Film ‘Bellflower’ on Tues 10/30 @7pm


October 30, 2012 @ 7:00pm — Rausch Auditorium, McIntyre 003

Film screening of Bellflower (2011)

Film screening followed by a discussion with Alisa Kessel (politics and government); Justin Tiehen (philosophy); Ariela Tubert (philosophy); and Paul Loeb (philosophy).

This year’s theme for the Philosophy and Political Theory Film Series is Apocalypse and Dystopia, the first film in the series was Apocalypse Now.  Keep an eye out for three more films in the spring!

About the film: Bellflower follows two friends as they venture out into the world to begin their adult lives. Literally all their free time is spent building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang Mother Medusaâ.

“Bellflower is a scrappy indie movie that comes out of nowhere and blows up stuff real good. It also possibly represents the debut of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, a natural driven by wild energy, like Tarantino.” (R. Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)

Call for Papers: Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Several students from Puget Sound have attended and presented at this conference in previous years.  Consider sending in a paper or volunteering to be a commentator:


April 19-20, 2013
Pacific University
Forest Grove, Oregon

Keynote talk, “Facts from Fictions,” by Peter Kivy (Rutgers University)

The 17th annual Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference
will be held April 19-20, 2013 on the campus of Pacific University, in
Forest Grove, Oregon. The purpose of this conference is to provide a
forum for the presentation of philosophical work of undergraduates to
their peers. Papers are required to be of philosophical content, but
there are no specific restrictions on subject matter within the arena
of philosophical discussion itself. Papers should be approximately
3000 words (10-12 pages). Electronic submissions, including paper and
abstract (Word documents), should be sent to:
Submission deadline is February 1, 2013. Final decisions will be made
by February 28, 2013. Volunteers for session chairs are also welcome.
Selected papers from the conference will be published in Volume 4
(2013) of the journal Res Cogitans
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This is strictly an undergraduate conference, with only undergraduates
allowed on the conference program. The single exception is the keynote
speaker. Past keynotes speakers have included: Paul Churchland, Hilary
Putnam, John Searle, Keith Lehrer, Catherine Elgin, John Perry, Hubert
Dreyfus, Jerry Fodor, Alvin Plantinga, Cora Diamond, and James Sterba.
This year’s keynote talk will be by Peter Kivy (Rutgers University).

The conference schedule will be as follows:
Friday, April 19:
Conference banquet 6:00-7:30pm

Saturday, April 20:
Breakfast 7:00-8:00am;
Paper sessions 8:00-11:15;
Keynote talk 11:30-1:00;
Conference luncheon 1:00-2:15;
Paper sessions 2:15-6:15.

Travel and lodging information can be found by going to the conference
web site at:

Registration costs: $40, payable at the conference. Three meals will
be provided: Friday night banquet, Saturday breakfast and lunch.

For further information, contact Professor Boersema via email
( or by phone (503 352 2150) or at the following address:
Dept. of Philosophy, Pacific University, 2043 College Way, Forest
Grove, OR 97116

Guest talk by philosopher of mind Barbara Montero

“Must Physicalism Imply the Supervenience of the Mental on the Physical?”

October 18, 2012 @ 7:00pm — Trimble Forum

Barbara Gail Montero is Associate Professor of Philosophy at The City University of New York Graduate Center and College of Staten Island.  She is the author of On the Philosophy of Mind (Wadsowrth, 2009) and Mind, Body, Movement: The Relevance of Consciousness to Expert Performance (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and the editor (with M. White) of Economics and the Mind (Routledge, 2006).

About the talk:

The standard arguments against physicalism, such as the knowledge argument and the zombie argument, purport to establish that certain mental properties do not supervene on the fundamental properties of physics, where supervenience is supposed to capture the idea, roughly speaking, that one set of properties determines, or suffices for, another set of properties. The supervenience of mental properties on fundamental physical properties is taken as a necessary condition for physicalism because the failure of such supervenience is thought to render mental properties nonphysical; and if there is something nonphysical, then physicalism, which holds that everything is physical, is false.  Although many of those engaged in the debate over the mind-body problem object to various aspects of these standard antiphysicalist arguments, most, if not all, agree that if physicalism is true, then mental properties must supervene on fundamental physical properties.  I aim to question this widely held view.  Why should the supervenience of the mental on the physical be a necessary condition for physicalism?

Summer Research Project: Personal Identity and the Unity of Consciousness

Philosophy and Psychology double major Kate Hanniball tells us about her summer 2012 research project as a Richard Bangs Collier Scholar (information on the Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is available here and don’t miss our previous post on another interesting summer research project):


The focus of my summer research was a philosophical investigation of the concept of selfhood incorporating an emphasis on the physical realities of the brain. Specifically, I was interested in the philosophical implications for selfhood which could be drawn from laboratory experiments conducted on brain-bisected patients, and how these abnormal results could influence our conceptions of the self.

Working within the theoretical framework of Derek Parfit1 I explored the question of selfhood by maintaining a focus on the unity of consciousness we all associate with the singular nature of the self. The theory of conscious unity–or the idea that at any one time all our phenomenal experiences are unified by the fact that there is a single subject of experience—has been contested by the emergence of certain neuropsychological discoveries concerning communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Specifically, laboratory experiments conducted on brain bisected patients (individuals who had their Corpus Callosum severed) yielded interesting results which have led some theorists to speak of a “duality of consciousness.” My research focused on these findings and their implications for personal identity and I concluded that what was revealed by these experiments was not a duality of consciousness, but rather that the existence of a persistent unified self a falsehood.

My claim is that instead of a persistent and unified self, the reality of selfhood is a collection of instantaneous mental states which do not add up to a cohesive whole, but are instead connected by some relation of psychological connectedness or continuity. Further, it is this relationship between mental events which matters in our discussion of selfhood rather than our mental or phenomenal experiences. In this way what is revealed by brain bisection operations is not some deep metaphysical problem concerning ownership of our mental states, but rather a physical malfunctioning of the neural pathway in the brain which inhibits our ability to create a cohesive and unified “narrative” for our experiences.

For further reading see:

1Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons. New York: Oxford University Press.

Summer Research Project on Pictorial Representation

Philosophy major Wade Greiten tells us about his experience conducting research over summer 2012 as a University Summer Scholar (information on the Summer Research Grants in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is available here):


My summer research project was on the topic of pictorial representation, i.e., how a picture can be about something. Though I surveyed most of the dominant theories on the subject, I eventually settled on an analysis of a more contemporary theory set forth by Dominic Lopes in his book, Understanding Pictures. The general idea was that a picture represents a subject by means of two processes. First, the picture conveys perceptual information to the observer through design patterns, or aspects, that correspond to the subject of the picture. Second, the observer receives this perceptual information and combines it with past visual experiences of similar types of objects and this allows him to perform the requisite cognitive act of subject identification.

Though this was the central idea of the paper I wrote, I learned quite a bit of other stuff about art, language, and even a bit of psychology. I learned what cubism is. I learned about the highly technical theory of reference that Gareth Evans sets out in The Varieties of Reference. I read three rather large books from cover to cover. All sorts of good stuff. But also, and perhaps more importantly, I learned that I love doing philosophy even when no one is requiring me to do philosophy.

You have roughly four months to write a research paper that will never be graded and you get paid the same regardless of how much work you put into it. Also, you only have one deadline for the paper and it’s an entire summer away. Once I realized these facts, I also realized that the research project is really a test of how much you like whatever subject you picked. Why would you want to sit down and read journal essays and sketch out drafts when you have another hundred or so days to do it? There is no plausible reason other than that you find it worthwhile for its own sake.

The end result of my experience was that I affirmed a belief I’ve been toying with for my entire stay here. I really do love philosophy. The degree, the loans, the grades, while important, and just a bit worrying, are secondary to the joy to be found in reading and thinking and writing about something wonderful. Doing a summer research project on a topic you know nothing about other than that you find it fascinating, and getting yourself to read all sorts of strange and wondrous things when you could be out lounging in the sun– it gives you a pretty nice feeling, and I’m glad I got to do it before I go off into the world with my degree because it reassures me. It reminds me that I am studying something I love and makes me think that maybe I could keep doing this sort of thing for a long time with very few regrets.