Graduate Conference on Free Will


reception of free will conferenceGraduate Mini-Conference on Free Will in Early Modern Philosophy

Professor Julia Jorati organized a mini-conference on free will, in connection with her graduate seminar on the same topic, held April 19, 2014.

The mini-conference featured five talks by graduate students (Kevin Wutke, Jamie Fritz, Dan Giglio, Juan Garcia and Jenn Asselin), each of which was followed by commentary by another graduate student (Mauro Corneli, Paul Robinson, Jerilyn Tinio, Eric De Araujo and Evan Woods). Graduate students also rotated in chairing the sessions.

The students' talks, based on their final papers for Jorati's seminar, dealt with the notion of free will as it emerges in the work of historical philosophers such as Hobbes, Hume, Reid, Kant and James.

Keynote speaker Kate Abramson (Indiana University) delivered the closing talk, "Dear Rationalists, No That Won't Work Either: Hume on Natural Abilities, Virtues and the Self-Government Condition," chaired by graduate student Hope Sample. 

The conference included a potluck-style lunch and a post-conference reception.

Jorati explains that the mini-conference had two major goals: professionalization and "getting feedback on final papers from peers as well as faculty." Graduate student participants report that the conference was successful in meeting both of these goals.

Jamie Fritz, for example, states: "I feel very fortunate to have presented a paper at the Free Will in Early Modern Philosophy conference. By organizing the conference, Julia created a safe and constructive learning environment for inexperienced presenters like myself. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to present and defend my work in front of a group of philosophers, I’m less inclined to see the prospect of submitting my work for conferences as a remote and vague possibility. In fact, the prospect seems both concrete and appealing."

And Jenn Asselin used feedback to improve her paper not only for the seminar but also to submit to other conferences. She recalls, "I realized while answering questions during the Q&A that my thesis was not coming through clearly and that there was a better way to structure my paper. I was able to restructure the paper over the summer, and this new version of my paper was accepted at a professional conference in Michigan." Jenn presented her paper "Developing Developed Freedom: Difficulties for the Free Accounts of Reid and Kant" at an interdisciplinary conference on free will at the Center of Cognition and Neuroethics held in Flint in October.