[Department of Philosophy, University of Saskatchewan, 100 Years]

Philosophy in the Community: 2005-2006 Schedule

November 1 What is happiness?

Presenter: Professor Emer O'Hagan


December 6 Health Care, Knowledge, and the Public

Presenter: Professor Viola Woodhouse

The topic of this presentation is informed consent to medical treatment. The presentation is designed to clarify the concept of informed consent, and to provide a forum for a discussion of some of the ethical issues faced by those who wish to be fully involved in decisions concerning their own health care, and the care of their family members.


January 3
Creationism vs. Science

Presenter: Professor David Crossley

In 1925 John Scopes was put on trial for teaching the theory of evolution in a high school in Tennessee. This became known as the “Scopes Monkey Trial”, and it was all the more famous because it pitted the two top lawyers of the day against one another: Clarence Darrow for the defense versus William Jennings Bryan. (The story of this trial was told in the film, Inherit the Wind, with Spencer Tracy playing Clarence Darrow.)
80 years later, in 2005, a similar trial took place, this time in Dover, Pennsylvania. Here the school board was sued for including the teaching of the theory of intelligent design - the view that the world was created by an intelligent God - in the high school science curriculum.

Together these two trials raised questions about freedom of speech and the separation of church and state, and generated a lot of discussion about what was or wasn’t a scientific theory. The biologist Richard Dawkins has argued that evolutionary theory offers the correct view of the origins of the world, although he recognizes that the case for intelligent design has had a long history and that many people have believed that God created the universe because they have accepted “some version of the ancient Argument from Design.”

In this talk we will look at this ancient argument, why it has always had considerable appeal and why some have rejected it.


February 7
Philosophy, Art, and Meaning

Presenter: Professor Eric Dayton


March 7
What is the point of punishment?

Presenter: Professor David Crossley

We all hope that punishing criminals will deter them, and others, from engaging in further criminal activities. But we also think that this is not the sole point of punishment, for we expect criminals to “get what they deserve” and are outraged when someone is given a light sentence that amounts to a mere “slap on the wrist” for a serious crime.

This sort of emotional reaction suggests that desires for revenge, feelings of vengeance, and primitive urges to retaliate against those who harm us, are controlling our thinking about punishment. While these reactions seem natural, some writers think such emotional responses are “below us” and do not reflect the measured impartial attitude we should take to those who go astray. Moreover, many are uncomfortable with harsh punishments, such as long prison terms, and think we need to abandon these and try other methods, such as shaming people (say, by forcing them to have a bumper sticker on their car which says, “I was guilty of drunk driving”) or try other remedies which focus less on blaming people and more on helping restore them to the community. Indeed, given the lack of success of traditional modes of punishment some think we need to ask ourselves this question: “What is the point of punishment?”

This talk will discuss various aspects of the problem of punishment and the theories explaining why we punish.


April 4
Captain Kirk, Michael Jackson, and Something Better than Death

Presenter: Professor Phil Dwyer


May 2 Morality and Traditional Christianity

Presenter: Professor T.Y. Henderson

This talk considers a controversy of long standing in Christian theology, namely whether morality is necessarily related to religion, or whether the relationship of morality to religion is merely a historical one. This sort of problem was first noticed by Plato. There are defenders on both sides. I will not take a posistion on either side, but will try to make the opposing views clear and to look at the implications of each. I will do this by examining the relationships among certain concepts, such as omnipotence (infinite power), omnibenevolence (infinite goodness) and logical necessity. The audience will be asked to consider which view is most consistent with a traditional conception of Christianity. No attempt will be made to determine whether the arguments examined would apply to any other religion, or to unusual versions of Christianity, such as those defended by Kierkegaard or Paul Tillich. I will also consider, briefly, whether it would be necessary for a reasonable person to give up a belief that morality is objective if the relationship between morality and religion is not a necessary one.

No attempt will be made to examine or to solve all of the philosophical problems involved in the study of religion or theology, such as (a) whether God's existence can be proved, (b) whether free will can be reconciled with God's omniscience, (c) whether the Problem of Evil can be solved within the framework of traditional Christianity, and so on. All of these and many more are interesting issues in the philosophical study of religion, but are not directly related to the topic of tonight's discussion.


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