WU professors featured at APA philosophy conference

by Molly Daniels

Professors at Whitworth are required to stay updated in their field while they are teaching. Kathleen Storm, the Assistant Provost for Faculty Development, said professors are expected to engage in activities that promote community and scholarship.

While professors are not required to attend conferences, Storm said involvement in such activities can be beneficial.

“In addition to helping someone remain current in one’s field, involvement in a professional guild can offer opportunity to be an influential voice in the discipline,” Storm said.

Whitworth professors of philosophy Joshue Orozco and Nathan King said that participation in conferences is effective because it promotes collaboration, healthy criticism and the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

The APA and the Society of Christian Philosophers

The American Philosophical Association holds three major conferences a year; each conference is distinguished by region. Orozco and King attended the Pacific Division conference in  March.

“It provides venues where the profession can get organized and disseminate ideas,” Orozco said. “It also sets some standards for professional conduct.”

The association contains smaller individual subgroups that align with certain values. These subgroups hold their own meetings during the conference.

One of the groups is the Society of Christian Philosophers, which publishes the journal “Faith and Philosophy.” Both King and Orozco are members of that group and were invited to participate in one of the group’s events during the conference.

King’s Paper

King was invited to present a paper, and Orozco was asked to comment on it. King’s paper focused on religious skepticism.

“Skepticism is the idea that we shouldn’t believe or disbelieve; we should merely withhold judgment,” King said.

King said he wanted to critique existing skeptical arguments and come up with a stronger argument.

“As I’m a Christian, I sought to respond to the argument and see if Christianity can stand against skepticism. I hope the kind of work I’m doing can show how Christianity can withstand intellectual scrutiny,” King said.

In his paper, King tried to construct a better argument for skepticism. He then responded to the skeptical argument and attempted to show why it failed to sufficiently threaten theism.

“Whether we should give up our beliefs depends on how rational it was to hold them in the first place. If it was rational, adding in evidence might not affect belief to the same extent,” King said.

He said in his paper he tried to give examples as to how Christianity can be rational.

To prepare for commenting on the paper, Orozco spent time discussing it with King.

“About two months in advance we got together and talked about what he was going to say and defend in his paper,” Orozco said.

Orozco’s comments focused on showing ways in which King’s skeptical argument could be resisted and ways King’s argument could be improved.

Reasons for Participation

King presented papers at two previous conferences in 2012 and 2010. He said that Christian philosophy has been an up-and-coming phenomenon over the past 50 years, and he sees his involvement with the APA as a way to push research and knowledge forward.

“It’s important for Christian philosophers to deal with intellectual problems to the church,” King said.

He said he hopes that projects like this can help people understand religious disagreement. In addition, he said that he values the comments offered by Orozco.

“Getting good criticism of one’s work is like the equivalent of someone telling you that you have food in your teeth,” King said. “There are things I would have been blind to without criticism.”

King said he thinks good criticism promotes growth and development.

“Criticism needn’t be off-putting or painful. Given the right kind of interaction it can be extremely helpful,” King said.

Orozco said being involved with the Society of Christian Philosophers is an opportunity for those committed to Christianity to explore views and present challenges.

“We work to try to get a richer and fuller understanding of who we are and challenge one another in our pursuit of truth,” Orozco said.

Orozco said it was a good opportunity to discuss a philosophical paper with his colleague.

“To be able to do that with him in a more public setting, and I think that models the sort of community we ought to have at Whitworth,” Orozco said. “Collaborating is critical for the sake of pursuing truth, and it embodies what I think we should be doing on campus.”

Orozco said that there aren’t many times when Christians try to present the strongest argument against belief.

“Part of what it is to be educated is to be an individual who approaches one’s most critical commitments in an intellectual and virtuously responsible way,” Orozco said. “It doesn’t mean just sitting with beliefs and not challenging them for fear of being wrong,”

King said he plans to continue being involved with both the APA and the Society of Christian Philosophers.

Contact Molly Daniels at mdaniels16@my.whitworth.edu

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