Phi Sigma Tau

Phi Sigma Tau Officers
2013 – 2014

President – Thomas Churchill
Vice President – Thomas Lambert
Secretary – Bergen Nelson
Treasurer – Mitch Kampf

Student Colloquium

Thursday, April 24 at 11:30 a.m.
Holland Hall 516


Meredith Varie will present a draft of her paper on the fear of death in Epicureanism. The colloquium is being combined with Pizza Thursday.
All are welcome to attend

Professor Jason Marsh: Why the Locked-In Patient Case is Hard

February 19, 2014

IMG_0931Many people think that the worst thing that could happen to them would be to become entirely paralyzed and yet to remain fully conscious from the inside. But recent work in neuroscience, when combined with certain philosophical insights, implies either (1) that our beliefs about patients with locked-in syndrome are mistaken or (2) that we may be notably mistaken about our own wellbeing. This presentation, in exploring the above tension, brings together various themes in ethics, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and medicine.


Student Colloquium

Presenter: Thomas Lambert
Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The first Phi Sigma Tau student colloquium of the year was on Thursday, December 12th, during community time from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm in Holland Hall 516. We discussed Thomas Lambert’s paper “Friendly Atheism: The Story of a Plane Crash,” which provided for a great, provocative discussion. Thomas argued against the idea of rational disagreement between a theist and an atheist – he claimed that an atheist cannot believe a theist has good reason to believe in God because this would involve recognizing compelling evidence for such a belief. This thesis raised some very interesting questions about the nature of rationality and the accessibility of evidence. The paper was clear and well argued, and he explained his views to the participants with great lucidity. Thanks, Thomas, for a great colloquium presentation!

Student Colloquium
Presenter: Devin Orchard
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Devin OrchardOn Thursday, April 4th, we held our second student colloquium of the year featuring Devin Orchard’s paper, “The Capabilities Approach and Human Rights Inflation: Necessities and Complexities.” In the paper Devin laid out the capabilities approach as championed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, which claims that human beings have a right to anything that is necessary to make one capable of pursuing human flourishing.  He then proceeded to describe why the approach entails the steady growth of human rights, i.e. “rights inflation,” laying out the various complexities and implications thereof. All in all, Devin’s paper made for a great philosophical discussion. Thank you, Devin, for sharing your outstanding work with us!

On the Distinction Between Despair and Depression in Kierkegaard’s Writings
Gordon Marino, Professor of Philosophy and Kierkegaard Library Curator at St. Olaf
Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Professor and Kierkegaard Scholar Gordon Marino delivered a lecture on the distinction between despair and depression in Kierkegaard’s writings in honor of the 200th birthday of the philosopher poet, shedding light on the question, “have we effaced the difference between psychological and spiritual disorders?” Marino engaged directly with the text, bringing to life not just the wisdom itself but Kierkegaard’s unique literary style. Following the talk was a substantial question/answer period that stood testament to the self-reflection that Kierkegaard continues to inspire. Thank you, Professor Marino, for a wonderful lecture!

Student Colloquium
Presenter: Allison Rodriquez
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Allison RodriguezOur November 15 colloquium with Allison Rodriguez was a success. We had six students and three faculty members eating pizza and throwing around ideas for Allison’s very interesting argument on emergence theory. Allison argues that cultural meaning and folk psychology still hold such importance for our mental processes that our mental states cannot and should not be reduced to a reductionist approach of focusing solely on physical neurological processes. Her paper was enlightening and thought provoking, and the audience feedback and discussion enriched everyone’s understanding of the topic.

Fall 2012 Member Induction
The Minnesota-Beta chapter of Phi Sigma Tau inducted three new chapter members as well as many new chapter associates on November 7th. After the official induction ceremony, the chapter officers and faculty advisor briefed everyone on upcoming opportunities to look forward to this year including visiting speakers, student colloquia, and philosophy conference calls for papers. Welcome, all new members and associates!


What Are We Doing When We Vote?
Michael Fuerstein, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf

On November 5th, the night before the election, Professor Michael Fuerstein gave a lecture in Viking Theater titled “What Are We Doing When We Vote?” The lecture was a great success, drawing a variety of philosophically and politically interested attendees who listened to Professor Fuerstein dive deep into his specialty, the epistemology of liberalism and democracy. Debunking the myth of preference voting and settling into a much more nuanced theory of voting on the proper use of coercive power, Fuerstein’s impressive rhetorical skill grabbed the audience’s attention and never let go, using everything from an incredible Borat impression to belly button lint references. Needless to say, “What Are We Doing When We Vote?” was profoundly educational and extremely entertaining. Thank you so much for a great lecture, Professor Fuerstein!

MikeLecture_Nov2012_1 FSTofficersMike_2012_1

Spring 2012 Member Induction
On May 4, the Minnesota-Beta of Phi Sigma Tau had the privilege to induct nine new members and two new chapter associates.  The chapter also elected new officers: Stephanie Jones ’13, president; Emelia Carroll ’13, vice-president; and Thomas Churchill ’14, secretary-treasurer.  Outgoing president Patrick J. Behling ’12 announced that the college’s Student Organizations Committee recently awarded the chapter a $250 grant to bring a professional philosopher to speak on campus next fall.  In keeping with the tradition of the chapter, members and associates celebrated all these happy developments with cake, coffee and conversation.  Congratulations to all the new members, associates and officers!


Student Colloquium
Presenter: Patrick Behling, President
Thursday, March 8, 2012

PatBehlingSt. Olaf’s Beta Chapter kicked off its student colloquia series for Spring Semester this past Thursday with a presentation by senior member and President Patrick Behling. His paper sparked a lively discussion. Entitled, “Perceptive Virtue and Revelatory Rules: Making Sense of Contemporary Virtue Ethics and Divine Commands”, Behling aimed to reconcile divine command theory with the non-Christian principles of contemporary Virtue Ethics, mainly calling upon John McDowell, but also on Alasdair MacIntyre and R.M. Adams. Junior Emelia Carroll responded enthusiastically to his work, pointing out a few areas where Pat could say more to fill out his compelling argument. Others quickly joined in to help Pat refine his paper for future use. Among the attendees were PST members Bjorn Wastvedt, Miriam Brown, Dayna Jondal, and Wilder Welke.


Caste of Color and the Dyeing of a Black Soul: On the Factuality of Race
Dr. Charles Watson

CharlesWatsonOn February 23, St. Olaf’s Phi Sigma Tau chapter had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Charles Watson to speak about “The Caste of Color and the Dyeing of a Black Soul” in honor of Black History Month.

Dr. Watson, a specialist in existentialism, philosophy of race and African-American philosophy, addressed the ways that even 45 years after the civil rights movement, the cast of roles in society available to African-Americans continues to be limited.  On his view, this experience leaves scars on the black soul which must be valued and appreciated rather than hidden and denied.  After his engaging talk, the large audience had a number of questions for Dr. Watson about his views.

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Student Colloquium

Presenters: Miriam Brown and Bjorn Wastvedt, both FST members
Thursday, December 8, 2011


2011 Member Induction
October 2011


First Phi Sigma Tau student colloquium
Thursday, May 12, Fran Deram presented her paper at the first Phi Sigma Tau student colloquium and Dayna Jondal commented.


Phi Sigma Tau Induction Ceremony
On March 16, 2011, the Minnesota-Beta chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the international honor society in philosophy, was installed at St. Olaf College with twelve charter members and eleven chapter associates.  Students are eligible for membership on the basis of their outstanding academic achievement and particular interest in and aptitude for philosophy.  The philosophy faculty are also eligible for membership.


The St. Olaf chapter plans to hold a monthly colloquium series at which student members will present their papers to their peers for discussion and constructive criticism.  Planning is also underway to bring in a student-selected professional philosopher to speak to the chapter each year.