Philosophy goes transcontinental

Dalhousie International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

- March 29, 2012

Dal attendees take the opportunity to speak with Stanford University student Elizabeth Grabowski following a Skype presentation. (Paula Bugden photo)
Dal attendees take the opportunity to speak with Stanford University student Elizabeth Grabowski following a Skype presentation. (Paula Bugden photo)

It took a mix of motivation, hard work and creativity, but the Dalhousie Undergraduate Philosophy Society (DUPS) hosted a big first this past weekend: the first international undergraduate philosophy conference in North America to be fully organized and led by students.

“The purpose was to bring ideas from around the world together,” explains Veromi Arsiradam, the fourth-year honours philosophy student who coordinated the Dalhousie International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.

She was inspired to plan the event after presenting at the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society (DASSS) Conference last month. Fellow DUPS members Greg Slack and Dave Dexter pitched in and their project was underway.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience,” says Ms. Arsiradam. “And little by little, it got done.”

Going global

Technology played a key role during the conference, incorporating class discussions and Skype sessions to make the event accessible and affordable for everyone involved. As a result philosophy undergrads from Canada and the U.S. to Australia and the U.K. were able to showcase their work.

The conference had 40 proposals submitted, narrowed down to 14 presenters. Students from Brown University, University of Leeds, Mount Allison University, Stanford University, Macquarie University, University of Victoria and Memorial University of Newfoundland presented via Skype.

Six Dalhousie students also took part, including: Max Ma with “Kant and Aesthetics”; Erik Nelson with “Cutting off Your Nose to Spite Your Face”; Keiran Pattullo Graf with “Who Owns Whom in the Clash of the Dialecticians”; Shane Bryson with “The Bad Touch: Masculinity, Man Hands and Care Work”; Greg Slack with “Quine’s Naturalized Epistemology: Not Epistemology”; and Dave Dexter with “Kidnappings and Coordination Problems.”

“There’s really nothing more rewarding than sitting down with your peers and talking philosophy. That’s what this whole day is about,” said Mr. Dexter, who was also a conference co-organizer.

Mr. Slack, the conference’s moderator, finds this sort of learning a nice accompaniment to the typical classroom experience.

“The real passionate ones (students) are the ones you get at a conference like this. You get a higher level of enthusiasm and knowledge. Everybody wins. In a classroom, while you’ve got the guiding light of a professor, here you’ve got more variety.”

And with the success of the conference, Ms. Arsiradam hopes it will become an annual DUPS event.

“To put something like this together is just…wow,” she adds.

The Dalhousie Student Union, Dalhousie Alumni Relations and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences all were supporters of the conference. 


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