Portland State hosts philosophy conference

The second half of the sixth annual International Law and Ethics Conference Series was held at Portland State University on Nov. 1 and 2.

Internationally recognized philosophers came to campus to present papers related to this year’s theme, religious and political tolerance in the age of globalization.

“I think that conferences, such as this one, bring prestige to the university,” said Nancy Weaver, office manager of the philosophy department. Weaver helped organize the events.

Aleksandar Jokic, professor of philosophy and conflict resolution at Portland State, and Jovan Babic, visiting professor of ethics from Belgrade University, organized the first International Law and Ethics Conference Series six years ago. The conference is split into two sections each year. The first section is held at Belgrade University in June and the second is held in the United States in October or November.

Jokic said the split creates a kind of dialogue effect; papers presented in the fall are, to some extent, answers to papers presented in the spring. Beyond that, the themes and ideas born of the conference tend to carry over from year to year. This produces a kind of evolution of thought, where each section of the conference builds on the preceding one.

“It’s not so much a place where people present their views, but more where they discover them,” Jokic said.

At first, the conference included only philosophers from the United States and Serbia. Now it has expanded to include philosophers from many other countries, including Germany, Britain, Australia and Austria.

This section of the conference lasted two days and saw seven presenters, including Jokic and Babic. Each speaker was allowed 90 minutes to present his or her paper, followed by a brief question-and-answer session.

Jokic said the theme for this year’s conference was chosen before the Sept. 11 attacks but recent world events have reaffirmed the importance of this theme.

Babic’s paper, “Evil, Ideology and Intolerance,” focused on tolerance, concepts of good and evil, how people define and deal with evil, human rights as an ideology and whether nations should enforce that ideology on other nations.

Although Jokic and Babic deny any direct connection between the topics of this year’s conference and current events, they both agreed that the ideas raised at the conference could be applied to the current conditions. They said an application of philosophy is always an objective.

“Moral philosophy is as practical as it gets,” Jokic said.

Other philosophers who presented include Burleigh Wilkins from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Milan Brdar from Novi Sad University, J. Angelo Corlett from San Diego State University, Roxanne Fay from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Anthony Ellis from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Out of the six years the conference has been held, five have resulted in a publication. The papers presented each year are draft forms, but often feedback from colleagues assists the philosopher in refining ideas. The five published volumes that have arisen from the conference have all been published by different publishers and with different titles.

Jokic said publication is not the goal of the conference but is a pleasant by-product. The real goal, he insists, is an open-ended, ongoing dialogue to improve philosophical research.