Not Your Typical Thursday Night: Students Philosophize With Professors


Students and Profs. Hundersmarck and Mitchell after the second philosophical talk. Photo by Carlos Villamayor/The Pace Chronicle.


A gathering of some 20 students on November 19 at the fourth floor lounge in Alumni Hall was not what someone might expect from college students on a Thursday night.

The students joined professors Dr. Lawrence Hundersmarck and Len Mitchell from the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department for the second in a series of “Philosophical Conversations,” this time focused on the question of the self: “what makes me, me?”

Although Hundersmarck and Mitchell lead the discussion, students were encouraged to voice their thoughts on the different matters that were brought up.

Students and professors discussed the idea of the self in Eastern and Western traditions, the contributions of Sigmund Freud to the notion of consciousness, the differences between humans and animals, and how people tie their identity to different things.

The idea for the series came “from the joy of working with our students within the structures of our philosophy courses,” Hundersmarck said. “And the awareness that philosophical conversations are simply too much fun and way too important to stay hidden only in the classroom.”

Seniors Kiefer Kofman and Aaron Berube echoed the professor’s thoughts.

“[These talks] provoked deep and creative thought that we don’t get a chance to delve into otherwise,” Kofman said.

Berube said the kind of discussion at the event is not frequently found in Pace courses, particularly fact-based courses like math.

“What we talked about is the core of what we do in school,” Kofman said.

It is important for students to have conversations like these, Hundersmarck said, because people want to make sense of their lives.

“These conversations are an opportunity in a non-threatening, relaxed context to think out loud within a community of respectful fellow seekers,” he said.

Sophomore Daniel Citardi said the event was a different experience and something that does not happen often on campus.

“It was interesting to have an intellectual conversation instead of just a social event,” Citardi said. “I definitely look forward to more of [these gatherings] in the future.”

The first philosophical chat took place on Thur., Nov. 5. The guest faculty was Dr. Paul Griffin from the Psychology Department, and the discussion that night centered on happiness.

The topics were chosen because they touch on issues that really matter to people.

“We are always in one way or another considering the nature and meaning of the self, happiness, good and evil, truth and error, love and friendship, beauty, and the purpose of life,” he said.

With the positive response to the two philosophical conversations, Hundersmarck is exploring the possibility of continuing them in the spring.

The goal of these conversations is to “think our thoughts through.”

“When we think our thoughts through we are celebrating the fact that the purpose of a real education is not just to learn how to make a living, but how to make a life,” Hundersmarck said.