Jonathan Soder, Assistant Faith Editor
Last Monday, the philosophy department put on the first of several forums it has scheduled for the 2017-2018 school year. The forum featured
The brain-child of Dr. Tawa Anderson, assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Honors program, and Dr. Mark McClellan, former-dean of Hobbs college, the forums were launched as a series of philosophical talks to raise the profile of the philosophy program.
“We kind of conceived the idea back in 2012 as a means of getting more people involved in philosophical conversation,” Anderson said. “It also served as a way to build community within our philosophy department.”
Both Anderson and associate philosophy professor Dr. Randy Ridenour made clear: the forums are not just from philosophy students.
“The goal of the philosophy forum[s] is to bring philosophical topics of broad importance to the campus community and beyond,” Anderson said. “The idea is that philosophy matters, so we’re seeking to raise the profile of philosophical discussions at OBU and beyond.”
Since the forums’ conception, each series has included several individual sessions with differing formats – several of which include a lecture by an outside scholar and a panel discussion consisting of various OBU professors.
“My favorite forums have been when they had a panel of people addressing a specific question, and they’ll pull in people from all different disciplines on campus,” junior philosophy and religion major Bethany Cole said. “You feel like you’re just sitting around the table talking about an issue and you’ve got people chiming in with different ideas, different perspectives, so you get a very broad look at a question.”
In a similar vein, Ridenour touted the panel discussion as an important aspect of the forums.
“It’s hard to over-emphasize the nature of this benefit. Students get to see Christian scholars on the panel who genuinely disagree about a particular topic,” Ridenour said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to model charitable disagreement in service of the truth.”
Ridenour described the forums as a time of community question asking. In addition to presenting philosophical topics and debate, the forums seek to facilitate deep conversations among students and staff.
“They’ve been like an intellectual safe space for me because they’ve addressed different questions that I have been concerned with, or even questions I’ve never thought of,” Cole said. “It’s allowed for me and other students to be free to ask questions and dialogue through things without feeling like we have to have the answers all figured out.”
For those outside of the philosophy department, the idea of a philosophical debate may correlate to meaningless PhD babble.
“We want to make it broadly accessible,” Anderson said. “We don’t intend these to be technical level philosophical presentations that are only accessible to somebody who’s in upper-level philosophy classes.”
For others, the benefits may not outweigh the cost of attending the forums which is approximately one hour and 15 minutes of their time.
“Something people don’t realize is that philosophy is topics we cover all the time in all of the decisions that we make,” senior philosophy major Victoria Daugherty said. “These forums help show people who are not in philosophy, and who don’t necessarily know a lot about it, a lot of the issues that philosophy covers.”
Both Daugherty, who is also the president of OBU’s philosophy club, and Cole agree that philosophy holds universal importance because everyone – Christian or not – holds a worldview, which, from a philosophical perspective, must be reflected upon.
“Philosophy can be an intimidating word, but in practice it’s not all that intimidating,” Daugherty said. “Philosophy is more just the name for our practice of thinking about what we believe, why we believe, what different alternatives are and how to weigh those alternatives.”
Past forums have covered such topics as, “Should a Christian Support the Death Penalty,” “Should a Christian Embrace Calvinism” and “Health Care Reform.” Also, despite the lack of a budget, the forums have been host to such esteemed scholars such as Dr. Gould and Dr. Robert B. Stewart of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The next forum will be held on Friday, Sept. 29 and will take the form of a discussion panel considering the topic, “Challenges and Opportunities: Fundamentalism, Secularism, and Evangelical Christianity in America.”