OU Department of Philosophy

Newsletter 14

Spring 2009





Welcome to the latest Philosophy Department Newsletter, and the first for which I have had the privilege to write the greetings. I am filling in for our erstwhile Chair, Hugh Benson, who is taking a much-deserved sabbatical this semester. Things sure have been quiet around here with him gone…


We have had a very eventful year, with all kinds of philosophical goings-on. As you will see in the newsletter, we have had a terrific line-up of visiting speakers in our colloquium series. In addition, I just finished hosting a conference titled “Epistemic Goodness,” which attracted speakers from all over the U.S., and even a couple from Great Britain! In between these events, we have had our usual slew of reading groups on various topics, including ethics, epistemology, and ancient Greek. Never a dull moment!


And speaking of non-dull moments, be sure to check out the list of who has had new babies this year. We have no shortage of proud new parents around here.


In other good news, we are very happy to announce that Neera Badhwar was promoted to Full Professor since our last newsletter. This acknowledges her important contributions to Ethics and Political Philosophy, as well as the esteem with which she is held, not just in our own department, but across the international philosophical community.


Well, that’s enough teasers from me. Jump in and read the rest of the newsletter. And, as always, our thanks go out to those alumni who have responded to our requests for updates and information. We love to hear from you! You can let us know what you’re up to, either by filling out the online form on our website (http://www.ou.edu/cas/ouphil/index.html) or by joining our new Facebook alumni group. (That’s right! Read on for details.)  And a special thanks to those who have contributed to the department financially. We are always working hard to improve the department, and every bit of support helps.


Warm Regards,

Wayne Riggs







The department has enjoyed another busy year.  Here are just a few of the highlights.



The department is very pleased to announce that Neera Badhwar has been promoted to full professor.  Neera has been at OU since 1987 and her promotion rightly acknowledges and honors her notable work on subjects such as friendship, virtue, and happiness. 


Philosophical Gourmet Report Rankings

We are pleased to announce that in addition to its specialty rankings in epistemology and philosophy of religion, the department is now also ranked in philosophy of art and Chinese philosophy in the most recent Philosophical Gourmet Report.


Faculty Honors and Awards

The department wishes to announce and honor some of the special achievements of its members. 


Professor Linda Zagzebski has been invited to deliver the prestigious Wilde Lectures in Natural Religion at Oxford University in April-June 2010.  These eight lectures will be on the topic of epistemic authority and epistemic autonomy, with particular application to religious and moral beliefs.


Assistant Professor Sherri Irvin was the recipient of OU’s 2008 Irene Rothbaum Award for the Outstanding Assistant Professor in Arts and Sciences, an award given each year to a faculty member who demonstrates exceptional teaching.  Aside from the obvious pleasures of receiving this distinguished award, Sherri reports on the less obvious:  “A little known but very important fact about this award is that it comes with a certain number of free meals, apparently in perpetuity.  It also gave me the opportunity to sit on the platform at graduation last year, but I decided that being stranded there for hours was a bad idea at 8+ months of pregnancy.”  


New Website

The department now has a new, updated website:  http://www.ou.edu/cas/ouphil/index.html.  The new website is far more polished and attractive than the old one, and we hope to continue updating it, adding new pages and features soon.  The department is especially grateful to Sherri Irvin for all her work in both creating and maintaining the new site.


Facebook Group

Many in the department have succumbed to the seductive power of Facebook.  In honor of so many of the department’s old dogs learning this new trick, we have created a special Facebook group for alumni/ae of the department and invite you to join.  There you may stay in touch with peers and professors, post notices about events of interest, and see a photo of Hugh that looks suspiciously like his beloved dog.  To join, simply search for the group “OU Philosophy Alumni/ae” and sign up.


OU International Philosophy Conference

This year, the department hosted a special three day conference entitled “Epistemic Goodness.”  This conference, the second in what we aspire to make a frequent series of conferences, drew an impressive roster of scholars and generated much formal and informal debate.  The department wishes to thank Wayne Riggs for organizing the conference, Dean Paul Bell for providing funding, and all the many graduate students who helped make it a success.  The conference program included:  Stephen Grimm (Fordham University); John Turri (Huron University College); Jason Baehr (Loyola Marymount University); Michael Brady (University of Glasgow); E. J. Coffman (University of Tennessee); Allan Hazlett (Fordham University); Trent Dougherty (University of Rochester); Christopher Hookway (University of Sheffield); Anne Baril (University of Arizona); Miguel Fernandez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México); Tim Kraft (University of Göttingen); Guy Axtell (University of Nevada, Reno); Philip Olson (Virginia Tech); John Greco (St. Louis University); Clayton Littlejohn (Southern Methodist University); and Sarah Wright (University of Georgia).  A full conference program is available at the department website.  Thanks to all who made the conference such a stimulating and useful discussion!


Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

In spring of 2008, the department hosted its Thirteenth Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.  As in past years, a number of undergraduates from across the country presented their work and our graduate students both organized and hosted the conference.  Catherine Elgin of Harvard University delivered a keynote lecture entitled, “Skepticism Aside.”  The department is especially grateful to the graduate students for their work on this conference.



As usual, the department hosted a diverse group of scholars in our departmental colloquia.  Colloquia since we last published the Newsletter featured:


April 11, 2008:  Catherine Elgin (Harvard University):  “Fictions as Models”

September 26, 2008:  Amie Thomasson (University of Miami):  “Ontology Made Easy”

November 14, 2008:  Stewart Cohen (Arizona State University):  Defeasible Reasoning and Easy


January 30, 2009:  Sally Haslanger (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):  "The Social as

Natural and the Natural as Social: The Ordinariness of Social Construction."

February 20, 2009:  Robert Thompson (Point Loma University):  "Constitution and the Emergent

God." Alumnus speaker for the Annual FOCAS (Focus on the College of Arts and Sciences) Week




This year has been unusually fruitful in generating new little philosophers.  The department welcomes several new additions:


Assistant Professor Neal Judisch and his wife Janice welcomed a new baby girl, Lillian Jeanette, on April 19, 2008.  Lillian was born at 8.2 pounds and 20.25 inches long.  She joins her two older sisters and brother in keeping Neal and Janice more charmed than any two people should be.


Assistant Professor Sherri Irvin and Associate Professor Martin Montminy welcomed their son, Zed, on June 11, 2008.  Zed weighed in at 8 lb 14 oz and was a bit over 20” long.  Since his birth, it is useful to note, Zed has attended a number of faculty meetings where he has been universally popular for his ability to “speak raspberries to power.”


Staff member Ileah Murray Branning welcomed her second child, a son, Kimes Patrick Branning III, on November 17, 2008.  Kimes weighed in at 6 lb 6 oz and is 19 ¼ in long.  Since Kimes’ birth Ileah has left her position with the department.  We wish her and her family the best!


Department Biohazard?

The OU Philosophy Department Ficus Tree went on to its higher reward this winter.  Ficus came to the Philosophy Department in 2006 as part of a wider indoor plant migration aimed to contribute an air of respectability to the department lounge.  After recently dropping nearly all of his foliage in an anguished effort to draw attention to his plight, Ficus did at last receive help.  Alas, too late.  Arborists on scene remain uncertain as to the exact cause of death, speculating that it could be that no one ever watered Ficus or, more sinisterly, the philosophical conversation to which Ficus was ever unwilling audience.  A full postmortem would have resolved this ambiguity but it was Ficus’ wish that his mortal remains instead be rendered mulch to benefit other plants, that his life might not be only vain travail.  Meanwhile, the possibly fatal properties of department conversation led attending arborists to recommend that plants, and indeed all living things, should take caution to avoid prolonged exposure.  “We just don’t know,” one remarked, “but I sure as hell wouldn’t take any chances.”  Officiating at a trashcan-side service was Professor Amy Olberding, who commended Ficus’ remains to the can while pompously opining that “Yea, verily, death may be no evil, but it has about it a semblance of evil.  Oh! Ficus, we hardly knew ye!”  Those wishing to purchase memorial gifts are urged not to send flowers or plants.  Ficus is mournfully survived by former Visiting Assistant Professor Andrew Roche, who said through copious tears, “At least no one gave the department a puppy.”





The department extends hearty congratulations to the following students who recently completed degrees:

BA:  Philosophy

Gregory Barron

David Dewberry

Kaitlyn Fu

Christopher Gregory

Richard Harris

Jeremiah Russell


Paul Simpson

Timothy Stephenson

Jessica Viner

Daniel White

Sean Wion                                                                                                                                                             






We continue to draw high quality undergraduate majors and want to congratulate in particular those students honored in the past year for their academic accomplishments.


Daniel White was awarded the Philosophy Department’s 2007-2008 Clayton Feaver Scholarship.  This scholarship is awarded each year to an outstanding senior in philosophy. 


The Mary Elizabeth Wade Scholarship, given annually to an outstanding junior in philosophy, was awarded to Meredith Simons. 

John Dell was honored with service as the department’s Banner Carrier at the 2008 Convocation, recognition awarded to an exceptional graduating senior each year. 

Pam Stockwell is a Philosophy senior and recently won two campus awards, the “Big Woman on Campus” and a place on the Letzeiser Honor list.  She was one of very few students campus-wide selected for these prestigious awards.


The Alpha of Oklahoma chapter of Phi Beta Kappa elected 186 members of the class of 2008 for membership in the nation's oldest honor society.  Among these were several of our Philosophy majors:  Gregory Barron, David Dewberry, Nathan Pratt, Timothy Stephenson, and Daniel White






The Kenneth Merrill Teaching Award is given annually to the graduate teaching assistant who shows exceptional skill and commitment in teaching.  Congratulations are due to Ruth Tallman who received the 2008 Merrill Award.  


Hammad Hussain presented his paper "'More Familiar to Us' vs. 'More Familiar Simpliciter'" at the 41st Meeting of the North Texas Philosophical Association at the University of North Texas in April, 2008, at the 3rd International Conference on Philosophy, in Athens, Greece, sponsored by ATINER, in June, 2008, and at the conference on "Aristotle, Ethics and Science" at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA in October, 2008.  This paper has also been accepted for publication in An Anthology of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 2, edited by Patricia Hanna.


Rusty Jones gave several presentations:  “Baehr on the Value Problem” at the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, December 2008; “Truth and Contradiction in Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 9” at the  Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy meeting, Fordham University, October 2008; “Plato’s Rhetorical Proof for the Immortality of the Soul,” with Hugh Hunter, at the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy meeting, Fordham University, October 2008;  “What Good’s a Good Example?  The Limitations of Counterfactual Exemplar-Based Virtue Theories,” with Robert Johnson at the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, University of Colorado, Boulder, August 2008; “The Argument of De Interpretatione 9” at the Alaska Philosophy Workshop in Ancient Philosophy, University of Alaska, Anchorage, May 2008; “Bivalence and Contradictory Pairs in Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 9” at the Central Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, April 2008; and “The Aporia of Euthydemus 288d-292e” at the 31st Annual Workshop in Ancient Philosophy, Texas A&M University, April 2008.  He also commented on Blake Hestir’s “Aristotle on Truth and the Synthetic Structure of Language, Thought, and Reality” at the Alaska Philosophy Workshop in Ancient Philosophy, University of Alaska, Anchorage, May 2008; David Yount’s “Is the One of Parmenides’ First Hypothesis Best Interpreted as the Form of the Good?” at the Pacific Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association, March 2008; and Rachel Barney’s “Ring-Composition in the Republic and Beyond” at the Arizona Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, University of Arizona, February 2008.


Jason Oakes presented his paper, "God in the Quad: The Priority of Divine Revelation in the Epistemology of George Berkeley," at the Evangelical Philosophical and Theological Society national conference in Providence, RI, and will present a second paper, "An Argument for Propositional Revelation," at the Regional Society of Christian Philosophers meeting in April.  Finally, last but not least, Jason will begin a tenure-track job this fall at Biola University. 


Josh Seachris published one essay, "Yan Hui's Death as a Threat to Confucius' Expression of Virtue: A Further Look at the Master's Grief." Asian Philosophy 18:2 (July 2008): 105-22 and additionally has a forthcoming book review, Review of Keith Mascord's Alvin Plantinga and Christian Apologetics (Paternoster Theological Monographs) (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2006) in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology.  Josh is also giving two presentations this spring:  “In Search of the Universe’s Narrative: Scientific Naturalism, Christian Theism, and the Meaning of Life” at the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Criswell College, March 2009, and “Narrative and the Meaning of Life: An Interpretive Proposal on Philosophy’s ‘Big’ Question,” at the Midwest Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Oklahoma Baptist University, April 2009.


Jason Southworth won OU’s Second Century Award this year.  His essay, “Batman’s Identity Crisis: On Wittgenstein’s Family Resemblance,” appeared in Batman and Philosophy (Wiley Publishing, 2008).  Jason also gave two presentations:  “Metaphorical Meaning” at the Northeastern Texas Philosophical Conference, April 2008 and “Can We Determine if Mozi is a Utilitarian or a Divine Command Theorist?” at the Uehiro Crosscurrents Philosophy Conference at the University of Hawaii, March 2008.


Ruth Tallman presented her paper, "Retaining Meaning in Art on a Physical Object Hypothesis Account of the Ontology of Artworks," at the University of Missouri-St. Louis 2008 Graduate Philosophy Conference: The Beautiful, the Good, and the Just, in April 2008.  She also gave commentary on David Kaspar's paper, "Moral Skepticism and the Other Agent" at the 2008 Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference in Hays, KS in October 2008.  This spring semester, Ruth has taken a temporary position, teaching to cover a sabbatical leave at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS.


Angela Thurmond presented her essay, "The Moral Significance of Manners: Confucian and Western Accounts" at the North Texas Philosophical Association conference in Denton, TX, in March.





Susan Alvarado (MA ‘01) reports, “I'm still at Austin Community College where our Associate of Arts degree in philosophy remains very popular with over 75 majors.  I continue to teach a crazy load of five sections each 16-week semester and two during one 5.5-week summer semester.  I am finally teaching logic, which is easy and wonderful in terms of workload!  When I'm not consumed by my function as a teaching machine at the open-door, open access institution that is the community college, I do administrative work.  Currently, I'm looking at what education administrators call ‘first-time mastery’.  That is, I'm analyzing the factors that contribute to a given student's success in passing our most popular course (Introduction to Philosophy) the first time he or she enrolls for the course.  Also, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has mandated that we articulate measurable "student learning objectives" for each philosophy course offered at ACC; I'm helping my chair with this rather controversial requirement.  On an intellectual note, I have become interested in the work of Jurgen Habermas as of late.”


Greg Bassham (BA ’82; MA ‘85) is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Bare, Pa. Despite watching less television than anyone on the planet (with the possible exception of Ken Merrill), he continues to crank out books on philosophy and popular culture. His latest ventures in the genre include Basketball and Philosophy (University of Kentucky Press, 2007) (co-edited with Jerry Walls), The Hobbit and Philosophy (forthcoming, Wiley), and The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy (forthcoming, Wiley). Lately, he's spent an inordinate amount of time wondering whether the common expression, "If I don't see you, have a nice break" is a genuine conditional.


Laura Calvery (BA ‘07) is in her second year at OU’s Law School.  She says, “I'm still renting the same place as in undergrad, and my neighbors are getting disturbingly young.  I am on the Oklahoma Law Review. Law Reviews are like other academic journals except that since law school professors cannot possibly be bothered with doing any work, all editing, article accepting, and about half the writing are done by law students. It also means that professors feel just fine submitting their first draft of a paper and having second year students rewrite it for them before publishing. So you can imagine how that turns out.  But many jobs will only accept applications from students who were on law review, so there will always be an inexhaustible army of students there to allow professors get another line on their cv for only a few hours work.  When I'm not in class, I work part time in the Oklahoma City City Attorney's office handling claims against the city. So if anyone wants to sue their city government for something, I can give them advice (1st piece of advice: don't bother suing for excessive police force).”


Bill Ferraiolo (PhD ’97) spent a productive sabbatical in Fall 2008 researching Buddhism, Buddhist ethics, and the overlap between Buddhism and Roman Stoicism.  Bill reports, “I visited several monasteries and meditation centers here in Northern California, composed a number of classroom lectures on a variety of topics, and wrote four papers.  Two have been accepted for publication and the other two were accepted for conference presentation.”  One essay, "Roman Buddha," is forthcoming in Western Buddhist Review and another, "Chigurh's Coin: Karma and Chance in No Country for Old Men,” appeared as a film review in Culture Wars.  He also presented "Collective Karma and 'Blowback'" at the Northwest Philosophy Conference at the University of Oregon and his essay, "Desire and Dukkha: A Confluence of Stoic and Buddhist Counsel," was accepted for presentation at the ASPCP (American Society for Philosophy Counseling and Psychotherapy) section of the Eastern Division meeting of the APA in Philadelphia. 


Miyuki Fukushima (BA ’00) has, since graduating in Philosophy, earned two additional Bachelor’s degrees, in Psychology and Sociology.  Miyuki is currently completing a Ph.D. in OU’s Department of Sociology and will begin a tenure-track position in the Sociology Department at Cleveland State University in the fall.  Miyuki adds that “my love of knowledge really started in all those classes I took in philosophy.”


Peter Hutcheson (PhD ’79)


David Kyle Johnson (PhD ’06) continues to work as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  His recent work includes an essay, "God, Fatalism, and Temporal Ontology," forthcoming in Religious Studies, and an edited volume, Heroes and Philosophy, that is forthcoming with Wiley/Blackwell’s Philosophy and Popular Culture Series.


Donald Jones (PhD ‘79) reports that he has a two year old daughter, Katie Rose.  He adds:  Since I am an old timer that is significant.” 


Scott Jones (PhD ’01) is the pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.  Last year, he presented an essay in queer theology, “The Pizzazz of Creation,” at the Wake Forest University Divinity School.  Scott has also recently appeared in local news outlets.  He writes commentary for The Oklahoma Gazette, was featured in a debate with Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern for the show “Flashpoint,” and appeared in news programs following the controversy over his service as “chaplain for the day” for the Oklahoma State House.  Finally, this summer Scott will marry his partner, Michael Cich.  Congratulations and best wishes to Scott and Michael!


Jeff McLaughlin (’85-‘87) continues to work in the Philosophy Department at Thompson Rivers University.  Jeff spent much of last year teaching, traveling, and writing in Austria while enjoying his first sabbatical.  He has written an introductory text that assembles many of the standard introductory philosophy readings and employs films to explain core philosophical concepts.  While on sabbatical, he also completed a number of articles on comics and philosophy.  His textbook, Philosophy in Black and White and Color, will be published with Pearson Longman this summer. 


Alexus McLeod (MA ‘05) is completing his dissertation, “Moral Personhood in Confucius and Aristotle,” at the University of Connecticut.  Alexus will defend the dissertation in April and, in the fall, will begin a tenure-track post as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton.


M. Elizabeth (Wade) Perkinson (BA ‘01) works for the SPCA of Wake County in North Carolina, and also does occasional work for the Superior Court and conducts Workman’s Compensation mediation.  Finally, in 2007 Elizabeth got married.  Congratulations, Elizabeth!


John Rhea (BA ‘95) reports that after graduation, he ran restaurants “until I decided that I was getting too old for that so I went to law school at Oklahoma City University.  Following graduation I was offered the opportunity to work as a litigator in a boutique civil defense firm.  One of our clients, El Paso Electric Company, then asked me to join the company as Assistant General Counsel and later added the title Director of Corporate Compliance.  About 18 months ago I was then given the chance to come home and go to work for OGE Energy Corp., the parent company to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company as Assistant Corporate Secretary and Compliance Officer.  My philosophy degree has been invaluable to my success first in law school and then in corporate compliance.  I will always be proud to be a Sooner.”


Jeff Schanback (BA ’70) earned his law degree after graduation.  Since then he has worked in New York City government as a litigator and manager of lawyers.  After his retirement from this post, he spent four years practicing in a small law firm and now serves as general counsel for a not-for-profit affordable housing organization in New York.


Christina Shorall (formerly Christina Paparozzi) (BA ‘84) earned a teaching degree after her time in the Philosophy Department.  She taught in the k-12 schools for thirteen years, earning her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction along the way.  She is now a full professor in the Education Department at Carlow University. 


Michael Silberstein (PhD ‘94) is doing well.  His son Chris is now at Pitt majoring in history and philosophy of science; this semester he's taking John Earman's course on paradox. Michael will celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary in June with Elizabeth Newell. In April he will officially attain the rank of full professor. Michael's article with Tony Chemero, “After the Philosophy of Mind: Replacing Scholasticism with Science” (Philosophy of Science. Volume 75, No. 1: 1-27) is the number one most accessed paper at the journal. His "Why Quantum Mechanics Favors Adynamical and Acausal Interpretations such as Relational Blockworld over Backwardly Causal and Time-Symmetric Rivals" is now published in a focus issue of Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics on Time-Symmetric Approaches to Quantum Mechanics, edited by Huw Price and Guido Bacciagalupi (Volume 39, Issue 4, pp. 732-747). He just gave the talk "When Super-Theories Collide: A Brief History of the Emergence/Reduction Battles between Particle Physics and Condensed Matter Theory" at the Second International Conference on Integrated History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame (March 11-15). At the end of May he'll be one of eight keynote speakers at the Workshop on Mechanism and Emergence in the Neurobiology of Cognition in Trondheim, Norway, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The event is sponsored by the Norwegian Research Council (NFR). Other speakers include Bill Bechtel, Carl Craver and Terry Deacon. On a bitter and final note, at Ferraiolo's suggestion Silberstein took the facebook quiz "which great philosopher are you" and learned to his great surprise that he's Heidigger. Thanks Bill. 


Earl Spurgin (MA ‘88) is now the Director of the University Core Curriculum at John Carroll University.  In 2008, his co-authored book, Historical Dictionary of Ethics, appeared with Scarecrow Press.


Laurence (Larry) Varvel (MA ’83) went on to receive his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.  He current serves as the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Broken Arrow, OK.  He reports, “My wife Jeanine and I have three children - Patty, a freshman at OSU, Lainie, a junior at Broken Arrow High School, and Andrew, a freshman at B.A.H.S.”


Dan Wright (MA ’08) has recently accepted an offer to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in their Religious Studies Department.  Dan and his wife are also expecting a son, their first child, in May.  Congratulations, Dan!







Neera Badhwar published “Is Realism Really Bad for You? A Realistic Response,” in The

Journal of Philosophy, February 2008, and “Friendship and Commercial Societies,” in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, Politics, Philosophy, andEconomics, August 2008. Her paper, “the Milgram Experiments, Learned Helplessness, and Character Traits,” is forthcoming in a special issue on Situationism in the Journal of Ethics, 2009. (Her webpage has links to all three

papers, and she welcomes comments on any of them, but especially the last.)  Neera also gave several presentations.  About these, Neera is delighted to note that happiness/well-being has become a hot topic with not only ethical theorists, but also philosophers of mind and, of course, psychologists. Among her several presentations, she was lucky enough to be invited to two interdisciplinary conferences/workshops on the topic, giving her a chance to present ”Happiness:

From    Subjectivity to Objectivity” (a chapter from her book-in-progress) at California State University Long Beach and “Philosophers on Happiness” at the University of Denver, Colorado.  Neera is grateful to the SPPC for giving her a Visiting Fellowship in Spring 2008, complete with an office and a research assistant for both her and Larry – a terrific opportunity for both of them to make headway on their books. She writes: “On the personal front, Larry and I got engaged just before leaving for India on December 25th, 2008, where Larry enjoyed the food like a native & the

sights like a tourist, and good-naturedly tolerated the crowds and the dozens of

visits to relatives and friends on our Mumbai-New Delhi-Pune tour.”


Hugh Benson’s Blackwell’s Companion to Plato is now in paperback and so in a few years it will be affordable on the used book market.  His paper “Knowledge, Virtue, and Method in Republic 471c-502c” appeared in Philosophical Inquiry in 2008 and will appear in a separate festschrift for Jerry Santas.  He has three other papers forthcoming in various collections and enjoyed giving presentations at conferences and colloquia.  He completed his stints as Faculty Senator and as the all powerful Senate Parliamentarian.  Michael, Thomas, and Ann are all flourishing.  Most of all, however, he is currently enjoying a sabbatical – the first one in 13 years!  He really didn’t think he was obligated to contribute to the newsletter while on sabbatical, but was finally persuaded otherwise when the newsletter editor eagerly volunteered to simply make things up.


Monte Cook reports simply, “I really can’t think of anything to say.”


Steve Ellis has been very busy.  This year, he reports, “I got 4 papers in print, gave an invited paper at a NSF-funded conference on Realistic Standards for Decision Theory, and did my bit for the environmental cause by giving a on-campus talk with Scott Greene (Geography) on climate change.  On a personal level, things are going great – Cindy (my wife) is now enjoying (?) being graduate director in the Economics Department here at OU, Flora (1st grade) is learning how to read, and Marita (7th grade) had her first ‘boyfriend’(!).  (I still maintain that you aren’t ‘going out’ with someone unless you actually go somewhere outside of your home.)  Cindy and I are still organizing (and playing in) a weekend touch football game; I’m still helping coach Marita’s soccer team (the Riot Grrrls); I still don’t really understand Kant.  If anyone wants to play, coach, or give me a Kant tutorial, please drop me a line!”


Ray Elugardo spent Fall of 2008 on sabbatical.  During Ray’s sabbatical, he wrote and submitted two papers for publication: “Anti-Individualism and the Analytic A Posteriori”, submitted to Canadian Journal of Phjilosophy, and “Back In Context: Fodor and Lepore on Semantic Cartesianism”, submitted to Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.  In September, Ray presented an informal talk, “What is Shared Content?”, at the Context and Communication Workshop in Canterbury England. In April, he participated in another workshop devoted to the general topic of language, context, and cognition, which was held in Cordoba Argentina – he commented on Sandy Goldberg’s “Context and the Epistemic Significance of Speech.” In May of 2008, Ray presented a keynote address, “Concepts and Intellectual Norms”, at the 6th Annual Graduate Conference in the Philosophy of Mind, Language, and Cognitive Science, which was held at The University of Western Ontario.  Ray’s review of Anandi Hattiangadi’s Oughts and Thoughts: Scepticism and the Normativity of Meaning appeared in the April issue of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.


Jim Hawthorne is completing his twentieth year at OU and is eagerly (some say vainly) awaiting the wristwatch he should receive for his service.  While waiting, he remains busy, presently teaching two Philosophy of Biology courses, well-timed to coincide with this, the “Darwin Year.”  This past fall he taught a Philosophy of Mind course on consciousness for the first time in his tenure at OU.  This course led him to recollect:  I was really into Phil of Mind when I was in grad school at Minnesota. It was a hot topic in the Minnesota Center for Phil of Science during my time there, while Grove Maxwell was running it, and trying to account for consciousness was always the central concern. Herbert Feigl, who had been a Vienna Circle guy, started the Center in the 1950s, and still came to many of the meetings. He'd tell us stories about drinking beer with Kurt Godel in Vienna cafes, and how after getting up a good head of steam they'd get Kurt proving theorems on napkins.”  Jim is also, to the envy of many colleagues, looking forward to a sabbatical next year.  During this sabbatical, Jim says, “I'll be working on a book on confirmation theory and probabilistic inductive logic. I'm looking forward to a conference in September on "logics of conditionals and conditional probabilities" in Leuven, Belgium. Just me and ten other probabilistic logic geeks presenting our work to each other -- looking forward to lots of theorems on napkins there!”  Finally, Jim adds, “I like my life, but recounting it would bore anyone else to tears.”


Sherri Irvin has three new essays in print: “The Pervasiveness of the Aesthetic in Ordinary Experience,” British Journal of Aesthetics 48 (2008), 29-44; “Scratching an Itch,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 66 (2008), 25-35; and “The Ontological Diversity of Visual Artworks,” in New Waves in Aesthetics, ed. Kathleen Stock and Katherine Thomson-Jones (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 1-19.  She also wrote a piece about searching for a job in aesthetics for the American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter and gave four presentations: “Aesthetics as a Guide to Ethics” at the University of Maryland, “Interpretation and Ignorance” in a group meeting at Pacific APA, “Setting an Example” at the American Society for Aesthetics, and “Installation Art, Performance and the Nature of the Artwork” on the main program at Eastern APA.  She is amused to note that her work on itches has received far more attention than anything she ever wrote about art.  She is currently rediscovering the joys of Cheerios with her son Zed, who was born in June, 2008.


Neal Judisch published three essays this past year:  "Theological Determinism and the Problem of Evil," Religious Studies 44 (2008): 164-185; "Why 'Non-Mental' Won't Work: On Hempel's Dilemma and the Characterization of the Physical," Philosophical Studies 140 (2008): 299-318; "Sanctification, Satisfaction, and the Purpose of Purgatory," Faith and Philosophy 26 (2009): 167-185. 


Kenneth Merrill’s Historical Dictionary of Hume’s Philosophy was published in August 2008 by Scarecrow/Rowman & Littlefield.  Writing the book was the frequently interrupted work of several years.  If there is justice in the world, Professor Emeritus Merrill will soon see the royalties rolling in.  Ken is also, it should be noted, the very proud (and very grand in every sense) grand-uncle of Rachel Olivia Weber, aged nine months.  Ken reports that Olivia is “the new love of my life.”


Martin Montminy has four new essays in print: “Supervaluationism, Validity and Necessarily Borderline Sentences,” Analysis 68 (2008), 61-67; “Can Contextualists Maintain Neutrality?,” Philosophers’ Imprint 8 (2008 ), 1-13; “Cheap Knowledge and Easy Questions,” Grazer Philosophische Studien 77 (2008), 127-146; and  “Contextualist Resolutions of Philosophical Debates,” Metaphilosophy 39 (2008), 571-590. He is now the proud daddy of a beautiful baby boy named ‘Zed.’ It did not take him long to learn these two important facts: the most beautiful smile is a toothless one, and whoever coined the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ never had to take care of a baby overnight.


Amy Olberding published three essays:  “Dreaming of the Duke of Zhou:  Exemplarism and the Analects,” in Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35:4(2008):625-639; “Slowing Death Down:  Mourning in the Analects,” in Confucius Now: Contemporary Encounters with the Analects, ed. David Jones (LaSalle, IL:  Open Court Press, 2008), 137-149; and “’A little throat cutting in the meantime’:  Seneca’s Violent Imagery,” in Philosophy and Literature 32(2008):130-144.  This last essay is a particular source of pride, as Amy thinks there just aren’t enough essays with the phrase “throat cutting” in their titles showing up in the journals.  Amy also continues to serve on the APA’s Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian-American Philosophies and Philosophers.  As part of this committee, she guest edited a state-of-the-field issue of the Committee’s Newsletter.  Amy was also recently named China Book Review Editor for the journal Philosophy East and West.


Wayne Riggs has two new essays in print:  "Epistemic Risk and the Subjectivity of Justification" in Acta Analytica 23 (1), April 2008, 1-8, and "The Value Turn in Epistemology" in New Waves in Epistemology, Duncan Pritchard & Vincent Hendricks, eds. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).  Wayne also made several presentations at various exotic locales, most notably Canada.  He reports, “Insofar as I have a reputation from last year as a “globetrotting epistemologist,” I have attempted to maintain it by travelling to Turkey, Bulgaria, California, Scotland, and Canada.  We also travelled domestically, driving from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to New York to Canada to Michigan to Kansas and back to Oklahoma (approx. 3500 miles round trip). Highlights of the trip were being surrounded by dolphins while on the New Jersey Sound, seeing Niagara Falls, wading in four of the five Great Lakes, being swarmed by big, nasty mosquitoes in Michigan, and seeing the short-grass prairie preserve in Kansas.”  This was also the year that Wayne discovered Facebook and StumbleUpon. On balance, this has not been a good thing.


Edward Sankowski continues to serve as the Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Chris Swoyer’s essay, `Abstract Entities,'' appeared as the lead paper in Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, eds., Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean W. Zimmerman (Wiley-Blackwell).   He also has two additional essays forthcoming.  They are:  ``Pluralist Conceptions of Truth,'' forthcoming in an anthology with the Oxford University Press and ``Language and Thought: Rethinking Linguistic Relativity for the Twenty-first Century,'' forthcoming in an interdisciplinary volume on Language and Cognition, with Taylor & Francis.


Zev Trachtenberg was on sabbatical in the Fall, and had a wonderful time re-reading al those works by Rousseau he hadn’t read straight through since grad school.  He was focusing on what Rousseau has to say about the human relation with the natural world—something he’s been working on lately: his paper comparing Rousseau and Thoreau on walking through nature appeared in 2008.  He’ll also present a paper on some of the complexities in Rousseu’s accounts of nature to the Rousseau Association this coming summer.  Zev continues to serve on the Norman Planning Commission, and has been a member of a task force exploring ways to revitalize Porter Avenue in downtown Norman.  If you get Cox Cable, you can see him in action on the public access channel the second Thursday of every month.  Most impressvely, he’s helping with the construction of a prototype of his son’s latest invention—a flying skateboard—for the McKinley Elementary Invention Fair.


Linda Zagzebski co-edited a large anthology in philosophy of religion with Tim Miller (Ph.D. 2008), published by Blackwell in 2009.  Her book, On Epistemology, was published by Wadsworth in summer of 2008.  Linda also continues to act as philosophical consultant for a team of researchers at California Tech looking at the brains of virtuous exemplars while they play a variety of economics games. She is the Principal Investigator of a grant from the Templeton Foundation ($967,000) to direct a fellowship program in philosophy of cosmology and philosophy of religion at Oxford.  Finally, Linda also published a couple of journal articles, a few book chapters, and had several papers reprinted this past year, a paper translated into Polish, and a paper translated into Spanish.




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