Mason Philosophy Students Stimulate Minds at Conference

by Rashad Mulla

Mason Philosophy Students Stimulate Minds at Conference

On Saturday, April 14, undergraduates in the Department of Philosophy opened their minds and shared a wonderful experience with faculty, staff, students and guests from George Mason University and other colleges and universities across the United States.

The Philosophy and the Science of Happiness Conference took place at Mason’s Johnson Center. The conference featured a keynote speech by Erik Angner, faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and an expert in the philosophy of science, economics, ethics, and social and political philosophy. Scholars from Mason’s faculty and other local organizations gave presentations, as did students from universities nationwide.

Dena Monticone (BS ’11, applied mathematics) organized the conference because she saw the need for undergraduate philosophy majors to talk about their work and academic experiences. She and several Mason students were responsible for the setup and organization process.

“I wanted people to be excited about philosophy, and they are,” Monticone said. “I sat in on some of the presentations and the attendees seemed very engaged in the presentations, asking a ton of questions. Judging by feedback I received at the end of the conference, both the presenters and attendees were very happy.”

The conference transcended several conference-norms, in that it was organized by students and featured several student presenters. According to Monticone, the research was aimed at reaching philosophy experts, philosophy students and those with no experience in or familiarity with the field.

Angner thinks Monticone and the organizers were right on point.

“In all, the students organizing the one-day conference appear to have fully grasped the spirit of both philosophy and happiness,” Angner said. “Conference attendees were treated to a remarkable selection of papers related to the science and philosophy of happiness. And this was, hands down, the most stimulating and enjoyable undergraduate conference I've ever had the pleasure of attending.”

Supplementing Monticone’s leadership, the Department of Philosophy, the Honors College, the Women and Gender Studies Program and the Student Funding Board sponsored the event. Four student organizations - the Philosophy Club, the Feminist Student Organization, the Objectivist Club and the Economics Society - co-hosted the event.

Roger Paden, interim chair of the Department of Philosophy, said he hoped that this gathering was the beginning of an annual tradition.

“We hope that this will be the first of many yearly conferences, and that it will help put the department on the map for students interested in philosophy.”