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March 15, 2009


By Travis Harvey

What do philosophy, science fiction, and public relations have in common? A lot, if you ask the new inductees of Phi Sigma Tau, an international honor society recognizing philosophy students’ academic achievements. Belmont University’s newest Phi Sigma Tau members plan to prove it to us with a convocation series that will draw parallels between philosophy and…well, everything.

Emily Telford, a senior philosophy minor, plans to host a lecture on philosophy’s influence on public relations, her major. “I’m planning on hosting a convocation event called ‘Philosophy and PR,’ about how the two are related,” said Telford. “Our goal is to try to express how philosophy is over-arching on everything. Philosophy really touches every field, every discipline.”

“It was George Scoville’s idea,” said the group’s faculty advisor Dr. Andrew Davis. Scoville, the RAR‘s Managing Editor, hopes the series will go further than just academics. “The whole idea behind ‘Philosophy and …’ is to try to engage the community at large in philosophical discourse,” said Scoville. “If you really like reading science fiction and are invited to join Phi Sigma Tau, you host a convocation on, say, ‘Philosophy and The Matrix‘ or ‘Philosophy and Bladerunner.’ We don’t have to stick to textbooks with this concept.”

Phi Sigma Tau was founded in 1930 and is open to philosophy majors and minors who are in the upper 35 percent of their class and have completed at least two semester courses in philosophy. While providing distinction for philosophy students, the honor society promotes interest in philosophy among the general collegiate public. Belmont’s Gamma Chapter was re-named for Belmont University philosophy professor and former Department Chair Mike Awalt, honoring him for bringing the organization to Belmont in 1994 and his service as the group’s advisor for more than a decade. Davis has assumed the role of advisor to the group as Dr. Awalt has begun a phased-out retirement.

Davis and Scoville believe the “Philosophy and…” series will help promote philosophy to the campus community. “The events will be totally student-run, but other students will receive Academic Lecture credit, just like a regular convocation,” said Scoville. Some students have already committed to tackling philosophy and politics. Davis sees philosophy as fundamental to any study or practice of the political arts. “Philosophy offers the distance and the resources to reflect on foundational problems of political life and organization,” said Davis. “For example, how do we deal with the fact that the law must be treated as universal and absolute and yet is necessarily imperfect and in need of change? Do political communities arise out of mutual need or out of a fear of violence?”

The Mike Awalt Chapter plans to kick off the convocation series in April.

Travis Harvey is a senior Political Science major.

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