As we in SOPHIA prepare for an online philosophical discussion about “trigger warnings,” we thought some of you may enjoy hearing a talk by Dr. Shane Courtland, SOPHIA’s Communications Officer. He’ll be one of our facilitators for the conversation, along with Dr. Bertha Manninen. We are also working on possibilities for invited participants, and will share more information when it it available. This talk is Dr. Courtland’s “Last Lecture,” titled “The Importance of Tolerating Offense,” which he gave at the University of Minnesota Duluth before he moved from there to West Virginia University. If you get a chance, listen to his talk via YouTube (FYI, it is a sound recording only).

UPDATE: You can also follow along with Dr. Courtland’s slides for the talk here:

SOPHIA Business Meeting reminder: 9/9/16 @ 5pm Eastern

Photo of a person at a computer, whose screen reads "Meeting Agenda."Agenda:
1) SOPHIA panels – planned and future
2) radio show and podcast
3) chapter recognition and building needs
4) leveraging video: a) video conferencing business meetings? b) intro videos & other online community building; c) online video conference/symposium
5) funding opportunity and other $ plans
6) recognition/awards for engaged philosophers and community building?
7) Procedures for updates
8) Reminders
9) Other thoughts/needs?

If you are interested in joining the meeting but have not received detailed instructions for joining it, email us at

Date: September 9, 2016
Time: 05:00-05:45 p.m.
Event: SOPHIA Business Meeting
Topic: SOPHIA Business Meeting
Sponsor: SOPHIA
Venue: Zoom Online Video Conference
Location: Online
Public: Public

If you haven't already, register for membership and JOIN SOPHIA!

“Trigger Warnings” – Topic for a SOPHIA Symposium?

This is a photo of the letter that the University of Chicago sent to incoming students about 'trigger warnings.' Clicking the photo opens a printable PDF file of the letter, with optical character recognition applied.

A photo of a symbol that reads "Trigger Warning: Explicit Content," and which is made to look like the "Explicit Content" warnings used on mature media sold to the public in the United States.Two SOPHIA members have independently suggested that we hold a discussion on the topic of “trigger warnings.” Remember that SOPHIA discussions generally begin with a very short text (whether written, audio, or video), which can help spark the discussion. It also allows us all to be literally on the same page as we begin our discussions. Both Trustee Dr. Bertha Manninen and member Dr. Annie Davis Weber have suggested that we have a discussion on “trigger warnings,” and both of them independently suggested that we use the University of Chicago letter on the subject, which has been in the news recently.

If you would be interested in participating in an online video conference discussion on this topic, whether or not you’re a member of SOPHIA, and whether or not you’ve ever studied any philosophy, you can comment below, email us, or let us know on Facebook or on Twitter. In addition, reach out to us if you have ideas about other topics that you think would be rewarding to talk about in a SOPHIA group meeting, whether with a local group, at a national event, or via an online video conference call.

Of course, if you are interested and have not yet officially joined or renewed your membership in SOPHIA, you can do so here.

SOPHIA Trustee Emeritus Among 50 “Most Influential Living Philosophers”!

Professor John J. McDermott.

50 most influential philosophers.The Society of Philosophers in America is proud to celebrate our Trustee Emeritus, Dr. John J. McDermott, who has been named one of the 50 most influential living philosophers.

In recognizing Professor McDermott, the list’s authors wrote the following:

[Book Image]John McDermott received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Fordham University, in New York City, in 1959, and, though he is getting up in his years, is still teaching, holding the position of University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Texas A&M University. McDermott’s work is primarily focused on the philosophy ofculture, specifically American literature and philosophy, having written, compiled, or contributed to books on William James, Josiah Royce, and John Dewey, as well as being a former President of the William James Society. McDermott is most notable for, and has been most influential in exploring and advancing the ideas of James and Dewey in relation to American culture, as well as his examination of American culture through philosophy.

Congratulations, John! And thank you for all you’ve done for American philosophy and for SOPHIA!

2016 SOPHIA Panel Caught the Attention of Oxford U Press

December 5, 2015

Photo of the OUP blog. SOPHIA is excited to have the interest of The Public Philosophy Journal to consider publishing our 2016 panel members’ papers from our event held at the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association. In reviewing some details about the panel, we found this link to the OUP blog, which was great to see. As the process progresses for submitting the papers to the PPJ, we will keep you posted.

The panel was titled: “The Obligations of Philosophers.”


Also, if you haven’t checked out The Public Philosophy Journal, what are you waiting for? Seriously, they’ve got an awesome logo & they are experimenting with tools and processes that may revolutionize the way scholars review work, publish, and engage the wider public.

How to Join our Video Conferencing Tool – Zoom

(Post updated Sept 7, 2016)

SOPHIA is experimenting with options for levering technology to build communities of philosophical conversation. One tool available to us for free is Zoom. Zoom will enable the hosting of video conference meetings with huge capacity and tools for recording meetings, among other functionalities. Joining a meeting is simple, yet it might be a good idea to watch a short video about the several ways in which one can join a SOPHIA conference call with Zoom. Before we get to that, consider the following:

It’s a good idea to test your video and audio settings in advance. If any of you would like to hold a quick call with me (ETW) to test out the connection and process, I’d be delighted to give the system as many practice runs as members would like. I think you’ll find that tools like these will 1) dramatically reduce the impediment that distance represents for our community building, and 2) archive our meetings for later viewing and sharing, so that we benefit more people and more deeply in holding our recorded meetings.

Here’s Zoom’s explanation of the process of joining a meeting:

If you have yet to join or renew your membership in SOPHIA via our new system, please take a few minutes visiting our Membership Levels page (our JOIN/RENEW MEMBERSHIP link).

Introduction Videos for Members

In SOPHIA’s 2015 strategic plan, we decided that it will be important for us to leverage technological tools for building communities of philosophical conversation. One way in which we can do that simply is to create introductory videos for each member. When you register on our site to JOIN or RENEW your SOPHIA membership, please fill in as much information as you feel comfortable adding. The reason is that most the info you write will be posted on your Profile page in our SOPHIA Directory (no, not your credit card info). One option we have, among others, is to post a link to a YouTube video in which you can introduce yourself to other SOPHIA members. I made a short sample video to introduce myself:

My suggestion is that people share:

  1. Who you are: name, title, institutional affiliation (if any)?
  2. What your background and interests are in Philosophy?
  3. What brought you to SOPHIA?
  4. What is something unique or interesting about you beyond philosophy or professional details?

If any of you would like, I (ETW) could hold a video conference with you to introduce you in a bit more of an interview format. Alternatively, if recording a video doesn’t sound straightforward (on some devices it’s less simple than on others), we could hold such a conference call and we could just record the member’s video frame as he or she answers such questions – or others that you suggest. There are things we can do to help make this process easier. The more we can put a voice and a face to a name, the better for community. Share your thoughts or questions on this initiative.

And of course, if you have not yet had a chance to JOIN or RENEW your membership  to SOPHIA, please take a few minutes to do so.

Photo of the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, MD.SOPHIA will be hosting a panel at the 2017 Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Day & time are TBD.

Group Session

Topic: “The Value of and Impediments to Studying Philosophy for First Generation College Students”

Chair: George R. Lucas (U.S. Naval War College & Notre Dame University)

Speakers and titles:

Dr. Daniel Brunson.Daniel Brunson (Morgan State University)

“Traditions are Precious Treasures? Pragmatic Reflections on Inculcating a Tradition You Only Recently Joined”

Photo of Dr. Jackie KegleyJackie Kegley (California State University Bakersfield)

“First-generation students excelling in Philosophy”

Photo of Dr. Bertha Manninen.Bertha Manninen (Arizona State University)

“Why First Generation Students Stay Away From the Humanities – And How We Can Bring Them Back In.”

Dr. Chris Surprenant.Chris Surprenant (University of New Orleans)

“High School Philosophy Programs and First-Generation College Students”

Date: January 4, 2017—January 7, 2017
Time: TBA
Event: SOPHIA Panel at the 2017 Eastern Division Meeting of the APA
Topic: "The Value of and Impediments to Studying Philosophy for First Generation College Students"
Sponsor: The American Philosophical Association
Venue: Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
Location: 202 East Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Public: Public

If you haven't already, register for membership and JOIN SOPHIA!

Eastern APA Panel Planning for 2017

Logo of the American Philosophical Association.

SOPHIA has the opportunity to hold a panel at the 2017 Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association. The conference will run from January 4th to the 7th of 2017 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, in Baltimore, MD. Alongside SOPHIA’s other activities, we do aim to represent ourselves and what we do in the country’s professional organizations. Such meetings are also a good opportunity to recruit people into membership and to grow chapters, as people learn about opportunities to gather with SOPHIA folks who live near them.

We will post details about our panel here soon as an “event” post. Reach out if you have ideas for panels that would be valuable for us to hold either at this or at other professional associations. We want to spread the word in and beyond the academy about SOPHIA’s new phase of growth. More soon.