Undergraduate Conference: The Value of Inquiry

August 6, 2021
Zephyr Institute

560 College Avenue
Palo Alto 94306
United States

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Call for Papers: The Value of Inquiry

August 6, 2021

Palo Alto, CA

“To engage in philosophy means to reflect on the totality of things we encounter, in view of their ultimate reasons; and philosophy, thus understood, is a meaningful, even necessary endeavor, with which man, the spiritual being, cannot dispense.” 

- Josef Pieper, In Defense of Philosophy

Why study philosophy? The events of the past year have accelerated a decades-long reckoning within the academy about the value of philosophical inquiry, and humanistic study more generally. Increasingly, both on university campuses and in the wider world, the study of philosophy is advertised as a means to a variety of concrete ends, from improved “critical thinking” skills to more successful political activism. But does philosophical inquiry have intrinsic value? What kind of knowledge can we hope to gain through studying philosophy, and what is that knowledge good for? 

The Zephyr Institute solicits applications from current undergraduates to present at a one-day conference exploring these questions on August 6, 2021, in Palo Alto. We welcome contributions from any academic field, in particular from philosophy, education, history, theology, political theory, and the arts. Papers may consider a range of issues, including but not limited to:

    • What are the preconditions for genuine philosophical inquiry?
    • What is gained or lost when philosophy is directed in service of politics?
    • Is the modern university the right setting in which to study philosophy?
    • Are philosophical questions answerable?
    • Which thinkers or texts offer us new and better ways to consider the value of philosophy?
    • How can art and literature help us appreciate the value of philosophy?

Applicants should submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to [email protected], no later than June 22. Abstracts should be prepared for blind review, and therefore not contain any identifying information, but please include your name, institution, and major or course of study in the body of your email. Any student who will be enrolled in an undergraduate program during the 2021-2022 academic year is welcome to apply. 

Successful applicants will be invited to present their ideas in a 15-20 minute talk, followed by detailed feedback from a commentator and ample time for group discussion. Presenters will be asked to circulate their papers to commentators two weeks before the conference. Local restrictions allowing, this will be an in-person event. Some financial assistance is available for presenters coming from outside the San Francisco Bay area.

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August 1, 2021, 9:00am PST

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