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12th Annual PhilFEST

Under normal circumstances, PhilFEST is the highlight of our undergraduate community’s life, in which honors students present their research in 15-minute presentations followed by a public Q&A in front of a live audience from across the University and including, where possible, families and friends. Under the conditions of continuing Covid-19 precautions, we once again needed to make do with a Zoom version of the event, held on April 29, 2021, with many details and rehearsals to be done beforehand. Despite these restrictions the event was a wonderful success attended by almost 50 persons attending from diverse locations, thus exploiting one of the advantages of the online-format with listeners from all over the world who tuned in to witness a fantastic series of presentations and a shared memory of accomplishment. This year’s research projects were:


Emma Eder: Kant, Korsgaard, And Christianity On Valuing Humanity (Supervisor Prof. Kyla Ebels Duggan)

In this presentation of her research, Emma Eder first outlined the requirements for, and then judged the adequacy of a Koorsgardian approach to a secular explication of the incomparable or ‘absolute’ value of human beings to each other. In her trenchant analysis, Emma Eder did stake out a much wider extent to which secular views like Kant’s can account for and explain the absolute value for human beings towards one another, but also discovered an ultimate level at which the commitment to others as absolute values in themselves would need additional buttressing in order to provide it with a foundation. Her proposal was to see this as the role of religion in a largely secular moral community.


Patrice Haryanto: Individual Responsibility And Climate Change (Supervisor Prof. Chad Horne)

In her presentation, Patrice Haryanto discussed the widely held view about individual responsibilities for collectively caused harms that relies on the so-called ‘causal inefficacy problem’, which says that, as each individual can neither cause nor by cessation improve collectively caused bad situations like climate change caused by global emissions. She contrasted it with more holistic views and her own that are able to attribute in a differentiated way those parts of the responsibility to individuals that can be traced back to them, and argued that thereby, we can fully understand the correctness of the moral intuition that everyone needs to own their part of the responsibility for collectively caused harms (and thus, if coherent, change their behavior).


Alexandra Lang: Continuance In A World Which Passes Away (Supervisor Prof. Mark Alznauer)

Alexandra Lang investigated the near-paradox situations involved with accounting for grief over the loss of loved ones, combining the traditions of phenomenology and psychoanalysis for this clarifying task. The paradox she investigated, personified in Freud’s own unrelenting grief over the loss of his daughter in the 1919 flu pandemic, was how an absent other can be the target and cause of love towards others for those who grieve their loved ones, and her response, inspired by Freud’s own account, was to do justice to the fact that so many of our lived experiences are, as psychoanalysis explains, out of reach of consciousness that the memories of lost loved ones can encounter us as if they were an Other even though their physical source be our own brain.


Steven Zakuta: The Nature Of The Firm And Loyalty In Business (Supervisor Prof. Chad Horne)

The presentation of Steven Zakuta explored the extent to which such apparently counter-instrumental values as loyalty (of employees to employer or vice versa) and their attending feelings of obligations and entitlements could fit in an economic world where business decisions and policies would, as economic theory assumes, be entirely determined by motives of profit maximization and similar basic assumptions about economic rationality. His exploration brought forth that, while some of the content of such value commitments might be understood as virtues for agents within the economic theory paradigm, there are remnant contents of these values and ideals that, on the one hand, cannot be reconstructed as economically called for, but on the other hand, are also indispensable for the collective cohesion of entities and institutions like ‘the firm’ that economic theory assumes as fundamental organizational units of a functioning economy.