Philosophy Club ponders over pizza

APU’s Philosophy Club has welcomed students of all majors to engage in philosophical discussions over pizza on a weekly basis since fall 2015. Mark Bernier, Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the Department of Philosophy, started the club with the support of the department’s faculty.

“[Bernier] got together with several philosophy majors who have been passionate about starting a group like this for years and helped guide it into existence,” Isaac McAllister said, senior philosophy major and Philosophy Club vice president.

McAllister said that Bernier has been a driving force in establishing and maintaining the club, which currently has between 20 and 30 members.

The group seeks to maintain an inviting atmosphere while facilitating accessible discussion for those with minimal philosophical background. McAllister said that he believes joining the club is a great way to discuss big picture questions with a diverse group of students.

“By creating an intentional space to talk about the aforementioned questions, we are hoping that students leave more informed about a matter from having listened to the ideas of their peers and more curious about the topic at hand so they can continue to investigate it outside of club meetings,” McAllister said.

William Wooton, a philosophy and communication studies major and the Philosophy Club secretary, said that his favorite part of the club is the open, engaging environment. He said the club discussions encourage students to think deeply about topics.

“I would recommend the club to other students because it brings people together in a way that no other club has for me,” Wooton said. “It unites students with the capacity and enjoyment of knowledge and wisdom. Even if you have never liked philosophy, I feel that this club can deepen your appreciation for the art that is moving so many students on this campus.”

Philosophy Club president and senior philosophy major Lindsey Austin said that his favorite part about the club is the exchange of ideas that occur during meetings. He encourages students to join the club because it will challenge their ideas and allow them to discuss topics that they are passionate about.

“I think the average community spends a lot of time talking around topics, not taking stances and conversing with people who hold our same beliefs,” Austin said. “Philosophy Club offers the opportunity to face topics head on, take a stance and defend it and [also] engage with people who have diverse beliefs and opinions.”

Bernier said the club was meant be inclusive of students and faculty from all departments. He said the purpose of the club is to show APU the importance and intrigue of philosophy and to create an atmosphere where “provocative topics are discussed and ideas are exchanged.”

Bernier said one of the most interesting discussions the club had last semester was about the hypothetical possibility of computers becoming conscious. He said the conversation connects technologically, morally, politically and existentially to humanity and relationships with God.

“[This discussion] strikes at the very heart of who we are. Since ancient times, consciousness has been seen as a defining feature of humanity, distinguishing us from animals, as well as machines we create,” Bernier said. “If machines can become conscious, then what does that say about our uniqueness in the world?”

The club also discussed the nature of art, what constitutes art and whether or not art can be immoral. They compared and classified God as both a creator and an artist.

“We can see that this is important when we start to reflect on how the creation of art is one of the most celebrated of all human activities. It involves the creation of beauty, of objects that inspire us, that move us, that hold a mirror up to who we are. These are objects that we judge, but they can also judge us back,” Bernier said.

Philosophy Club meets on Thursdays at 4 p.m., usually in Duke 232.

For more information about the club, contact Bernier at mbernier@apu.edu or Laura Smith Webb at lwebb@apu.edu.

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