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Ergo | Summer 2014

UT Philosophy:  A Flourishing Community of Scholars

Audience at Fall TVA conference

Academic Year 2013-14 was a busy but terrific year for UT Department of Philosophy faculty and students.  In November, 2013, the Department hosted its second annual Tennessee Value and Agency “TVA” Conference.  The well-attended and successful conference was focused on issues in the metaphysics of agency/free will and featured keynote lectures by Robert Kane (Texas) and Michael McKenna (Arizona) as well as nearly a dozen outstanding papers from by philosophers and scholars from near and far.  After the event, Robert Kane described it as one of the best and most productive conferences he has attended over the course of his long and distinguished career.  In November, 2014, the Department will host the third annual “TVA” conference.  The conference will focus on issues at the intersection of moral psychology and moral theory and will feature keynote addresses by Amelie Rorty (Tufts) and Talbot Brewer (Virginia).  Mark your calendar and stay tuned for further details!

Justin Capes speaks at Fall TVA conference

In April, 2014, the Department hosted its fifth annual Spring Philosophy Symposium, on “Freewill, Metaphysics and Science.”  Organized by Assistant Professor David Palmer, the symposium featured presentations by Carolina Sartorio (Arizona), Al Mele (Florida State), Scott Sehon (Bowdoin) and David.  As with the fall conference, the spring symposium both highlighted and advanced an important area of research for our faculty and graduate students and drew faculty and students from not only UT but also regional universities.  The 2015 UT Philosophy Spring Symposium will feature Prof. Clerk Shaw's work on Epicurus and Epicureanism.  Scheduled for mid-March 2015, it will include presentations by Prof. Shaw as well as Prof. David Sedley (Cambridge, UK), Prof. Voula Tsouna (UC-Santa Barbara), and Prof. Eric Brown (Washington University, St. Louis).  The 2015 Symposium promises to be, like previous symposia, lively and illuminating!

Carolina Sartorio at Spring Symposium

The Department also continued to benefit from the practice of offering a graduate student “super seminar” each term.   In a “super seminar” the instructor is afforded resources to bring to the seminar up to three scholars whose work the seminar students are studying.  While on campus, these visitors also give a lecture to the Department.  In the Fall, 2013, Tim O’Keefe (Georgia State), Emily Austin (Wake Forest) and Kirk Sanders (Illinois) visited Associate Professor Clerk Shaw’s seminar on Epicureanism.  In Spring, 2014, Aaron James (UC-Irvine), Dan Brudney (Chicago) and Carole Pateman (UCLA) visited Assistant Professor Jon Garthoff’s seminar on Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory in Political Philosophy.  Next year’s super seminars include a fall seminar on Kant and a priori justification taught by Assistant Professor Markus Kohl and a spring seminar on scientific laws taught by Assistant Professor Nora Berenstain.  A virtual “A-Team” of Kant scholars, Karl Ameriks (Notre Dame), Stephen Engstrom (Pitt) and Patricia Kitcher (Columbia) will visit Markus’s seminar.  An equally impressive line-up, including Jessica Wilson (Toronto) and Stewart Shapiro (Ohio State) will visit Nora’s spring 2015 seminar on the relationship of mathematics to science and the material world.  With the fall conference and spring symposium, these seminars constitute an important link for our graduate students between our intellectual community here at UT and the larger intellectual community of philosophy and the academy more generally.

Carole Pateman addresses Jon Garthoff’s graduate Super seminar

The faculty and advanced research seminar, “Freedom: From all Sides,” continued to meet regularly throughout the academic year to discuss a wide range of philosophical issues raised by the idea of freedom, moral, political, religious, epistemic and so on.  Meetings are devoted to working on a manuscript in progress.  From UT, faculty members EJ Coffman, Avery Archer, and Margaret Moore, and graduate student Roger Turner, submitted manuscripts in progress for discussion and feedback.  The seminar also hosted John Roberts (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Jennifer Lockhart (Auburn), each of whom similarly submitted a manuscript in progress for discussion and feedback. 

Undergraduate philosophy students pursued philosophical research both here at UT and as visitors to other Universities, including Arizona, Harvard and Manchester (UK).  Their diverse research topics run from Epicurus and Kant to the justice of using so-called “nudges” as public policy and recent work in neuro-ethics.

The UT Philosophy Department is increasingly ‘ready for the world,’ as they like to say here on campus.  Joining the Department’s intellectual community this year and participating in its various events were two international scholars visiting on J-1 visas.  Dr. Sule Sahin, Assistant Professor of Law, Marmara University, Turkey, spent the year as David Reidy’s guest.  She is working on a book on rights.  Dr. Chun-yan (“Amy”) Xiao, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Shanghai Second Polytechnic University, China, spent the year as John Nolt’s guest.  She is working on issues of environmental and intergenerational justice.  The Department has hosted international scholars visiting on J-1 visas each of the last four years.  This past year it was also fortunate to welcome Dr. Nena Davis (Ph.D., UNC-Chapel Hill) as a visiting assistant professor for the year.  She helped out with instruction in bioethics and pursued her own work in applied ethics.  The Department thanks each of these visitors for their many contributions over the year and wishes all of them the best of luck as they venture home to continue their work. 

While intrinsically valuable in its own right, all this activity has contributed also to improving the Department’s overall research output.  Faculty and student publications and presentations, reported on throughout the remainder of this newsletter, are at an all-time high.  We have and look forward to maintaining and growing a truly dynamic and flourishing intellectual and research community, one with a strong local presence and a clear international reach.


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