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The Gonzaga Socratic Club has met monthly during the academic year since September 2004.  Live links in the archived schedule will lead you to presentation materials (text, outline, summary notes) where they are available.  Since Fall 2010, meetings have been video-archived and are available via links in the descriptions below; audio recordings are available for some meetings prior to Fall 2010, as noted in the descriptions.

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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


Mon Oct 23
4 pm
JC (Jepson Center) 017
Fr Michael Maher, SJ, History and Catholic Studies, Gonzaga University
Dale Soden, History and Weyerhaeuser Center, Whitworth University
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
The Meaning and Legacy of the Protestant Reformation on the 500th Anniversary"

We mark this year the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which, according to most historians, was sparked when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door. (According to the story, the date of the posting was October 31, 1517.) The Gonzaga Socratic Club will commemorate the anniversary with a panel discussion of the historical context, meaning, and legacy of the Protestant Reformation. Themes to be addressed include the nature of reformation and reformation initiatives within the church in the 1500s and 1600s, ecclesiastical authority and individualism, the nature of faith, and the role of faith and reason in religious commitment.

Mon Dec 4
6 pm
JC 114 (Wolff Auditorium, Jepson Center)
Mitch Stokes, Senior Fellow of Philosophy, New Saint Andrews College
Joe Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
"Sola Scriptura and the Problem of the Criterion"

During the Reformation, the problem of the criterion became a particularly salient problem as the Reformers claimed that the Church wasn’t applying the proper criterion of truth—the proper set of theological rules—and that Scripture alone was the final court of appeal in theological disagreements.  But making the case for that claim, and disputing it, requires raising the question of the criterion at a meta-level. What is the ultimate criterion of truth in theology, that would allow us to decide questions such as the status and authority of Scripture?

In this paper I attempt to navigate these issues, proposing how contemporary Christians might properly deal with the fact that many theological disagreements are second-order, or “meta” disagreements: disagreements about the fundamental rules of theology.  More specifically, I offer an analysis of how exactly the problem of the criterion applies to the Bible’s role in theology.  I argue that the coherence of sola scriptura depends in part on its ability to adequately deal with the problem of the criterion.  I also argue that if sola scriptura is conceived of as a doctrine about the ultimate or global epistemic authority—the ultimate criterion of truth—it falls prey to the problem of the criterion.  I then argue that sola scriptura is not about global or ultimate epistemic authority but, rather, about a more specific, but related problem, namely, the problem of where to locate God’s word or authority.


Mon Jan 30, 7 pm
CG 101
Michael W. Tkacz, Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., Professor of Christian Philosophy, Gonzaga University

The Coughlin Professorship Inaugural Lecture:
"Why We Need to Know the Catholic Intellectual Tradition"

What is the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, and why is it important to know about it and to absorb it?  The newly appointed Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., Professor of Christian Philosophy, Michael W. Tkacz, will address this question.

This event is co-sponsored by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute.

Feb 20-22
  "The Church and Her Scriptures"

This series is co-sponsored by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute.

Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, Marquette University
Mon Feb 20
"Ephrem's Mary: A Poetics of Wonder"
Dr. Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent is Assistant Professor of Theology at Marquette University and an alumna of Gonzaga University. A specialist in Syriac Studies and Early Christianity, she earned her doctorate from Brown University and has also studied Syriac at Oxford University. Her books include Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches and she is the co-editor of a digital database on Syriac Saints and their Lives. Her translations from Syriac will appear in the Cambridge Edition of Early Christianity: Writings.

“Ephrem's Mary: A Poetics of Wonder,” her lecture for this series, treats the rich collection of hymns on Mary by St. Ephrem the Syrian, which all come from his exegesis of Luke. These hymns present Mary as a model of discipleship, a philosopher, and the first to recognize and adore the mystery of Christ's person

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, All Saint's Orthodox Church (Chicago, IL) / Senior Editor, Touchstone Magazine
Tues Feb 21
"I Have Believed: Christ and the Psalms"
Rev. Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints’ Orthodox Church in Chicago and a senior editor of Touchstone. He was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), St. Anselm’s College (Rome), The Pontifical Biblical Institute (Rome), and St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary (South Canaan, PA). His many books and include Christ in His Psalms; The Trial of Job: Orthodox Reflections on the Book of Job; and Creation and the Patriarchal Histories: Orthodox Reflections on the Book of Genesis. He has in addition published over a thousand articles, editorials, and book reviews in numerous journals including The Catholic Biblical Quarterly and St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly.

“’I Have Believed’: Christ and the Psalms” is the subject of his lecture. In it he will draw on his learned and pastoral reflections on the Psalms as guided by their use in the Liturgy and the early Church, especially the Greek Fathers. Notably, he will outline simple suggestions for praying the Psalms privately.

Michael Cameron, University of Portland
Wed Feb 22
"Why We Need to Know the Catholic Intellectual Tradition"
Michael Cameron is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Portland. Beginning with his dissertation at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Prof. Cameron has explored a career-long focus on St. Augustine, one of the Latin Doctors of the Church. His books include Christ Meets Me Everywhere: Augustine's Early Figurative Exegesis (Oxford University Press, 2012); Essential Expositions of the Psalms by Saint Augustine (New City Press, 2015); Unfolding Sacred Scripture: How Catholics Read the Bible (Liturgy Training Publications, 2015).

"The Rhetorical Function of Scripture in Augustine’s Confessions" is his topic. When the rhetorician-turned-bishop Augustine portrayed his “restless heart” in the Confessions, he used Scripture itself to tell his story. This lecture will explore the ways that Augustine joined rhetorical skill to his reading of the Bible to create a spiritual self-portrait that remains one of the great masterpieces of literary and theological art

Thu Mar 2, 7:30 pm
Wolff Auditorium, Jepson
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
" What Tocqueville Saw in Ireland in 1835: Photographs from his Footsteps"
A talk co-sponsored by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute

The French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville is famous primarily for his remarkable two-volume work, Democracy in America. Most people are unaware, however, that after finishing the first volume of the Democracy, and prior to beginning work on the second, Tocqueville visited Ireland. Not surprisingly, he kept a daily record of his travels there, which were discovered among his papers after his death by his friend and traveling companion Beaumont. Gonzaga political philosopher Douglas Kries has studied these journals and has written scholarly articles on their contents. With his wife Sheila, he has also visited and photographed most of the places in Ireland that Tocqueville discusses in his travelogue. In this lecture, he will discuss informally some of the highlights of Tocqueville’s travels, and particularly his reflections on the relationship between Christian faith and democratic politics as witnessed their interactions in Ireland. His comments will be accompanied by photographs of the sites that Tocqueville visited, such as Muckross Abbey, Newport, and Kilkenny. The goal will be to look at Irish faith and politics as Tocqueville saw them in the summer of 1835.


Fri Sept 9, 9 pm, Magnuson Theatre Charles Pepiton, Theatre Gonzaga University
Marti Runnels, Theatre, Wayland Baptist University
Cory Norman, Theatre, Texas Tech University
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Brian Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy & Honors, Gonzaga University
Post-show discussion panel after Gonzaga Production of Mark St. Germain's Freud's Last Session

Imagine a conversation between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and the young, rising Oxford don C.S. Lewis one night in London on the eve of World War II.  Mark St. Germain’s play Freud's Last Session is just such an imagined encounter.  The topic of the play was suggested to playwright St. Germain by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.’s book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life (Free Press, 2002).  Nicholi’s book was itself based on the course that Nicholi, clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, taught at Harvard College and the Harvard Medical School for more than 35 years.  The book led to a PBS series as well.

Freud’s Last Session premiered in 2009, and is coming to Gonzaga as a special guest production of Wayland Baptist University, directed by Gonzaga’s Charles M. Pepiton.  The play will be performed on two consecutive evenings, Friday, September 9, 7:30 pm, and Saturday, September 10, 7:30 pm at Gonzaga’s Magnuson Theatre (in College Hall on the Gonzaga campus).  The Friday night performance will be a special co-sponsored event by the Gonzaga Socratic Club and the Gonzaga Faith & Reason Institute, and will feature a post-show discussion panel featuring the director, Charles Pepiton, the guest actors Marti Runnels (Wayland Baptist University) and Cory Norman (Texas Tech University), and Gonzaga philosophers David Calhoun, Brian Clayton, and Fr. Tim Clancy, SJ.  We strongly encourage you to attend the Friday evening performance.  The post-show panel, which will be open to the public, will take place in the Magnuson Theatre starting at about 9 pm.

Tickets for the Gonzaga production  of Freud’s Last Session can be purchased at the Magnuson Theatre Box Office (509.313.6553) or online.  GU students, staff, and faculty tickets are $10, general public tickets are $15.  Group discounts may be available; please call or email Colleen McLean (mcleanc@gonzaga.edu) at the Magnuson Theatre Box Office for further information.

Mon Oct 24
CG 101
Andrzej Wiercinski, Philosophy, University of Warsaw / Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat "The Hermeneutics of Discernment: The Kairological Aspect of Education"

Dr. Andrzej Wiercinski, who has expertise and teaching experience across a number of fields in philosophy, theology, and education, will explore in this presentation the relationship between the human experience of “lived time” and educational practice.  He argues that approaching the practice of education as a practice of interpretation points us toward the central role of “lived time,” the sense of time evoked by the concept of kairos, a time that remains open to the mystery of self and other. Along the way, Wiercinski promises to explain the roles of poetry and art for education, arguing that education itself is a form of art.  Further, he will offer some tentative ideas about how education is particularly informed by questions of religious or theological mission.

Mon Nov 14
CG 101
Clayton Bohnet, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Ted Di Maria, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Kierkegaard on Contemporaneity with Christ"
What does it mean to be contemporary with someone? The obvious meaning suggests that one can be contemporary only with events and persons found in one’s own time. However, Soren Kierkegaard argues that genuine Christian belief and life requires a relation with Christ that is more than admiration or commemoration of one long gone; it is instead "contemporaneity with Christ." Kierkegaard acknowledges that this claim might seem to be an odd bit of rhetorical flourish, but his books Philosophical Fragments and Practice in Christianity give an account of the exceptional Christian conception of contemporaneity in which the subject is conditioned by but not reducible to the actual.

Kierkegaard presents three models for understanding what is contemporary with Christ: the eye witness, Socratic interiority, and properly Christian belief. The properly Christian relation to time and history involves an acknowledgment of the "otherness" of the past, but avoids reducing the the past to a merely alien other that would seal Christ into the tomb. This means that the authentic relation of contemporaneity to Christ is not a mere "as if" situation: one does not merely live "as if" Christ were present as one’s contemporary, but in the unity of ideality and practice, brought to the pinnacle of rigor, one lives with and in the presence of Christ.

Mon Dec 5
CG 101
Danielle Layne, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Christian Platonism"

The standard general outlook of educated Christians for the first millennium of the Christian age was a synthesis of Christianity and Platonism.  Many famous Christian thinkers and intellectuals across the years, beginning with Justin Martyr and including St Augustine, Boethius, and St Anselm, were Christian Platonists.  Despite the great synthesis of Christianity and Aristotelian philosophy promoted by Albert the Great and St Thomas Aquinas in the High Middle Ages, Platonism has continued to be an important conceptual point of reference for Christians up to the present.  For example, the first president of the Oxford Socratic Club, the inspiration for the Gonzaga Socratic Club, author, literary scholar, and apologist C.S. Lewis, also had a Christian outlook deeply shaped by Platonic ideas (see The Great Divorce for one particularly striking fictional expression of Lewis’s Christian Platonism).  In particular, the Platonic emphasis on the fundamental metaphysical role of ultimate reality, the radical dependence of perceived reality, and the transcendent and divine status of Good, Beauty, and Truth appealed to Christian thinkers seeking a systematic philosophical expression of Christian ideas.
In this talk, Gonzaga philosopher Danielle Layne sketches out a personal account of how Christian commitment and a Socratic-Platonic philosophical outlook complement one another in a rich and powerful way.  Dr Layne will touch on many of the historical and conceptual distinctives of Christian Platonism, but her focus will be more directly on the existential appeal of Christian Platonism, that is, how the fusion of Platonism and Christianity can be a way of life.


Mon Jan 25
CG 101
William Tullius, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Dan Bradley, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"The Theological / Metaphysical Foundations of Husserl's Phenomenological Ethics"

Recent scholarly work into the ethical philosophy of Edmund Husserl has brought to light the basic outlines of Husserl’s ethics of vocation. Husserl holds to the position that the ethical life must be grounded upon at least two basic theses: 1) ethical calling is calling of the individual to the realization of their ‘true selves’, i.e. their best self that they are called to be in light of a notion of divine perfection, and 2) that ethical calling, value, and ultimately even objectivity, make no sense in the absence of a notion of God as the entelechy of all intentional life and of all valuation in general.

Certain scholars have argued, however, that Husserl’s ethics, particularly in its ultimate dependence upon the theological principle of faith in God and an immanent relation to divine being implicit in the Husserlian concept of the moral self, is phenomenologically untenable. I argue against this view and claim that phenomenology can indeed develop a case for the coherence of Husserl’s ethics by paying closer attention to the so-called limit-problems of metaphysics on which Husserl was working towards the end of his life. Here, Husserl discloses his thinking regarding the religious metaphysics undergirding his phenomenology, and without which, as Husserl actually seems to suggest, phenomenology cannot ultimately be supported at all. I conclude with some reflections on the implications which this metaphysics has for an interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology as a non-religious and, as Heidegger has put it, an ‘a-theistic’ philosophy.

Feb 15-17
SPECIAL LECTURE SERIES: The Church and Her Scriptures: Lectures in Honor of Fr. Patrick Hartin

On the week of February 22, the Gonzaga Socratic Club will co-sponsor a set of lectures presented by the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute and Bishop White Seminary at Gonzaga University

Benedict T. Viviano, New Testament, University of Fribourg (Emeritus)

"Matthew Today: Paradoxes and Politics"
Mon, Feb 15, 7 pm
Barbieri Courtroom, Gonzaga Law School

Patrick J. Hartin, Religious Studies, Gonzaga Univerisity
"A Catholic Interpretation of the Scriptures"
Tues, Feb 16, 7 pm
Barbieri Courtroom, Gonzaga Law School

Catherine Brown Tkacz, Theology, Ukrainian Catholic University
"Susanna and Matthew's Passion Narrative"
Wed, Feb 17, 7 pm
Wolff Auditorium, Jepson

Mon Mar 21
CG 101
Brian Henning, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Stewardship and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis: Reflections on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si"
The new encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato Si', powerfully addresses the search for a more adequate conception for ourselves and our relationship to nature.  While "sustainability" has become the standard way of thinking about the environment in recent years, the encyclical and other critical environmental texts challenge the sustainability paradigm, and also show the limits of a simplistic understanding of ecological stewardship.  The encyclical's message is more radical than much of its popular discussion has revealed. By contrast, it points to a model of "deep sustainability," which extends the stewardship paradigm into a notion of care that is guided and governed by human humility.  This new model of "deep sustainability" has important implications for Gonzaga's Jesuit educational mission.

NOTE: Dr. Henning's presentation is based in part on his recent book chapter, also titled "Stewardship and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis" (in For Our Common Home, ed. John B. Cobb, Jr., and Ignaio Castuera [Anoka, MN: Process Century Press, 2015], 41-51.

Mon Apr 18
CG 101
Matthew Rindge, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University "Cinematic Parables of the American Dream"

The sacred ethos of the American Dream has become a central pillar of American civil religion. The belief that meaning is fashioned from some mixture of family, friends, a stable career, and financial security permeates American culture.  In the final Gonzaga Socratic Club meeting for this academic year, Matt Rindge (Religious Studies, Gonzaga) examines three films that assault this venerated American myth. Fight Club (1999), American Beauty (1999), and About Schmidt (2002) indict the American Dream as a meaningless enterprise that is existentially, ethically, and aesthetically bankrupt.  In their blistering critique of the hallowed wisdom of the American Dream, these films function like Jesus' parables. As narratives of disorientation, Jesus' parables upend conventional and cherished worldviews.  Rindge illustrates the religious function of these films as parables of subversion that provoke rather than comfort and disturb rather than stabilize. Ultimately, Rindge considers how these parabolic films operate as sacred texts in their own right.  Rindge's presentation is based on his new book Profane Parables: Film and the American Dream (Baylor U Press, 2016), and will feature clips from the films under analysis.


Mon Sept 14
CG 101
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Joe Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
"Faith and Belief: The How and Why (or Epistemology) of Religious Belief"

What is faith?  Is faith, as some contemporary critics of religion complain, "belief without evidence"?  If not, is it, on the other hand, just the result of appropriate and relevant evidence?  What is faith?  How much is will or choice involved in believing?  How do we convert or change beliefs?

These questions concern "epistemology," the branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge.  We will explore the epistemology of religious belief in this presentation.

Mon Oct 5
CG 101
Paul Herrick, Philosophy, Shoreline Community College
Charlie Lassiter, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"C.S. Lewis's Argument from Reason: A Defense"

On February 2, 1948 the Oxford Socratic Club, the namesake of the Gonzaga Socratic Club, hosted a now-famous debate between C.S. Lewis and philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. The topic was an argument Lewis had given in a recently published book, Miracles, for the claim that (a) naturalism is self-defeating and (b) if we follow the argument to its logical conclusion we end with the existence of God understood in classical theistic terms.  Professor Herrick will revisit Lewis’s argument, often called the “argument from reason,” insofar as it addresses how reason fits into a naturalistic philosophical outlook, and explores the extent to which reason can or cannot be conceived in naturalistic terms.   Herrick will point out some gaps in Lewis’s reasoning that are rarely noted and then suggest some plausible ways Lewis could have bridged them had he had at his disposal the resources of contemporary modal logic.

Paul Herrick earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Washington.  Since 1983 he has taught philosophy at Shoreline Community College.  He is the author of three books published by Oxford University Press: The Many Worlds of Logic (1994, 1999), Introduction to Logic (2012), and Think With Socrates: An Introduction to Critical Thinking (2015).  He and his wife Joan live in the city of Shoreline.

Mon Nov 9
CG 101
Rob Hauck, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
Danielle Layne, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Do Not Grieve the Spirit: The Passions in Early Christian and Hellenistic Thought"
The Epistle to the Ephesians includes the injunction, "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30).  One of the earliest commentaries on the passage, by Origen of Alexandria, cites a stock Stoic definition of grief as a passion, and asserts that it is impossible for the spirit of God to suffer a passion such as grief (lupē).  This opens a window to a rather widespread debate over the passions in early Christian thought.  Some early Christian texts, such as the Shepherd of Hermas, describe the passions as spirits or demons that are the source of spiritual impurity in the self and the community.  Clement of Alexandria enters into a debate with the Valentinians on just this point--whether the passions are uncontrollable spirits that corrupt human nature, or whether they are natural but irrational urges that are within our control.  This begins a discussion that leads to the subsequent monastic framework for the seven deadly sins, on the one hand, and the christological debates of the 4th and 5th centuries on the other, but in the second century there were a variety of contexts and approaches to this issue, that reflect both contemporary philosophical approaches to the passions, and contemporary early Christian understandings of salvation and the human condition.

Mon Dec 7 Kevin Decker, Philosophy, Eastern Washington University "Star Trek, Religion, and Secularism"
In 1966, producer Gene Roddenberry contributed to the general American cultural upheaval by airing a science fiction program that promised to be a “wagon train to the stars” but that proved to be culturally subversive in a number of ways. What is the nature and the message of Star Trek’s secular future?

Roddenberry’s humanistic vision, played out over three seasons and subsequently several films, has been complicated and counterpointed by later Star Trek series, including The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Episodes from these shows demonstrate greater depth in their inquiry into the values and drawbacks of secularism as Starfleet negotiates new worlds and new spiritualities. Clips from a number of episodes will be shown, and discussion encouraged.


Wed Jan 28
CG 101
Brad Gregory, History, Notre Dame University
Daniel Churchwell, Philosophy, Moody Bible Institute Spokane
"How the Reformation Era Brought About Modern Secularism"
How could a religious revolution that sought to make late medieval society more Christian end up precipitating Western secularization? And why do we need to analyze events that happened 500 years ago in order to understand secular society in North America and Europe today?  Brad Gregory addresses these questions in drawing on his recent award-winning book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap, 2012).
This event is co-sponsored by the Catholic Intellectual Tradition Project of the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute

Fri Feb 13
CG 101
Joe Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Does Reason Trump Faith?"
Hostility toward religion is rising in Europe and the United States. Critics of religion equate religious extremism with religion per se. Some argue that reason trumps religious faith. And yet, the Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason are not contradictory but complementary. So when contemporary critics invoke reason against faith what do they mean, really? Often lost in these debates are foundational philosophical and theological questions about the relationship between faith, reason, and the existence of God: What is faith? What is reason? What does it mean to say that God exists? This presentation draws on the works of the late Canadian Jesuit Bernard Lonergan in order to answer these questions and begin to understand the complex relationship between faith and reason.

Fri Mar 20
CG 101
Duane Armitage, Philosophy, Gonzaga
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Kierkegaard: The Absurdity of Religious Faith"

A hallmark of Jesuit Catholic identity, and a frequent theme of presentations at the Gonzaga Socratic Club, is the complementarity of faith and reason.  Despite the assertions of critics of religion, religious faith is not "belief without evidence"; it is more aptly understood as a dynamic relationship of evidence and trust, as captured by the Augustinian-Anselmian idea of "faith seeking understanding."  But is the compatibility of faith and reason a complete one?  Are there limits to faith-reason compatibility?  Kierkegaard's explores these questions by developing an account of Christian religious faith as "absurd," and in so doing attempts to articulate the limits of the faith-reason relationship.

Kierkegaard is often labeled a "fideist," a thinker who conceives of faith as independent of evidence.  In the popular imagination, Kierkegaard is associated with the idea that religious faith is a "blind leap" that is more a matter of personal passion or commitment than a response to compelling truth.  Armitage seeks in this talk to explore the extent to which that reading of Kierkegaard is true, arguing that Kierkegaard's emphasis on the absurd captures the limitations of thinking of religious faith as fully rational.  True faith, for Kierkegaard, is ultimately paradoxical, and paradoxical to such an extent that is absurd, in that it offends or wounds our rationality.  Reason has a role in religious belief, namely to recognize it's own limitations or deconstruct itself.  Thus in Armitage's reading Kierkegaard is a fideist, though in a limited or qualified sense.

Fri Apr 10
7 pm
Barbieri Courtroom,
Gonzaga Law School
Catherine Brown Tkacz, Theology, Ukrainian Catholic University, L'viv, Ukraine
Fr. Paul S. Vevik, Diocese of Spokane
"DNA, Embryology, and the Body of Christ"
The psalmist marveled that “The Heavens are telling the glory of God!” (19:1). So, Dr. Tkacz, observes, are the chromosomes. Tkacz argues that advances of the past 150 years in the scientific understanding of genetics and embryo morphology shed light on classic Christian teachings about the Incarnation. Whereas some scholars, such as Andrew Lincoln, consider modern medicine to render the Gospel account of the conception of Christ invalid, Tkacz finds coherence between science and revelation.

Dr. Catherine Tkacz is visiting professor of theology in Spring 2015 at the Ukrainian Catholic University, L'viv. She is also currently an Earhart Foundation Research Fellow. Her first book, on early Christian art, was co-published by the University of Notre Dame Press and by Brepols Publishers. She has numerous scholarly publications on theology, the Bible and women in the Church.

This event is part of the Born of Woman series, and is co-sponsored by the Catholic Intellectual Tradition Project of the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute.


Fri Sep 19
CG 101
Jim Stockton, Philosophy, Boise State University "The Oxford University Socratic Club: Fellowship and Faith in Practice"
Meeting regularly from January 29, 1942 until May 26, 1972, the Oxford University Socratic Club is one of the more noteworthy debate societies of the twentieth-century academy. Established as an open forum that encouraged competing arguments from all who were “interested in a philosophical approach to religion,” heated discussions and passionate replies were a regular occurrence at club meetings. However, constant to the Socratic’s thirty year history was a shared respect and camaraderie that remained steadfast among a generational membership with strikingly different views on what constituted good philosophical and theological analysis.

After a brief introduction of the Socratic's prolific productivity, on the part of some of the most famous scholars of the time, I will offer four examples of the fellowship and convictions that made the Socratic Club experience as congenial as it was spirited: (1) the founding of the Club, (2) the legendary Anscombe-Lewis debate of 1948, (3) the shift of the Club to the character of a traditional philosophy club in the 1950s, and the celebration of the 1948 Lewis-Anscombe debate by Elizabeth Anscombe and John Lucas in 1967.

Fri Oct 17
CG 101
Jonathan Armstrong, Bible and Theology, Moody Bible Institute Spokane
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Eusebius and Augustine on Historiography"
How should we think of the the relationship between Christianity and history?  How do we conceive of God's work in the historical process, and the work of the church as an institution in history?  Comparison of the historiographies of Augustine of Hippo and Eusebius of Caesarea shows that their overarching theological projects are founded in their respective historiographies. Traditionally considered to be rival architects of ancient Christian historiography, Augustine and Eusebius advocate vastly different visions of the place of the church within history in their respective magna opera, De civitate Dei and Historia ecclesiastica. For Eusebius, the church is destined to fulfill history; Constantine’s coronation ensured that the church would claim all the promise of Rome. For Augustine, to whom the fall of Rome was a present reality, the church could anticipate neither uninterrupted exultation nor inevitable disaster.

Fri Nov 14
CG 101
Tyler Tritten, Gonzaga University / Albert-Ludwigs-Universität (Freiburg)
Mark Thomas, Gonzaga University
"Schelling’s Christology: Incarnation and the Possibility of Religious Exclusivism"
Traditional Christologies typically understand the Incarnation of God in Christ as the unification of two natures, divine and human, in the person of Christ.  German philosopher F.W.J. Schelling offers a powerful reconception of the Incarnation as a bifurcation of a single nature that is neither human nor divine into those natures.
Schelling takes the task of any Christology to lie in the explication of the following claim: that which is God is the same as that which human. Schelling’s thesis is that if one begins with two distinct natures, i.e. a divine nature and a human nature, and then asks how the two natures can be combined within a single entity, then the task is rendered impossible, leading only to aporias and contradictions. One cannot think two natures as one. Schelling rather attempts to think one as two. Following Schelling, Tritten outlines a Christology that thinks of the incarnation not as a joining of two natures, but as the differentiation of something that is neither the divine nor the human nature proper, but does bifurcate itself as both divine and human. That which is God is the same as that which is human.  To put the point in theological terms, to say that Christ is both human and God is neither to say that God became human (which tends toward Docetism) nor that a human became God (which tends toward Arianism), but to claim that that which is already a middle nature becomes God precisely by becoming human (a sort of monophysitism or Eutychianism that nevertheless ends with two distinct natures).

Fri Dec 5
CG 101
Joseph Pearce, Aquinas Center for Faith & Culture, Aquinas College (Nashville TN) "Race with the Devil: A Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love"
Best-selling author and biographer Joseph Pearce shares his conversion story, as related in his book Race with the Devil.
Before he was the world's foremost Catholic biographer, Pearce was a leader of the National Front, a British-nationalist, white-supremacist group. Before he published books highlighting and celebrating the great Catholic cultural tradition, he disseminated literature extolling the virtues of the white race, and calling for the banishment of all non-whites from Britain.   Pearce will describe his journey from racist revolutionary to Christian, emphasizing the role that Catholic and Christian luminaries such as G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and C. S. Lewis played in his conversion from racist radical to joyful Christian.
This special event at the Gonzaga Socratic Club is co-sponsored by the Catholic Intellectual Tradition Project of the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute.


Fri Jan 24
CG 101
Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Jesuit and Catholic in Gonzaga's Jesuit Catholic Humanist Mission" (talk text)

In the cover letter that came with his distribution of the “Statement of Affirmation” between Gonzaga and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus (January 9, 2013), Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh wrote that “we are called to engage the question, ‘What does it mean to be a Jesuit university’ on a deeper level...”  He admonished us, “Please,” to “read carefully this Statement of Affirmation, keeping in mind the closely related question, ‘What does it mean to work at a Jesuit university?’ ”  Finally, in bold type, he wrote, “If we are to be a Jesuit university, it will be because each member of our community understands and makes manifest our identity and mission in the daily work that she or he does.

My purpose in writing is to rise to the occasion of these remarks, specifically with respect to the intellectual component of our work.  The relation between Gonzaga's Jesuit and its Catholic identity is an internal relation.  We can take it for an axiom as analogously there are axioms of logic and mathematics.  We can take it for a first principle and foundation analogous to the "first principle and foundation" of the Spiritual Exercises.  It doesn't seem likely, after the composition of place, that anyone would argue in public to the contrary.  What this means for our university, as the "Statement of Affirmation" ratifies, is that the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, which it spells as a proper name (pp. 4-5), has a privileged place with respect to the intellectual component and its translation into the curriculum.  My purpose in writing is to move from this point of departure to something like a critical theory, concerning the theoretical side of our praxes.

Gonzaga's Statement of Affirmation with the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is available here: http://www.gonzaga.edu/about/mission/missionstatement.asp.

Fri Feb 14
CG 101
Nathan King, Philosophy, Whitworth University
Charles Lassiter, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Religious Skepticism and Higher-Order Evidence (talk text / response text)
Suppose you’re a religious believer. What should you make of the fact that there are many intelligent, truth-seeking people who don’t share your view? Should you stick to your guns and retain your belief? Should you throw up your hands and embrace skepticism? These questions gave rise to a large body of literature in the philosophy of religion in the 1980’s and 90’s. Recently, philosophers have turned their attention to the more general topic of the epistemic significance of disagreement about any proposition. In this paper, I tie together some threads common to these two discussions, and consider to what extent the recent literature should impact the ongoing discussion of religious disagreement. As a means to this, I examine two arguments for religious skepticism: (1) an argument from peer disagreement; and (2) a cumulative argument from higher-order evidence (roughly, evidence about our evidence). I aim to show that the first argument is unsound, but that the second is more promising for the religious skeptic. I close by discussing some strategies for replying to the second argument. The best of these replies, I suggest, reveals ways in which discussions of disagreement and higher-order evidence point beyond themselves.

Fri Mar 21
CG 101
Peter Elliott, Ancient Christian Studies Honor Program, Moody Bible Institute Spokane
Michael Tkacz, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Despoiling the Egyptians: Christian and Secular Culture (talk text)

Can Christians use secular culture as a point of departure for Christian apologetics?  Since the very beginning of Christianity, Christian thinkers have puzzled over the right relationship between Christian and non-Christian culture.  Early Church Father Tertullian famously asked “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?,” suggesting that secular philosophy (and perhaps the rational approach to questions about God and religion) was unrelated to genuine Christianity.

Moody Bible Institute Spokane student Peter Elliot, a member of the Ancient Christian Studies Honor Program, will address the question of the relationship between Christian and secular culture by exploring the early church concept of despoiling or plundering the Egyptians, an idea drawn from the story of the Exodus of the Hebrew people.  Just as God’s people were able to take resources from the Egyptians as they departed from Egypt to travel to the Promised Land, so Christians, according to this idea, could and should “plunder” ideas and conceptual resources from pagan philosophy.  Elliot will explain the Early Church concept of plundering the Egyptians as a God-given mandate to make use of secular resources, and will explore ways to apply the idea to modern American Christianity.  Elliot will address the modern practice of creating "Christian" subcultures instead of using the resources of culture (both folk and mass) itself. As a corrective, Elliot proposes (1) a better understanding the Trinitarian nature of God and how he works in the world, particularly in relation with the Church and (2) correcting the dichotomy of secular and sacred.

Fri May 2
CG 101
Erik Schmidt, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Mike Pringle, English, Gonzaga University
"Faith & Doubt"
Erik Schmidt will explore the complex interrelationship between faith and doubt, and try to rehabilitate doubt as a central part of vibrant religious faith.  His point of reference will be one of the "dark sonnets" of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur":

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

(from Poems. London: Humphrey Milford, 1918)


Fri Sept 13
CG 101
John Sheveland, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
Joe Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
"Lessons from the Asian Bishops for the Global Church" (PowerPoint)
The document on theological method produced by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in the year 2000 (http://www.fabc.org/fabc%20papers/fabc_paper_96.pdf; reduced-size version available at http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/calhoun/socratic/fabc_paper_96SMALL.pdf) amounts to more than a fine example of contextual theology relevant for Asian Christian communities. It contributes new possibilities to the global Church, as well. In particular, North American Christians do well to learn from Asian styles of thinking around certain key issues posing challenges to the global church, especially inculturation, interreligious dialogue, identity, and the role of marginality in the doing of theology.

Fri Oct 25
CG 101
Eric Cunningham, History, Gonzaga University
Michael Treleaven, Political Science, Gonzaga University
"Ex Corde Ecclesia and Gonzaga University"
Fall Family Weekend at the Gonzaga Socratic Club
The Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae ("From the Heart of the Church"), issued by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1990 (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_15081990_ex-corde-ecclesiae_en.html), reviews and articulates the purposes and character of Catholic universities, and sets out a model for thinking about the relationship between Catholic universities and the Catholic Church.  Gonzaga History Professor Eric Cunningham will analyze the message and challenge of Ex Corde in particular for Gonzaga University, focusing on topics such as Catholic identity and mission, the search for truth, the integration of faith and reason, faculty composition, and the future of Catholic higher education.

Fri Nov 22
CG 101
Forrest Baird, Philosophy, Whitworth University
Brian Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Dana Mannino, graduate student in Library Science, Dominican University
Jennifer Mills, Communications, Moody Bible Institute, Spokane
Catherine Tkacz, Research Associate, Bishop White Seminary at Gonzaga University
"Celebrating C. S. Lewis" (PowerPoint)
November 22, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis.  Lewis is a sort of patron for the Gonzaga Socratic Club due to his role in the mid-1900s presiding over the Oxford Socratic Club, which addressed issues in Christian thought in the spirit of the Socratic slogan to "follow the argument wherever it leads."  Since Lewis is known and loved as an author, the Gonzaga Socratic Club will commemorate his life with a panel of Lewis experts and admirers reading short passages from Lewis' works and commenting on their significance.  Join us for a celebration of a great fantasy author, scholar, cultural critic, apologist, and "mere Christian"!
  The Gonzaga Socratic Club's celebration of Lewis is one of many across the globe scheduled on or around Friday, November 22, 2013.  In addition, the anniversary of Lewis' death has prompted discussions of Lewis' significance in the popular press.  Examples can be found at these links:

Westminster Abbey Memorial Dedication
Lewis in Poet's Corner Conference
Discussion of Lewis Memorial with related stories / The Telegraph (UK)
Publication of a collection of Lewis Essays by Cambridge UP / The Guardian (UK)
Remembrance of Lewis by stepson Douglas Gresham / The Independent (UK)
Lewis as Inspiring Author / Huffington Post
Lewis' Social Criticism / National Review
Lewis, Huxley, and JFK / Daily Beast

Fri Dec 6
CG 101
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"The Hiddenness of God: Epistemic Distance between God and Humans" (presentation outline / response text)
Is it really possible for us to know and understand the mind of God?  Is it really possible for God to communicate with us?  Richard McClelland of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department will will argue that if God is even approximately as God is described to be in the main philosophical traditions of Christian theism, then the answer to both questions is “no.”  I will offer reasons for thinking so, starting with some homely analogies drawn from biology and Carl Sagan’s great novel, Contact.  A further way of understanding my thesis is that classical theism undermines its own central claims by virtue of its “perfect being theology.”


Fri Jan 18
JC 017
Michael Tkacz, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"What's So Great about Albert the Great?  The Man and His Contributions to Western Civilization" (talk text)
Historian Etienne Gilson once quipped that, while everyone acknowledges the historical importance of Albert the Great, few know what he actually did.  Albert is vaguely remembered as a professor in the medieval University of Paris, as an early Dominican theologian with a fondness for the study of nature, as bishop of Regensburg, and as the founder of the first institution of higher education in Germany at Cologne where he was the teacher of Thomas Aquinas.  Yet, Albert’s historical importance is far more significant than these admittedly memorable credentials would suggest.  His life and work, in fact, represent a turning point in intellectual history, a water-shed moment that separates two distinct stages in the development of the western civilization.  It is nothing less than a scientific revolution that initiated the historically continuous tradition of empirical research that made possible the progress of modern natural science.  Albert lived at the time when two formative events in intellectual history conjoined to create a new intellectual culture:  the establishment of the first universities and the recovery in western Europe of the scientific books of the ancient Greeks, especially the works of Aristotle.  Albert played a crucial role in the formation of the scientific culture that developed out of these two historic events.  This earned him the reputation as a man of great learning and a founding father of scientific research, a reputation he enjoyed in his own day no less than today.  He accomplished all this in the context of a professional and personal devotion to Christianity.  This is why he continues to be honored today as a Doctor of the Church and as the patron saint of those who study the sciences of nature.

Fri Feb 15
CG 101
Lyra Pitstick, independent scholar
Dan Bradley, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"When Witnesses Disagree: the Concept of God in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam"
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are often grouped together and called the "Abrahamic religions," due to their origins from the biblical patriarch Abraham.  They are even described as variations of a single position called "classical theism," the view that there is one supremely powerful divine being who is the creator of the world.  Yet do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam agree on their concept of God?  Do adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam worship the same God?

According to presenter Dr. Alyssa Pitstick, a philosophical analysis of the concept of "agreement," especially as it concerns the authorities who prophetically witness to religious traditions, shows that significant differences in theological claims demonstrates that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have different concepts of God.  If the concepts of God are different, then those who belong to the different Abrahamic religions have different objects of worship, even if they use the same name as a reference.  Dr. Pitstick will end her talk with reflections on the implications of her conclusion, especially for interreligious dialogue.

Fri Mar 22
CG 101
Debby Hutchins, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Ellen Maccarone, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"The Meaning of Jesuit Education: A Personal Reflection"
Our society frequently poses the question, "What's wrong with higher education?" These periodic critiques--however justified or necessary--make it even harder for colleges and universities to convince students of the value of a liberal education. In order to compete, American colleges and universities have turned to "branding." For schools such as Gonzaga, this largely consists of branding ourselves as distinctly Jesuit. But does branding reduce the principles of Jesuit education to nothing more than advertising slogans?

Dr Debby Hutchins of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department will address the power and potentiality of Jesuit education by rephrasing the question to "What's Right with Jesuit Education?"  Hutchins will  offer a personal reflection on the significance of Jesuit education in her own live and offer an opinion about what makes an education distinctly Jesuit.

Fri Apr 5
CG 101
William Carroll, Science, Religion, and Theology, Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford "The Concept of 'Creation out of nothing' in the Context of Contemporary Cosmology" (presentation outline)
Misunderstandings of what the traditional doctrine of "creation out-of-nothing" means are commonplace in discussions about the philosophical and theological implications of contemporary cosmological theories (from the Big Bang as a "singularity," to "quantum tunneling from nothing" as an explanation of the Big Bang itself, to various multiverse hypotheses or other versions of an eternal universe).   There are fundamental confusions about different senses of "nothing" and whether or not a created universe must be a universe with a finite temporal past.  Once such confusions are sorted out – indeed, resolved – we can see that it is a mistake to use cosmological theories to tell us whether or not the universe is created.  Thomas Aquinas can serve as a guide in this enterprise: especially his defense of the intelligibility of a universe, eternal and created.

For an article related to Dr Carroll's talk, see "Landscapes of Nothingness", in The Public Discourse;  another related article, "Stephen Hawking's Creation Confusion," discusses the concept of creation in relation to the non-theistic cosmology of physicist Stephen Hawking.

Fall 2012 SCHEDULE

Fri Sept 14
JC 017
Dale Soden, History & Director of the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning, Whitworth University
Eric Cunningham
, History, Gonzaga University
"Where Have All the Protestant Public Intellectuals Gone?"
Throughout US history, Christian intellectuals have played an important role in the national conversation, contributing distinctly Christian views on issues of public policy and morality.  In the last century, however, the presence and influence of Christian public intellectuals seems to have declined.  Indeed, some analysts regard theologian and writer Reinhold Niebuhr, who played an important role in debates on American public policy in the 1940s and 50s, as the last great American Christian public intellectual.
Dale Soden's talk will explore the role and influence of Christian public intellectuals.  Given the dominant role of Protestants in American culture, Soden will focus his argument on American Protestant public leaders.  In his view, a key historical factor in the decline of influence of Christian public intellectuals is the declining acceptance of the Christian doctrine of original sin among academic Protestants and also in wider American culture.  Soden will contrast the declining influence of mainstream Protestant intellectuals with the continuing influence of intellectuals in other Christian traditions, most notably Catholics and Anabaptists.

Fri Oct 19
JC 017
Michael Leiserson, Political Science (Emeritus), Gonzaga University
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Christianity and Politics: Barak or Mitt--WWJD?" (talk outline)
Most American academics, even many of those in Jesuit Catholic universities, would essentially respond to this question by saying the question is mis-asked.  Given the American "wall of separation" between religion and politics, what "Jesus" might do is irrelevant to choosing for whom would should vote.  In any case, appeals to sectarian justifications are unhelpful in a pluralist democracy.

Professor Michael Leiserson will argue that religious principles are relevant to political issues.  Leiserson will explain how the standard response to the political application of "WWJD?" starts from secularist principles, and will argue that the philosophical basis for these assumptions is obsolete or mistaken.  Further, he will make a case for the claim that university faculty, including those at a Jesuit Catholic institution, should be able to relate religious principles to politics, will explain why this approach makes philosophical (and constitutional) sense, and will suggest what that means for this present election.  Leiserson's arguments will be based on the tradition of Christian philosophy as developed by Bernard Lonergan, S. J. (intellectual and moral conversion), Alasdair MacIntyre (practices, virtues, practical reason, and tradition), A. P. d’Entreves (The Notion of the State), and John Courtney Murray, S. J. (The Problem of God, We Hold These Truths).

Fri Nov 16
JC 017
Michael Maher, SJ, History, Gonzaga University
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy & Honors, Gonzaga University
"Pope Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris and the Catholic Restoration of Thomistic Philosophy" (talk outline)
Is a distinctly Christian philosophy relevant for modernity?  Only 18 months into his papacy, Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical, Aeterni Patris, in which he laid out a recommended  way of proceeding for Catholic intellectual life.  Fr Maher will first survey the context of the issues addressed by Leo XIII and then will continue with an examination of the utility of this late 19th century document in our conversations concerning the role of philosophy and Catholic education.  In particular, Maher will examine Leo XIII's call for a revival of the Christian Philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas as a way of speaking to modernity.

Fri Dec 7
JC 017
Mark Alfino, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Dan Bradley, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Joseph Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
PANEL DISCUSSION: "Religion Naturalized?" (Alfino presentation Prexi)
Panel organized by Joshua Haxton, Gonzaga Philosophy Major

An important project of modern natural science is to examine religious belief and practice with the tools of scientific method.  This project raises a set of important question.  Most basic is the question of whether scientific accounts of religious "behavior" are or should be construed as reductive, that is, as exhaustively capturing what is going on in the religious activity.  In other words, can religious activity be "naturalized" or described in terms of natural events and phenomena (social practices, brain events, etc.)?

The panel will address this broad question and a set of more focused problems: How do different scholars think about the relationship between religious experience (for example, the experience of worship) and explanations of religion?   When philosophers or theologians talk about worship in psychological terms do they think of that as explaining worship and religion, or perhaps "explaining away" religion entirely, or is it just a useful language for studying something that cannot be captured by psychological and sociological theories?  What is the relationship between contemporary efforts in anthropology, sociology, or psychology to explain religion and traditional academic discourse on religion in philosophy and religious studies? Are these explanations sufficient in explaining religious experience, or do they conflict with the inherent ends of religious practice?  What other goals do scholars of religion pursue in addition to explanatory (or justificatory) goals?


Fri Jan 27
CG 101
Ricardo Davila, Gonzaga Philosophy Grad Student
David Kovacs, Gonzaga Philosophy Grad Student
"Doctrine and Revelation in Eastern and Western Christianity"
It is generally agreed that communion between Christian churches requires at least some identity of doctrines. However, this immediately raises a meta-theological question: What constitutes doctrine? If doctrine is bound up with the notion of revelation from God, one might also ask what constitutes revelation? These questions become increasingly important in an era when the relation between faith, which is usually associated with doctrine and revelation, and reason is being questioned in new ways.

Gonzaga Philosophy Graduate Students Ricardo Davila and David Kovacs will address these questions by exploring the Christian notions of doctrine and revelation. Davila will represent the views promoted by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Kovacs will represent alternative possibilities, including the Roman Catholic position.

Fri Feb 24
CG 101
Brent Diebel, Philosophy, Gonzaga
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"The Atheistic Argument from Science?"
The beginning of the 21st century saw a popular resurgence in atheism, the proponents of which have argued that religious belief is not merely mistaken, but is rationally indefensible and dangerous. The debate has largely been framed in terms of science and religion, where science is the province of the rational, objective inquirer and religion is relegated to the irrational, perhaps subjective experience of the muddled or deluded individual. This is often understood more broadly as the opposition of reason to faith, where science is the archetypal example of reason.

Gonzaga Philosophy instructor and M.A. graduate Brent Diebel will suggest that this is an inadequate framing of the issue; the issue is rather the role of philosophical questioning to scientific practice and investigation. What may be proposed as the atheistic “argument from science” is a philosophical argument and should be treated as such. Diebel will also suggest that the rational defensibility of theism should be re-examined given a more adequate understanding of the relationship of philosophy and science.

Fri Apr 27
CG 101
Lydia Newell, independent scholar and web developer "A Year at The Kilns:  Inside the Oxford Home of C. S. Lewis" (PowerPoint)
(NOTE: due to technical problems, the video of this event is partial)
In 1930, as a young Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, C. S. Lewis purchased a house known as “The Kilns”.  Over the next three decades, this house became the backdrop for the events that transformed Lewis from a fledgling scholar into one of the most well-known Christian writers of the 20th century.  The Kilns now operates as a residential scholarly community and is a destination for travelers from all over the world.  Lydia Newell, who served as the 2008-2009 Academic Coordinator and Residential Director of the house, will offer some insights into Lewis’s life at The Kilns and about the experience of living and working in this unique setting.

In addition to work at The Kilns, Lydia Newell has a Master of Studies (MSt) in Medieval English Literature from Oxford University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Duke University.She currently works as a web developer, specializing in academic/educational/arts oriented software and websites.
The Kilns house and garden

Fri May 4
JC 006
Michael Collender, Leadership, Gonzaga
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Evil and the Question of God"
The traditional problem of evil is an alleged logical contradiction between the existence of evil in this world and the claim that the Christian God exists. The God of Christian theism is all powerful, all knowing, and all good. If the Christian God has all these attributes, he would have every resource and warrant to eradicate evil, yet evil exists. In short, the universe is not big enough for the two of them.  While Alvin Plantinga's articulation of the free-will defense has deflected some versions of the problem of evil, the problem remains a serious challenge to Christian theism.

Michael Collender's approach to the problem seeks to address the assumptions involved in asserting the premise tha evil exists.  Dr. Collender will argue that for an atheist to argue that evil exists, she must have a standard by which to measure evil in order identify instances of probable evil. If this standard is created by a person or group of persons, then the atheist bears the burden of showing why the God of Christian theism must measure evil by the standard created by a person or group of people. The atheist must also show why, if God created a standard for measuring evil, why should God's standard, or God's testimony regarding God's standard, or God's testimony regarding God's own purposes be less acceptable, less reliable, or less authoritative than the standard created by a person or group of people.  These points count against the cogency and power of evil as a challenge to Christian theism.
Dr. Collender has taught at Gonzaga University for almost ten years. He has taught undergraduate philosophy courses for Gonzaga's Philosophy Department. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor in Gonzaga's School of Professional Studies where he teaches courses  in various areas of normative and applied ethics, leadership, and systems theory.


Thurs Sept 29
JC 006
3:00-4:30 pm
Daniel McInerny, Philosopher and writer "Sucking the Life from Our Children: Hollywood and the Romance of the Living Dead"
The vampire tales so popular in recent young adult literature, as well as in movies and television shows, have a long ancestry. The first vampire story in modern Anglophone fiction, John William Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819), features a villain modeled closely upon Polidori's friend, Lord Byron, and manifests the decadent Romanticism that characterizes most vampire tales, including the volumes in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series. But recently there has been an even more ominous development, as seen in Matt Reeves's 2010 film, Let Me In, in which the traditional line in vampire tales between grotesque devourer and innocent victim is blurred.

In the first meeting of the Socratic Club for Fall 2011, held in conjunction with the Faith, Film, and Philosophy Conference of the Gonzaga Faith and Reason Institute, independent philosopher and speaker Daniel McInerny will explore the cultural meaning behind the vampire image in popular fiction and film and will evaluate the varying effects of different forms of the vampire myth.

Daniel McInerny has held faculty positions at the University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX), Notre Dame University, and Baylor University.  He now is a full-time speaker and writer, focusing on philosophy of art and culture and on producing children's adventure stories through his company, Trojan Tub Entertainment.

Fri Oct 21
CG 101
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Are Events Such as the Vagina Monologues Essential to Gonzaga's Mission and Identity?"
Fall Family Weekend at the Gonzaga Socratic Club (summary handout / video / Kries remarks / Calhoun remarks)
In April 2011 Gonzaga University officially hosted a performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.  The University placed some constraints on the performance of the play, such as restricting play attendance to University students, staff, and faculty.  Further, the organizers and administrators placed the play into an academic context by holding several related events during the week of the performance and a lecture one week later.

Sponsoring faculty, university officials, and others argued that performance of the play not only was permissible in the light of Gonzaga’s Jesuit, Catholic, humanist identity and mission, but that such a performance was central to or even necessary for an institution with Gonzaga’s identity.  For example, one commentator suggested that John Paul II’s call for “an impartial search for truth” (Ex Corde Ecclesia §7) demanded that Gonzaga address controversial questions and events with scholarly charity, and several defenders of the event cited Pope Benedict XIV’s charge to inhabit the place where the gospel confronts contemporary culture (Address to the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus).

At the October meeting of the Gonzaga Socratic Club, held in concert with Fall Family Weekend, Gonzaga philosophers Doug Kries and David Calhoun will argue that the official events surrounding the performance of the Vagina Monologues were academically deficient, because they avoided genuine dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of the play as a vehicle for advancing Jesuit, Catholic, humanist identity and mission.  While acknowledging that there is reasonable disagreement about the mission value of events like the Vagina Monologues, Kries and Calhoun will argue that there are much better ways to engage contemporary culture and issues from a Jesuit, Catholic, humanist standpoint.

The panel will be moderated by Richard McClelland of the Gonzaga philosophy department.

Fri Nov 11
CG 101
Fr. Pat Hartin, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Joseph Mudd, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
"Neglected Roots for Interpreting the Bible"

Pius XII’s Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) proved to be a watershed for Catholic Biblical Scholarship. From that date onwards Catholic Scriptural scholarship adopted the historical-critical method embraced by Protestant scholarship over the preceding two centuries. Today, the historical-critical method has in effect been “canonized” in Catholic scriptural circles.

This presentation shows the negative unintended consequences of this marriage. Consequently, the plea is made to rediscover our roots, our sources, by engaging the Patristic Period in conversation in order to restore “the soul” of scriptural scholarship that is in, of and by the church, as the community of believers.

Fri Dec 9
CG 101
Nathan King, Philosophy, Whitworth University
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
"Perseverance as an Intellectual Virtue" (talk text)

Cognitive character traits such as responsibility, honesty, charity, and wisdom, which we might call “intellectual virtues,” have received increased attention in epistemology in recent years.  However, such attention has not been focused on the intellectual virtue of perseverance, despite the importance of perseverance in seeking and finding truth, knowledge, and wisdom.  Drawing from Aristotle, I argue that intellectual perseverance should be understood in relation to the vices of intransigence and irresolution, and that we should understand intellectual courage as a species of perseverance.


Fri Jan 28
CG 304
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
David DeWolf, Gonzaga Law School
"Free Speech, Catholic Mission, and Sponsorship"
The concept of sponsorship is often invoked in discussions about free speech policies on university campuses.  According to one standard view, a university is a neutral forum for ideas whose decision to allow an event should not be construed as sponsorship or support.  On this view, the views expressed at particular events or by particular speakers should be attributed to the speakers themselves, and perhaps indirectly to the groups that arrange and plan them.  These groups alone are the “sponsors” of the events or speakers.  According to a very different view of sponsorship, a university's decision to allow a public event to take place on campus constitutes tacit approval for the event, and further implies some degree of support for the views expressed in the event.  Even if the university disavows approval of the event or speaker, allowing the event or speech to take place will potentially confuse students or members of the public about the institution's educational mission.  How should the concept of sponsorship inform our understanding of public events at a mission-driven Catholic Jesuit institution such as Gonzaga?

Fri Feb 18
CG 101
Michael Maher, SJ, History, Gonzaga
Craig Hightower, SJ, University Ministry, Gonzaga
Margaret Rankin, grad student, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Jesuit Mission and Higher Education: A Key Source Document"
Jesuit Mission is central to the objectives of Gonzaga University, but what is Jesuit Mission?  Different people have wildly different conceptions of Jesuit Mission.  For example, some would contrast Jesuit Mission to Catholic mission and identity, while others would emphasize the Jesuit focus on social justice.  Is there a central or basic sense of Jesuit Mission in higher education?
    To seek to answer these questions, Michael Maher, S.J., argues that we should look to the relevant source documents.  A particularly relevant and recent document for this purpose is the 2002 statement “Communal reflection on the Jesuit Mission in Higher Education: A Way of Proceeding” (available online at http://www.jesuitsmissouri.org/files/edu/ed_CommunualReflectionJesuitMissioninHigherEducation.pdf).  Consequently, Fr. Maher will lead a discussion of the document, emphasizing the first two characteristics: (1) Dedication to Human Dignity from a Catholic/Jesuit Faith perspective, and (2) Reverence for and ongoing reflection on human experience.  Focused comments will be offered by Fr. Craig Hightower of Gonzaga University Ministry and Philosophy graduate student Margaret Rankin.

Fri Mar 25
CG 101
Rose Mary Volbrecht, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Sally Denton, Administrative Director, St. Joseph's Care Center, Spokane
"Terri Schiavo, Human Dignity, and Catholic Healthcare: Uprooting Moral Decision Making from the Bedside"
Catholic healthcare grew out of a pastoral response to people who were suffering. Care for the sick and dying was a compassionate response to suffering. In this context, the sick often turned to their priests for guidance in making moral decisions about how to respond to illness and dying. This pastoral based healthcare led to the development of a Catholic tradition that emphasized proportionate reasoning that was sensitive to the personal context of the decision maker. Recent teaching from the Catholic hierarchy about the use of artificial nutrition and hydration for patients in a persistent vegetative state departs from this long tradition of proportionate reasoning (16C to present), shifting to a more top-down reasoning which is often disconnected from the bedside. This shift was clearly evident in the Church’s public response to the Terri Schiavo case.
     Volbrecht will focus on the question of care for persons who, like Terri Shiavo, are in a persistent vegetative state. Is it morally permissible to discontinue artificial nutrition and hydration when death is not imminent for these patients? In order to address this question, Volbrecht will apply traditional proportionate reasoning to these cases and compare this to recent Church directives to Catholic hospitals on this issue. While the recent Church teaching intends to shore up respect for the fundamental dignity of human persons, Volbrecht will argue that the shift from proportionate reasoning will ultimately undermine the moral leadership role of Catholic healthcare.

Fri Apr 15
CG 101
Christopher Kirby, Philosophy, Eastern Washington University
Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Naturalism and Religious Experience" (text / PowerPoint)
Can naturalism account for the human search for meaning?  Does religious and philosophical experience imply the reality of a sphere beyond the natural?
     Broadly speaking, naturalists argue that there is no evidence for a realm beyond nature, the world we know by sense experience.  However, even naturalists have acknowledged that the human search for meaning and purpose, the sort of experience we typically call "religious," is recognizably different in character from other sorts of human experience.  Professor Christopher Kirby, Philosophy Professor at Eastern Washington University, will address the naturalist account of human religious experience and philosophical activity.  According to Kirby, while even naturalist philosophers often revert to religious and spiritual language to describe the search for meaning and purpose, we should not read any genuinely religious implications into this fact.  By examining how philosophers across history--beginning with Plato but especially focusing on the American pragmatist philosophers of the twentieth century--have treated the shift to the philosophical attitude, Kirby will argue that there is a way to make sense of human philosophizing without using religious or mystical language.  Specifically, Kirby will appeal to American pragmatist John Dewey for a strategy to account for philosophizing--for the break into dialectical thinking--without religious language or implications.
     Christopher Kirby, Professor of Philosophy at Eastern Washington University since 2008, specializes in history of philosophy, with special interests in ancient and Chinese philosophy and naturalism and philosophy of nature.


Fri Sept 24
CG 101
Erik Schmidt, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Ingrid Ranum, English, Gonzaga
"Beauty, Ethics, and Unconditional Love"
In the Four Loves, C.S.Lewis argues that “it is only agape that enables us to love the unlovable – criminals, enemies, morons , the superior, and the sneering.” In my essay I ask whether our experience of beauty in art can expand our capacity for agape. To answer that question I look at the works of two artists that for many years I found difficult to love: Cy Twombly and Richard Tuttle. I will explain how I came to identify a source of beauty in each of their works and I will argue that our experience of that beauty can serve to strengthen our capacity for agape. I conclude by turning to A Picture of Dorian Gray and I argue that the Wilde’s book shows us how many of our central ethical concepts have an important aesthetic dimension and that cultivating our  response to beauty can serve to enhance our capacity for ethics.
     Ingrid Ranum, of the English department, will offer a response in which she explores The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wilde’s claims about the relationship between ethics and aesthetics within the context of 19th century British literature.

Fri Oct 22, 7:00-8:30 pm,
CG 101
Heather Crandall, Communication and Leadership, Gonzaga
Eric Cunningham
, History, Gonzaga
Michael Orr,
Communications, Moody Bible Institute
Matt Rindge
, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
"The Hidden God: Christian Themes in Popular Film"
Despite repeated assurances from cultural critics from Nietzsche onward that "God is dead" and recent denunciations of religion from New Atheists, spiritual themes remain central to popular culture.  A number of examples demonstrate this point, such as the nature-religion of the Na'vi aliens in James Cameron's Avatar and the syncretistic mix of religious themes that informs the recently concluded TV series Lost.  Even films marked by a bleak vision of reality, such as the apocalytic thriller The Book of Eli, often feature hints of hope grounded in an explicitly religious outloook.
    What specifically Christian themes are found in contemporary popular media?  What role do they play in the narratives of current films and in the wider culture?  Is the presence of Christian themes in popular media a good thing?  Why or why not?  What, if anything, can we learn from the depiction of Christian themes in film?
    A panel of faculty with interest and expertise in the intersection of Christian faith and popular culture will address these and related questions.

Fri Nov 12
CG 101
Ellen Maccarone, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Catholic Social Teaching on the Death Penalty"
Most people know that Catholic teaching generally opposes use of the death penalty as a response to violent crime.  The complex story of the development of that position is less familiar.  Gonzaga philosophy professor Ellen Maccarone appeals to the Catechism and other teaching documents of the Church and the history of the Church's treatment of capital punishment to develop such an account, placing recent activism by Catholics on the death penalty into a wider context.  Maccarone will address criticisms that the Church's position is (or has been) inconsistent, will discuss particular developments in American politics and culture relating to the death-penaly debate, and will argue that the Church's pro-life ethic provides opportunity for the Church to establish alliances with other Christian faith traditions.

Fri Dec 3
CG 203
Dana Mannino, Gonzaga Chastek Library
Daniel Churchwell, Field Education / Philosophy, Moody Bible Institute Spokane
David Calhoun, Gonzaga Philosophy
"The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Film: A First Look"
C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia continue to be among the most widely read and popular fantasy works 50 years after their publication.  The popularity of the series has grown with the releases of film versions of the books--The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian
(2008) are now joined by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
    Dawn Treader is a classic quest story focusing on a sea voyage, as Prince Caspian (the main character of the last film) searches for trusted advisers of his father who were themselves sent to explore the far Eastern Sea when he was a young man.  Of course, plenty of adventures follow, with encounters with slave traders, dragons, sea monsters, enchanted islands with mysterious creatures and features.  Beyond that, the story stresses the power of character and personal transformation, as we watch one of the most delightfully unlikeable characters in fiction, Eustace Clarence Scrubb, become the dragon he really is and then hope with him for something greater.
    A panel will highlight important ideas and themes in the Narnia series, the Dawn Treader book, and offer a first look at the new film (which opens Thursday night at midnight).  Catch the film if you can, review or take a first look at the book, or just come to the Socratic to hear what Narnia and Dawn Treader are all about.  The panel consists of C. S. Lewis and Narnia fans Dana Mannino, a recent philosophy grad from Gonzaga who currently works at Gonzaga's Chastek Library, Dan Churchwell of Moody Bible Institute Spokane, and Gonzaga philosopher David Calhoun.
     It is a tradition for us to devote the December meeting of the Gonzaga Socratic Club to C. S. Lewis, who is, along with Socrates, an inspiration for the Club.  The release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader provides a perfect opportunity to honor and enjoy Lewisian themes in conversation with friends.


Fri Jan 29
CG 101
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Secularization: Good or Bad?" (draft remarks by Calhoun / text of remarks by Jeannot)
Secularization is the process by which a culture becomes less religiously observant.  While levels of religious practice and civic piety have ebbed and flowed across history and in different geographic eras, Western intellectuals since the time of the Enlightenment have argued that religious practice will inevitably diminish as reason, science, and knowledge become more widely dispersed.  In recent years, some have argued that secularization is such a positive development that it should be accelerated wherever possible.  Claiming that human freedom and autonomy will increase as the cultural power and influence of religions decreases, such secularizers seek to confine religious practice to the private sphere, and to create what cultural commentator Richard John Neuhaus described as the "naked public square": a public sphere that is purged of religious symbols, practices, and influence.

Is secularization inevitable as cultures mature?  How have processes of secularization been similar and different in Europe and the United States?  Is secularization a good or bad thing?  Why?  How should religious people and institutions view the phenomenon of secularization?

Fri Feb 19
CG 101
Kirk Besmer, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy and Honors, Gonzaga

“The Philosophical and Religious Significance of Transhumanism" (mp3 audio)
Modern human beings have increasingly embraced the power of technology to alleviate human suffering and promote human good.  Transhumanists argue that the application of technology to human problems potentially represents a revolutionary change in how we think about ourselves.  Where medicine, conditioning, and genetic manipulation have been universally accepted as tools to treat human ailments, transhumanists argue that therapy is only the prelude to enhancement of human powers and capacities.  Indeed, transhumanists argue that the shift from therapy to enhancement has already occurred.  As a result, the idea of "human nature" is outmoded, and should be replaced by a new conception of the "human" that is limited only by our imagination and technological ability.  With promises of reparative nanobots to extend human lifespan, improved genetic coding to eliminate chronic diseases, and the possibility of virtual immortality via uploading of the brain to computers, much of transhumanism sounds like futuristic science fiction.  On the other hand, we have become inured to the idea that athletes will not only train and practice, but also use the technologies of performance-enhancing drugs to alter their physique as a basis for better performance.  Have we already entered the era of Transhumanism?
Transhumanism poses particularly valuable questions for religion.  As a concrete vision of technological transcendence, transhumanism parallels the quest for transcendence central to religion.  Further, it seeks to bypass the problem of evil and suffering by employing technological means to improve human existence.
What are the key philosophical and religious implications of Transhumanism?  What assumptions and claims do Transhumanists make concerning human beings?  Should we embrace the idea that human nature is malleable, and that what we think of as "human nature" is but a step in the process of human evolution?  Will the evolution of human bodies be matched by a parallel process of spiritual transformation?

Tue Mar 23
Hughes 130
Lyra Pitstick, Religion, Hope College
Anastasia Wendlinder, Religious Studies, Gonzaga

"Why Philosophy and Theology Need Each Other" (presentation text / response text)
The early Christian Tertullian famously asked the question “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?,” by which he meant to ask what pagan philosophy had to do with God’s revelation of himself through his people Israel and his full incarnate self-disclosure as Jesus Christ.  While Tertullian and some other early Christians advised caution in employing the tools of pagan philosophy, the power of philosophical reasoning for clarifying and articulating doctrine and making apologetic arguments to non-Christian audiences made a marriage of philosophy and Christian theology almost inevitable.  Many of the greatest figures of the first millennium and a half of Christian intellectual culture—Augustine, Anselm, Thomas—are philosopher-theologians.  According to Dr. Lyra Pitstick, however, a widening modern gulf between philosophy and theology leads to the counterposed errors of fideism and rationalism.  In response to this, Pitstick calls for a holistic understanding of the mutual value of philosophy and theology for seeking the true, the good, and the holy.
Fri Apr 23
CG 101
David K. DeWolf, Gonzaga Law School
Richard McClelland
, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Freedom to Discriminate?  Maintaining Religious Identity" (mp3 audio)
Does preservation of the religious character of a club or institution require discrimination?  If it is necessary, would such discrimination be reasonable and justifiable?  David K. DeWolf of the Gonzaga Law School will address these questions in the light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case involving the Christian Legal Society at the University of Californian Hastings School of Law.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on April 19 in an appeal brought by the Christian Legal Society after they had been denied recognition by the University of California Hastings School of Law.  Hastings had in place a non-discrimination policy that prohibited student groups from discriminating on the basis of religion (as well as race, gender, etc.).  The Christian Legal Society requires its chapters to impose a requirement on officers that they subscribe to a Statement of Faith that insures that the leadership of the CLS chapter will be faithful to the principles of the national organization.  As a state-run institution, Hastings can’t impair the first amendment rights of its students, and CLS argued that without their leadership requirement, they would lose the ability to formulate and advocate a clear message.  Hastings on the other hand defended their policy as a neutral application of a requirement that insured equal access to its services by all of its students.  Professor DeWolf will present arguments in favor of the CLS position.  Richard McClelland of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department will offer a critical response.

Reference files:
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
Amicus brief submitted by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) regarding Christian Legal Society v. Martinez


Fri Sept 18
CG 101
Debbie Hutchins, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Brian B. Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Gonzaga Socratic Club Fifth Anniversary Lecture: "William James on Will and Belief"

Fri Oct 23
CG 101
Dan Bradley
Richard McClelland
Wayne Pomerleau
David Weise

Fall Family Weekend at the Gonzaga Socratic Club: “God and Evil: Is the Presence of Evil a Good Reason Not to Believe in God?"
Fri Nov 20
CG 101
Michael Collender, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Suzann Girtz, School of Education, Gonzaga

"Jesuit Education and the Problem of Outcomes Assessment:  Can Christ be a 'Metric'?"
Fri Dec 11
CG 101
Brian B. Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Forrest Baird, Philosophy, Whitworth
"They Asked for a Talk: Something about C. S. Lewis"


Fri Jan 30
CG 101
Dan Bradley, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Wayne P. Pomerleau, Philosophy, Gonzaga
“Can I Know It Is God Speaking to Me?  Teresa of Avila's Contribution to Discernment of Spirits” (response text / mp3 audio)
In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates poses a famous dilemma: either what is good is good because the gods love it, or the gods love what is good because it is good.  In terms of human knowledge, this seems to mean that we can know what is good because God has said that it is good or we can know what is divine because we can independently understand what is good using the standards of our reason.

Recent French and German thinkers in the continental tradition, including Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion, have criticized western philosophy for taking the second horn of this dilemma and forgetting God’s unfathomable demand that Abraham sacrifice his son.  According to Gonzaga Philosophy Professor Dan Bradley, their writings are a powerful call to remember that in judging God based on the standards of our rationality, we fall into the idolatry of worshiping our own concepts.  Bradley will argue that a rationalist stance toward God’s voice insulates human beings from a truly radical rupture of the divine into our lives, and thus we are blind and deaf to a truly transcendent God.

Bradley points out that the writings of Derrida and his tradition do not give us the tools to make judgments about God’s voice.  Yet their iconoclastic call to turn away from our intellectual idolatry can and should be supplemented by the tradition of the discernment of spirits.  In particular the work of Teresa of Avila is relevant to this question.  While Teresa is sympathetic to the kinds of worries that these writers have about the idolatry of the human intellect, she also offers a way of discerning apparent communications from God.  Thus she is able to help us avoid both the idolatry of a philosophy that forces God to serve its ends in gaining mastery over the world and a philosophy that is so pre-occupied with rooting out the constituting influences of the self, it fails to be able to judge our experience.

Fri Feb 20
CG 101
Brian G. Henning, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Michael Woods, SJ, Religious Studies, Gonzaga

“Stewardship and Sustainability” (mp3 audio)
For background for the talk, please see Pope John Paul II's statement, "The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility"
In the Jewish and Christian traditions, responsibility toward the environment has been framed in the terms of stewardship, the idea that humans are designated by God to "subdue and have dominion" over the earth.  Critics, especially those in an era of increasing environmental awareness, have noted that an environmental ethic premised on stewardship can be used to exploit nature.  Gonzaga Philosophy professor Brian Henning will argue that while Christianity does bear some historical responsibility for the present ecological crisis, respect for nature and responsible environmental stewardship are a fundamental part of Christian faith.  Therefore, a stewardship model still provides a useful framework for thinking about human responsibility for the environment.  Henning, co-chair of the newly formed Gonzaga Advisory Council on Stewardship and Sustainability, will end his talk with concrete comments about how sustainability works out as a practical model for action.  A response will be offered by Michael Woods, SJ, of the Gonzaga Religious Studies Department, with time for open discussion afterwards.
Fri Mar 20
CG 101
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Eric Cunningham, History, Gonzaga

"Jesuit Catholic Mission at Gonzaga: The Long View" (mp3 audio / Cunningham PowerPoint)
Jesuit Catholic institutions of higher education are having an ongoing conversation about mission goals and objectives.  Evidence of this conversation can be seen, among other places, in the pages of the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education and in the 2002 advisory document “Communal Reflection on the Jesuit Mission in Higher Education: A Way of Proceeding.”  This conversation is also taking place at Gonzaga University in a variety of fora, especially in connection with initiatives to revise curricula and degree programs.

Is this ongoing conversation about mission indicative of a vibrant tradition of mission thinking and practice at Gonzaga, or of a mission crisis?  Recent scholarship on the religious identity and mission of institutions of higher education in the United States is unsettling on this score.  The work of George Marsden and James Tunstead Burtchaell traces a broad pattern of secularization in both Protestant and Catholic traditions of higher education in the United States.  In the case of Jesuit Catholic institutions, the problem is compounded by the declining population of Jesuits, who until recently provided a mission “critical mass” for the Society’s educational mission.

Given these conditions, what will Jesuit Catholic mission and education look like at Gonzaga University in 25 years?  Gonzaga Philosophy Professor Richard McClelland argues that processes of secularization that have affected religious institutions of higher education in the United States provide a history from which Gonzaga can learn.  He argues that there are three basic mission paths available for religious institutions in the current context: assimilation, a form of encapsulation in which the institution builds clear lines of distinction between itself and secular culture (which might be called "ghettoization"), and a form of encapsulation in which the university as a whole accedes to secularization while creating or allowing the creation of islands of robust religious mission.
Fri Apr 17
CG 101
Michael Tkacz, Philosophy, Gonzaga
John Shea, SJ, Biology, Gonzaga
"Is There Design in Nature?  What Medieval Philosophers Can Tell Us About Contemporary Biological Research" (talk summary)
Historian of science William Provine notes that since the "Darwinian synthesis" united evolution by natural selection with genetics, biologists have generally avoided claims of purposes or ends in nature.  Neo-Darwinian New Atheists have been even more forceful in recent years, denying that nature exhibits any forms of design.  The move away from design is driven by a number of factors, most notably the idea in contemporary biology that fitness is relativized to specific biological contexts.  More recently, the rejection of design is also motivated by a concern that biologists resist yielding rhetorical ground to traditional theistic arguments from design or even proponents of Intelligent Design theory.

Michael Tkacz of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department argues that despite these concerns, "engineering" models of adaptation that are standard in contemporary biology show the relevance of design thinking in science.  Drawing on notions of design and purpose employed by medieval philosophers, Tkacz shows that goal-oriented processes are common in nature, and therefore that nature exhibits design, purpose, and good.

A response to Dr. Tkacz's talk will be offered by John Shea, SJ, of the Gonzaga Biology Department.


Fri Sept 19
CG 101
Douglas Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Joseph Yi, Political Science, Gonzaga
“Faith Votes: Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election” (talk outline / mp3 audio)
Religious voters play a particularly important role in US elections.  For several decades, Republican candidates in US elections have had the support of conservative Christian evangelicals.  So-called "Reagan Democrats," who are often traditionalists on social issues but more liberal on labor and economic issues, and who are further often Roman Catholic, have been less predictable in national elections.  Democratic candidates for president in this election cycle have made concerted efforts to reinvigorate their appeal to religious voters.  What effects have these efforts had?  What is the current dynamic of religious participation in the presidential election?

Dr Douglas Kries, Gonzaga University professor of Philosophy and expert on political philosophy and the role of religion in civic life, will address these questions.  A response will be offered by Joseph Yi of the Gonzaga Polical Science Department.

Fri Oct 24
CG 101
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Douglas Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Margaret Rankin, graduate student, Philosophy, Gonzaga
“Jane Austen as Christian Author” (mp3 audio)
Jane Austen is an enormously popular romantic author.  The novels enjoy brisk sales today.  All of Austen's published works were filmed by the BBC in the 1970s and 80s, and were re-aired as a series on public television stations in the US in Spring 2008.  As a quick look at the Internet Movie Database will show, multiple versions of her novels and treatments of her life have been produced as movies in the US and other countries over the past century.

The Christianity of Regency England forms a constant part of the background of Austen's novels, with country parsons and church services a counterpoint to wealthy heirs and dancing parties.  Speaking of Pride and Prejudice, the cultural critic Allan Bloom notes, "religion is present in the person of the ridiculous Mr. Collins, but it is only part of the scenery, neither a great enemy nor a great hope."  On the contrary, Alasdair MacIntyre cites with approval C. S. Lewis' judgment that Austen is an "essentially Christian writer," and extends this view to claim that Austen's genius lies in her uniting the Aristotelian virtue tradition with a particularly Christian outlook.

Is Austen a distinctly Christian author?  If so, in what ways?  How does Christianity influence and inform her romantic sensibility?
Fri Nov 14
CG 101
Laura Schmidt, Psychotherapist, Spokane
Chris Sparks,
Philosophy student, Gonzaga
Fr. Paul Vevik, Pastor,
Mary Queen Parish
John Wagner,
Philosophy, Gonzaga

"Evil, Suffering, & God: A Panel Discussion" (draft remarks by Sparks / draft remarks by Vevik / mp3 audio)
The reality of evil and suffering is thought to provide the most compelling intellectual challenge to Christian belief by many people—adherents to and critics of Christianity alike.  Why does a God who is powerful enough to prevent evil and suffering, benevolent enough to wish to prevent suffering, and wise enough to know how to prevent evil and suffering allow evil and suffering to exist?  Why, if the universe is creatively ordered by God as a good, are evil and suffering so pervasive?  How should we understand evil and suffering?  Can a robustly orthodox conception of God be maintained in the face of the human experience of evil?

A thorought treatment of the problem of evil requires that we explore the nature of evil, the impact of evil and suffering on human life, and the implications of evil and suffering for our understanding of God.  To address the question of evil and suffering from a set of varied perspectives, we will hear short presentations from a set of panelists with diverse experiences and interests.
Fri Dec 5
CG 101
Catherine Tkacz, independent scholar
Dale Soden, History and Director of the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, Whitworth University

" 'The Honour of the Mind': Scholarly Vocation and Intellectual Integrity" (mp3 audio)
In Dorothy L. Sayers's mystery Gaudy Night (Gollancz, 1935), amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey remarks, "if it ever occurs to people to value the honour of the mind equally with the honour of the body, we shall get a social revolution of a quite unparalleled sort--& very different from the kind that is being made at this moment." By "honour of the body," Sayers means the physical and moral integrity of chastity (including the honorable love of marriage), as opposed to prostitution. Thus, "honour of the mind" means intellectual integrity, honestly seeking and analyzing evidence, as opposed to selling out by misrepresenting or suppressing data.

Independent scholar Dr. Catherine Tkacz believes that Sayers’s idea of the “honour of the mind” illumniates the vocation of the scholar.  Tkacz argues that genuine commitment to scholarship requires intellectual integrity and rigor.  Employing examples drawn from magic--the "Vanishing Footnote," the "Smoke and Mirrors" of ideological intimidation and self-projection, and "Sawing the Lady in Half"--Tkacz outlines ways that integrity is compromised or ignored in contemporary scholarship.  According to Tkacz, it is timely to affirm that honesty is essential to the pursuits of teaching and scholarship, and that Christian scholars in particular have an obligation to defend and embody integrity.

It has become something of a tradition for the Gonzaga Socratic Club to highlight its connection to C. S. Lewis and Oxford Socratic Club in our December meeting each year.  While Sayers was not a member of Lewis's circle of fellow authors and scholars, the Inklings, she was a friend of Lewis and shared his commitment to the life of Christian scholarship.  More critically, C. S. Lewis was himself a model of the "honour of the mind"—Christian integrity in scholarship, teaching, and living out of the Christian life—so touted by Sayers's character Wimsey.  So it is a fitting commemoration of Lewis to consider Christian scholarship as inspired by Sayers.


Fri Jan 25
CG 203
Brian Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy & Honors Program, Gonzaga
“Teaching as a Pastoral Vocation” (mp3 audio)
At least since the time of Plato’s reflections on his own teacher Socrates, teaching has been recognized as a deeply personal involvement of a person in the lives of others.  The best of teachers do not merely transmit information to their students, but invest themselves in the lives of their students, model the life of active inquiry, and help shape the characters of their students.  If anything, these points are—or should be—even more true for the Christian teacher.  The Christian teacher is a pastor, a shepherd.  The teaching ministry of Jesus exemplifies the teacher’s role as shepherd in the ways he communicates truth to the disciples while also encouraging and building them up as future leaders for the church.  Brian Clayton and Tim Clancy, both of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department, will offer their reflections on the pastoral nature of teaching, particularly in the context of a Jesuit, Catholic, and Humanist university such as Gonzaga.

Dr. Clayton suggests reading C. S. Lewis' sermon, "The  Weight of Glory" (especially the final paragraph) for the talk;  Fr. Clancy offers these notes on the nature of wisdom (MS Word .doc format).

Fri Feb 15
CG 101
Aaron Brown, Philosophy graduate student, Gonzaga
Brent Diebel, Philosophy grad student, Gonzaga
“The New Atheism” (talk outline / mp3 audio)
"The New Atheism: A Response" by Brent Diebel
A period from fall 2006 to summer 2007 marked a minor flood of books by prominent public intellectuals--scientists, philosophers, and journalists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger--who vigorously defended atheism as an outlook.  This "New Atheism" is not only non-theistic, it is explicitly, even militantly anti-theistic.  In the view of these thinkers, religion is not only an outmoded and demonstrably false view of the world, it is pernicious and dangerous for both individuals and society at large.  Gonzaga University Philosophy grad student Aaron Brown will offer an overview of the New Atheism and highlight some of the central arguments against religion offered by New Atheist thinkers.  A response will be offered by Brent Diebel, also a graduate student in Philosophy at Gonzaga University.
Fri Mar 28
CG 101
Matthew Gallatin, author, speaker, podcaster, and former philosophy professor, North Idaho College
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Christian Pluralism and the Person of Christ" (talk abstract / mp3 audio)
The three Persons of the Holy Trinity are a divine community whose unity is so perfect that they are together just one God.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christians are blessed to participate in that transcendent oneness.  Thus, Jesus Christ teaches that unity among believers must be of the same quality as the union He shares with the Father (John 17:20-23).  But the landscape of Christian denominationalism seems to present the antithesis of union.  Yet it is common for Christians to dismiss this apparently problematic division by an appeal to “the same Jesus”: at some fundamental level, all Christians believe in one Christ.

According to author and speaker Matthew Gallatin, to describe Jesus Christ in a manner universal enough to incorporate His various denominational species would require abandoning the Person Jesus Christ.  To live in the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose, unity in a universalized “idea” of Christ is not enough.  Oneness with the very specific “person” Christ is required.  And the Person Jesus Christ can bear only one doctrinal description.  Thus, Christian doctrinal division is not excusable. It is a problem that must be faced.  The implications for the Faith as a whole, and for individual believers, are weighty.

Matthew Gallatin writes and speaks on Eastern Orthodox Christian apologetics and spirituality.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Gonzaga University, and is a former philosophy professor at North Idaho College.  Matthew is the author of Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells (Conciliar Press, 2002).  His second book, One: What It Means to be a Christian, is due to be published later this year (2008).
Fri Apr 18
CG 101
Ted DiMaria, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Wayne Pomerleau, Philosophy, Gonzaga

"Can Christianity Be Reduced to an Ethical System?" (talk outline / talk text / response text / mp3 audio)
Critics and reformers (or would-be reformers) of Christianity have sometimes argued that the essential core of Christianity can be found in its moral teaching, particularly in the parables and commandments of Jesus.  In what is perhaps the most famous example, Thomas Jefferson produced an edited compilation of the Gospels, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (sometimes called the “Jefferson Bible”) that excised miracles and supernatural signs in favor of Jesus’ moral teachings.  This example and others show that it is possible to regard Christianity as essentially an ethical system.

Gonzaga Philosophy Professor Ted Di Maria argues that we should separate the question of whether or not Christianity can be reduced to an ethical system from whether or not it should be so reduced.  Regarding the latter question, Di Maria offers a conceptual analysis of Christianity, noting in particular the features distinct from morality or moral claims.  Appealing to Immanuel Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone as a reference point, Di Maria explores the justifications for and limitations of reducing Christian belief and practice to morality.  A comment on Professor Di Maria’s talk will be offered by Professor Wayne Pomerleau, also of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department. 


Wed Sept 19
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Michael Maher, SJ, History, Gonzaga
“St. Thomas for Zags?  Why Friar Thomas Should Teach the Bulldogs” (talk outline)
From the beginning, Ignatius of Loyola and his companions regarded education as central to the preparation of men for the service of God in the Society of Jesus.  The educational program set out for members of the Society, which in time became the plan for a mission work of the Jesuits to lay people, included a significant component of philosophy and theology, and highlighted the systematic philosophical theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Is there still a place for St. Thomas in the curriculum of a Jesuit university?  Dr. Kries will argue that St. Thomas' virtues as a questioner and reader, and his wisdom on the relationship between faith and reason, make him a central figure for Jesuit, Catholic, humanist education, and therefore continue to justify his place in the curriculum of a university such as Gonzaga.
Wed Oct 10
Eric Cunningham, History, Gonzaga
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Zen Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue: Nishida Kitaro's Dialectics of Divine Love and History"
In this talk Dr. Eric Cunningham, Gonzaga University Professor of History and author of the recent
Hallucinating the End of History: Nishida, Zen, and the Psychedelic Eschaton (Bethesda: Academica Press, 2007), examines the historical philosophy of Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), Japan's first and foremost modern philosopher.  Looking specifically at Nishida's historical philosophy, Cunningham will argue that Nishida's historical dialectics, rooted in earlier formulations of experience, and consciousness, constitutes a valid "postmodern" historical process. Not only does Nishida's historical philosophy creatively synthesize two distinct philosophical traditions (Zen Buddhism and western philosophy), it also opens the possibility for resolving the fundamental conflict between spirit and matter, leading human consciousness beyond modern materialism into a post-historical world of divine love and "absolute nothingness."

Some of the topics and themes discussed in Dr Cunningham’s Socratic Club talk are treated in his article “The Self Determination of Absolute Nothingness: The Origins and Implications of Nishida Kitarô's Historical Philosophy, E-ASPAC Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast, 2007

Wed Nov 14
Christopher Sparks, Philosophy student, Gonzaga
Anna Gonzales, Intercultural Relations, Unity House, Gonzaga
"The Catholic Identity of Gonzaga: A Student View" (talk text / PowerPoint presentation / mp3 audio)
The Gonzaga Socratic Club welcomes its first-ever student presenter on Wednesday, November 14, from 4:00-5:30 pm in College Hall Room 203.  Mr. Chris Sparks, a Gonzaga junior majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Religious Studies and concentration in Catholic Studies, will address the question of Catholic identity and higher education.  In his talk “Ad Fontes!  Gonzaga’s Catholic Identity from the Church’s Documents,” Sparks argues that key documents of both Gonzaga University and the Catholic church, including Gonzaga’s Mission Statement, Canon Law, the Vatican II declaration Gravissimum Educationis, and the Papal encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae, provide a road map for understanding and implementing Catholic identity.  In Sparks’ view, these documents not only spell out the basic structure of the religious character of a Catholic university, they address practical questions about research emphasis, academic freedom, the special role of theology in studies, and the relationship between intellectual inquiry, faith, and science.  Mr. Sparks is a staff writer for the Gonzaga Witness, opinion contributor to the Gonzaga Bulletin, regular writer for Charter, and an active member of several campus clubs and the Gonzaga Pep Band.
Wed Dec 5
David H. Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Aristotle in Narnia: Virtue and Character in C. S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (PowerPoint presentation / mp3 audio)
Several generations of readers have found C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia to be engaging stories of fantasy and adventure that are rooted in a distinctively Christian worldview.  In this talk, David Calhoun, Gonzaga philosophy professor and director of the Gonzaga Socratic Club, will argue that an important dimension of Lewis' Narnia stories is their articulation of a Christian conception of moral character.  Drawing on the classic account of virtue ethics offered by Aristotle, Calhoun will sketch a basic account of a character approach to ethics and will explain how this approach is adapted by Christian thinkers.  Using the Narnia story Voyage of the Dawn Treader for illustration, Calhoun will show how Lewis' depictions of the characters in the book highlight virtues or character excellences and demonstrate the nature of character formation.  As a particular example, Calhoun will argue that the peculiar hyper-courtly talking mouse Reepicheep is intended by Lewis to capture a particularly Christian notion of virtuous self-understanding.


Mon Jan 29
Tim Clancy, SJ, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
“Panentheism: Romantic Religion” (talk)
response by Richard McClelland
One of the perennial puzzles of theism is how to think about God's relationship to the world.  In traditional Christianity, God is the creator and source of all things, and so is distinct from creation--"transcendent," to use the traditional term.  At the same time, God is involved with creation in a way distinct from the Deist conception of a divine clock-maker who winds up the universe and then leaves it to run on its own.  Some modern theists have found the notion of panentheism a fruitful way to think about God's relationship with the world, especially as a way to capture the vulnerability and intimacy of God's love for the creation.  Tim Clancy, SJ., a member of the Gonzaga University Philosophy Department and Director of the Gonzaga Honors Program, finds the concept of panentheism helpful for balancing our understanding of God's transcendence with the intimacy of his relationship with creation.  He will offer a personal account of panentheism that links it to a relational view of religion, which he calls "Romantic Catholicism."  A response will be offered by Richard McClelland of the Gonzaga Philosophy Department.
Fri Feb 9 Ralph Wood, Theology and Literature, Baylor
Patricia Terry, English, Gonzaga

"Walker Percy's The Moviegoer: Binx Bolling's Quest for Vocation in Purposeless America"
Catholic novelist Walker Percy (1916-1990) was a keen chronicler of the deranged condition of modern human life.  After tuberculosis interrupted his residency in pathology at New York's Bellevue Hospital, he read voraciously and turned his attention to being a "physician of the soul," analyzing and naming the strangeness of being human in the twentienth century.  Percy's first published novel was The Moviegoer, for which he won the National Book Award.

Dr. Ralph Wood, University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, argues that we should note the important difference between vocation and profession, and realize that in addition to questions about how we will make our living, we must decide how we will live as human beings.  In Wood's interpretation, the question of vocation--how to live--is at the heart of Percy's Moviegoer, illustrated by the sense of the main character, Binx Bolling, that his life has no real purpose.  According to Wood, Binx is dealing with what Albert Camus called the authentic question for our time: Why should I do anything at all? Why should I not kill myself? And if I don¹t blow my brains out (as Walker Percy¹s father and grandfather had done), then why not "pleasure myself with the pretty young women"?  As Wood sees it, the arc of the novel describes one person's attempt to answer this question in a serious way.  A response will be offered by Patricia Terry of the Gonzaga English Department.

Fri Mar 23
Michael Maher, SJ, History and Catholic Studies, Gonzaga
Bill Ryan, SJ, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Ignatius of Loyola's Idea of a Jesuit University" (talk outline)
Questions of mission and identity are a perennial topic of discussion at Jesuit universities.  Michael Maher, SJ, of the Gonzaga University History Department and Catholic Studies program, contends that this discussion can and should be grounded in principles drawn from Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and documents from the early history of the Society.

According to Fr. Maher, “The establishment of a school designated as Ignatian must not be simply a return to the past but rather an assimilation of the tradition and its adaptation to present needs and problems. Such a school, however, must embrace the fundamental characteristics identified by Ignatius and establish means by which these can be implemented and evaluated. Thus an ‘Ignatian school’ has its roots nourished by past experience and insight whereas its branches are constantly exposed to the ever changing climate of our world today.”  As a member of the Society of Jesus since 1975, a member of the Jesuit Historical Institute (appointed by Society of Jesus Superior-General Peter Hans Kolvenbach in 1997), and a scholar of Jesuit practices and principles in organizations, Fr. Maher has a particularly helpful perspective on the Ignatian vision for higher education.

A response to the talk will be offered by Bill Ryan, SJ, of the Gonzaga University Philosophy Department.
Fri Apr 13
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga "Perfect Being Theology: A Tool for Theological Thinking"
Philosophers and theologians in the Christian tradition over the past two millennia have employed three main models for understanding God's nature and relationship to the created universe: neo-Platonism, Aristotelian-Thomistic First-Cause philosophical theology, and Perfect Being Theology (PBT).  PBT has its origins in the biblical concept of God as "perfect" or "flawless," the ideal standard of goodness (see, e.g., Psalm 18:30, Matthew 5:48), and is famously expressed in the definition of God offered by St. Anselm of Canterbury as "that being than which none greater can be conceived."  However, PBT has assumed a position of central importance in philosophical theology in the past half-century, in the attempt to explain the divine nature in terms of compossible perfect-making attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.  According to Dr. McClelland, Christians should appreciate the value of PBT as a tool for articulating the Christian conception of God in a philosophically and theologically rigorous way.


Fri Sept 8
Michael J. Maher, SJ, History, Gonzaga
Kevin Connell, SJ, President, Gonzaga Prep
Due to sudden illness, Fr. Maher's talk had to be postponed.  See March 23, 2007 for  the reschedule of his talk.
Fri Oct 13
Doug Geivett, Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
Debby Hutchins, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Miracles: Two Philosophical Questions"
Wed Nov 8
Douglas Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga “Tocqueville and Benedict XVI on Catholicism and Politics”
Fri Dec 1
Forrest Baird, Philosophy, Whitworth College "C.S. Lewis and The Abolition of Man.”


Fri Jan 20
Michael Collender, The Oaks Academy and Philosophy, Gonzaga
Quanhua Liu, Philosophy, Gonzaga
“Comparative Religious Epistemology: Can We Judge Whether Christianity or Buddhism is True?” (presentation outline)
response by Quanhua Liu
Many people today think of religions as equally true, or perhaps equally false, or they think that religious claims cannot be judged as true or false at all.  The problem of judging religious claims as true or false is even more acute when one recognizes the reality of religious pluralism, and appreciates that religions involve competing “worldviews,” or ways of understanding reality, meaning, and truth.  If different religions are rooted in different worldviews, each with competing ways of conceiving of what is true and the criteria by which one judges truth claims, it would seem that a religion can be judged only by the standards of its own worldview.  If this is true, religions are “incommensurate”—they are distinct from one another and cannot be judged by any common set of standards of truth or value.

Michael Collender, Instructor at The Oaks Academy and an adjunct instructor in the Gonzaga University Philosophy Department, argues that while it is true that competing religions are rooted in distinct worldviews, there are transcendent standards that can be employed to judge their truth.  In order to make the problem concrete, Collender will consider Christianity and Buddhism as religious systems with competing claims to the truth.

Fri Feb 10 Catherine Tkacz, independent scholar
Fr Pat Hartin, Classical Civilizations and Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Fr Paul Vevik, Pastor, Mary Queen Parish, Spokane, WA
"Typology and Realism: Moses, Jesus, and Reality" (PowerPoint / outline pdf)
Many modern Christians think of the Christian worldview as a construction patched together from disparate, even contradictory, experiences of an almost chaotically diverse group of people.  By contrast, Dr Catherine Tkacz argues that classical realism—the view that reality is coherent, intelligible, and independent of knowing human minds—is critical to Christianity as a systematic outlook.  She argues that realism is inherent to the Jewish scriptures and to the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of Christianity.  Tkacz further argues that the interpretive method of typology is fundamental to the conception of truth advanced in Christian thought and that typology requires a realist outlook as well.  Tkacz’s position therefore a via media between non-realist views of Christianity on one side and unreflective forms of uncontextualized realism on the other.

Tkacz is a Spokane-based independent scholar of early and medieval Christianity.

Fri Mar 31
in AD 203
Erik Schmidt, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Shalon Parker, Art, Gonzaga
"Finding a place for beauty and aesthetics in a Christian worldview" (talk)
response (PowerPoint presentation) by Shalon Parker
Contemporary philosophers and Christians are ignorant or embarrassed by the idea of beauty.  In the view of Erik Schmidt, this is unfortunate.  As he sees it, aesthetics ought to play a more important role in philosophical efforts to articulate and defend a Christian worldview. To make the case for this view, Schmidt first will offer an account of why aesthetics has been generally neglected by examining recent trends in both art history and philosophy. Next, he will offer a general defense of the importance of aesthetics by explaining how it relates to various issues that tend to play a more prominent role in recent defenses of the Christian worldview. Finally, Schmidt will provide an example of what Christian aesthetics might look like by defending the value and importance of beauty as a category of aesthetic appraisal.
Fri Apr 21 Lyra Pitstick, independent scholar
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
John Wagner, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Why Christ's Descent into Hell Matters for Christians" (presentation outline)
Holy Saturday is overshadowed by the visible drama of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.  What is the significance of this day, when all the world is holding its breath?  How can we approach a mystery to which there were no living witnesses?  Does it have continuing significance for our lives and, if so, what?  Addressing these questions from the perspective of the ancient universal Christian tradition, we will find that Christ’s descent into hell is as rich and meaningful a mystery of faith as the other aspects of Jesus’ life and death.  It has great potential to enrich our appreciation of what He has done for our salvation, to serve as material for meditation and prayer, and to strength our Christian hope and zeal in a world ever in need of the Gospel.


Fri Sept 9
Michael Tkacz, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Thomas Aquinas vs. The Intelligent Designers (and The Materialists)
What is God's Finger Doing in my Pre-Biotic Soup?"
summary of talk (.pdf format) / extended remarks (.html format)
Fri Oct 14, 3:45-5:15 pm
Hugh Lefcourt, Biology, Gonzaga
Mike Carey, Organizational Leadership, Gonzaga
Catholic Mission and Identity: The Case of Gonzaga
(Lefcourt questions / Carey PowerPoint)
Fri Nov 11
Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Doug Kries
, Philosophy, Gonzaga

Ron Large, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Panel Discussion: "Should a Christian Be a Pacifist?
Thoughts on Peace and Just-War Theory"
prepared remarks by panel members
Fri Dec 9
AD 203
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Brian Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga

"A Christian in Narnia: Thoughts on the New Film Version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"


Fri Jan 14
Mark Alfino, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Magic and Christianity"
Fri Feb 11
a panel discussion with:
Mike Cook, SJ
, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Mike Stebbins, Religious Studies, Gonzaga
Eric Kincanon, Physics, Gonzaga
Michael Tkacz, Philosophy, Gonzaga
God, Suffering and Evil
Fri Mar 18
Robert Prusch, Biology and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Gonzaga
David Calhoun
, Philosophy, Gonzaga

"Biology and Religion" (outline).
Fri Dec 9
Joel Steinmetz, Philosophy, Catholic University
Jason Williams, Psychology, Gonzaga

"The Problem of Intentionality: A Cardinal Problem for Physicalism, OR, What Happens to the World When a Mind Shows Up?" (outline).


Fri Sept 10
David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga
" 'Follow the Argument' and Two Other Socratic Principles for the Christian Academic".
Fri Oct 8
Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Romans 2:14-15, Natural Law, and the Naturalist Fallacy".
Fri Nov 12
Brian Clayton, Philosophy, Gonzaga "Night Light: Beauty and Truth in the Films of M. Night Shyamalan".
Fri Dec 10
Richard McClelland, Philosophy, Gonzaga
"Mythological Truths".


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, presentation materials, and talks available on this site are used by permission of the authors.  Site last updated July 28, 2018.