Department of Philosophy raises philosophers from the dead

Matthew Williams

Students congregated inside the Cherry Hall lobby on Monday, waiting for the Department of Philosophy to begin its “Haunted Tour,” a collection of scenarios from past philosophical figures.

While some came envisioning a ghost hunting tour or an evening filled with jump scares, the Department of Philosophy presented a more educational approach to showcasing the living dead.

Elisabeth Gish, interim head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, thought coordinating the Haunted Tour close to Halloween was a good plan especially using the concept of dead philosophers.

The crowd of attendees were split into smaller groups and led from room to room where philosophy students roleplayed using concepts from deceased philosophers. 

Throughout the participant’s time in the haunted tour, they learned about Bertrand Russel’s “Barber Paradox,” Epicurus’s “four part cure for life,” Zeno’s “Racecourse Paradox” and Phillippa Foot’s “Trolley Problem.”

In 1967, Foot wrote an article called The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of the Double Effect which included a thought experiment called “The Trolly Problem”.

“Now a thought experiment is a theoretical test where if you were put in extraordinary circumstances, what would you naturally be inclined to do,” Dunn explained. 

In the Trolly Problem, a person is put under circumstances that make them decide whether they would become a utilitarian or a deontologist in case of killing one to save multiple lives. 

Lindsey Dunn, a senior from Todd County, acted as the renowned moral philosopher Phillippa Foot at one of the stations.

Dunn posed the question to the audience, asking what their decision would be to which all the people chose to unanimously lose one life to save a larger number of people.

Anna Volk, a senior from Owensboro, told the story of stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger.

“We want to get rid of all those negative thoughts we have,” Volk said. “Chuck them out the window and just focus on having the most positive fulfilling experience.”

She asked the people sitting around her on the steps leading to Cherry Hall on how to answer a friend who couldn’t understand why bad things happen to good people.

According to her perspective of Seneca, Stoics believes “life occurrences are neither good nor bad. . . it’s about tranquility and control of your negative emotions.”

Volk became interested stoicism after finishing a section on it in Anton’s class. “I’d heard of it before, but I didn’t know what it was.”

She read about Seneca for some of her homework assignments and what she learned struck her cord her. The foundations of his philosophy was something Volk could relate to which led to her choosing him to play in the Haunted Tour. 

Seth Jessi, a mechanical engineering senior, came to the event because of his interest in philosophy and chose the Trolly Problem as his favorite. 

“That’s just one of my favorite classic problems in philosophy,” Jessi said. 

The different perspectives and ideas broadcasted out through the students impressed Anton and now hopes more people will consider majoring in philosophy.

“We don’t think that enough people know we’re here,” Anton said. “I know a lot of times people think philosophy is intimidating and even though Halloween is scary, we’re not.” 

Reporter Matthew Williams can be reached at [email protected]