Philosophy Department

USM Philosophy Department to Observe World Philosophy Day

PORTLAND, Maine – The idea that we need to take time out of this hurry-scurry, high-tech world to think deeply and philosophically about the serious issues facing all of us is a concept gaining more and more prominence among many people.

As part of its first celebration of World Philosophy Day on Thursday, Nov. 21, the University of Southern Maine (USM) Department of Philosophy, under the USM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, will hold three public events emphasizing the importance of philosophy in our society.

The USM World Philosophy Day celebration will include a film showing and discussion and a radio talk show discussion on WMPG 90.9. Highlighting the celebration will be an open panel discussion featuring several Maine philosophers and philosophy students from USM and Bates College. The panel will focus on the question: “Why in the world is philosophy needed?”

“We need to shine a bright light on the role of philosophy in the world and how important it is to engage in philosophic thought, to ask the larger questions about civil society, the environment, the meaning of existence,” said Julien Murphy, USM professor of philosophy and department chair. “ … We hope to have an interesting discussion with lively and engaged minds, and we hope to have new insight on these questions, both from other panelists and the audience.”

The details of the three events in chronological order are:

  • “Why in the World is Philosophy Needed?” preview panel discussion featuring University of Southern Maine Department of Philosophy faculty and student; Tuesday Night Talk Radio – WMPG 90.9; 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19.
  • “Why in the World is Philosophy Needed?” panel discussion, featuring USM and Bates College faculty and students, with audience participation; 1:15-2:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21, Glickman Library, 7th floor, University of Southern Maine, Portland campus; coffee/tea and hot cider served; free and open to the public.
  • “Examined Life,” documentary film and discussion, moderated by Jason Read, University of Southern Maine professor of philosophy; 7 p.m., Room 303, Payson Smith Building, USM Portland campus; free and open to the public.

Celebrated every year on the third Thursday of November, World Philosophy Day is sponsored by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Now in its 11th year, the theme for this year’s celebration is: “Inclusive Societies, Sustainable Planet.”

This is USM’s first year taking part in the international recognition day, and the USM philosophy faculty members wanted to build on the synergy of the occasion, Murphy said.

“We want to create a space and a gathering to contemplate the role of philosophy in the world,” the USM philosophy professor said, “so we decided to hold a full slate of activities. We hope people will discover the pleasure of doing philosophy and its value to the larger society.”

 The Thursday afternoon discussion will feature as panelists Murphy; Jeremiah Conway, USM associate professor of philosophy; Judith Spross, USM professor of nursing; and Susan Stark, Bates College associate professor of philosophy. The two USM philosophy students taking part are Jamie Barilone and Adam Hanson, both of Portland. Each panelist will speak for 10 minutes on the topic question, and then the discussion will be opened to the audience, Murphy said.

The Tuesday radio talk show discussion on WMPG will be a half-hour preview of the World Philosophy Day presentation, the department chair said. The guests will include Murphy, Conway, Spross and Barilone.

Later Thursday evening, the documentary film, “Examined Life,’’ will be presented, followed by a discussion led by Jason Read, USM associate professor of philosophy. The film depicts excursions through metropolitan locales with eight contemporary philosophers who discuss the practical applications of their thinking.

Murphy said that the USM Department of Philosophy would continue its public outreach with series of lectures in spring 2014 geared toward students and community members.

The USM philosophy professor said she hoped that through the World Philosophy Day events, “we will have provided an opportunity for people to engage in philosophical thinking in the larger community in an academic setting on the USM campus.

“The dire issues of our time require serious philosophical thought,” Murphy said. “There is a lot at stake.”

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