Saturday, August 27, 2011

CFP: Dowling College's Second Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

CFP: Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at Dowling College
(Oakdale, Long Island, New York, March 30, 2012)

In order to increase student awareness of and interest in philosophy, and to encourage contributions to the scholarly community, Dowling College Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies invites students to submit papers relating to any philosophical topic or period. Authors of accepted papers will be given the opportunity to present their work at Dowling College’s second undergraduate philosophy conference.

Deadline for Submissions: January 10, 2012

Submission Guidelines:

1. Although papers must relate to a philosophical topic or period, that does not mean that other areas, such as psychology, sociology, neurology, biology, etc., are excluded. As long as the paper engages with its topic in a philosophical manner you are more than welcome to submit the paper. Presenters should plan on having 15-20 minutes to present their work (approx. 3,000 words). Time limits will be strictly enforced.

2. Attach a copy of your submission in .doc or .docx format to an email, and send it to Within the email, please include your name, email address, and college/university that you are affiliated with.

3. Please do not include your name on your paper, so that it may be reviewed “blind” by a committee of conference organizers.

4. Authors whose papers are accepted will be notified by Feb 10, 2011.

5. When you submit your paper, please indicate whether you would be interested acting as a discussant for another speaker's paper.

Please remember that you do not have to be a philosophy major to submit a paper! All currently enrolled undergraduates are welcome to submit their work.

The Rudolph Campus of Dowling College is located in Oakdale, NY. This is 50 miles from NYC, and 25 minutes walk from the Oakdale LIRR train station.

For more information contact Adam Kohler at

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Memoriam: Dr. Douglas Shrader

Before I was at all experienced with the conference scene, I decided to attend SUNY Oneonta’s 15th Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference last year.  Let me tell you, I received so much more from that weekend than I had ever anticipated.

My arrival the night before the conference was met with warm greetings of the hard-working conference committee, students of Oneonta, and other participants from all over the nation. The most memorable experience of that night, however, was meeting Barbara Shrader and instantly feeling like we’d known each other for years after she went right from introducing herself as Dr. Douglas Shrader’s wife, to going into a story about how her cat gave birth to a number of kittens that Barbara had been taking care of. The following two days were filled with not only Barbara’s welcoming presence, but her husband’s as well, who led the awards dinner on the closing night of the conference. To begin the ceremony, Dr. Shrader had explained that a number of years ago some of his students attended a conference elsewhere and wanted to start their own, so he and some of his colleagues pulled out the change from their pockets and did just that. Fifteen years later, the conference still ran strong and brought together young philosophers from all over the world, establishing everlasting relationships and inspiring them to continue to do what they love. My most memorable experience with Dr. Shrader, though, was when we found ourselves standing in the same corner in the lobby and entered conversation, with me expressing to him my concerns about entering graduate school in the fall. I told him that I didn’t have as broad a knowledge as some of the other students, but I had been doing numerous independent studies and closely reading specific texts with a few of my professors. Smiling in a way that could make anyone forget their worries, he explained that those independent studies were not only one of the best ways to prepare me for graduate school, but once I picked up my summer reading I would see how easily a close and critical reading of the texts would come, allowing me to understand a wide array of theories in a faster amount of time. Essentially, he made me realize that I wasn’t lacking in my studies - I simply had a different foundation. ‘Lo and behold, that summer was one of the most productive and fulfilling summers I’d ever had, giving me the confidence to enter graduate school with my chin up and readiness to take on the world.

Needless to say, I was deeply sorry to hear of his unexpected passing last July. Although I had only spent a small amount of time knowing him, his influence is and will be timeless, which was more than evident during Oneonta’s 16th annual conference that was held this weekend.

I was very pleased to hear that Oneonta started a “Conference Alumni” panel (two, actually), which gave me the opportunity to submit a paper and be involved in the incredible spectacle that the philosophy department and students put together. It was an intellectually stimulating weekend of seeing old friends, making new ones, and hearing the incredible work of undergraduate students from all over North America. As was mentioned throughout the event, however, it was a bittersweet experience for the faculty, students, Barbara, and anyone else who knew Dr. Shrader. The displayed and felt emotion during the speeches mentioning Dr. Shrader elicited an immense sorrow and joy in those closest to him, and greatly inspired both those who knew him and those who did not.

During a memorial following dinner on Saturday, a group of us stood around the garden that was initially planted for Dr. Roda, another professor who had recently passed, and in the middle laid a plaque engraved with John Dewey’s words: “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” After hearing Barbara, Dr. Malhotra, Dr. Koch, and the students who were lucky enough to take classes with him offer their wonderful memories of Dr. Shrader, the quote (which Dr. Shrader had picked out) couldn’t have been more appropriate. One word permeated throughout all of the memories spoken, which was Dr. Shrader’s humanity, and the classroom was his medium for enabling individual creativity and cohesive camaraderie. No matter the situation mentioned, his warmth and compassion were never absent, making his students feel comfortable with themselves and one another, and helping them get through some of the hardest times they had had to deal with.

After leaving the conference, one could not walk away without feeling overwhelmingly inspired. To see how close the faculty and students were with each other, how influential Dr. Shrader still is in each of the lives he touched, and all of the incredible events put into motion due to his cause, really makes one aware of their priorities and draws forth a desire to further perpetuate the significance that Dr. Shrader will never stop having, which is why this is being posted in the blog it is. When Dr. Perring and I were discussing ways to contribute to the philosophical community last spring, I immediately thought of Oneonta’s philosophy conference and suggested that we start one at Dowling as well. Without Dr. Shrader, his colleagues, and his students, the Dowling College Undergraduate Philosophy Conference wouldn’t have come to be when it did. Now we’re already planning for next year’s event, and we hope to have many more to come.

With that, I would like to say thank you, Dr. Shrader; your influence will forever be preserved, and your memory will not soon be forgotten.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Robert Berchman's Closing Remarks

The following are Professor Robert Berchman's moving and insightful closing remarks that he gave at Friday's conference:


Robert M. Berchman
Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Dowling College

Why philosophy?
Why for everybody?
And why is philosophy an introduction to common sense?

I can answer these questions better after I have answered another. Why philosophy at all? Why should everyone learn how to think philosophically – how to ask the kind of searching questions that children and philosophers ask and that philosophers sometimes answer?

I have long accepted the claim that philosophy is everybody’s business but not in order to get more information about the world, our society, and ourselves. Here it might be better to turn to the natural and social sciences and to history. It is another way in which philosophy is useful – to help us understand things we already know, understand them better than we now understand them. Here we owe our presenters, respondents, and moderators a great deal of thanks. They have invited us to think philosophically.

In an effort to understand we began today where everybody should begin – with what we already knew in the light of our ordinary, commonplace experience. Beginning there, as Hegel notes, our thinking uses notions that we all possess, not because we were taught them in school, but because they are the common stock of human thought about anything and everything. We sometimes refer to these notions as our common sense about things. They are notions that we have formed as a result of the common experience we have in the course of our daily lives – experiences we have without any effort of inquiry on our part, experiences we all have simply because we are awake and conscious. In addition these common notions are thoughts we are able to express in the words we employ in everyday speech.

Forgive me for repeating the word “common” so many times. I cannot avoid doing so, and I lay stress on the word because what it means lies at the heart of this conference. Not everything is common. There are many things we call our own but there are other things that we recognize as not exclusively ours. We share them with others like a home all the members of a family share when they live in it together.

There are many things that people share. There are fewer things that we all share and are common to all of us, simply because we are all human. It is in this last all-embracing sense of the word common that I refer to common experiences, common notions, or common sense. Our common sense notions are expressed by such words as  discontents, skepticism, irrationality, freedom, queerness, emergence, pragmatism, truth, mind, God, relativism, world. Most of us have been using these words and notions for a long time – since we were quite young. We started to use them in order to talk about experiences that all of us have had – disquiet, doubt, death, horizons, alienation, certainty, thinking, perfection, ambiguity, one-many-change-cause, and so on. What has been made clear today is that the words and notions examined by these philosophers today are all common – not exclusively yours, or mine, or anyone else’s.

In contrast, the things observed by scientists, social scientists, and historians are very special experiences. We may learn about them from their studies and reports, but, as a rule, we do not experience them ourselves.  That and that alone is the reason why philosophy helps us understand and know ourselves and our lives, as well as the world and the society in which we live. Philosophy begins with experience but does not end there. It goes further. It adds to and surrounds experience with insights and reasons that are not common after all. Consequently, our grasp of things goes deeper and sometimes soars higher. Philosophy, in a word, is uncommon common sense. That is the great contribution philosophy brings to all of us. It makes the common, uncommon.

When Hegel and Heidegger said of a book or play that it is an impressive technical achievement, but we are not changed by experiencing it, we encounter an Erlebnis, a mere entertainment or interlude. When we have been transformed by thought, however, we experience an Erfahrung. Let us thank our undergraduate philosophers for their uncommon common-sense to philosophize with us today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dowling College's First Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

The conference on Friday was a complete success! Thank you to all of those involved and a special thanks to all of the presenters, including our keynote speaker, Harvey Cormier from Stony Brook University. I hope you all had as much fun as I did! The following is a list of the presenters and their respective paper titles, as well as some photos that were taken:

Steven Broadbent (Utah Valley University): A Structure of Discontents
Respondent: Steven Licardi (Stony Brook University)

Cameron Smith (Belmont University): Four Forms of Skepticism
Respondent: Konrad Grossman (Stony Brook University)

Christine Traini (DePaul University): Irrationality Destroying Freedom
Respondent: Alycia Laguardia (Stony Brook University)

Majid Razvi (Virginia Commonwealth University): Moral Properties: Embracing the Queerness of Emergence
Respondent: Steven Broadbent (Utah Valley University)

Harvey Cormier  (Stony Brook University)
Pragmatism after Rorty

Joseph Centrelli (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania): Schopenhauer and Eastern Philosophy
Respondent: Tricia Magalotti (Northern Michigan University)

Tricia Magalotti (Northern Michigan University): Heidegger on Truth
Respondent: Thomas Was (Stony Brook University)

Steven Licardi (Stony Brook University): The Mind of God
Respondent: Majid Razvi (Virgina Commonwealth University)

Photos by Dr. Christian Perring.