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New Philosophy Club Makes its Mark at UT

by SARA SETARGEW

UT has a new philosophy club that had its first meeting on Sept. 21.

“The goal of the club is to give students some kind of toolbox to explore, examine and test their beliefs and what they stand for’,’ said the founder of the club, Dr. Laura Wildemann Kane, who is also UT’s newest philosophy professor. “I hope the club will create an informal space to discuss philosophical ideas and show how philosophy is relatable to most of our day-to-day life.”

Kane, who overcame barriers by becoming a philosopher in a male-dominated field, hopes to introduce philosophy in more accessible way for students from different backgrounds and culture.

“The club is an opportunity for students to merge themselves into the world of philosophy,” said Marina Morais, a junior philosophy major and president of the club. “It can help them to engage in debates, thoughts, and ideas they think are important. Philosophy is something that does not require anything except a thinking agent, a person. Members also can come up with ideas such as, what they want in the next meeting.’’

Philosophy is often painted as a useless major. Take for instance Conan O’Brien’s 2011 Dartmouth College commencement address when he said, “Of course, there are many parents here, and I have real advice for them as well. Parents, you should write this down; if your child majored in fine arts or philosophy, you have good reason to be worried. The only place where they are now really qualified to get a job is ancient Greece. Good luck with that degree.”

Another example is Marco Rubio’s comment in the Republican presidential debate in 2015 when he commented “Welders make more money than philosophers, we need more welders and less philosophers.”

If  liberal arts degrees are the target of jokes, philosophy is usually the punchline. Kane, however, sees fallacies in those theories.

“Philosophy is more than a dead-end degree,” Kane said. “It makes you question the beliefs you take for granted: why do we get up in the morning, why do we choose to drink coffee, why do we choose to do this other than that? Oftentimes the choices we made are guided by our fundamental beliefs, and if we don’t examine those beliefs or explore why those beliefs are worth having, we could wind up living a life we might, upon reflection, disagree with.”

Another task the club hopes to tackle is the misperception that philosophy is for white old men with beards, Kane said. She noted that philosophy is less diverse than most fields, including STEM fields. Part of the reason, she said, is because of who has been in philosophy for so long – white men.

It’s also because the education system usually takes male and western viewpoints for granted, to the point that when that happens, Kane said, a whole train winds up speaking to just a couple of individuals.

In 2011,  the data from 51 graduate programs ranked by the Leiter Report — the most widely used status ranking of Anglophone philosophy departments — included 21.9 percent women. This is lot greater number compared to 2003, which was 16.6 percent, said Sally Haslanger, a professor of philosophy and the former director of women’s and gender studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  Kane and the executive board of the club hope that the philosophy club becomes a part of the change by encouraging students from different backgrounds and majors to join the club.

“Students who are majoring in fields other than philosophy can benefit from the club greatly,’’ Kane said. “One reason is that most subjects have a motivation or an idea that can be seen as philosophical questions. Therefore, philosophy helps examine or better understand the motive behind the large and specific questions of most disciplines.”

As the semester progresses, the club will be hosting more events that are discussion based. The club encourages students to come and examine life in an entertaining way, according to Kane.  The club meets on Thursdays at 4 p.m. in Plant Hall 327. For more information, students can email the president at Marina.Morais@spartans.ut.edu.

For more information contact sara.setargew@spartans.ut.edu

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