On the tail-end of my co-op in the department of philosophy and religion, I got to travel to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia to present a (mostly) finalized version of my paper, “Justifying Prison Breaks As Civil Disobedience.” Having previously presented earlier versions in Canada and Poland, this presentation was not nearly as nerve racking. This was also the first conference I’d been to that was specifically for undergraduate research, and it was particularly interesting to see what people my age are doing in philosophy departments all around the country. There was no particular theme, which lead to a vast multiplicity of topics. One of the presenters, Sarah Katherine Thomas, spoke about searching for a definition of information privacy, which tied back to much of our study in the AI & Data Ethics working group here at Northeastern.
The keynote speaker, Chris Tweedt, spoke about problems of evil, death, and suffering, and why these concerns don’t give as many reasons for atheism as one might think. Arguing about the existence of higher powers is always tricky, and Professor Tweedt made of the best cases for greater faith in theism that I’ve ever heard. Conferences are always a great opportunity to learn new things and test your own beliefs, and I can certainly say that my beliefs were tested at this one. Ultimately though, I found myself arriving at a more agnostic conclusion.
I had expected this conference to be pretty similar to previous ones, I share my paper and other people share theirs, we all talk about it, etc. What I didn’t expect was receiving a prize for my paper, which was voted the runner up for best paper at the conference. Academic philosophy is a tough, and often competitive field, (people usually tell me to just not pursue it to begin with) so it was nice to know people found my work worthwhile.