Philosophy, Literature Intersect at Hermanns

eng_2014HermannsPosterAn exploration of philosophy, technology and literature will be the centerpiece of the 2014 Hermanns Lecture Series in October.

The two-day event, sponsored by the Department of English and the Department of Philosophy and Humanities, will be held Oct. 23-24 in the School of Architecture building and the E.H. Hereford University Center’s Rio Grande Room. The lecture series will include panelists and invited speakers from across the U.S.

This year’s theme is “Philitechia: The Intersections of Philosophy, Literature and Technology.” Organizers are excited about the diversity of topics planned for discussion.

“This will be a sort of trans-disciplinary mini-conference, and it promises to exhibit all that is exciting as well as all that is challenging about the efforts of denizens of different disciplines to understand and learn from each other,” said Associate Professor Ken Williford, chair of the Department of Philosophy and Humanities. “The topics of discussion will range from the status of science fiction as a literary genre to the prospects artificial intelligence, as a theme of fiction and as a theme for utopian and dystopian ‘futurologies,’ to the philosophical implications of neuroscience and its nascent theories of consciousness, to the implications of social media and the internet, to the human significance of advances in chemistry and nanotechnology. It promises to be action packed!”

“We have in mind some consideration of how these intersections are so often linked to freedom and to political considerations of whether a good life can be a technological one,” said Professor Bruce Krajewski, who is chair of the Department of English. “Our speakers are likely to address concerns ranging from Margaret Atwood’s science fiction to social media to STEM disciplines to expectations that nanobots will be technology’s cronuts.”

The Hermanns Lecture Series begins Thursday, Oct. 23, with a 4 p.m. Q&A session featuring speakers invited to speak the following day. On Friday, Oct. 24, invited speakers include Krajewski, Aaron Shaw (Northwestern University), chemist Tami Spector (University of San Francisco), and two philosophers, Pete Mandik (William Paterson University) and David Sullivan (Metropolitan State University of Denver).

Officials are excited about using the annual lecture series to explore how issues related to technology and philosophy are addressed in literature.

As universities expand online classes and more and more learning communities convert to digital, Krajewski feels it is important to discuss the issues faculty, staff, and students face in a reconfigured environment that tends to overlook political implications of technology.

“For the lecture series, I wanted some kind of discussion about how we might foreground capitalism’s motives in its insistence on, and exuberance for, technology, first advertised as a path to freedom, and later described by a prominent/notorious philosopher [Martin Heidegger] as the very thing that keeps us ‘unfree’ and chained to itself,” he said. “Right now, everyone has a stake in the discussion of technology, even those without the means to obtain technology.”

The Hermanns Lecture Series, initially named the Katherine Anne Porter Memorial Lecture Series, began almost three decades ago. Rudolph Hermanns, a local horticultural salesman, was a German immigrant who lived UT Arlington. When he died in 1985, he left part of his estate to UT Arlington and the Rudolf Hermanns Endowment for Excellence was founded to enhance academic excellence as well as campus beautification.

The lecture series is free and open to the public. For directions or information on parking at UT Arlington, visit the University’s website.


Thursday, Oct. 23
School of Architecture Lecture Hall (Room 204)
4-5:30 p.m.
Q&A with invited speakers

Friday, Oct. 24
E.H. Hereford University Center, Rio Grande Room
10-10:45 a.m.
Dr. Pete Mandik (William Paterson University)
Research focus: robots, science fiction, philosophy of mind, and artificial life

11-11:45 a.m.
Aaron Shaw (Northwestern University)
Research focus: collective action, collaboration, and mobilization online, including the role of internet skills and engagement in young adults’ political participation

12-1:30 p.m.
Lunch break

1:30-2:15 p.m.
Tami Spector (University of San Francisco)
Research focus: “the molecular elusive,” the meanings embedded in how we envision atoms and molecules

2:30-3:15 p.m.
David Sullivan (Metropolitan State University of Denver)
Research focus: the intersection of philosophy and literature, and the role of technology in higher education

3:30-4:15 p.m.
Bruce Krajewski (UT Arlington)
Research focus: strategies for advocating for the humanities, particularly digital humanities


(By James Dunning/COLA Communications,

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