Idioms of Ethical Life
By: Janelle Thompson & Kendra Hepler
Recently, the Rock Ethics Institute welcomed distinguished philosophers for the Idioms of Ethical Life Conference. The conference, which took place from October 28 - 29, 2016, was held to honor Dr. Dennis J. Schmidt’s contributions to the field of continental philosophy. Dr. Schmidt has taught philosophy and comparative literature in a variety of institutions including Villanova, SUNY- Birmingham, the University of Rome, and Penn State. He was very actively involved at the Rock Ethics Institute before taking his current position as a professor of philosophy at Western Sydney University. Throughout his career, he published numerous works and is now editing for the SUNY Series in Continental Philosophy. During the two-day event, philosophy professors explored various aspects of Dr. Schmidt's research and its implications in today’s world. Philosophers from all across the United States and international locations spoke on their interpretations of Schmidt’s work, with presentations such as, Dennis Schmidt and the Origin of Ethical Life from Peg Birmingham of DePaul University, Hermeneutics without Meaning: The Comic and the Political in Dennis Schmidt’s Wor” from Jeff Nealon of Penn State, and Who is Subject to the Ethical? Notes on Dennis Schmidt’s Theory of Ethicsfrom Andrew Benjamin of Kingston University London. Discussions surrounded a variety of topics including capitalism, language, art, and politics.
This conference took place at an opportune time according to attendees. Dr. Theodore George from Texas A&M University who summed it up perfectly: “Questions of ethical life are more important now than ever. There’s a lot of talking but not a lot of depth to the conversation. Dennis and other philosophers are pointing us in the right direction”. With political disputes, climate change, race relations, and other social issues circulating through news feeds and discourse, discussions such as those at the core of this conference encourage listeners to establish the role ethics plays in their daily lives. Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. Individual definitions of ethics are ever-changing as we adapt our policies and beliefs with new knowledge, current events, and developments. Conferences like the Idioms of Ethical Life can be used as a reference point in thinking about and discussing important questions in everyday life.