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The Philosophy Colloquium


The Philosophy Colloquium

The philosophy colloquium is the place where members of the Philosophy faculty, members of other departments, students, and invited speakers from other academic institutions meet to share and discuss works in progress.


Past Events

Winter 2017

Brian Coffey
(Grand Valley State University)

Talk is entitled: When We Should Blame the Victim

AbstractA person engages in victim-blaming whenever he/she states or implies that the victims of a crime or misfortune shares in the responsibility for the misfortunes they endured. Two places victim-blaming paradigmatically occurs are in discussions of sexual assault or rape, and discussions of police violence against people of color. An all too common response to these crimes is for people to scrutinize the actions and characters of the victims to determine if they in some way 'provoked' or 'invited' their attack. Perhaps due to the obvious wrongness of these paradigm cases, victim-blaming is treated on blogs and social media as if it is always wrong. The philosophical literature on the ethics of victim-blaming is sparse, but seems to share this view. In this paper, l argue that the view that victim-blaming is always wrong is mistaken. I argue that there are actions that have all the features necessary to be properly categorized as instances of victim-blaming, yet which lack the features that would make them impermissible. Thus, there are cases of permissible victim-blaming. Further, I consider some examples where it is not only permissible to blame the victim, but where we should blame the victim.

Friday, February 10, 2017
3:00 pm
in Mackinac Hall BLL-110 (Basement)

Michael Robinson
(Chapman University)

Talk is entitled: There is Nothing Wrong with Promising to Supererogate

AbstractSupererogatory actions are morally good actions that one is not required to perform. Some have argued that it is wrong to promise to do something supererogatory on the grounds that this is a promise that cannot possibly be kept. The reason for this is that, because promises generate obligations to do what is promised, one who promises to supererogate is thereby required to do something supererogatory: a paradox. I argue that, far from being impossible, keeping a promise to do something supererogatory is easy. Thus, there is nothing wrong with promising to supererogate.

Fall 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110    (Basement)

Jessica Gelber (University of Pittsburgh)

Talk is entitled: Two Ways of Being an End

AbstractI want to argue that a distinction that Aristotle mentions a handful of times between two "for the sake of" relations is not the one that scholars have taken it to be. It is nearly always said that one way of being an end is to be the aim of something, such as the way that health is the aim of the doctor's activity, and another way is to be a beneficiary, such as the way the patient is the beneficiary of the doctor's activity. I think there is evidence, however, that it is not that distinction, but rather the distinction between what I call "directive" and "instrumental" relations that Aristotle has in mind. I think he had good reasons (as do we) for distinguishing the way that, e.g., a tool is instrumentally for some function and the way an action is directed towards some outcome.

Jessica Gelber will also be meeting with the Students and the Undergraduate Philosophy Club of GVSU

Topic of Discussion:
Aristotelian Metaphysics and Biology

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tyler Klaskow is a GVSU professor in the Department of Philosophy  

His talk is entitled: Martin Heidegger's Maxim

Abstract: In the Introduction to Being and Time Heidegger calls the phrase 'To the things themselves' the "maxim" of phenomenology. I argue that Heidegger recognized the maxim's normativity but thought that Husserl's understanding of it made it an inadequate guide for the phenomenological method. I show that Heidegger revised the maxim in his Marburg years with a focus on its role as a principle. The revised maxim specifies how to engage in phenomenological inquiry by calling the phenomenologist's attention to the violence our fore-conceptions can do to the way phenomena show themselves. With this revised maxim in mind I reconsider the grounds of Heidegger's critique of Husserl in the Marburg years, and explain his conclusion that Husserl's phenomenology was unphenomenological. Finally, I show that Heidegger's attempts to abide by his more rigorous maxim appear to fail.

Keywords: Heidegger, Husserl, phenomenology, method, maxim, norm, things themselves

Friday, September 23, 2016

3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110    (Basement)

Peter Zhang is a GVSU professor in the School of Communications  

His talk is entitled: Deleuze and Zen: An Interlogical Adventure

Abstract:  This article experiments with interology as a mode of inquiry. It creates a multitude of interalities between Deleuze's works and Zen literature, partly for purposes of mutual illumination, partly for the sake of involution. It is meant as equipment for living, which is incomplete without the reader's involvement. Its serviceability rests on the reader's becoming one with it.

Winter 2016


Friday, February 12, at 3:00 pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110    (Basement)

Dwayne Tunstall is a GVSU Philosophy professor

His talk is entitled: William H. Ferris, Unexpected Champion of Royce's Wise Provincialism

Abstract:  I contend that William H. Ferris (1874-1941), a representative of the Du Bois's Talented Tenth and a Garveyite intellectual, is an unexpected champion of Josiah Royce's wise provincialism. Ferris's The African Abroad, or His Evolution in Western Civilization: Tracing His Development Under Caucasian Milieu (1913), his tenure as literary editor of The Negro World (1919-1923), and his articles for The Pittsburgh Courier from 1926 to 1928 can be interpreted as applications of Royce's wise provincialism. In addition to adopting Royce's wise provincialism, he also shares Royce's view that Anglo-Saxon culture was the most advanced culture in the early 20th century. Unlike Royce, though, Ferris adopts this view without becoming an antiblack racist. He even takes this view and uses it to promote and uplift African American provinces during the early 20th century.

Contact: Andrew Spear:

Friday, February 5, at 3:00 pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110    (Basement)

Myron Jackson is a GVSU Philosophy professor

His talk is entitled: Niebuhrian Irony and American Open Selves

Abstract: Reinhold Niebuhr's concept of irony offers fresh and robust insights into the complexities of American power and freedom. Mainstream accounts of US exceptionalism today are highly ideological, hubristic-one might even say un-American-and pose a great threat to the interpretative integrity of our personal and cultural experiences as Americans. These kinds of triumphalist narratives largely produce vain pretensions and false senses of superiority. In an effort to resist such extremist proclivities, I will rely on Niebuhr's "triumph over dogma" argument and Eric Voegelin's symbol of open selfhood to establish an ironic and pluralistic version of American exceptionalism. My thesis is that American open selves embody a polyethnic people, engage in multi-local rituals and symbolize a unique and radical eschatological equality or solidarity with all of the world's races. It is with these features in mind that we can critique.

Contact: Andrew Spear:

Fall 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015
3:00-4:30PM     BL-L110 MAK (Basement of MAK)


GVSU Classics Department Stoics Week

November 16-20

Monday, November 16, 2015   1:00 -1:50pm   ASH 2120
Professor P. Anderson
"Theoretically Practical: What kind of life should I lead?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2015   1:00 -1:50pm   ASH 2120
Professor C. Ham
"Sex in the City: Eros and the Ideal State"

Friday, November 20, 2015   1:00 -1:50pm   ASH 2120
Professor C. Crane
"The Stoic Queerness of Albus Dumbledore"

Friday, November 20, 2015   4:00 - 5:30pm   BLL110 MAK
Panel Discussion
"Emotions and the Happy Life"
(Reception will follow)

Friday, October 30, 2015
3:00-4:30 PM     BL-L110 MAK (Basement of MAK)

The Concept of Luminosity as a Bridge between Classical and Indian Traditions
Douglas Berger
(Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

Will meet with
Douglas Berger
Discussion of Eastern and Comparative Philosophy

A reading is available in the Philosophy Department Main Office
B3-105 MAK 


Friday, October 9, 2015
3:00-4:30PM     BL-L110 MAK (Basement of MAK)
Deborah Barnbaum  (Kent State University)
IRBs are not Enough: Achieving Ethical Protection of Human Subjects

ABSTRACT: After 20+ years mucking around in the world of research ethics, IRBs, and the like, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real work of protecting human research subjects is not done at the IRB level, but instead is best done at the data safety monitoring level. My views are informed by the history of IRBs (both what they were  designed to do, and what they have become), the normative system that best guides research on human subjects (best characterized as a consequentialist ethic, and not a principlist ethic – despite what the Belmont Report tells us!), and the rebuttals to the anti-equipoise theorists (Miller, Brody, Veatch, Gifford, etc.). All of these have lead me to the conclusion that we need to move our focus from IRBs – whose work is primarily the protection of research subjects before research takes place – and shift it to data monitoring, which is focused  on the protection of subjects while the research is actually taking place.

 Also, at 10:30am same day in MAK C1-114, Deborah Barnbaum will meet with the Philosophical Society of GVSU
Topic : Research Ethics and Applied Ethics: Philosophical Rigor and Making a Difference in the Real World
(A reading is available in the Philosophy Department Main Office MAK B3-105)


Friday, October 2, 2015:

Beth Seacord
Visiting Professor at  Grand Valley State University Department of Philosophy

Rationality, Posthumous Harms, and Posthumous Wrongs

ABSTRACT: Many of us embrace two conflicting yet prima facie plausible intuitions:  1) we care about posthumous  events  and  2)  we  believe  that  the  dead  cannot  be  harmed  or  wronged. Proposition number  one  is  almost  universally  accepted. Most  of  us  have  a  deep  psychological investment  in postmortem  events: We  care  a  great  deal  about  the  status  of  our  reputations,  the  success  of  our projects  and  the  well-­being  of  our  children  after  our  deaths. Proposition  number  two  is  more controversial. Some say that the dead can be harmed. Others have argued the opposite—that death puts us beyond the possibility of harm. In this paper, I will first argue for the truth of proposition two, that the dead cannot be harmed or wronged. This raises the further question: if the dead cannot be harmed or wronged, is it rational to care about postmortem events?  I will argue that because death puts us beyond the possibility of harm, it is irrational in many cases to care about postmortem events.


September 29, 2015:

"Implications Concerning Psychedelics"

Description: Following the Controlled Substance Act (1970) most psychedelic substances were banned for use under any circumstances – including scientific research. However, Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms is one of the few psychedelic substances which remains legal for scientific and medicinal research purposes in the United States. The drug is observed to have profound effects on the human mind: it can evoke hallucinations, radically alter perception and thought processes, cause intense spiritual and religious states, and give rise to other unusual experiences. This week’s reading explains the story of a near-death cancer patient, Patrick Mettes, and his experience with the drug in a scientific study conducted by professionals at New York University. In our meeting this week, we will discuss the implications of events, such as Patrick’s, for our conception of reality, opinions regarding drug legality, and human experience. 

Check it out: This will be a fun, informal, and interesting evening to drop in and check out the club. It will be a discussion where we encourage everyone to participate. If you just want to come in and listen, that’s cool too. No philosophical background required.



September 25, 2015   

Lambert Zuidervaart

From Institute for Christian Studies and University of Toronto

Propositional and Existential Truth in Edmund Husserl’s Logical Investigations

ABSTRACT:This paper explores questions first posed by Ernst Tugendhat in 1967: Can Edmund Husserl’s conception of truth help philosophers connect the concept of propositional truth with a more comprehensive and life-oriented idea of truth? Can it do so without short-circuiting either side? If so, to what extent? I focus on the conception of truth in Husserl’s path breaking Logical Investigations, originally published in 1900-1901. First I review critical interpretations of Husserl by three influential post-Heideggerian philosophers: Emmanuel Levinas, Theodor Adorno, and Jacques Derrida. Next, I examine selected passages in Logical Investigations. Then, I initiate a critical retrieval of early Husserl’s conception of truth, one that not only evaluates his contribution in light of influential assessments by Levinas, Adorno, and Derrida but also proposes revisions to it.

Winter 2015

Friday December 5

Azfar Hussain (GVSU Liberal Studies)

Will be giving a talk entitled:

Philosophy, Politics, and Praxis:
Rereading Du Bois and Fanon in the Era of Late Capitalism and ‘Post-racial’ Racism

Abstract: The talk offers and mobilizes a re-reading of certain ignored aspects of the works of two major figures in what might be loosely called "Third-World Philosophy:" W.E.B. Du Bois, the African American philosopher-activist, and Frantz Fanon, the Caribbean philosopher-activist of decolonization.  And this re-reading is undertaken in the light of the Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel's "philosophy of liberation" and the French philosopher Alain Badiou's "philosophy for the militants." Calling attention to the racism underlying the formation of the Western philosophical canon, while also arguing that philosophy itself cannot be politically and ideologically neutral in the final instance, the talk offers certain tentative propositions about the question of liberation in the service of anti-capitalist and anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America today.

All colloquia will be on Fridays in Mackinac Hall (MAK) BLL-110 from 3:00-4:30 pm (unless otherwise noted).

Contact Professor Andrew Spear ( with any questions.

Fall 2014

September 26
Goals, Learning, and Ontology
David Danks (Carnegie Mellon University Philosophy)

October 3
Kant’s Critique of Sublimity
Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern University Philosophy)

October 31
Title: TBA
Ronald Loeffler (GVSU Philosophy)

November 7
A Reply to Hettinger on the Aesthetic Value of Predation
Beth Seacord (GVSU Philosophy)

November 14
Aristotle on Say-What-You-Believe
David Crane (GVSU Classics)

November 21
Title: TBA
Christopher Shields (Notre Dame Philosophy)

December 5
Title: TBA
Azfar Hussain (GVSU Liberal Studies) 

Winter 2014

January 24
The Persistence of Agency Through Social Institutions and Caring for Future Generations
Elizabeth Victor (GVSU Philosophy)

January 31
Robustness of Cosmological Simulations
Emre Keskin (GVSU Philosophy)

February 13
Hauenstein Center American Conversation Lecture,
7:00 PM Loosemore Auditorium (Downtown Campus):
Structural Conditions for Civility  
Deborah Mower (Youngstown State University)

February 14
Ritual as Cognitive Scripts for Moral Perception
Deborah Mower  (Youngstown State University)

March 14
Heidegger & Mereology
Tyler Klaskow (GVSU Philosophy)
March 21 & 22
2nd Annual Calvin-GVSU Undergraduate Philosophy Conference (Location: Kennedy Hall of Engineering Rooms 324/330 on GVSU’s Downtown Campus)

March 21 at (Time TBA) Keynote: The Incarnation and the Multiverse
Tim O’Connor (Indiana University)

March 22 at (Times TBA) Student Presentations

March 28
Skepticism, Realism, and Transactional Pragmatism
Frank Ryan (Kent State University)

April 4
Seneca’s Theoretically Practical Modes of Living
Peter Anderson (GVSU Classics)

April 11
The Actual Absolute and the Ideal Community of Inquirers: Peirce and Royce 100 Years Later   
Kelly Parker and Dwayne Tunstall (GVSU Philosophy)

Fall 2013

September 20
Relativism without the Fancy Intentions
Gillian Russell (Washington University in St. Louis)

September 27
Atomic Poetry and the Philosophy of Lucretius
Gwen Gruber (GVSU Classics)

October 11
Topic: Metaphysics, Title: TBA
Wesley Cray (GVSU Philosophy)

October 18
Special Event in Honor of GVSU Philosophy Distinguished Alumnus Craig Reynolds, Associate Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects at the University of Michigan.

Wednesday October 23
To Really Learn, Should I Quit Studying and Take a Test? The Role of Trying to Remember in Establishing New Knowledge  
Tom Carr (Michigan State University Psychology)
Co-sponsored meeting with GVSU Psychology Department, ROOM TBA

November 1
Topic: Accelerationism, Title: TBA
Steven Shaviro (Wayne State English)
Note: 4:30pm in Kennedy Hall of Engineering Rooms 324/330 on GVSU’s downtown campus.
Co-sponsored with GVSU College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Office for Public Culture, and GVSU School of Communications

November 15
Does Autonomy have an Authenticity Component?
Jeffrey Byrnes (GVSU Philosophy)

November 22
The History of Philosophy vs. The History of Ideas
David Vessey (GVSU Philosophy)

Winter 2013

January 18
Teaching Practice on the Chinese Traditional Culture for Foreigners
iaohua Wang
(Zhejiang Gongshang University & Visiting Scholar at GVSU)

January 25
Are Atheists Normal? Reflections on the Cognitive Science of Religion
Kelly Clark
(Kaufman Interfaith Institute & GVSU Philosophy)

February 8
Pediatric Assent versus Adult Consent
Eric Chwang
(University of Colorado at Boulder)

February 15
No One Freely Causes Harm
Debra Nails
(Michigan State University)

March 22
Charles Hogg
(GVSU Philosophy)

April 12
Lambert Zuidervaart
(Institute for Christian Studies of Toronto)

Fall 2012

October 4---6
Society for Ethics Across The Curriculum 14th Annual Conference hosted at GVSU (Downtown)

October 5
Picturing Human Life
Michael Slote
(University of Miami)

October 12
Humility: From Sacred Virtue to Secular Vice?
David McNaughton
(Florida State University)

October 26
Intentionality and Indexicality: Content Internalism and Husserl’s Logical Investigations
Andrew Spear
(Grand Valley State University)

November 9
Vainglory (full title TBA)
Rebecca DeYoung
(Calvin College)

November 16
Yuhu Yu
(Xiamen University)

November 30
Contextualizing Exploitation
Hallie Liberto
(University of Connecticut)

December 7
Ethics, the Theory-Action Gap, and the Promise of Activist Pedagogy
Lisa Kretz
(Grand Valley State University)

Winter 2012

February 3
Nietzsche and Blanchot on the Eternal Return of Finitude
Matt Sanderson
(West Shore Community College)

February 10
Co-Sponsored with GVSU East Asian Studies
Interpreting Lao Zi’s view on Dao through a close reading of the line 'It goes everywhere yet is never in peril’ in chapter 25 of Dao De Jing
Li Ruohui
(Fudan University)

March 16
Analytic Moral Functionalism and its Permutation Problem
Michael Byron
(Kent State)

March 23
Cristina Lafont
(Northwestern University)

March 30
Robust Flickers of Freedom
Michael Robinson
(GVSU Philosophy)

April 13
Talking Virtue Without Character: A Response to Empirical Challenges to Virtue Ethics
Brian Robinson
(GVSU Philosophy)

Fall 2011

September 15
The Lost Art of Democratic Debate? A Panel Discussion
(GVSU Professors Charles Pazdernik, John Uglietta, Kathleen Underwood, and Darren Walhof)

Thursday September 22
GVSU Fall Arts Celebration Distinguished Lecture:
Justice: What’s the Right thing to Do?
Michael Sandel (Harvard)
Time & Location: 7pm on the 2nd floor of the Eberhard Center GVSU Downtown Campus

October 14
What is Sellars’ Theory of We-Intentions?
Ronald Loeffler (GVSU)

October 28
Jackson’s Dual Stipulation: The Incoherence of the Description of Mary
GVSU Philosophy Distinguished Alumni Noel Boyle
(Belmont University)

November 4
A Prior Puzzle About the A Priori
Christina Van Dyke (Calvin College)

November 11
Adorno’s ‘Culture Industry Reconsidered’ Reconsidered
Sarah McGrath (GVSU)

December 2
Advocacy and Listening in Feminist Ethics
Melissa Mosko (GVSU)

Winter 2011

February 11
“Why Philosophy?: A Panel Discussion on the Nature, Uses and Relevance of Philosophy”
(GVSU Professors Stephen Rowe, Maria Cimitile and David Vessey)

February 18   
“Can a Bad Guy have Good Gongfu?—Gongfu and Ethics”
Peimin Ni (GVSU Philosophy)

February 25
“Unequal Human Worth: a Philosophical Challenge from China (or Confucianism)”
Donald Munro (University of Michigan)
Co-sponsored with GVSU East Asian Studies Program.

March 18
“Existential Trust: Understanding Trust as an Existential Mood” Jeffrey Courtright (GVSU Philosophy)

Laura Arcila (GVSU Philosophy)

April 8
"Nature, Self, and Artifice: the Somatic Arts and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature.”
Brian Bruya (Eastern Michigan University)
Co-sponsored with GVSU East Asian Studies Program.

April 15   
“The Perils of Persuasion: Logic, Agency and Pluralism”
Scott L. Pratt (University of Oregon)

April 22
Celebrating the Examined Life
A Recognition Symposium for Senior Philosophy Majors at GVSU
Friday April 22 at 3:00 pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110

Unless otherwise noted, all colloquia are in BLL-110 Mackinac Hall, 3:00 - 4:30 pm

Fall 2010

September 10
“If a world with liberal education isn’t affordable, can we afford a world without it?” 
A panel discussion based on Martha Nussbaum’s “Education for Profit, Education for Freedom.”
(A LIB 100 Event)

October 1
Aaron Simmons (GVSU Philosophy)
“Do Embryos Have Interests?  Why Embryos Have Future Adult Lives But Still Are Not Harmed from Death."

October 15
Sarah McGrath (GVSU Philosophy)
“Public Freedom and Difference: Why Diversity Matters for Democracy”

October 22
Doug Kindschi (GVSU Mathematics & Philosophy)
“The Role of Mathematics in Philosophy: Plato to Russell (Reflections on the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Principia Mathematica, Volume I)

November 5
Danielle Lake (GVSU Philosophy & Liberal Studies), “Diversity and Sustainability: the Need for Integration”
(A LIB 100 Event)

November 12
Mathias Brochhausen (Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science at Saarland University, Germany & Visiting Scholar at the University at Buffalo)
“The Relevance of Philosophy to Applied Ontology”

November 19
James Beebe (University at Buffalo)
“Recent Work in Experimental Epistemology”

Unless otherwise noted, all colloquia are in BLL-110 Mackinac Hall, 3:00 - 4:30 pm

Past Guest Speakers

James Campbell (University of Toledo)

Ted Cohen (University of Chicago)

Fred Dallmayr (Notre Dame University)

Kyla Ebels-Duggan (Northwestern University)

Mylan Engel (Northern Illinois University)

Chris Gauker (University of Cincinnati)

Sanford Goldberg (Northwestern University)

David Hoekema (Calvin College)

Nick Huggett (University of Illinois, Chicago)

David Ingram (Loyola University, Chicago)

Dale Jamieson (New York University)

Mark Lance (Georgetown University)

Chris Latiolais (Kalamazoo College)

Jerrold Levinson (University of Maryland)

Christian Lotz  (Michigan State University)

Charles Mills (Northwestern University)

Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago)

Jamie Tappenden (University of Michigan)