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Philosophy & Religion | Philosophy Events and Speakers


"Rest, Bullet: Ritual Homecoming Practices among Combat Veterans" - Our 10th Annual Durfee Lecture with Dr. Kathryn McClymond from Georgia State University. March 22 from 3:00pm – 4:30pm in Letts Formal Lounge.

"Shamelessness and Second-Hand Shame" - Our 58th Annual Hurst Lecture with Dr. Gail Weiss from George Washington University. April 5 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm in MGC Wechsler Theatre.


"Closure" - a film on trans-racial adoption, followed by a discussion with the creators, Angela Tucker and Bryan Tucker. Nov 17, 4pm-7pm, MGC 315

Career Night - Come here recent alums discuss their experiences on the job market. Feb 17, 6:30pm-8pm, Battelle Atrium

The Certainty of Uncertainty: A Reflection on the Universe, Language, Faith, and Doubt - a "tea talk" with Rev. Mark Schaefer, March 2, 4pm-5:30pm, Kay Spiritual Life Center


Philosophical Society "Tea Talks"

  • October 24 - "Suicide and Philosophy: An Interactive Discussion on the 'What,' 'How,' and 'Ought' of Voluntary Death" - with Maria Kulp, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame of Maryland University - 5:30pm in the Battelle Atrium
  • January 30 - "Stereotyping: An Inherent Vice?" - with Nathifa Greene, Instructor of Philosophy at American University - 5:30pm in the Battelle Atrium
  • March 4 - "On Nihilism" - with Justin Marquis, Professorial Lecturer in Philosophy at American University - 5:30pm in the Battelle Atrium

Husserl and Heidegger: Phenomenology, Eurocentrism, and Buddhism

a lecture by
Eric S. Nelson, University of Massachusetts Lowell and Hong Kong University of Technology and Science

Monday, Oct. 20, 2014: 5:30pm in McDowell Formal Lounge

Co-Sponsored by the Asian Studies Program

Recent works have argued for a phenomenological account of Buddhism and the relevance of classical phenomenology to interpreting Buddhist philosophy. In this paper, I examine the extent to which Buddhism can be understood as phenomenological by considering whether: (1) the conception of Europe as well as the reception of Buddhism in the works of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger reveal the limited and ultimately Eurocentric character of their thought; (2) the primary forms of Buddhism employed in interpreting Buddhism as phenomenological can be adequately conceived in accordance with Husserl's and Heidegger's models of transcendental and ontological phenomenology. Whereas phenomenology is currently equated either with a merely subjective first-person perspective in contemporary naturalism and a transcendental or ontological perspective by proponents of classical phenomenology, I suggest that an alternative is found in the Buddhist understanding of meditative experience. Buddhist meditative practice proceeds from the first-person perspective and its "I" privileged in phenomenology through emptying and decentering to the contingent and interdependent conditions of becoming. The destructuring of the subject in relation to the conditional nexus of reality is incompatible with the priority of the intentional or affective subject and the privileging of a transcendental or ontological perspective vis-à-vis the mundane world.


Buddhism Naturalized?

a lecture by
Owen Flanagan, Duke University

Buddhism appeals to many secular Westerners because it seems naturalistic, e.g., friendly to secular philosophy, secular values, and science. But is this so? Can we make sense of Buddhism apart from such notions as karma, rebirth, nirvana, no-self, and emptiness and, if not, can these notions be tamed and naturalized?

"Buddhism naturalized" as Flanagan constructs it, contains a metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics; it is a fully naturalistic and comprehensive philosophy, compatible with the rest of knowledge. Some claim that neuroscience is in the process of validating Buddhism empirically, but Flanagan's naturalized Buddhism does not reduce itself to a brain scan showing happiness patterns. Buddhism naturalized offers instead a tool for achieving happiness and human flourishing--a way of conceiving of the human predicament, of thinking about meaning for finite material beings living in a material world. (from the cover of The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized).

Own Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University. He specializes in philosophy of mind, cognitive science, moral psychology, and ethics. He is the author or editor of a number of books, including The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized (2011), The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (2009), Narrative and Consciousness: Literature, Psychology, and the Brain (2002), and Science of the Mind (1991).

Monday, April 7, 2014
6:00 pm
Butler Boardroom


Philosophy Career Night

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
6:30-9:00 p.m.
Battelle Atrium
(see AU Maps)

Students passionate about philosophy are invited to participate in a panel discussion with alumni, faculty, and students from our department. Receive career-related tips and advice from alumni who have launched diverse and rewarding careers with organizations, including The Arc, PBS News Hour, EL Haynes Public Charter School, and the Louisville Metro Government.

Pizza will be served.


A Socially Engaged Buddhist's Dharma Dialogue: Social Engagement and Buddhist Self-cultivation in Harmony

a lecture by
Korean Zen Master Ven. Pomnyun

Monday, September 23, 2013
6:00 p.m.
Butler Boardroom
(see AU Maps)

Pre-lecture reception begins at 5:45.

Co-hosts: Department of Philosophy and Religion, and Asian Studies

Venerable Pomnyun (법륜스님) is the founder and Guiding Zen Master of Jungto Society. He entered the Buddhist monastery guided by Ven. Bulshim Domoon Sunim, at Boonwhangsa Temple, South Korea, in 1969, and received full ordination in 1991. Ven. Pomnyun is also a social activist who leads various movements, including an ecological awareness campaign, the promotion of human rights and world peace, and the eradication of famine, disease, and illiteracy.

Ven. Pomnyunbegan humanitarian assistance to North Korea immediately after the 1995 flood when the famine situation arose in 1995. He published reports on the "North Korean Food Crisis," the "North Korean Refugees Situation," and the "Comprehensive Reports on the Human Rights Issues in North Korea." He is the chairman of The Peace Foundationin Seoul, which supports policy research and analysis aimed at Korean unification and humanitarian issues in North Korea. He concurrently serves as the chairman of Good Friends for Peace, Human Rights, and Refugee Issues, whose weekly publication, "North Korea Today," provides detailed, up-to-date information about conditions on the ground in North Korea. Ven. Pomnyun is also chairman of the Join Together Society, an international relief agency with offices worldwide, including in North Korea. He has worked extensively to supply humanitarian aid to famine victims in North Korea and defend the human rights of North Korean refugees in China. He is also a Zen master with the Seoul-based Jungto Society, which he originally established in 1988 to facilitate self-improvement through volunteerism.



Metaphors We Die By: The Normative Power of Language in Bioethics

a lecture by
Dr. Assya Pascalev

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
4:00 p.m.
Letts Formal Lounge
(see AU Maps)

Dr. Pascalev is a Scholar-in-Residence at American University.


Ethics of Expression: A Japanese Response to Modernity

a lecture by
Dr. Gereon Kopf

Thursday, March 28, 2013
2:30 p.m.
Butler Boardroom
(see AU Maps)

In the wake of the Meiji Restoration (1868), many Japanese intellectuals contrasted their own tradition with what they perceived to be the essence of European and American thought, especially modernism. Particularly the philosophers of the so-called Kyoto school formulated their philosophical approach as a response to, first, German idealism and, then, phenomenology. Some of these philosophers received their inspiration from ideas, concepts, and even texts of the Buddhist tradition. This talk will explore in what ways (if at all) a philosophical ethics based on the foundational concepts of Kitarō Nishida (1870-1945), the founder of the Kyoto School, can be of relevance today. In particular, this talk will use Nishida's concept of "expression" to develop an ethics based on the notion of the "ecological self."

Gereon Kopf received his Ph.D. from Temple University and is currently Associate Professor of Asian and Comparative Religion at Luther College. As a research fellow of the Japan Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, he conducted research in 1993 and 1994 at Obirin University in Machida, Japan, and at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan, from 2002 to 2004. In the academic year of 2008-2009, he taught at the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Beyond Personal Identity (2001), the co-editor of Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism (2009), and the editor of the Journal of Buddhist Philosophy.


Rethinking the Public and the Private in Global Civil Society

a panel discussion

Thursday, April 4, 2013
2:00 p.m.
SIS Founders Room

The forces of globalization have returned fundamental questions about the proper place of religion in the public sphere to the foreground of political theory. Please join us for a panel discussion of experts as we explore how the emergence of civil society at the global scale has created new public spaces for religion and religious organizations.

Hosted by:
Dr. Evan Berry
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs Master's Program at American University

Jose Casanova
Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University and Head of Berkley Center's Program on Globalization

Katherine Marshall
Senior Fellow at Berkley Center's Program for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Service

Susan McDonic
Assistant Professor of Sociology at American University


Painting Borges: Philosophy Interpreting Art Interpreting Literature

a gallery talk by
Dr. Jorge J. E. Gracia

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
6:30 p.m.
American University Museum
 (see AU Maps)

Argentinean Jorge Borges is one of the most prominent and profoundly philosophical literary figures of the twentieth century. Curator Jorge J. E. Gracia chose sixteen visual artists to interpret twelve stories by Borges, organized according to three topics: identity and memory, freedom and destiny, and faith and divinity. Dr. Gracia is Samuel P. Capen Chair and Distinguished Professor, Departments of Philosophy and of Comparative Literature, at State University of New York at Buffalo.


Weaving the Aztec Cosmos: The Metaphysics of the Fifth Age

a lecture by
Dr. Jim Maffie

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
2:30 p.m.
EQB 203
(see AU Maps)

Dr. Jim Maffie is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Maryland where he teaches courses in philosophy, Latin American Studies, and American Studies. His book on Aztec metaphysics, Aztec Philosophy: Understanding a World in Motion, is forthcoming from the University of Colorado Press. Most recently he has published articles on Nahua philosophy in The Nahua Newsletter, Inter-American Journal of Philosophy, and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Latin American Philosophy.


Gender Lessons from the War on Terror

a lecture by
Dr. Bonnie Mann

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
1:30 p.m.
Butler Boardroom
 (see AU Maps)

Dr. Bonnie Mann is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.


Motion versus Activity: Heidegger on Aristotle's Ontology of Life

a lecture by
Dr. Francisco Gonzalez

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
7:00 p.m.
Butler Boardroom
(see AU Maps)

Dr. Gonzalez is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ottawa.



Philosophy Career Night

Thursday, February 16, 2012
6:30-9:00 p.m.
Battelle Atrium
(see AU Maps)

Students passionate about philosophy are invited to participate in a panel discussion with alumni, faculty, and students from our department. Receive career-related tips and advice from alumni who have launched diverse and rewarding careers with organizations, including the U.S. Department of Commerce and E.L. Haynes Public Charter School.

Co-sponsored with AU's Career Center



Thursday, February 23, 20012
11:00 a.m.
McDowell Formal Lounge


What Makes Food Good? Three Challenges in Food Ethics

a lecture by
Paul B. Thompson
W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics
Michigan State University

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
3:00 p.m.
Mary Graydon Center 200

The diversity of issues that arise in food ethics will be explored with short discussions of three problems. First, improving agriculture and ending hunger are central to development ethics, but there is a fundamental tension between the interests of farmers and of poor people in urban areas. During the Great Depression, this tension was reflected in the irony of "breadlines knee deep in wheat." Although developed nations like the United States have moved beyond the most basic version of this problem, it is far from clear that our current farm and food policies have truly solved it. Second, there is a growing recognition that American diets are contributing to increased rates of diabetes and heart disease. But how should this phenomenon be viewed from an ethical perspective? Contrary to suggestive scientific results, Americans tend to view the problem narrowly as a personal responsibility of prudence, rather than as a moral issue. Finally, although it has long been realized that food practices vary widely by culture, it is unclear how diverse food cultures should be viewed from the perspective of ethics. Are food choices protected by an individual's "right to choose?" Or do they interpenetrate into cultural identities so deeply that they should be viewed as "cultural resources" worthy of protection and preservation? And what are the implications of viewing food culture in one way rather than another? These three problems will be reviewed briefly to give a general overview of the terrain of food ethics, and concluding remarks will focus on how the issues intersect in food ethics, and on how a program in the bioethics of food might inform policy and public health.

Paul B. Thompson holds the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He formerly held positions in philosophy at Texas A&M University and Purdue University. His research has centered on ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food, and especially concerning the guidance and development of agricultural technoscience. This research focus has led him to undertake a series of projects on the application of recombinant DNA techniques to agricultural crops and food animals. Thompson published the first booklength philosophical treatment of agricultural biotechnology in 1997 and revised in 2007, and has traveled the world speaking on the subject, delivering invited addresses in Egypt, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, Israel and Jamaica, as well as a number of European countries. In addition to philosophical outlets, his work on biotechnology has appeared in technical journals including Plant Physiology, The Journal of Animal Science, Bioscience, and Cahiers d'Economie et Sociologie Rurales. He serves on the United States National Research Council's Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Council and on the Science and Industry Advisory Committee for Genome Canada. Thompson's new work focuses on nanotechnology in the agrifood system.

In addition to his research on biotechnology, Thompson has published extensively on the environmental and social significance of agriculture. His 1992 book (with four coauthors) on U.S. agricultural policy, Sacred Cows and Hot Potatoes, was used as a textbook for U.S. Congressional agriculture staff.He is a two time recipient of the American Agricultural Economics Association Award for Excellence in Communication, and in 2010 he was a speaker at the Gustavus Adolphus College's 46th Nobel Conference on "Making Food Good." He has also published a number of volumes and papers on the philosophical and cultural significance of farming, notably The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics (1995) and The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (2000). In 2008, two edited collections appeared: What Can Nanotechnology Learn from Biotechnology: Social and Ethical Lessons for Nanoscience from the Debate over Agrifood Biotechnology and GMOs (edited with Ken David) and The Ethics of Intensification: Agricultural Technology and Cultural Change. A new book entitled The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics was published by the University Press of Kentucky in July 2010. Thompson completed his Ph.D. studies on the philosophy of technology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook under the guidance of Don Ihde.



Why Philosophy Still Matters

a lecture by
Michael Kellogg
Author of Three Questions We Never Stop Asking (Prometheus 2010)

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Butler Boardroom

Michael Kellogg studied philosophy at Stanford and as a graduate student at Oxford. After graduating magna com laude from the Harvard Law School, where he was an editor on the Law Review, Kellogg clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He then took a job as a prosecutor in the New York U.S. Attorneys' office led by Rudy Giuliani, where he prosecuted drug dealers and mafia dons, including Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family.

Kellogg then entered the Solicitor General's office at the Department of Justice where he helped represent the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued a number of important cases on national security and criminal law. He left government to be a partner in a large law firm, but quickly decided that he wanted more autonomy. In 1993, Kellogg started a law firm with two close friends and has been the managing partner ever since. The firm now has over 50 partners and associates and is considered one of the top litigation boutiques in the country. Kellogg continues to argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and in Courts of Appeal throughout the country.

Kellogg has also co-authored three successful books on legal topics, published first by Little Brown & Co. and then by Aspen, and has written articles on literary and philosophical topics for magazines such as The Hudson Review and Commonweal.

Kellogg's book, Three Questions We Never Stop Asking, published by Prometheus in 2010, has received much praise:

"Michael Kellogg's engaging and astute new book provides a perfect introduction to Western philosophy. Focusing on six great thinkers from Plato to Heidegger, he examines three inexhaustible themes of knowledge, faith, and morality, often revealing how powerful ideas emerged from the lives and times of these philosophers. This lucid, concise, and informed volume will connect many new readers to the irreplaceable insights of philosophy."  
--Dana Gioia, poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

"Michael Kellogg's passion for philosophy—the love of wisdom, not just an academic discipline—comes through on every page of this remarkable book. His readings of six great philosophers bring them to vivid life in clear, compelling words; his insights are keen, fresh, engaging, thoughtful. If you ever questioned what you should do or believe and wondered whether the great philosophers could help, you should read this book."
--Peter Pesic, St. John's College, Santa Fe, NM, author of Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science and Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics,  Philosophy, and Literature
"In this elegant volume, Michael Kellogg distills the wisdom of the most important Western philosophers. Whether you are familiar with these ideas, or are encountering them for the first time here, you will profit from Kellogg's original synthesis."
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard  Graduate School of Education, and author of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.


A Jamesian Personscape:
The Fringe as Messaging to the "Sick Soul"

a viewing and discussion of
John McDermott's lecture at the Harvard Divinity School

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Butler Boardroom



Custodianship, Communal Politics, and Religious Identity in Medieval South India

a lecture by Prabhavati Reddy
Adjunct, American University
January 29, 2009



Rankism and a Dignitarian Society

a lecture by Robert Fuller
author of All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity
former President of Oberlin College
October 2, 2006

Robert Fuller earned his PhD in physics at Princeton University and taught at Columbia, where he co-authored the text Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. He then served as president of Oberlin College, his alma mater. For a dozen years, beginning in 1978, he worked in what came to be known as "citizen diplomacy" to improve the Cold War relationship. During the 1990s, he served as board chair of the non-profit global corporation Internews, which promotes democracy via free and independent media. With the end of the Cold war and the collapse of the USSR, Fuller looked back reflectively on his career and understood that he had been, at different junctures in his life, a somebody and a nobody. His periodic sojourns into "Nobodyland" led him to identify and probe rankism-abuse of the power inherent in rank-and ultimately to write Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank (New Society Publishers, 2003). Three years later, he has published a sequel that focuses on building a "dignitarian" society titled All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006).



Wittgenstein as an Iceberg: Exploring the Jewish Depths

a lecture by Ranjit Chatterjee
author of Wittgenstein and Judaism: A Triumph of Concealment
March 28, 2006


Moving Beyond Both Intolerance and Tolerance

a lecture by Dr. Gertrude Conway
Kline Chair of Philosophy, Mount Saint Mary's University
January 30, 2006



Genetic Profiling

a lecture by Dr. Michael Boylan
John J. McDonnell, Jr. Chair in Ethics, Marymount University
October 20, 2004

Michael Boylan received his PhD from the University of Chicago. His most recent book, A Just Society (June, 2004), is his manifesto on ethics and social/political philosophy (and the most complete depiction of his normative worldview theory). He is also the author of Basic Ethics (2000), an essay on normative and applied ethics; Genetic Engineering: Science and Ethics on the New Frontier (2002, with Kevin E. Brown); Ethics Across the Curriculum: A Practice-Based Approach (2003, with James A. Donahue); and Public Health Policy and Ethics (ed. 2004); along with 13 other books in philosophy and literature and over seventy articles. He is the general editor of a series of trade books on public philosophy with Basil Blackwell Publishers and another series of books with Prentice Hall.



What We Owe the Dead

a lecture by Dr. Dennis Schmidt
Professor of Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University
March 31, 2004


Severe Poverty as a Human Rights Violation

a lecture by Dr. Thomas Pogge
Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
March 1, 2004



"Nationalism & Cosmopolitanism:

The Moral Response to International Terrorism"

Louis Pojman
Professor of Philosophy, West Point University
Tuesday, November 19, 2002


"Tragedy, Comedy, and Ethical Action in Hegel's
Phenomenology of Spirit"

Marcos Bisticas-Cocoves
Professor of Philosophy, Morgan State University
October 17, 2002



"Did Kant Read Plato's Euthyphro?"

Dr. Andrea Tschemplik
Department of Philosophy and Religion
November 28, 2001


"Understanding Asian Philosophy in Multicultural America"

Dr. Jin Y. Park
Department of Philosophy and Religion
American University
October 17, 2001