Religion & Philosophy Department

Lebanon Valley College

Philosophy Professor named to Menus of Change University Research Collaborative

emailsignatureDr. Robert Valgenti, Associate Professor of Philosophy, has been invited to take part in the Menus of Change Research Collaborative (MCRC), a working group of scholars and food experts whose goal is to engage universities in the advancement of healthier, more sustainable life-long food choices among students.  The MCRC is an outgrowth of the Menus of Change (www.menusofchange.org) initiative launched in 2012 by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Valgenti’s invitation to the Research Collaborative is recognition for the E.A.T. (Engage, Analyze, Transform) Research Group he founded in 2013.  This undergraduate research group has two goals: to improve the dining experience for students, and to dissolve the boundaries between the dining and academic spaces on campus.  Specifically, E.A.T. uses data-driven research to promote and assess the goals of ethical reasoning, intercultural competence, healthful living, and environmental sustainability. E.A.T. is comprised of a group of undergraduate student researchers, a faculty advisor, and the director of Metz Culinary Management.

The cooperation between EAT and Metz Culinary Management is in many ways the sort of academic/professional collaboration the MCRC wants to inspire and institute across the country and its college campuses.  In particular, the research project conducted by Ashley Smith ’15 (Experience More, Waste Less) was cited by the MCRC as an example of a successful sustainability initiative that transformed students’ eating behaviors and practices.

Gianni Vattimo on Post-Modernism, “Weak Thought,” and being a Catholic Anarchist Communist

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Friend of the department Gianni Vattimo, Italian philosopher and European Parliament member, recently gave this interview on the Australian program “The Philosopher’s Zone.”  Vattimo’s description of his own philosophy and its political relevance is as clear as it is profound and challenging.

Listen to the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/gianni-vattimo-v2/5137466

Celebrate World Philosophy Day!

Today is World Philosophy Day as designated by the United Nations (https://www.un.org/en/events/philosophyday/index.shtml).  As we begin a time of year often overloaded with distractions from all angles, it is worth taking a moment to appreciate the power of thought and how a more mindful life can be part of the Good Life!

 

One of our department’s philosophical friends, Pr. Santiago Zabala, has co-authored a wonderful defense of philosophy — a reflection on its essential role in democratic societies: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/11/defense-philosophy-2013111112262881317.html

The First Brainstorms Meeting!

Encourage your friends and interested classmates to attend the first meeting of Brainstorms (Wednesday, September 5, at 12noon on the 3rd floor Humanities). The topic of our meeting will be “Happiness,” which is the theme of this year’s Colloquium speaker and film series. There are a good many ways to come at this theme: from the classical notions of happiness or eudaimonia theorized by Plato and Aristotle, to contemporary philosophical and psychological analyses of happiness as a human phenomenon that says much about or diversity of cultures, perspectives and ideals.

 

If I may propose a starting point, let us begin with a distinction outlined by philosopher Pascal Bruckner. In a conversation with philosophers David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton for the Ethics Bites series (here’s the link to the 15 minute interview), Bruckner argues that our contemporary society has swapped the “right to happiness” (which emerges in the Enlightenment) for a “duty to happiness.” To support this idea, he highlights the various industries that support our pursuit of happiness, all of which set up a convenient means-end relation between our unfulfilled desires and satisfaction that can be obtained through one’s buying power. Rather than an individual feeling, happiness now gets judged in the public sphere as peer pressure compels us to do something about the “problem” of unhappiness.

 

Let’s take this idea as a starting point for our discussion to see if philosophy can help us to make some sense of happiness. Who knows, philosophy might even bring us happiness…