Preparing for the first session...
We are underway with our inaugural conference for the Mellon Philosophy as a Way of Life Project! On Monday, June 17, we welcomed over 80 faculty from around the country (and internationally) to the campus of Notre Dame for four days of jam-packed workshop and network building.
We began the conference with remarks from Meghan Sullivan and the advisory committee, sketching a vision for the project. We also identified four key goals for the inaugural conference:
To build a community of faculty supporting each other in developing PWOL curricula.
For each participant to leave with several concrete ideas for starting or enhancing a PWOL-based course at their institution.
To spur philosophical investigation of PWOL as a genre and/or methodology within academic philosophy and the academy.
To plan future PWOL Network activities with an eye toward expanding engagement with students, building more diverse majors, effectively bridging PWOL teaching and research, and measuring our progress.
We then heard our first plenary lecture from Stephen Grimm, who raised a series of questions about what characterizes a "way of life" and challenges and opportunities for developing ways of life in conversation with academic philosophy. We had a vibrant Q&A session.
After lunch we had our first set of breakout sessions. One group discussed pedagogical theory behind student-led philosophical dialogue programs. Another group did a masterclass on Confucian philosophy, preparing to add Confucian and neo-Confucian texts to their curricula. A third group met at Notre Dame Studios and worked with the Office of Digital Learning on opportunities for enhancing courses with video, web-based, and other interactive digital tools.
Student panelists chatting with faculty after the session.
We returned to our final plenary session of the day, an energetic and inspiring panel of undergraduate students who have taken PWOL courses and reflected on they key ingredients and practices that made their courses memorable. They fielded all sorts of questions from the audience, lending insight into the kinds of assignments and examples that get students motivated, the sorts of philosophical questions weighing on undergraduates, and how students see the role of philosophy in their education as a whole. They lent advice on how to improve student evaluations and encourage recalcitrant students to speak in class. They explained key ways you can use the Avengers and Batman films to explain Kantian ethics.
After the final plenary, the students joined with local faculty to lead "Philosophically Interesting" tours of Notre Dame for interested participants. And we talked about the value of local resources and knowledge of place in inspiring philosophical reflection in a community.
We ended with a group BBQ and lots of informal conversation and reflection.
One of our tour Philosophy of Place tour groups in front of Hesburgh Library.