The Value of Inquiry

A summer conference for Undergraduates (speakers to be determined)

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The Value of Inquiry

Time & Location

Aug 06, 2021, 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM PDT

Creekside Inn, 3400 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

About the Event

“To engage in philosophy means to reflect on the totality of things we encounter, in view of their

ultimate reasons; and philosophy, thus understood, is a meaningful, even necessary endeavor, with

which man, the spiritual being, cannot dispense.”

- Josef Pieper, In Defense of Philosophy

Why study philosophy? The events of the past year have accelerated a decades-long reckoning within the academy about the value of philosophical inquiry, and humanistic study more generally. Increasingly, both on university campuses and in the wider world, the study of philosophy is advertised as a means to a variety of concrete ends, from improved “critical thinking” skills to more successful political activism. But does philosophical inquiry have intrinsic value? What kind of knowledge can we hope to gain through studying philosophy, and what is that knowledge good for?

The Zephyr Institute solicited applications from current undergraduates to present at a one-day conference exploring these questions on August 6, 2021, in Palo Alto. We welcomed contributions from any academic field, in particular from philosophy, education, history, theology, political theory, and the arts. Papers considered a range of issues, including but not limited to:

  • What are the preconditions for genuine philosophical inquiry?
  • What is gained or lost when philosophy is directed in service of politics?
  • Is the modern university the right setting in which to study philosophy?
  • Are philosophical questions answerable?
  • Which thinkers or texts offer us new and better ways to consider the value of philosophy?
  • How can art and literature help us appreciate the value of philosophy?

Successful applicants have been invited to present their ideas in a 15-20 minute talk, followed by detailed feedback from a commentator and ample time for group discussion.

Papers of chosen presenters are found here.

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