Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

Workshops 2015 Conference




F1) Taking Philosophy to the Streets: Pedagogies to Engage Students and Communities

Students who combine classroom study of philosophy with meaningful engagement in their communities learn to use and appreciate philosophical concepts and reasoning at a deep and sometimes transformative level. Their experiences outside the classroom bring focus and intensity to reflection on and critique of received philosophical views in the classroom and in their writing. The goal of this workshop is that discussants will leave with the background, resources, and confidence to begin planning their own engaged pedagogies, or with ideas to enhance a current practice. Organizers: Susan Hawthorne, St. Catherine University; Ramona Ilea, Pacific University Oregon; Kathie Jenni, University of Redlands; Julinna Oxley, Coastal Carolina University

F2) Philosophy Imprisoned: Prison Writers and the Limits of Public Philosophy

More and more philosophers today are practicing philosophy behind prison walls: conducting reading groups or courses with imprisoned students or jointly with both imprisoned and college/university students. This workshop begins with the assumption that prison is a space where thought already takes place or that prisoners are already philosophers? This workshop takes up the questions: What might it take to acknowledge incarcerated philosophers as philosophers? What does it look like to read or acknowledge prison writers as thinkers? How might we center the theoretical work of currently or formerly incarcerated intellectuals? In our classrooms? In our scholarship? What are the different norms implicitly at work in our allocation of the words ‘thinker,’ ‘intellectual,’ and ‘philosopher’? And what conditions have ensured that much scholarship on the prison industrial complex goes without a single voice from someone inside? Through this discussion of Philosophy Imprisoned and imprisoned philosophy—especially as it involves acknowledging, centering, and publishing prison writers—participants and facilitators will gain a deeper understanding of what public philosophy looks like today and what it could look like in the future. Organizers: Andrew Dilts, Loyola Marymount University; Brady Heiner, California State University, Fullerton; Sarah Tyson, University of Colorado, Denver; Perry Zurn, DePaul University

F3) Engaging Philosophy with the Homeless

In the Fall of 2014, the University of Oregon's Philosophy Department hosted a Community Philosophy Institute (CPI) on Homelessness.  The CPI consisted of three components: a website compiling local resources and information, including a list of local service providers, and scholarly and artistic work on homelessness; a public talk by Chad Kautzer titled "Homelessness, Security, and the Politics of Dys-Appearance," with an audience of about 100 people, including many community members both housed and unhoused; and semi-public panel discussion by philosophy faculty, University administrators, local government officials, service providers, and unhoused community members about the role of the University of Oregon with respect to local homelessness. The event raised a number of questions, both about the particular topic of homelessness, the role of philosophy in that discussion, and the more general role of philosophers in, and with, publics.  This workshop would function as an opportunity to collectively reflect on that event, and think towards future public philosophy efforts related to issues of homelessness. The workshop would begin with an overview of the CPI, followed by an account of the obstacles that we encountered, and a tentative suggestion of what is to be learned for doing this kind of public philosophy.  For example, there are a variety of institutional and interpersonal barriers to collaboration between departments of philosophy, housed in the modern U.S. university, and communities that are as socially stigmatized as the homeless population.  We had to coordinate substantially with the University's police department, a skill set not usually developed in the course of philosophical work.  In addition to these concrete skill sets, my role as "public philosopher" emerged as one of both student and facilitator -- in contrast to the more popular model of "public intellectual."  The philosopher's role in this context was to learn from the experience of people in the community, and promote interaction and collaboration across great social distance, rather than deliver authoritative insight. Following this opening presentation, the goal of the workshop would be 1) to discuss issues raised by this effort, and its implications for future endeavors.  2) To develop  strategies for continued engagement between philosophers and the unhoused, or other vulnerable and ostracized populations.   3) To promote coordination across campuses. What would it be like for local efforts in engaged philosophy with homeless communities to collaborate on a regional or national scale?  How might that change in scale effect the philosopher's role?  What kinds of goals or strategies might guide those efforts? Discussants would be people interested in replicating events like the CPI, or, preferably, people who would like to do the work of reimagining this kind of collaboration in their own communities. Organizer: Jon LaRochelle, PhD student at the University of Oregon


F4) Philosophical Op-Ed Writing

Organizer: Elizabeth Minnich, also (tentatively) Shelley Wilcox

We will work together on the how-to’s of op ed writing, moving from discussion of several published examples written by philosophers into subjects such as selecting topics; crucial opening lines; use of examples; staying on point; vivid language for analytical thinking; humor; personalizing positions, et al.  We will also touch on how to work with editors and withstand sometimes heated comments in response.  We may then practice writing some opening lines and share thoughts about kinds of issues each of us might best take on.


F5) Women and Development

Arguably one of the areas where feminism, including feminist philosophy, has been mainstreamed is in the field of global economic development.  The UN’s Millennial goals specifically call for gender equity, and the development giants World Bank and IMF are committed to the education of girls and women and the investment in women.  Yet many of the concepts still need feminist philosophical interrogation.  And at the same time, philosophers have much to learn from the development work by women on the ground.  In this workshop, feminist philosophers who have been working on women and development issues will facilitate a discussion the mutual learning that can and should take place as well the ethical concerns that those interested in doing that work should consider.  In addition, the workshop will address practical and logistical concerns that must be addressed by those who wish to do this work.


F6) Food and Philosophy: Four Case Studies

Recent work in the philosophy of food attests of the multiple ways in which food becomes an opportunity for philosophical debate and inquiry. The aim of this workshop is to bring the debate one step further and use philosophically savvy confrontations to solicit solutions to current food issues. The workshop centers on four case studies Previous acquaintance with the topics is not required.  (1) GM Foods: Substantial Equivalence vs Patenting. The doctrine of substantial equivalence holds that, from a nutritional point of view, GM foods are identical to their non-GM counterparts and hence need not be specially labeled. At the same time, GM foods are patented because they are considered intellectual novelties. Is substantial equivalence compatible with the patenting of GM crops? (2) Geographic Indications: The Case of Cheese. The European Union recently requested to “ban American cheese makers from using terms like parmesan, asiago, feta, gruyere, gorgonzola, fontina, romano and others that refer to European regions from which those cheeses originate,” as reported in the Times by Josh Sanburn on March 12, 2014. The new had many on the Western side of the Atlantic infuriated; but, unfortunately, they had no well-formed theory of the identity of recipes to back up their claims. Can either the EU or the US claim be substantiated? (3) Vegetarianism and Cultured Meat. Is cultured meat a sound ethical option for vegetarians? (4) Loving animals to death. In an essay titled "Loving animals to death," James McWilliams recently challenged the belief that ethical farming is a sound ethical option. Can any form of animal consumption – even the best we can practice, such as ethical farming or responsible hunting – be ethical? Organizers: Andrea Borghini and Ben Wurgaft (43)


S1) Community Organizing Skills for Philosophers: Developing a Power Analysis of your City and University

When asked how to organize a town, veteran civil rights organizer and philosophy graduate student Bob Moses answered, “By bouncing a ball…You stand on a street and bounce a ball. Soon all the children come around. You keep on bouncing the ball. Before long, it runs under someone’s porch and then you meet the adults.” A strong theme at previous Public Philosophy Network conferences has been the drive of participants to relate their work to public problems and to individuals outside the academy. This will be a skill-building workshop focused on adapting specific tools used by community organizers to the needs of public philosophers as a way of effectively engaging non-academic community partners. The workshop will focus on both developing a better understanding of how power is operating in the cities and communities where we live and work, as well as providing a concrete tool to initiate, build, and deepen relationships with non-academic partners who can become potential partners in your work. There will be opportunities for all participants to practice these skills during the session, including developing and discussing a beginning power analysis of their own city or community. The workshop will be a modified version of a session conducted by the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s oldest and largest community organizing network. Organizer: Frank McMillan

S2) Public Philosophy and Space Exploration

Human space exploration is an area where public philosophy is likely to play a decisive role in coming years. Space exploration also offers ideal case studies for engaging in participatory discussions involving practical and philosophical reflections of important public policy challenges. In addition, space exploration is an area where philosophical thinking has the opportunity to influence public policy at an early stage. The participants in the workshop will discuss and suggest solutions to two selected scenarios of high relevance for current and future space policy: (1) How should a discovery of extraterrestrial life on a particular planet/moon/asteroid affect future missions to that world and how does it depend on which kind of life we find? (2) How do we avoid causing environmental problems in space similar to what we have done on the earth (or to cause completely new problems) when opening up space for commercial exploitation?. Organizers: Erik Persson and Margaret Race, (44)


S3) Experiencing Ethical Tensions in Equity-Oriented, Collaborative, and Community-Based Research

This exploratory skill-building workshop aims to facilitate critical engagement with the ethics of equity-oriented, collaborative, and community-based research (EOCCBR). EOCCBR is a philosophic approach to social science research that emphasizes deep involvement of marginalized communities as partners in the research enterprise, from the development of a research agenda to the sharing of findings. EOCCBR involves often-marginalized communities in knowledge production throughout the research process and aims to produce tangible social justice effects in communities through policy shifts, capacity building, and other forms of social change. Organizers: Natalie Baloy, Sheeva Sabati, Ronald Glass (45)


S4) Navigating the Profession as Public Philosophers

Organizer: Sharon Meagher

This workshop is intended for publicly engaged philosophers who are graduate students, part-time and contingent faculty, untenured faculty and tenured faculty who have not yet achieved the rank of full professor and worry about how to do publicly engaged work while achieving desired career goals.  The workshop will be facilitated by academic administrators, seasoned faculty, and a public philosopher outside of academe.  Workshop participants will be encouraged to submit questions in advance so that we can construct a workshop that best meets the needs of its participants.  Issues that might be addressed include:  job hunting--finding appropriate institutional fits; how to document your work for purposes of tenure and promotion; how to find appropriate mentors.


S5) Public Philosophy and Indigenous Peoples

The philosophical issues that matter to Indigenous peoples are often very different from how many philosophers understand what they see to be the predominant issues affecting Indigenous peoples. For philosophers who are also Tribal members or who have a deep interest in public Indigenous issues, they may choose to pursue their career differently in order to work within Indigenous political contexts. This workshop will be a dialogue on the relationship between professional philosophy and Indigenous peoples and the different ways in which philosophers can engage responsibly with Indigenous issues. The dialogue will provide an opportunity for sharing and listening about what it means to do professional philosophy within an Indigenous context instead of assuming the primacy of the U.S. or Canadian settler context. Though the content of the workshop will depend on who attends, it is likely that dialogue will connect philosophy to a number of bodies of work on settler-colonialism, Indigenous resurgence and self-determination, Indigenous research methodology, and Indigenous network theory. Organizer: Kyle Whyte


S6) SOPHIA: Building Communities of Philosophical Conversation

The Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA) is a non-profit organization for public philosophy. We are creating chapters around the country in which philosophers build community with scholars in other fields and with people beyond the academy. Each chapter organizes public, philosophical conversations about issues of importance and interest to their communities. This workshop will explain the history of SOPHIA, talk about how its events have been organized and led, and cover how participants in the workshop can plan to build their own communities of philosophical conversation in the SOPHIA-style. We will talk about how to identify interested collaborators and people to invite into local SOPHIA chapters. We will also cover plans for how to pick topics that are timely and pressing for community members. We will then discuss the ways to plan philosophically driven conversations that are maximally accessible to scholars and non-specialists alike. We will also cover SOPHIA’s plans for growth in resources like a database of materials, a network of SOPHIA members whom people can draw on, and opportunities to publish work in connection with SOPHIA events, such as with the Public Philosophy Journal. Participants will walk away with drafted ideas about how to host their own SOPHIA-style gatherings and to build their own local communities of philosophical conversation. Organizers: Eric Thomas Weber and Andrea Christelle Houchard

To download the workshop descriptions as a pdf, click here:  WORKSHOP%20DESCRIPTIONS.pdf

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