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14th Annual PhilFEST

14th PhilFEST on 04-19-2023 

PhilFEST is the highlight of our undergraduate community’s life in which honors students present their research in 15-20 minute presentations followed by a public Q&A. This year, the live-event with a live audience from across the university and including, where possible, families and friends was attended by almost 50 persons. A fascinating series of presentations at a superior level of accomplishment and intriguing discussions of the students’ research made this event a big success. The research projects presented were, in the order of appearance:

Sofía Stutz: Kant and Murdoch on Turning Outward (Supervisor: Prof Kyla Ebels-Duggan)

Both Kant and Murdoch locate the root of immorality in self-absorption. Both construe the perpetual struggle with this tendency as the central moral challenge, and turning outwards towards others as the central moral task. They offer, however, distinct ways of interpreting the problem; Kant understands it in terms of motivation, and Murdoch, in terms of clarity. On its own, each account fails to provide a sufficiently robust approach to resolving its version of the central challenge. Surprisingly, we can find in Murdoch a solution to the Kantian challenge, and in Kant, a solution to the Murdochian challenge. Stutz argued, in particular, that the weak-willed agent should turn to Murdoch, and the morally confused agent, to Kant. She further claimed that these philosophers cannot provide adequate guidance within their own theory for resolving what they take to be the central challenge, because their distinct conceptions of virtue hinder them from doing so.

Tomer Cherki: A Dynamic Approach to Hegel's Philosophy of Religion (Supervisor: Prof Mark Alznauer)

Hegel is the first figure in the philosophy of religion to view the development of religion in history as essential to its full understanding. However, the dynamism essential to Hegel’s concept of religion is never extended into the intermediary stages of religion’s progression, to the particular world religions that form his narrative. The sole exception to this static treatment of world religions is Christianity. Since non-Christian religions did indeed change over the course of time, Hegel’s approach seems Christocentric in a manner that fails to do justice to the kind of mutability we find present in the historical record. Cherki focused predominantly on the relationship between Hegelianism and the Jewish religion. Modern Jewish thinkers have viewed Christocentrism as so essential to Hegel’s theory that it is incompatible with a dynamic understanding of Judaism. The question Cherki wished to raise was whether Hegel’s philosophy of religion can be read in a way that allows for the dynamism of religions other than Christianity.

Mika Gao: Collective Imagination and Institutional Regulation (Supervisor: Prof Sandy Goldberg)

Collective imagination is a shared vision, a common language constituted through memories, narratives, and discourses that are shared and generally accepted. It is essential for the construction of any possible social group, social interactions, and most importantly, the making of self and self-identification. However, while collective imagination empowers certain representations which are “appropriately” archived and circulated, the subjugated knowledge and representations are simultaneously disempowered and silenced.

While merely presenting the counter-representations would be sufficient for resisting the dominant ideologies, Foucaultian genealogy would be a possible approach to help us re-examine practices of remembering and forgetting and thus re-imagining alternative possibilities by re-energizing counter-representations and counter-memories. However, the collective imagination constituted under institutional regulations, including both explicit ones (such as propaganda and censorship) and implicit ones (such as internalized value), may render the practice of the genealogical approach impossible.

John Perales, Jr: Propaganda and the Public (Supervisor Prof. Megan Hyska)

This presentation sought to demonstrate the possible ideological gap between propaganda scholars and members of the general public in regard to identifying and characterizing propaganda. Perales gave an overview of my methodological approach as well as the interview study he conducted. The results from his study were examined in depth. This involved placing both the quantitative and qualitative data in  conversation with one another in order to deliver a holistic understanding of the results. Afterward, he discussed how the beliefs of the general public compare to the work of the propaganda scholars he studied and addressed whether an ideological gap exists. Perales concluded by suggesting where further research can be done and where his study could be improved.