“Opportunities and Challenges for Building Local Communities of Philosophical Conversation”

A SOPHIA panel organized for the 2018 meeting of the Public Philosophy Network, featuring:

“Liberating the Liberal Arts: Encouraging Philosophical Engagement Outside of the Classroom”
Anthony Cashio

Dr. Sergia Hay.Dr. Michael Rings“Building Philosophical Community in the South Puget Sound chapter of SOPHIA”
Michael Rings and Sergia Hay

Dr. Eric Thomas Weber.“Communities Take Roots: Challenges for Locally Grown Communities of Philosophical Conversation”
Eric Thomas Weber

Date: February 9, 2018
Time: 01:15-02:45 p.m.
Event: SOPHIA Panel at the 2018 Public Philosophy Network Conference
Topic: Philosophy Impact
Sponsor: The Public Philosophy Network
Venue: Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn Hotels
Location: 2601 Canyon Boulevard
Boulder, CO 80302
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

A group of SOPHIA members will meet and lead a discussion about Episode 1 of Philosophy Bakes Bread, on The Molemen and Plato’s Cave Today, with the University of Kentucky Philosophy Club!

A group meeting for a SOPHIA conversation.

If you can listen to the episode in advance, great! If not, no worries, as we have the handout about it so that we’re all on the same page.

Here’s the episode: https://www.philosophersinamerica.com/2017/01/19/ep1-the-molemen-and-platos-cave-today/

The meeting is meant to be genuinely conversational, and to introduce people to what SOPHIA is all about.

Join us!

Date: November 29, 2017
Time: 04:00-05:00 p.m.
Event: Lexington SOPHIA Group Chat about Plato's Cave Today
Topic: Plato's Cave Today
Sponsor: The University of Kentucky Philosophy Club
Venue: White Hall, room 231
Location: 140 Patterson Drive
Lexington, KY 40506
Public: Public

Not a member of SOPHIA yet? Consider joining!


Civil American, Volume 2, Article 3 (September 16, 2017), https://goo.gl/38wd1m.

| By John Lachs |

Adobe logo, to serve as a link to the Adobe PDF version of the essay.

When our ancestors lived in caves, every tool was a prized possession. Furs for comfort and drawings to decorate the cave were difficult to come by. They were passed down from generation to generation.

Storage units.

Photo courtesy of Paul Brennan, CC0.

Later, when human productivity made the goods of the world readily available, our grandparents became collectors. Growing control over nature enabled them to stockpile everything imaginable, converting their homes into storage units.

Some claim this was in response to the tough times of the Great Depression. Others attribute it to smart shopping:  buying on sale is a great saving, even if you never use the item.

Photo of clutter.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com, CCO.
Photo of a water tower made to look like a "catsup" bottle.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Keith, CC0.

The important idea is that the twenty-eighth sweater and the 5-pound Ketchup bottle are there, ready to be used…if, that is, they can be found. “You never know when it’ll come in handy” is a great justification if what you look for is not lost in the clutter.

We feel it impossible to discard perfectly usable clothing even if we have no intention of ever using it. Surely, there is nothing wrong with keeping food that is only a few months past the expiration date. And though we have no interest in the second treadmill a friend wants to give away, we’ll manage to find a place for it.

Packed closet.

Courtesy of Flickr, CCO, some rights reserved.

There is always room for the next coffee table and, after a good sale, the clothes in the closets just have to be compressed a little more.  Eventually, the stuff we collect invades all rooms and peaks out from under the beds.

The moment of truth comes when we have to move. The death of a loved one or a divorce reveals the momentousness of the collection.  Every item has memories attached, everything cries to be preserved. Discarding anything feels like losing a friend.

Photo of a Goodwill location.

Photo courtesy of Dwight Burdette, CCO.

Is there a solution? Only one as radical as surgery is for cancer. Take ten items you cannot live without. Leave everything in place and get a couple of friends to bring their friends to carry away whatever they want. What is left can go to charity.

What we value says a lot about who we are. Look over the ten objects you kept. What do they say about you?


Dr. John LachsDr. John Lachs is Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA).


Journal Archive

SOPHIA 2017 Chapter Seed Grants

Call for Applications!

We are calling for applications for seed grants for up to $600, to support efforts to start SOPHIA Chapters at the local or online levels. The deadline for applications is October 15th, 2017.

Photo of man planting seeds.

Application document with instructions: in MS Word format or in Adobe PDF format

Application-only files: in MS Word format or in Adobe PDF format

Applications should be emailed to us at PhilosophersInAmerica@gmail.com, preferably in Adobe PDF format, by October 15th, 2017. We are happy to answer questions in advance, sent to the same email address.

SOPHIA member Dr. Danielle Lake receives prestigious national award for civic engagement!

Grand Valley State University
June 16, 2017

Dr. Danielle Lake.Dr. Danielle Lake received the 2017 John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities!

According to the press release from Grand Valley State University:

“Lake was nominated for the award by Jessica Jennrich, director of the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women & Gender Equity, who said Lake has ‘an uncanny skill to link civic projects to tangible outcomes for both students and the community.’

“Lake has designed and taught Community Based Learning courses on food security issues and wicked problems, and hosted learning communities on engagement for faculty members. She is a research team leader for the Grand Rapids Engaged Department Initiative (GREDI), a collaborative effort among Grand Valley, Grand Rapids Community College and Aquinas College to connect classrooms with community.”

SOPHIA Awarded the 2017 APA/PDC Prize!

SOPHIA is honored to have been chosen for the 2017 prize from the American Philosophical Association and the Philosophy Documentation Center for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs! News about the prize and some comments from the chair of the selection committee were posted on the APA’s blog. We are most grateful to the APA and to the PDC!

The award will be conferred at the 2018 meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, to be held between January 3rd & 6th in Savannah, Georgia.

Welcome Dr. Bill Irwin

An unusual take on the "Introduction" video idea

As SOPHIA’s mission is to build communities of philosophical conversation, one thing we’ve begun to do with many new members is to create “introduction videos,” asking people to introduce themselves, in video, to our group. We generally ask: 1) Tell us about yourself, 2) Why are you interested in philosophy in general and in SOPHIA in particular? and 3) What’s something unusual or unique about you?

Our newest member is Dr. William (Bill) Irwin of King’s College in Pennsylvania. Bill’s case is a little different, because you can be introduced to Bill in a special way — Check out his interview on CNN! This is a fun introduction to Bill and to some of his work in and on popular culture. Check it out!

By the way, Dr. Irwin is a member of SOPHIA’s Editorial Board for Civil American and has agreed to come on Philosophy Bakes Bread sometime this fall!

Check out Bill’s profile page, where you can learn more about him, and find his Facebook and Twitter info.

Oxford MS Chapter of SOPHIA

Founding information and inaugural event

SOPHIA is still working on the technical system that we will use to manage our chapters. For now, we will announce our chapters with a post like this one, for chapters that we’ll have made official, such as the Oxford MS Chapter. We have groups around the country, who’ve been working with SOPHIA for years, but we are just now formalizing our new system and mechanisms for making these chapters official. More information will be coming out soon about what’s involved. We will also be offering mini-grants to initial chapters who apply for the support. Here’s info about the chapter in Oxford, MS!

Dr. Deborah MowerChapter President: Dr. Deborah Mower

Membership Officer: TBD

Operations Officer: TBD


Core Members: 

Dr. Robert BarnardDr. Robert Barnard.


Dr. Deborah MowerDr. Deborah Mower


Dr. Neil MansonDr. Neil Manson.


Dr. Steven SkultetyDr. Steven Skultety.


Inaugural Meeting

Image of the poster announcing the Great Debate on "Confederate History Month" at the University of Mississippi. The University of Mississippi chapter of SOPHIA held its inaugural event of “The Great Debate” on April 27th, 2017. Each year, students from the UM Ethics Bowl Team will address a difficult question and debate the issues for an audience of students, faculty, staff, and all members of the community. This year’s question was “Should the governor of the state of Mississippi declare April ‘Confederate Heritage Month’?

Governor Phil Bryant has declared April to be ‘Confederate Heritage Month’ in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the proclamation was on the Governor’s website with the purpose of the designation: “it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to gain insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us” [CNN]. In 2017, the Governor’s office did not post the proclamation on the website, but a copy was posted on the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans website [MDSCV and now on their Facebook page]. As stated on the website, the purpose of the organization is “to encourage the preservation of history, perpetuate the hallowed memories of brave men, to assist in the observance of Memorial Day, to aid and support all members, widows and orphans, and to perpetuate the record of the services of every Southern Soldier” [MDSCV’s About page]. In addition, the home page explains that “The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution. The tenacity with which Confederate soldiers fought underscored their belief in the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. These attributes are the underpinning of our democratic society and represent the foundation on which this nation was built” [MDSCV].

In The Great Debate, audience members were presented with a case with pertinent details, arguments, and concerns on both sides of the issue, along with a copy of common fallacies made in arguments. The UM Ethics Bowl Team each took a side of the issue and presented careful arguments, which were projected on screens via PowerPoint to help the audience follow the intricacies of their position. After the debate presentation, the team members fielded questions first from three guest judges (who modeled the kind of civil and insightful inquiry of the event) and then from the audience designed to clarify their initial arguments and to press follow-up points. After the Q and A and discussion, everyone was invited to a catered reception to continue the conversation informally. Through the clear presentation of claims and civil dialogue, we hope to institute this as a yearly event to demonstrate how to make progress on thorny ethical and political questions in our society through civil dialogue.

For more information about the Oxford MS Chapter of SOPHIA, contact Chapter President Mower.

Call for Proposals for SOPHIA Panels in 2018

The logo for WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM.The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) welcomes proposals for a variety of conferences in 2018. In accordance with our mission, we especially encourage topics of contemporary and public concern, as well as engagement with scholars in other fields or with communities beyond the academy. Select panels and panelists may be featured on SOPHIA’s Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast, which airs on WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM.

In case it is desired, you can download a printable, Adobe PDF version of this call for proposals here.

This is an image of the top of the printable, Adobe PDF version of this call for proposals.

Interested persons can either submit a proposal for a panel at one of the following conferences, or they may individually submit to SOPHIA with the intent of joining with other SOPHIA presenters on a panel to be developed. Note that individual papers can often be submitted directly to a larger conference, but some events, such as SAAP’s, specify that “multiple submissions will not be accepted and that persons participating in invited sessions may not submit to the regular program.”

Dr. Daniel Brunson.All submissions should be prepared for anonymous review, and be accompanied by a second document with contact information for each presenter. Please email your submission to danieljamesbrunson@gmail.com by 11:59 PM ET for each deadline below.


Logo of the APA Eastern Division.1: American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, 01/03/18 – 01/06/18 in Savannah, GA,

Proposal Submission Deadline is Monday, July 3rd. Individual Papers or Presentations: An Abstract of 300-500 words; Panels: An Abstract of 600-1200 words, with titles.


2: Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, 03/08-03/10 in Indianapolis, IN. Proposal

Submission Deadline is Monday, August 28th. Individual Papers or Presentations: 600 word abstract; Panels: A panel abstract of 450-600 word and at least 600 word abstracts per paper. For the SAAP event, our invitation is open, yet we encourage contributions that address the conference theme, “Ethos and Creativity.” The theme comes from a philosophically significant essay about the host city, Indianapolis, written by Indianapolis poet Mari Evans (1923–2017) about race and artistic practice.


The Logo of the Public Philosophy Network.3: 4th Conference of Public Philosophy Network, 02/8/18 – 02/10/18 in Denton, TX

Proposal Submission Deadline is Monday, September 11th. Individual Papers or Presentations: An Abstract of 300-500 words; Panels: An Abstract of 600-1200 words, with titles. The 2017 conference theme is philosophizing impact: What philosophical practices improve the uptake of philosophy, both across the disciplines, and throughout society?


Logo of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association.4: American Philosophical Association, Central Division, 02/21/18 – 02/24/18 in Chicago, IL, Proposal

Submission Deadline is Monday, September 23rd. Individual Papers or Presentations: An Abstract of 300-500 words; Panels: An Abstract of 600-1200 words, with titles.


If you are interested in proposing a paper or a panel for an event not listed here, contact Dr. Brunson at the email address above. For more information about SOPHIA, visit our About page, “like” our Facebook page, and “follow” us on Twitter.