2009 Fall Proseminar Student Statements

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For our last class, I'd like to invite each of you to make put one or two ideas from the semester in front of the group for discussion. You can upload a paper that you like from this semester (or another) or you can respond in a screenfull or two of text to one of the following prompts:

1. Something new in philosophy that I found this semster and thought interesting (and why).

2. Something new about philosophy that I found this semster and thought interesting (and why).

3. A particular philosophical argument that you found especially good or bad or just challenging.

(You can suggest a prompt to add if you'd like. Also, feel free to use the email utility on the Course Website if you prefer not to post this to a web page.)


Shantrice Anderson

Joe Anderson

Militza Balcheva

Ashley Gales

Eric Hanson

There have been a couple of things during my time as a philosophy major that I have really enjoyed. The history sequence, and faith and reason. The last meeting Dr. Bradley touched on the importance of the history sequence in the major and I think he was right on the money. If you jump into contemperary philosophy discussions without any knowledge of the vast tradition throughout the years, it's very likely your not going to adequatley understand the issue at hand or your argument might already have been shown to be inadequate. An example could be the postmodern critiuqe on the problem left by Kant: we can't know a thing in itself. If I would have heard of Kant saying that before taking any philosophy, I would have thought he was insane. While I agree with the postmodern critique and think that Kant is incorrect on the issue, I am coming from a position of understanding why he came to that conclusion and what problems he was attempting to solve. With that in mind, rather than unfairly, and unreflectivly writing him off as insane, I've come to see him as a brilliant philosopher who I disagree with. A lot of my criticims come from other philosophers from the history sequence (such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas)as well as others who I think are right to hold we can know a thing in itself.

I've found the history sequence to be very helpful in viewing the issue of faith and reason. I find a lot of contemperary problems dealing with faith and reason are very similar to problems encountered during the medieval times. A big one today has been trying to reconcile the evolutionary paradigm--in which modern biolgoy is commited--with Christianity. There is a position that holds what is going on today with evolution and Christianity is very similar to the medieval period where the works of Aristotle were translated into latin. The Greek science of the day held the maxim: "from nothing, nothing comes." This seemd to be in direct contradiction to the Church's doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Thomas Aquinas was able to synthesize these two views into an integrated whole that I think does justice to both faith and reason and can also be applied to the ongoing debates regarding faith and reason. The issue between faith and reason is prevelent "hot-button" issue today. There have been the debates about what should be taught in Science between "Darwinists" and Intelligent Designers." There was a "Nova" episode on PBS that covered the conflict in Dover Pennsylvania. There was a documentary about the topic called "Expelled" which covered the same conflict but made the issue more about academic freedom rather than one theory over the other. There is another documentary titled "Collision" where Christopher Hitchens (an avowed atheist) debates Doug Wilson (a pastor) about whether Christianity is good for the country. The issue also came up during the last Presidential election in the "Saddleback Presidential Forum." The faith/reason topic is prevelant in our culture and I think both sides would be well served to know that this issue has historical significance and this significance is useful in clarifying the topic.

Michael Kwasniewski

Michael McClain

Aileen Murphy

Son Nguyen

Colin Pickett

Kyle Ratuiste

Andrew Regalado

James Sydnor

Lissande Tokorcheck

Dale Tuckerman

Clinton White

Taylor Wilkinson

What has gripped me throughout all of our many topics and widespread discussions is not necessarily the content itself (although the content has been stimulating and indeed extremely useful in broadening my philosophical horizons) but more important is the significance of philosophy itself—as a practice—as way of living life. Many hold that philosophy is useless—saturated with obscure academic blathering and squabbling with questions like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” as the poor scholastic philosophers have endured as a (tongue-in-cheek) criticism. In one sense, stepping just a little bit out of my “philosophy student” shoes I can see how somebody outside our circle could see our practices as “out there” and impractical.

Many times I have come out of philosophy classes bewildered after trying to work through philosophical claims only to end up shrugging my shoulders and leaving it for a mess of cluttered “extraterrestrial” thoughts. But more often than not, I have come out of class with a “philosophical high” as if I have had my eyes opened and truth has revealed itself. These are the moments I live for as a philosophy major, this is why I endure the sometimes out-of-this-world claims and dense rationales by men (and women) exponentially more brilliant than I could ever hope to be. Of course the philosophical high only lasts a week or two and at very most a month, as all good things must come to an end.

I started my studies as a Platonist, then an Aristotelian, then a Thomist, a Humean, a Kantian, so on and so on. It seems that every new philosopher we cover in the history series I subscribe to their school of thought (there are a great many exceptions of course, like Berkeley, I’m not a fan of him). I am sad to say that I have not yet found “my people” in philosophy with any great solidity. I of course realize that I am somewhat of an infant (albeit an increasingly informed one) in my philosophical pursuit. I stand in the “blooming, buzzing confusion”, as William James famously stated (this is taken out of its context, but it’s catchy and works for my emphasis). But given my philosophical homelessness do I give up my pursuit? No way. I in fact embrace it. I do try to find the solid ground on which I can stand through the hurricane of the oft-overwhelming and vast landscape of literature that we delve in to.

I am very (and quite uncomfortably) close to the end of my structured studies here, and I plan on continuing this pursuit without the helping hand of the professors at Gonzaga University. My quest, however, will not be a shallow hobby since I do in fact believe that “the love of wisdom” has important—if not outright practical use that is invaluable to the development of my character. After all, “the life unquestioned is not worth living” so says our father Socrates. He was, and is, dead right. Humans are “philosophical animals”, and not pursuing some sort of philosophy is like leaving your legs to atrophy while playing the soccer game of life (stupid analogy, but you get the point). I cannot imagine life without all the big questions, and the brave quest that we take on to find the answers; as sappy as it is, perhaps it’s more about the journey than the destination, and the journey only ends via the great equalizer of our mortality.

Indeed, philosophy is “practicing for death”—the preparation and beautification of the soul before it departs the confusion of the world. So in our preparation we must adhere to the Socratic method of “following the evidence wherever it leads”. This is a lifelong maxim to stand by, and most definitely a worthwhile one. Antony Flew, known as one of the most prolific and steadfast atheists of our time has followed the Socratic principle his entire life; and at the ripe old age of 81 he “converted” to deism. This is illustrative of the fact that Philosophy (like any academic endeavor) is certainly a lifelong pursuit that can change one’s worldview in dramatic and important ways.

So what really have I learned from this pro-seminar, and by extension my philosophical studies during my time here? I have learned the methods, the logic, and the critical rigor required of one to flesh out the rationales of the great authors of philosophy as well as the great authors to be. These tools are necessary for understanding content—the real meat of philosophy—so that I may follow the argument wherever it leads “all by myself” just like the big boys. A benefit (beyond the ones mentioned) is also an awareness of my philosophical maturation, as well as my weaknesses. I have not yet found “my people” but I am confident that I will find somebody to adopt me, being the orphan that I am in this philosophical world. And to those lingering critics of philosophy—my great practical answer to them is stolen from Socrates: I am preparing myself for death, duh! --Twilkinson 09:24, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Sean Williams