Missimo Pigliucci discussed stoicism as the keynote speaker at the annual Eastern Pennsylvania Philosophical Association Conference.
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The King’s philosophy department hosted the annual Eastern Pennsylvania Philosophical Association Conference, a day-long event dedicated to the discussion and presentations of various philosophical topics. On Saturday, November 4, 2017, students and faculty gathered to hear research from local scholars. The conference concluded with a keynote speaker session that was free and open to the public.

“The purpose of the conference is to gather local individuals who want to share and exchange ideas dealing with anything philosophy. It allows presenters to receive crucial feedback on their research,” explained David Kyle Johnson, a King’s associate professor of philosophy.

“After each presentation, there is a thirty-minute period where the audience can ask questions. To sufficiently talk about philosophy, there needs to be a community,” added Gregory Bassham, a King’s professor of philosophy.

This was the second year in a row that King’s volunteered to host the annual conference.

“The conference has been going on for decades, since about the 70s or 80s,” said Bassham.

Johnson called for paper submissions in September that would potentially be presented at the event. Submissions in any area of philosophy were welcomed.

“The submissions were looked at by a blind review through the philosophy department. If we receive excellent papers from students, we set aside sessions at the conference just for them. Unfortunately, we did not receive any student submissions this year,” said Johnson.

Massimo Pigliucci, a City College of New York professor of philosophy, gave the conference’s keynote address. A stoic himself, he informed the audience of the basics of stoicism.

“A few years ago, I had not even heard of stoicism. I saw a tweet on my feed that said, ‘Celebrate Stoic Week.’ I opted to receive emails from the Stoic Week celebration and learned more about it. Stoicism resonated with me as a virtue-ethics philosophy,” explained Pigliucci.

Stoicism has gone through a comeback in recent times. The goal of a stoic is to become a better person and as a bonus, achieve tranquility.

“Humans are rational, social beings. Without knowledge of logic [how to reason well] and physics [how the world works], people cannot truly have ethics [how to live well]. They cannot practice the virtues of courage, temperance, prudence, and justice without an understanding of the world,” said Pigliucci.

Humanity can control its efforts, but not the outcomes of such effort. Thus, stoicism promotes a sort of urgency in life. Death can come at any moment; it is out of anyone’s control, regardless of the efforts (such as healthy habits) put into prolonging its coming (such as a terrorist attack).

“The practicality of stoicism can be recognized through daily meditation, mindfulness, and pre-exposure exercises. Morning meditation can prepare the individual for the events ahead. Night meditation is more of a reflection of the day’s events: Did I do anything good or bad? How can I do better? Pre-exposure prepares the individual to future comings [such as an encounter with a certain phobia]. All these practices fulfill the meaning of life: to become a morally virtuous person,” said Pigliucci.

Students who attended were able to experience a discussion of philosophy outside of the classroom.

“I have a class with Dr. Ambury and he offered extra credit to go to the conference. We are currently discussing Seneca in his class, so he suggested the keynote speaker, Massimo Pigliucci, as a way to more fully understand stoicism,” said Mackenzie McGeehan, a King’s sophomore and attendee to the keynote session of the conference.

The conference also featured research presentations. Bassham was the first of nine presenters to speak at the conference. In the Walsh room of the Campus Center, he argued for the compatibility of science and religion in a refute towards philosopher and author Jerry Coyne.

“Coyne claims that science and religion have irreconcilable differences. However, Coyne relies on dubious definitions of naturalism and faith. Many religious believers agree with naturalism in science, but not in other areas of life. These believers typically do not regard faith as belief without evidence, contrary to Coyne’s sense of faith,” said Bassham.