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.

SOPHIA Trustee Dr Jackie Kegley Featured in CSU Profile

California State University has recently released a great profile of SOPHIA Trustee Dr. Jackie Kegley in its “Impact of the CSU” online newsletter. Jackie has been an influential leader at CSU Bakersfield for 48 years, on top of her immeasurable influence on SOPHIA.

Dr. Jackie Kegley.

Check out this great profile of Jackie and the impact she has had on a generation of students and her institution. She serves as an inspiration for many first-generation college students, furthermore, at an institution that teaches a high percentage of such students. She was the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and she kindly came on SOPHIA’s radio show and podcast, Philosophy Bakes Bread, to talk about teaching philosophy to first-gen students in episode 15.

Faith Without Dead Dogma: A Reply to Hay

Civil American, Volume 1, Article 5 (December 21, 2016), https://goo.gl/IywlxM.

| By Shane Courtland |

After reading a thoughtful response from Dr. Hay regarding my previous blog post, I thought it would be helpful to discuss my philosophical pedagogy. Even if you have never taken a philosophy class before, the core elements of my teaching method are still applicable outside of the classroom. Moreover, describing how I teach philosophy should better show what I mean when I say that “Philosophy is a method” and “I worship that method.”

Dry erase board listing 'rules, 1., 2., 3.,' though none have yet been filled in.

When we discuss various topics, I insist that the class be bound by three rules. Their observance helps facilitate learning of the philosophical method. They are as follow:

  1. In my class, you not entitled to your own beliefs. Everything that you claim to be true in class, you must be able to justify via argumentation. If you get “called-out” to justify your view and you cannot … you must, at least for the time you are in class, give up the claim that others should agree with your view. Obeying this rule means that no one can stop discussion by merely saying, “Well, I have a right to my own opinion.”
  2. If you assert a view, the burden of proof is on you. If you get “called-out” to meet the burden, and you cannot … you must, at least for the time you are in class, give up that view. Obeying this rule means that no one can rebut criticism by merely replying, “Well, show me that I am wrong.”
  3. You must be civil. You cannot use hate speech (narrowly defined, as by law); there can be no threats of violence; there is no interrupting; etc.

With these rules respected, I will entertain any questions or claims pertinent to our class discussion. And, when I mean any, I mean that I will only stop the discussion for pragmatic considerations (e.g., the discussion is too much of a tangent, we are running out of class time, etc.).


Introducing Two New Members

Photo of the SOPHIA logo, over the word "Introducing," followed by a photo of Jim Lyttle and one of Casey Dorman.

In pursuit of SOPHIA’s mission, of building communities of philosophical conversation locally, nationally, internationally, and online, we are continuing our process of creating introduction videos. Two new members joined SOPHIA in the last month or so, and each was kind enough to be willing to create an introduction video. These two fellows are Jim Lyttle and Casey Dorman and the following is a short introduction video of each one. Get to know our new members and welcome them to the group!

Hello, Jim Lyttle!

Jim is on Twitter here, @JimLyttle.

And hello Casey Dorman!

Casey is also on Twitter, here, @ReviewLost.

Welcome, both of you, to SOPHIA! A number of members, officers, and trustees have yet to make introduction videos. The holiday season can be a great time to get that done. Reach out to Executive Director Eric Weber to plan when we’ll make yours!

Dr. Bertha Alvarez Manninen, SOPHIA Intro Video

In the spirit of building communities of philosophical conversation, locally and online, we are continuing to record little introduction videos for our members and leaders. Here’s one for Dr. Bertha Alvarez Manninen. For each of these videos, we are asking 1) Who are you? 2) Why are you interested in philosophy and in SOPHIA? and 3) What’s something unique or unusual about you? We want these videos to put a face and a voice to a name. Here’s Dr. Manninen’s profile page.

If you’d like to make a video, reach out to SOPHIA’s Executive Director and we’ll record one. Getting together for that purpose also gives us an opportunity to chat. Enjoy this little intro video featuring Dr. Manninen:

If you haven’t already, consider JOINING SOPHIA!

Introducing Civil American

A digital, peer-reviewed journal run by The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA).

The logo for 'Civil American,' SOPHIA's online peer-reviewed publication.

The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) announces the opening of Civil American, our latest venue for public philosophical engagement, released as a peer-reviewed digital journal on our Web site. Each piece will be released individually and will then be archived in a yearly volume. Civil American is a place for scholars in philosophy or other fields, students, and SOPHIA members to submit short essays, between 700 and 3,000 words (shorter and longer pieces will be considered), on topics of importance for living and policy-making, as individuals and communities.

Given our 2015 strategic planning initiative, the mission of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) is “to use the tools of philosophical inquiry to improve people’s lives and enrich the profession of philosophy through conversation and community building.” In pursuit of that mission, two of our four strategic goals are “to use technology effectively” and to “to engage with the profession on public philosophy and digital humanities.”

To these ends, we open up SOPHIA’s online space as a forum for publicly engaged philosophy, to talk about issues and problems that matter to people both in and beyond the academy. Our emphasis is on accessibility of style and importance of subject matter. Following trends of digital publishing, we will consider the pieces released here to be in a volume gathered by year.

Cover of an issue of Scientific American.SOPHIA Trustees Dr. John Shook and Dr. Eric Thomas Weber first envisioned Civil American as a journal targeting general-audiences, a philosophical equivalent to the great publication, Scientific American. The United States have an immensely rich intellectual tradition, yet much discourse in the public sphere tends to be sensationalist, rather than civil and philosophical.

We welcome proposals for panels of submissions from groups interested in writing on topics in common. Gathered pieces may also be invited to join together in further advancement of their projects for growth in The Public Philosophy Journal‘s developmental and open peer-review process. Shorter projects can begin here and, if desired, be lengthened and deepened through such collaborations.

Photo of Dr. Shane Courtland.More information about Civil American is forthcoming now that we have selected the new editor for the journal, Dr. Shane Courtland. If you have any questions or proposals for submission to Civil American, you can email the Editor here.


Volume 2: 2017

  • Humanizing Monsters
    October 31, 2017 | By Casey Dorman | I was listening to NPR recently and an interviewer was talking to Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian professor of political science, who had just published an edited collection of essays/research studies called Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists. One of the interviewer’s questions was “Aren’t you afraid that ...
  • John Stuart Mill and Charlottesville
    October 20, 2017 | By Dale E. Miller | I consider myself a Millian—that is, a follower of the Victorian philosopher of morals, social life, and politics (and much else besides) John Stuart Mill (1806–73). Usually I’m a fairly confident Millian; some might even say smug. Mill’s work has, like the work of all important philosophers, been subjected to ...
  • Clutter
    September 16, 2017 | By John Lachs | 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. Later, when human productivity made the goods of the world readily available, our grandparents became collectors. Growing control ...
  • State-Sponsored Hacktivism and “Soft War”
    May 25, 2017 | By George R. Lucas | A Moral and Legal Challenge in the Cyber Domain | Skeptics (e.g., Thomas Rid, 2013) have cast doubt on the notion of authentic cyber warfare.  Cyber conflict consists, the skeptics argue, solely of activities which fall well short of full scale warfare:  e.g., crime, vandalism, “hacktivism” (political activism by individuals and ...
  • The Illusion of Purely Rational Discussion: A Reply to Courtland’s Reply
    January 3, 2017 | By Sergia Hay | I’d like to thank Shane Courtland for his reply to my response to his original posting, “Faith and Betrayal of the Philosophical Method.” I’m eager to continue this conversation about an important and timely subject: free speech in the classroom, and perhaps more broadly within public discourse. As such, it is also ...

Volume 1: 2016

  • Faith Without Dead Dogma: A Reply to Hay
    December 21, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | After reading a thoughtful response from Dr. Hay regarding my previous blog post, I thought it would be helpful to discuss my philosophical pedagogy. Even if you have never taken a philosophy class before, the core elements of my teaching method are still applicable outside of the classroom. Moreover, describing how ...
  • What Philosophy Is For: A Reply to Courtland
    December 13, 2016 | By Sergia Hay | I wholeheartedly agree with Shane Courtland when he writes in Civil American that being a philosopher means “giving pride of place to open discussion, encouraging intellectual diversity, and allowing a difference of opinion regarding even dangerous ideas.” I also believe it means, among other things, laying bare assumptions, defining terms, distinguishing between seemingly ...
  • Faith and Betrayal of the Philosophical Method
    December 4, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | Please note: The following essay is autobiographical. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience. As with all personal events, those who have experienced this on the other side have very different feelings about the situation. The way I have always viewed philosophy, regarding its practice and how it ...
  • Breaking Out of the Bubble: Fixing American Politics
    November 11, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | For approximately 5 years, I was the director of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy (CEPP) at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. As the director, I was charged with producing and executing various campus wide events.  My specialty, was the panel discussion.  This would bring multiple experts to the table ...
  • ‘What Ifs’ and No Regrets
    October 31, 2016 | By Shane Courtland | One often hears the expression “You should live your life without regrets” in the same situations that one hears expressions such as “carpe diem” and “YOLO.” The basic idea is that you should live your life to the fullest. One day, if you are lucky to be living, you will be ...

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.SOPHIA is holding our first online symposium, a conversational meeting open to all, on the subject of “trigger warnings,” the act of alerting students in advance about potentially offensive messages or images to be covered in an educational setting. Controversy arose in part in reaction to a letter from the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago, which you can find here, and which we ask that each participant in our conversation read prior to joining us (1 page).

Photo of the letter that the University of Chicago sent incoming students about "trigger warnings."Title: Trigger Warnings: Offense, Respect, and Freedom [Online Video Symposium]

Day and time: Wednesday, 10/19/16 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Place: Online. In advance, click this link to download a small tool that will enable participation. If you have used Zoom online video conferencing before, you may not need to download the little app.

SPECIAL NOTE: This conversational meeting will be recorded and then posted on YouTube. You can participate either with video and audio or you can just watch the discussion and comment in the platform’s chat section. Those unable to participate at the time of the discussion can watch the video later on YouTube.

Photo of Dr. Bertha Manninen.Facilitators:

Dr. Bertha Manninen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Arizona State University


Photo of Dr. Shane Courtland.Dr. Shane Courtland, Managing Director of the Center for Free Enterprise at West Virginia University.

In addition,

Dr. Eric Thomas Weber.Dr. Eric Thomas Weber, Executive Director of SOPHIA, will serve as the moderator of our online forum.

And featuring a special Guest:

We are also very fortunate to have a special guest joining us from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

Ari Cohn, J.D., Senior Program Office for Legal and Public Advocacy, F.I.R.E.Ari Cohn, J.D., Senior Program Officer for Legal and Public Advocacy for F.I.R.E.

We welcome and invite comments and questions in advance of the symposium. Please write to us at philosophersinamerica@gmail.com, post a comment on our Facebook page, or Tweet to us @SOPHIAchirp.

Finally, you can also call us and leave us a voicemail with a comment or question, by calling: 859.257.1849. Please introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from, and please limit your message length to 1 minute or less.

Date: October 19, 2016
Time: 02:00-03:30 p.m. Eastern
Event: Trigger Warnings: Offense, Respect, and Freedom [Online Video Symposium]
Topic: Education, Academic Freedom, Respect for Victims of Trauma
Venue: SOPHIA's Zoom Online Video Conferencing platform
Public: Public

Keep up to date on SOPHIA activities and get involved by joining SOPHIA!

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.