Philosophy Club
Butler University's Philosophy Club is a student-run organization meant to encourage philosophical discussion outside the classroom and to reflect the genuine interest of our Philosophy majors and minors, and Ethics minors (as well as of many other members of the Butler community) in a wide range of philosophical problems. There are roughly three meetings every semester and discussion is held in a generally lively and informal atmosphere.
Our meetings have focused on topics as diverse as justice understood as fairness, Buddhism—between philosophy and religion, philosophy as a lifestyle, and the nature of political freedom. Occasionally the Philosophy Club holds its meetings jointly with similar organizations (e.g., when focusing on debates about political theories or religious issues) or cosponsors talks given by various philosophers.
Some of our recent meetings were devoted to discussing philosophical aspects of parenthood, the aesthetics of jokes, the ethical implications of the Occupy movement, the(im)possibility of amoralism etc. Announcements about the Club's meetings are posted in the Butler Today announcements and in other physical and virtual venues. Students are encouraged to suggest topics for the upcoming meetings of the club.
For more information, contact Claudia Johnson (email@example.com), Administrative Specialist in the Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, or the Department Head, Tiberiu Popa (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Philosophy Club Meetings 2020-2021
4pm October 30, 2020 - Walk & Talk (from Atherton Starbucks) ‘Participating in the Political’
This meeting is strategically timed for the election on Tuesday November 3. We will be discussing government, political participation, and democracy. Below are a few questions and topics to initiate the discussion.
- Is voting a right or more of a duty or obligation? (Or something else entirely?)
- Follow up: Is it ever morally permissible not to vote? What about in this election?
- Should there be a distinction between political, legal, and civil obligations?
- Do we have an obligation to obey laws? What kind of obligation? Why?
- When is it okay not to obey laws?
- Does a political obligation require consent on the part of the individual? (In other words, it seems like we’re just thrown into a sort of social contract, through birth, whether we like it or not. This seems one sided…)
- How should the government be conceived?
- The same thing as a nation/country?
- A particular subset of the country? Which?
- The people of a nation? Or a representation of the people? Delegates (listen to constituents) vs trustees (make their own decisions)
- What should be the government’s obligations or responsibility to its people?
- Corona virus - Freedom vs Public welfare/safety vs equality
- What is the difference between natural and non-natural (political/legal) rights? Is there grey area here?
- What’s the deal with the electoral college?!
5:30pm September 25, 2020 Virtual Meeting (Butler) ‘Immortality and The Meaning of Life’
Sample arguments and discussion questions:
(Any religious connotations below should be considered secondary to the philosophical points)
Leo Tolstoy’s argument (taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or SEP):
- In order for life to be meaningful, something must be worth doing
- Nothing is worth doing if nothing one does makes a permanent impact on the world
- Therefore, meaning requires an immortal self
Is this argument valid? Sound? Do you accept this conclusion? Are there any problems with this argument?
Another argument (from SEP):
- Justice (in an ultimate/biblical sense) is required for meaning (without it, the “bad guys” might win and the “good guys” might lose- this is nonsensical, devoid of meaning)
- An immortal soul is required for Justice (ex: the “good guys” get to go to heaven; the bad guys will be punished in the next life through Karma; etc.)
- Therefore, an immortal soul is required for meaning
Are you convinced? Are there problems with this argument? Premises, conclusion?
A different argument (my own):
- A meaningful life is one in which we value discrete moments of our experience (each day, “the little things”)
- It is only possible to value discrete moments of our experience if there is a finite number of them (in other words, it is impossible to value discrete moments of our life if there is an infinite number of them) .
- Therefore, a meaningful life is one which is mortal
Are you convinced? Are there problems with this argument? Premises, conclusion?
- What do you think gives life meaning?
- Does meaning have anything to do with im/mortality?
- How are meaning and im/mortality related, if at all?
- Is anything in the universe immortal or infinite? (Is this just a concept or is it a real thing?)
- Imagine living forever. Could this facilitate a good life?
- If not, why do we strive to extend our lives, through medical enhancements, for example?
Philosophy Club Meetings 2019-2020
5pm March 19, 2020 at Chatham Tap (Butler) ‘Drugs’
Discussion will include issues relating to ontology, philosophy of mind, ethics, neurobiology, and politics. Here are a few questions to keep in mind. For the meeting, try to bring an answer to one as well as a further question to pose to others at the meeting.
- What is a drug?
- How do popular recreational drugs affect our mind, bodies, experience, consciousness, etc.?
- Are drug-induced states of mind any less real than regular states of mind? What is the difference?
- Does doing drugs allow us to get closer to the Truth, or prevent us? Are drugged states valuable?
- Does doing a drug alter the identity of an individual? (Does drunk Timmy= sober Timmy? does ADHD Timmy= medicated Timmy?)
- Why do people do recreational drugs?
- Is it right or wrong to do recreational drugs? If so, when?
- Which drugs should be legal/illegal? (especially when this is connected to systematic racism in the criminal justice system).
- Should lifesaving drugs be as expensive as they are? What is the best way to distribute them?
- Is there any connection between philosophy and drug use?
5pm February 13, 2020 at Chatham Tap (Butler) ‘LOVE’
More specifically: What is love? Who should you love and why? Please bring an answer to one of these questions, and one question of your own. A few things to keep in mind (this is taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):
Typical distinctions of love:
But what are each of these kinds of love? Are they unions? special sorts of concern one has for the other? a sort of valuing attitude? or an emotion? Which one of these do you take to be love? Or is it something else?
Other questions to keep in mind:
- Does/should love involve morals/ethics?
- Does/should it have anything to do with rationality? (Do animals love?)
- Is/should the object (person) of love be fungible (replaceable)?
- Is/should love be motivated by self interest or disinterest?
- Are certain relationships more justified than others? Why?
- Is/should love be based on properties or essences?
- Can we adequately explain/describe love with language/rationality? Or is it more like Faith?
- Is "love" just popular discourse that we have absorbed and perpetuated?
12:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2019 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘Moral Relativism’The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines moral relativism: “Moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”
Moral relativism is a popular and widely held meta-ethical position, especially in a liberal setting like Butler. Many of us are taught to be uniquely ourselves, to figure out what ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ mean to us individually. When it comes to another individual’s or culture’s beliefs, we are told to be respectful and accepting of these differences. That being said, many of us also have a deeply rooted sense of moral value. Deep down we feel that there are certain things that are so immoral that we should not tolerate them. In some cases, we go to great lengths to hold others accountable for those wrongdoings. This tension brings us to the current discussion. If we hold moral relativism to be true, can and should we condemn or prevent the “immoral” actions of others?
In preparation for our meeting, it will be helpful to brainstorm examples of actions that you consider to be immoral that either should or shouldn’t be condemned/prevented.
Follow up Question: Alternatively, if moral relativism is false (or not accepted), then in what ways shall we hold each other morally accountable while simultaneously being open and accepting of different views/customs?
12:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2019 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘Freedom in America’
To this day, the United States has been known as the land of the free. Yet there is much controversy as to the type, extent and accessibility of this freedom, especially considering our country’s past (slavery, the oppression of women and indigenous groups, etc.). During our discussion, we will look at the complex relation between freedom and the United States, hopefully reaching some conclusions or clarity (but also more questions). Here are a few questions we might consider in the discussion:
- What is freedom?
- What does freedom mean in America?
- Who is free in America? And should reparations be made to those who historically have not?
- Are those who seem free actually free? Are we (Butler students and faculty) free?
- How has freedom in this country changed over time?
- How should freedom be conceived and distributed?
- Is freedom even a good ideal? (Why is freedom valuable? Is it valuable?)
Below are a few links to related videos and articles that provide background on the topic (do not feel obligated to watch/read them):
Philosophy Club Meetings 2018-2019
12:00 – 1:00 pm Monday, April 22, 2019 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘Epistemic Justice’
In a time where information is abundant, it is more important than ever to define who gets to be believed, who gets to be trusted, who gets to know and who gets to be known. Specifically, we will talk about the importance of credibility in our legal system. What makes a person more believable than someone else and what can this tell us about power dynamics in our society? These are questions of epistemic injustice that we will be answering in our next meeting. See below links for readings.
12:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘Philosophy of Science’
People have weird relationships with science. While some people trust only that science that confirms their pre-established beliefs, others praise scientific findings and discoveries as if they were dogma. Many utilize technological innovations made possible by scientific discoveries, such as smartphones and laptops, while either remaining ignorant of – or denying – those theories that led to their creation. For this meeting, we want to recognize the contributions of science and cultivate awareness of its blind spots or limitations. Specifically, we will ask and answer the following: How can science answer questions about past events, such as the beginning of life on earth, given what seems to be a dearth of empirical evidence? How accurate can science be in illuminating the past?
Feel free to browse these links for some background:
2:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2019 (Jordan Hall 205) ‘The Philosophy of Blockchain and Decentralized Technologies’
Many assert that decentralized technologies – technologies built and maintained by users, such as blockchain, that do not require a central administrative authority– will vastly change the world we live in. Since we can simply rely on the ‘ledger’ system of blockchain for informational and monetary transfers, some claim we will no longer have to trust (potentially corrupt) institutions with this information, resulting in more democratic and trustworthy practices and systems. Does this seem to be a likely outcome of such technologies, or will already-powerful systems hijack the technology in a way that keeps the status quo going? What can the invention of decentralized technologies tell us about our relationship to authority? Does the push towards such technologies indicate dissatisfaction with our current institutions (governmental and financial)? Do such technologies have the potential to advance democratic ends?
For a quick overview of block chain technology check out this video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYip_Vuv8J0
For a short philosophical article on the topic, see here:
12:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2018 (Jordan Hall 170) ‘What does it mean to be human in today’s world?’
How can we retain a sense of humanity in an increasingly augmented world? Should we? Are cyborgs human? What about those experimenting with drugs in the interest of “neuro-enhancement”? See below for an interesting article on this topic from the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/opinion/we-are-merging-with-robots-th...
12:00 – 1:00 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018 (Jordan Hall 170) ‘The Social Construction of Gender’
We will tackle the social construction of gender, or the idea that gender is a construct of human societies. What are explicit or implicit gender norms we encounter? How are these norms shaped? For more background on the social construction of gender (as one example of social constructivism), please see this short reading:
Philosophy Club Meetings 2017-2018
12:15 - 1:00 pm Tuesday, February 20 , 2018 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘Language, Truth, and Power’
Catchphrases, slogans, and buzzwords are circulated in media, entertainment, and everyday conversation. What is the relation between a society, its catchphrases, and the way the world shows up to members of that society? Think, for example, of the origins and effects of the catchphrase “fake news”. For a bit of background on the topic, please feel free to read the selection below.
“Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its “general politics” of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true…” (Foucault, Truth and Method)
12:00 - 1:00 pm Wednesday, October 4 , 2017 (Jordan Hall 225) ‘The Relationship Between Philosophy and Religion?’
What do they share, what distinguishes them? Our discussion will benefit greatly from a variety of perspectives, so please come and provide yours. Please feel free to check out the following articles for some background information on the topic:
Philosophy Club Meetings 2016-2017
12:15 - 1:15 pm Wednesday, April 17 , 2017 (Jordan Hall 335-B) ‘What Is a Person?’
“Personhood” is, among other things, an ethical category referring to beings that have certain inalienable rights that cannot be abused or taken away. Determining who or what is a “person” may seem very simple, but a closer look brings to light a host of issues that complicate the matter. For example, is this concept applicable only to humans? If so, what about nonhuman animals who exhibit levels of intelligence higher than certain kinds of humans (for example, humans with severe mental disabilities)? Should factors other than intelligence be taken into account? How does artificial intelligence factor into this? Some even argue that ecological features – such as rivers, glaciers, and masses of land – deserve the legal status of “personhood.” Please feel free to check out the following articles for some background information on the topic:
Artificial intelligence: https://www.forbes.com/sites/federicoguerrini/2017/01/16/by-giving-robot...
Abortion and humanity in general: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/opinion/gorsuch-abortion-and-the-conc...
6 - 7 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017 (Jordan Hall 205) 'Automation in the Working World'
The current mainstream narrative of American industry job loss over the past several generations – one that places primary blame on outsourcing and global competition – ignores the reality that technological automation of manufacturing is most accountable for this downward trend. Wealth from manufacturing in the U.S. has not decreased, but rather the opposite, as increasingly complex machines have rendered millions of expensive, risk-prone jobs obsolete. National economic growth, however, does not necessarily lead to higher quality of life, and currently there is little hope in the prospect of market solutions to the overwhelming anxiety felt by many people in this country and elsewhere. What should be done, then, for the growing number of workers who lose their primary means of subsistence due to advances in technology? What moral obligations do governments hold to the people in regards to alleviating both poverty and mass unemployment? Please feel free to check out the following articles for some background information on the topic:
12 - 1 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2016 (Jordan Hall 203) ‘What Is Democracy?’
With Election Day upon us and in an era of politics and social action as hectic as the one we currently live in, we often find ourselves grappling with this and related questions in the hope of ending up in a better world than the one in which we started.
What are the necessary conditions for a democracy to exist and thrive, and what are the most significant threats to it? Why exactly is democracy preferable to other forms of governance? What nonpolitical features of a society should be in place alongside a democracy, and what should the goal of a democracy be?
If you have time, you can check out some excerpts from the short essay “On Democracy” by famous philosopher and social reformer John Dewey:
***12 - 1pm Wednesday, October 5, 2016 (Jordan Hall 203) 'Truth and the Media’s Ethical Responsibilities’With the rise of the Internet and, thus, a seemingly limitless supply of sources one can cite in defense of whatever beliefs they may hold, how does one discern between cases of bias and cases where the truth of a matter supports a particular viewpoint? What is the media’s ethical obligation in regards to this, and how can they go about enacting it? This is obviously a potentially polarizing issue, as one’s political views undoubtedly influence their perceptions of particular media outlets, but, of course, there will be no discrimination of discussion participants based on their views. Here are a few short articles attempting to address the topic, as well as a podcast episode relating to it that features commentators on differing ends of the political spectrum: