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Lectures start promptly at 7:30PM and are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month January 2024 through May 14, 2024.   Our meetings are held at the New New Chinese Buffet,  3822 Belt Line Road, Addison, TX 75001 (972) 243-1198,   Zoom access will NOT be available. 

1-9-2024   Diverse evidence that we are in a MIDAS simulation

Justin C. Fisher, SMU Philosophy

Many philosophers acknowledge at least a small possibility that what we are experiencing is not a fundamentally physical world, but instead a massive computer simulation.  A realistic simulation might be difficult to distinguish from a "real world", so many have taken simulation hypotheses to be unlikely possibilities that we can't quite rule out, but also have no positive reason to think are true.   The philosopher Nick Bostrom famously argued that the question of whether we are in a simulation is linked to the questions of (a) whether civilizations would survive long enough to develop advanced simulation technology, and (b) whether such civilizations would then build massive simulations.  As a consequence, evidence involving (a) and/or (b) may weigh in favor of simulation hypotheses.  In addition, I will argue that many other sorts of evidence weigh in favor of thinking that we are in a particular sort of simulation: a Multi-threaded Incrementally-Detailed Ancestral Simulation (MIDAS).  This includes evidence from physics and quantum mechanics, evidence that we are (apparently) on the homeworld where we evolved, and evidence involving our semi-competent handling of existential threats like pandemics, global warming, and artificial intelligence.  As such evidence accumulates, MIDAS simulation hypotheses seem to be making the same transition that our theory of evolution has made: shifting from being an intriguing but impossible-to-verify "just so story" about a world far removed from our immediate experience, to being the most plausible and coherent way to make sense of overwhelming evidence from a diverse array of fields. 

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: jCZM.5ws

1-23-2024  Words, Meaning, and Life

David Patterson, Ph.D.

Based on the book Eighteen Words to Sustain a Life: A Jewish Father’s Ethical Will By David Patterson

This presentation begins with a brief explanation of what an ethical will is and its role in Jewish tradition, as well as other traditions.  The book examines the meanings and the teachings found in eighteen selected words, because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for life, chai, is eighteen.  Here we shall consider three words and how they are connected: word, meaning, and life.  The discussion opens with a reflection on the word and the capacity of words to create and to destroy.  The soul is made of words, according to Jewish teaching; the essence of the human being is to be a speaking being.  As a speaking being, the human being takes on meaning through a relation to another human being; there is no meaning in isolation.  Indeed, there are times when, in the darkness of our isolation, we collide with meaninglessness.  In the second part of the talk, then, we shall consider where meaning is to be found.  For example, some connections between meaning and mission, mission and future, will be explored.  It turns out that meaning lies not in what is known but in what is lived, which brings us to life.  The Torah summons us to choose life, saying: “Behold, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil… .  So choose life, in order that you may endure, you and your seed.”   If choosing life does not mean simply surviving, what can it mean?  And what does it have to do with the choice between good and evil?  Finally, the talk will briefly consider what all of this has to do with wisdom: is philosophy the love of wisdom or perhaps the wisdom of love, as Emmanual Levinas suggests?

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: J#G8Q+@.

2-13-2024  Second-Best Ethics Part 2

Mark Curtis-Thames, Ph.D.,  Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the El Centro Campus of Dallas College

“Systemic Ethics” is the name given to an application of social systems theory to normative ethics. This yields a “second-best” ethics equally accessible to people of any worldview. A decision-making toolkit is derived from systemic ethics, which can be applied via a straightforward protocol to situations needing decision. The talk will quickly catch the audience up to last fall’s approach, lay out the decision-making tool and then involve the audience in a trial of the method. 

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: Wrbb+g8p

2-27-2024 Probing the Hiddenness of God

Speaker: Chad Engelland, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, University of Dallas

Is it possible to seek God and not to find him? J.L. Schellenberg argues that an earnest though unsuccessful seeking of God counts as evidence against the existence of God, who, being all good, would want to be known.  Drawing on the thought of Augustine and Aquinas, the speaker will argue that such divine hiddenness, while counting against all other gods, can be regarded as both natural and fitting for God the creator, for: (1) God as creator would be necessarily hidden to his creatures in virtue of belonging to a different dimension (the author of a story belongs to a different world than the story penned), and (2) God could permit such natural hiddenness to enable a free and creative seeking of him, which attends to the dimensional difference and thereby delivers a truer understanding of its target. To be hidden is a fitting attribute of God the creator and therefore need not impugn his goodness or call into question his existence. 

3-12-2024  The Cultural Evolution of Religion and God

Speaker: David Alkek, MD

In the entirety of human history, religion and beliefs in gods have changed and evolved. Scientific approaches to explain this phenomenon are as follows: the functional or adaptive approach; the evolutionary psychology approach; the search for causal explanation; and the developmental psychology perspective. We will explore these in detail and examine how religion is still evolving today.

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: t&1XC&N9


3-26-2024  The Hegelian Conception of History and the Turn-of-the-20th Century Progressive Movement

Speaker: Tiffany Jones-Miller Professor of Politics University of Dallas

Many Americans today understand that the turn-of-the-20th century progressive movement believed the US needed to be reformed.  Few, however, understand the depth of their reconsideration of America, much less the role Hegel’s idealist conception of History played in shaping their re-assessment.  Embracing a teleological view of human nature (and History), the earlier progressives rejected a liberal conception of the limited nature of government in favor of a self-consciously “new” conception of the State ordered toward the perfection of humanity.  The object of social reform, accordingly, was to finish the developmental process of History by abolishing whatever gap remained between the human ideal (or end) and the way in which men actually behaved.

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: @!o2F7?u

4-9-2024  Fathoming the Human Mind – an Historical Perspective: The lives and work of Freud, Jung, Meyers and Briggs

Don Wolman, BS (MIT), MS (Tufts)

This presentation, “Fathoming the Human Mind – an Historical Perspective” chronicles the lives and work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Meyers. From this historical perspective, it is possible to understand the forces that shaped their remarkable lives and their differing approaches to the human subconscious mind. Together, they left a fascinating legacy as they struggled to fathom what it means to be human.

4-23-2024  Philosophical and Psychological Responses to Climate Change

Dr. Bill Woodfin, MD

Though climate scientists have been warning for decades of the existential threat of climate change individuals, governments, and corporate entities are not addressing it to a degree appropriate to avoid the worst of its consequences. This lecture will explore the various factors psychological, philosophical, social, financial, and political that might account for these failures. 

Click on the link below to listen to the talk.  Open the PP Presentation to loot at the slides.!AgT23pX7yoXJiodxT45C25SVfd7Obw

PowerPoint: PowerPoint Presentation

5/14/2024  How We Change Our Minds: A Discussion about Worldview Based on Thomas Kuhn

Andy Jennings, MS, MDiv., Ph.D.

In his famous work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argues that science moves forward not by small incremental changes based on new data, but through paradigm shifts based on crises of outlying data. As he says in a late chapter title, scientific revolutions are often a matter of changing one’s world view rather than a result of accepting minor alternative ways of interpreting data. In this Kuhnian vein, we can ask a broader epistemological question about what it takes to convince someone to change not just their scientific paradigm about gravity or cosmology but about all of reality. In modern parlance, a worldview is one’s fundamental assumptions about reality, a framework in which one forms other beliefs about ethics, religion, politics, and more. Taking Kuhn’s theory as a starting point, this paper will consider how we build our noetic structures out of basic worldview assumptions that govern our perceptions and belief formations. It will then consider what it takes to persuade another person to give up one worldview for another and why such persuasion is so difficult.

Click the link below to listen to the talk on Zoom:

Passcode: %F3eV0i*