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Spring 2018 meetings of the Gonzaga Socratic Club will be held according to the schedule below.  Please note that events this semester will be held on different days and times and in different locations.  Check the listing for specifics in each case.  Information related to each talk will be posted on this site as it becomes available.

Mon Feb 5
4:30 pm, Hemmingson 201
Joan Braune, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Roisin Lally, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Is Nationalism a Type of Idolatry?"

Many ideologies, social movements, and passionate feelings go by the same name of “nationalism.” Some political theorists distinguish types of nationalism to include civic nationalism, economic nationalism, ethno-nationalism, and neo-fascist white nationalism, among other types. Different “nationalisms” can have opposing theoretical bases and may stand in tension with or in opposition to one another. They may also overlap with one another at times as well, but any reductionist equivalency between them should be avoided.

Like the mythical many-headed sea-monster (hydra) that grows two new heads each time one is severed, nationalism’s “many heads” make it difficult to confront with a single line of argumentative attack; philosophers and political theorists may argue against one form of nationalism, only to find two new, reformulated types of nationalism sprout up in its place. Nevertheless, nationalism as a modern phenomenon and as a product of modern understandings of such ideas as state, nation, race, and people, can be understood in its historical and social context in light of a phenomenon that Catholic theologian William T. Cavanaugh has called “the migration of the holy.” With the rise of the modern secular nation-state, the nation-state became invested with religious properties and was rendered reverence with new rituals. (Today, as Cavanaugh points out, few people in the industrialized first-world countries would be willing to kill for their faith, yet many would be willing to kill for their country.)


Two critics of nationalism, the Christian mystic Simone Weil and the Critical Theorist Erich Fromm, independently formulated critiques of nationalism as “idolatry.” According to both thinkers, one drawing from Christian tradition and the other from Jewish philosophy and Marxism, ideological “idols,” including nationalism, are attempts to fill “voids” of meaning. Clearing away ideological idols unveils a reality that is initially experienced as empty, dark, and “void,” as Christian mystics in the tradition of the “dark night” (St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, more recently Thomas Merton) realized. According to Weil and to some extent Fromm, it is only through entering this void that the transcendent can be encountered. Further, according to Weil, one’s personal identity is found only through self-emptying (or “decreation”), entering the void. Nationalism, like other ideological idols, manufactures phony identities that are at constant risk of dissolution. To prevent anyone from pulling away the mask and revealing a self that is still void, the defenders of ideological idols turn to the construction of mythologies, slogans, pseudo-science, and eventually violence. Fromm and Weil argue by contrast that the only way out of the void is found through consciously entering it.

Feb 19-21, Barbieri Courtroom, Gonzaga University School of Law

Mulier Fortis:

Women Scholars on Women in the Early Church

A series of free public lectures on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, in honor of Rev. Patrick J. Hartin, Professor Emeritus, Gonzaga University, and priest of the Diocese of Spokane.

Sponsored by the Faith and Reason Institute of Gonzaga University, Bishop White Seminary, and the Gonzaga Socratic Club

“St. Macrina the Younger, the Spirit of Holiness, and the ‘God-breathed Scriptures”

Monday, February 19, 7:00 p.m.: Prof. Anna M. Silvas

University of New England, Australia


“A Christian Innovation: Women as Types of Christ”

Tuesday, February 20, 7:00 p.m.: Prof. Catherine Brown Tkacz

Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine


“The Importance of Retrieving ‘the Women of Galilee’”

Wednesday, February 21, 7:00 p.m.: Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., Professor Emeritus

Mundelein Seminary, Chicago

Mar 26,
Corwin Bryan, recent Computer Science / Honors graduate, Gonzaga University (2015)
Paul De Palma, Computer Science, Gonzaga University

"Scientism: What It Is, Where It Came From, and Why It Matters"

Scientism, the belief that science is, for human beings, the most reliable or even the only reliable way of coming to knowledge, dominates modern Western society today. Science is thought to provide the standard for knowledge even in non-scientific contexts. On this view, beliefs must be confirmed through orderly processes of perception and reasoning, and only count as genuine knowledge when critically examined in a rigorous way that at least roughly approximates scientific method. Beliefs that cannot be tested and verified according to this process cannot be called knowledge, and must be set aside, particularly when making decisions that affect the public.


Scientism is the culmination of the epistemology of skepticism that began in the 1600s with Descartes and Bacon and the Scientific Revolution, or perhaps even earlier in the Reformation or the Renaissance. While scientism might seem to derive plausibility and authority from its relationship to the undeniable successes of modern scientific method, it is not without problems. Alternative epistemologies, which are often omitted from the discussion, need to be reconsidered.

Apr 16,5:30 pm
JP 017
Rick Stoody, Philosophy, Gonzaga University "Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism"
It is often thought that there is deep accord between science and naturalism.  Some even claim that naturalism is part of the “scientific worldview.”  However, in the last chapter of his book, _Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism_ (2011), Alvin Plantinga argues that this accord is an illusion.  There is a deep conflict, he says, between naturalism and current evolutionary theory, and hence between naturalism and science.
Plantinga offers what he calls the “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.”  He argues that it is improbable, given both naturalism and evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable.  And once a naturalist recognizes this, she has a defeater for the proposition that her faculties are reliable. (A "defeater" in epistemology is a belief that undermines or is inconsistent with another belief.)  If a naturalist has a defeater for the proposition that her faculties are reliable, then she has a defeater for any beliefs she takes to be produced by those faculties, including her belief in both naturalism and evolution.  Therefore, she can’t rationally believe both naturalism and evolution.  Thus, Plantinga concludes, there is a deep conflict between naturalism and science since one can’t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution


For information about the Gonzaga Socratic Club or to propose topics or speakers for future meetings, contact the Club Director:

David Calhoun



©2004-2018 David H. Calhoun. Papers and presentation materials available on this site are used by permission of the authors. Site last updated April 24, 2018.