Congratulations to philosophy majors class of 2015!

I will miss this great group of graduating students!  The philosophy faculty got to celebrate with students and various family members at the philosophy reception on Saturday morning, I got to be on stage with president Thomas at graduation, and Lee Pennebaker gave a great speech as the commencement speaker.  Busy, fun, and memorable weekend for us all.  Here are some photos of the philosophy majors during graduation weekend 2015:

From Left to right: Si-Won Song, Austen Harrison, Maia Bernick, Abby Osborne, Conner Sabin, Lee Pennebaker, Matt Archer

From Left to right: Si-Won Song, Austen Harrison, Maia Bernick, Abby Osborne, Conner Sabin, Lee Pennebaker, Matt Archer

Lee Speaker_2_2015-05-18 at 10.08.06 AM

Lee Pennebaker

Lee Pennebaker

Abby 2015-05-18 at 10.22.23 AM

Abby Osborne

Austen 2015-05-18 at 10.22.17 AM

Austen Harrison

Conner 2015-05-18 at 10.22.37 AM

Conner Sabin

Lee 2015-05-18 at 10.09.48 AM

Lee Pennebaker

Maia 2015-05-18 at 10.21.07 AM

Maia Bernick

Matt 2015-05-18 at 10.21.19 AM

Matt Archer

SiWon 2015-05-18 at 10.15.10 AM

Si-Won Song

from left to right: Samantha Hartenbaum, Conner Sabin, Abby Osborne, Si-Won Song, Maia Bernick, Austen Harrison

At the Philosophy Department Graduation Reception. From left to right: Samantha Hartenbaum, Conner Sabin, Abby Osborne, Si-Won Song, Maia Bernick, Austen Harrison

“The Art of Thought Experiments” in the Daily Nous

The philosophy blog Daily Nous, run a very nice article on Si-Won Song’s exhibit “The Art of Thought Experiments.”  Read the whole thing and check out the images but here is an excerpt:

Si-Won Song, a student about to graduate from the University of Puget Sound, has created a series of digital artworks based on well-known philosophical thought experiments. Song, a philosophy major (with minors in studio art and Japanese) first got the idea from reading about Frank Jackson’s thought experiment, Mary’s Room, in Professor Justin Tiehen’s philosophy of mind course. Mary is a scientist who has lived in a black and white room her whole life, learning all of the scientific facts about the color red but never seeing it, until one day…

Si-Won Song - Mary

Song created the above, with fellow student Brittney High as the model for Mary. Other students and some philosophy faculty have served as models in the other works. Here’s Professor Tiehen in a painting based on —well look at it first and guess…

Si-Won Song - grue

… That’s Nelson Goodman’s grue.

The digital paintings are currently on display at the University of Puget Sound. In an article about it at the University’s website, Song says more about the works:

The project started off as a gift idea for all of my professors as a ‘thank you’ for putting up with me for the past four years. With the encouragement and support of my two advisors, it ended up becoming an independent study class, and grew into a larger project that involved the majority of the philosophy department, from faculty to students. This project is by a philosophy student, of people working in philosophy, and about philosophy. …

“The Art of Thought Experiments” in the news

si-wonexhibit2Read about the exhibit by Si-Won Song ’15 in this article.  Here is an excerpt:

The Art of Thought Experiments: Digital Paintings Capture the Ideas of Famous Philosophers

May 8, 2015

TACOMA, Wash. –  Have you ever wondered if you would survive teletransportation—where your body is broken down into particles and then reconstructed on another planet?  Or if a person who knew all the laws of nature would be able to predict the future?  Or what it would be like to plug into an “experience machine” that would allow you to experience everything you ever wanted?

These are some of the famous “thought experiments” that inspired University of Puget Sound senior Si-Won Song ’15  to create a series of nine digital paintings, The Art of Thought Experiments, on view until Friday, May 15. The exhibit is in the third-floor atrium of Wyatt Hall, at Union Avenue and N. 13th Street on campus. The hall is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Thought experiments have a long history in philosophy, although they have also been used in mathematics and the sciences —such as Einstein’s imagining of someone chasing a beam of light,” said Ariela Tubert, associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy. “In thought experiments, the imagination is used to learn about the world and our own concepts and values.”

Artist Si-Won Song was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the United States while still in elementary school. He has lived in Tacoma ever since. He majored in painting and graphic design at Tacoma’s School of the Arts and is about to graduate from Puget Sound with a major in philosophy and minors in studio art and Japanese. He is concerned with issues of social justice and works predominately with acrylics, charcoal, and digital painting.

“After takinMarysRoom2g the course Philosophy of Mind, with Professor Justin Tiehen, and reading Frank Jackson’s Mary’s Room thought experiment, I had a vivid mental image of the thought experiment and drew a small digital painting of it,” said Song. Mary’s Room asks us to imagine whether Mary—a neuroscientist who knows all the physical facts about color, but has never seen color—would learn anything new upon seeing color for the first time….


Maia Bernick ’15 tells us about the first of the public discussions on Ethics and Technology that she led recently:


This Spring, I had the pleasure and privilege of running a series of discussions with the help of the Philosophy Department. The overarching theme was Ethics and Technology, while my specific focus was the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on different areas of society. Each event started with an introduction to the topic provided by me, then moved into a group discussion guided (but not bounded) by a set of pre-written questions.

The first discussion examined robots in the medical field and as caregivers. Inspired by my interest in the growing elderly population, I came to the conclusion that one way of providing care for them would be to integrate AI caregivers with our existing providers. This idea is no where close to novel, though, as researchers have been working for years on creating technologies like ‘nursebots’ and other automated assistants.


Preliminary tests and application of these kinds of robots has shown great promise and potential. Take for example, PARO, a seal pup robot designed to help those with neurodegenerative disorders reconnect with their world. PARO has shown to reduce agitation in a way that reduces or eliminates the need for medication, thus lessening the reliance on medication to control harmful behaviors. Currently, there are also more complex ‘helper’ robots likbandit IIe Bandit II, a humanoid caregiver robot from the Asimov lab at UCLA, who are in testing at assisted living homes. However, it is important to recognize that we are still far away from a sci-fi movie version of human-robot existence. In fact, roboticists are just now figuring out the haptic feedback (sensation of touch) simulation necessary to create hands that can actually grab things.

Being able to have this discussion with the campus community has been an invaluable experience for me. Not only did I get to share my thoughts on a subject matter which I had done a lot of extracurricular research on, I also got to engage in discussion with a group who could challenge me to think outside the box of my preexisting opinions and conceptions. Furthermore, I feel events like this show the multi-faceted and dynamic breadth of the study of Philosophy. It is my earnest hope that these talks will become a regular occurrence where students get to share their unique intellectual niches and I look forward to seeing what the next semester’s topic is.