Philosophy conference to begin this weekend

Luis Martinez, Entertainment Editor

The Illinois Philosophical Association is bringing in some of the most prominent professional philosophers in Illinois for a two-day conference.

The conference starts on Friday and will continue through Saturday, taking place in Coleman Hall.

Eastern will play host to philosophy professors and graduate and undergraduate students from places such as Illinois State University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Springfield, Northern, Western and Southern Illinois University. There will also be members from Duke University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Knox College.

Jonelle DePetro, the chair for the philosophy department, said the conference is held here at Eastern every five years. This is year would mark the third time Eastern has hosted the conference on campus.

“It was first held here in 2005, again in 2010, and now this year. The conference is held every year, but where it is held rotates,” DePetro said. “When it is not here it may be at NIU or some other regional institution.”

DePetro said the event brings together the state’s philosophers together to share their research, interests and ideas.

“Professors and graduate students present papers, and other professors and graduate students provide commentary and constructive criticism on those papers as a way of contributing to these works-in-progress,” DePetro said. “Although the IPA is primarily aimed at bringing together philosophers in the region, the conference is open to philosophers in any part of the country.”

DePetro said the event is very significant.

“Philosophers, like historians or artists, need opportunities to discuss their work with colleagues and others, particularly those in a similar specialization like ethics, or epistemology,” DePetro said. “Conferences provide the opportunity for engaged and fresh dialogue about a person’s research interests. They also provide a collegiality, which often leads to new ideas.”

The event is also very import to Eastern’s Philosophy department. Grant Sterling, the current president of the Illinois Philosophical Association, will be giving the presidential address during the annual banquet on Friday.

“I having been attending the IPA conference since at least 1998.  I think this will be the 16th time that I have been actively involved in the conference,” Sterling said. This is the second time Sterling will be giving the presidential address.

He said he will be arguing in his paper the ability to do things that are impossible, given the version of the theory of free will he defends in his other papers.

“On my view, the only thing that I can do is (to) perform acts of will,” Sterling said. “I can will to type this letter, or will to get up and go to the bathroom, etc.  I cannot guarantee that I will succeed at any of those things.  The keyboard might break and the letter won’t be typed, someone might kidnap me on the way to the bathroom.  My will is free and under my control, but I do not control the outcomes of my willing.”

Sterling said his thoughts on the conference are positive and he looks forward to attending the conference.

“I think the IPA conference is a truly outstanding conference.  I have attended many other philosophy conferences, and I’ve never gone to one that gets such consistently good papers from so many different people,” Sterling said. “The conference features discussion of a wide range of topics in philosophy, the nature of knowledge, ethical questions, political theory, etc.  Every paper will be presented by the author, and this will be followed by comments presented by another philosopher who will respond to the ideas presented.”

Teresa Britton and Jason Waller, who are also philosophy professors at Eastern, will be discussing their papers, “Apology and Empathy” and “How Improbable is our Finely-Tuned Universe?” respectively.

Aside from all of the presentations, Nathaniel Klaung, a student from Knox College, will receive an award for his paper, “Marking the Difference Between Immanent and Transcendent Aesthetic Experiences.”

Knox will present his paper at 4:30 pm on Friday in Coleman Hall 2731, and will also receive a certificate and a check for $100, according to DePetro.


Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]