Stetson Philosophy Club Receives National Attention

Ron Hall, PhD

Who would have thought — with any emphasis on thinking?

Universities, especially smaller ones such as Stetson, don’t typically receive attention from professional organizations. That’s pretty common knowledge. Yet, it happened, and the timing turned out to be quite appropriate. 

In early June, the American Philosophical Association highlighted Stetson and its Philosophy Club on the APA’s official blog — written by Professor Ron Hall, PhD, who retired following the spring semester after 22 years at the university. Hall was the Department of Philosophy’s leader for many of those years. (Sidenote: Hall is a Stetson alumnus, graduating in 1967, the same year of his alumna wife, Maggi Smith Hall.)

The blog serves as sort of a worthy ode to the departing professor.

As described in the blog, he helped to establish the Philosophy Club in 2000, with the intent of creating a “monthly meeting of the minds involving faculty, philosophy majors and minors, and students interested in pursuing advanced studies in philosophy.” Still today, students of all majors/minors are welcome in what’s typically a rotating cast of meeting participants. Held in person prior to the pandemic, the meetings now occur virtually. On occasion, a guest speaker is also invited.

“It’s not often that Stetson gets national recognition for one of our clubs,” said Stetson’s Joshua Rust, PhD, professor of philosophy. “So, for a club to get national recognition, I think it’s somewhat noteworthy.” 

Philosophy Club meetings were held in person prior to the pandemic. Here, the guest speaker was John Biro, PhD, a University of Florida philosophy professor. The meeting was held at Ron Hall’s backyard. 

In addition, Rust cited, the blog shines the light on a club that is an essential part of education at Stetson — learning and interacting beyond the classroom.

“It’s about the importance of not confining education to the classroom, and to making sure that education is something that takes place in a pedagogical context, but also in a social context,” Rust noted. “And I think that philosophy is especially well suited for this kind of work. … The Philosophy Club provides a little bit of an opportunity for more informal conversation.”

Idle Talk

Melinda Hall, PhD, associate professor of philosophy and department chair, points to the club’s Idle Talk, where students and faculty meet virtually every other week without agenda, except simply to communicate on topics that might extend far and wide. “It’s essentially meant to provide us with a consistent venue to talk about philosophy, even if we don’t have something else happening,” she described.

Melinda Hall, PhD

“It really brought us through the pandemic because people wanted a sense of community. … We would just talk with each other. Even if we don’t have anything to talk about, we always have something to talk about.” 

“The Philosophy Club is already informal. Idle Talk kicks up that informality,” Rust added, noting that faculty are able to share their own research, just as they do in class, but in this setting more effectively blending faculty scholarship and pedagogy.

Hall, for example, has published about her passion for horror films and fiction. Who knew? Her students certainly didn’t until there was a random mention one day. Her words: “They never would have known that if it weren’t for an Idle Talk discussion.”

Joshua Rust, PhD

Rust believes that mostly, even without any national recognition and despite personal opinions that might differ, the Philosophy Club breeds important common ground, as Stetson seeks to encourage equity, inclusion and diversity throughout its community.

“A condition for having uncomfortable conversations is being comfortable with each other,” Rust concluded. “So, the fact that we’re meeting every other week, and sometimes we’re talking about utterly trivial things, on purpose, all of that sets the stage for those crucial, more challenging conversations.” 

A thoughtful approach, indeed. And a well-timed salute.

-Michael Candelaria