SUNY Oneonta’s Philosophy Conference

David Anderson, Staff Writer |

On April 7 and 8, SUNY Oneonta hosted the 22nd Annual Philosophy Conference at Hunt Union. Run by a committee of ten students from a wide swath of majors, the conference brought together participants from as close to home as Hartwick to as far away as the University of Hawaii to discuss various philosophical topics. While all falling under the general category of philosophy, the various papers being presented encompassed a wide range of topics. One attending the conference could hear a presentation on the ontological nature of music followed by a debate regarding the morality of head transplantation and begin the conference bright and early again the next day with an analysis of political reactions to the Alt-right. Additionally, each year is topped off with a keynote speaker Friday evening. This year, Oneonta hosted Lehigh Philosophy Professor Dr. Chad Kautzer and his presentation “Race, Freedom, and Armed Self-Defense in the U.S.”

Conference attendee and discussant, Anthony Vecere, had this to say regarding Kautzer’s presentation: “He did a good job of highlighting the fact that the gun debate has only recently become a highly politicized issue. He also had a really interesting stance on systematic racism, and pointed out that the race inequality which exists in America inexplicably drives the protected white class to own more guns and defend themselves against a system that already favors them.”

This kind of conference doesn’t get put together effortlessly, and Conference Committee Chair Khila Pecoraro describes the process as taking nearly an entire semester, stating “We [the conference committee] spend the whole semester in the Philosophy 390 class called Philosophy Conference. Our first month in the class is dedicated to reading and reviewing papers to accept into conference. Then we invite the authors of accepted papers to present their papers at the conference. This is when the planning begins: catering, room reservations, scheduling, travel and lodging for presenters, making arrangements for our keynote speaker, and publicizing the event. This year, there were ten committee members, including myself, along with our faculty advisor, Dr. Qiong Wang, and we had two and a half months to pull it all together. We were lucky to receive support from the President of the College, Dr. Nancy Kleniewski, the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, Dr. Richard Lee, and the Philosophy Department.”

However even with all this support, the weeks leading up to the conference can be hectic, Ms. Pecoraro elaborates: “There was a scramble during the last few weeks to pull the remaining loose ends together, but it was all worth it, because the conference itself went flawlessly! I can’t believe how smoothly everything went and how much our presenters enjoyed themselves. It was a great two days of learning and meeting new people.”

The conference consists of six ninety-minute sessions on Friday and three sessions on Saturday. Each session consists of two panelists presenting philosophical papers and two corresponding discussants who initiate a question and answer session following the panelists’ presentations. Discussants are generally students drawn from the Oneonta Philosophy department, but visiting panelists are also allowed to volunteer as discussants as well as anyone interested from other departments. Once a panelist’s paper is accepted into the conference, they are sent to a discussant who then develops a set of questions to highlight what they found to be particularly thought-provoking regarding the paper. To further facilitate this communication, the conference participants attend a reception the evening prior where discussants, panelists, Philosophy Department professors, and the keynote speaker can mingle and get the philosophical juices flowing.

Katie Garrity, another Conference Committee member, felt similarly pleased with the turnout of the event this year and is looking forward to pushing the boundaries even further next year, having stated, “We had a noticeably better turn out than last year, and we’re hoping to keep pushing the limits of conference to get more presenters and more attendees and just a bigger, better experience over all!”

Philosophy may seem like a heady topic to engage with for the average student, but these annual conferences demonstrate the field’s contemporary relevance. If you’re feeling vaguely philosophical this time next year, contact the Philosophy Club to get involved with this stirring weekend of critical thought.

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