The Fractal Self

On April 16-17, 1999 SUNY-Oneonta hosted its Fourth Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference. Response to the call for papers, which was mailed out and posted on the world wide web in late fall, was exceptionally strong. To ensure both impartiality and high standards, all submissions were subject to extensive blind review.

The result was a truly impressive set of twenty-six presentations by students from twenty institutions: Amherst College, Boston College, Canisius College, Clark University, Fairfield University, Haverford College, George Washington University, Hunter College, Mary Washington College, Oakland University, Rockland Community College, Saint John's University, Saint Mary's College of Maryland, Saint Vincent College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, Syracuse University, University of Buffalo, University of Massachusetts, and Wheaton College.

On Friday, Shen Pingde, an exchange scholar from Xian, China, delighted students with a special presentation titled Chinese Calligraphy: A Philosophical Demonstration. For the opening session, Professor Shen (1) provided a brief introduction to the art development of Chinese calligraphy, including philosophical and religious ideas, materials, styles, and development over time, and (2) demonstrated the art of calligraphy in two pieces: a poem from the book of the three kingdoms and a short poem of his own written for world peace in the next century.

That evening, David Jones of Kennesaw State University employed the perspective of chaos theory to explore interconnections between self and surroundings in Daoist thought, and more specifically, to examine the role of the self in creating emergent form and dynamism in nature and society in a keynote address titled: The Fractal Self and the Organization of Nature: The Daoist Sage and Chaos Theory.

On Saturday, Jennifer Manlowe of Long Island University provided the final presentation of the conference in a keynote address titled Buddhism, Race, Class, Sexuality, and Gender in the Modern World. Professor Manlowe examined the role the Dalai Lama has played in the Human Rights movement as an "Engaged Buddhist," explained why this movement (over and above others) has become so urgent for so many Americans in the latter half of the 20th century, and offered her views as to whether his kind of philosophical thought and religious practice offers a viable approach to living peacefully in a war-torn world.

President's Awards honor student presentations which most clearly exemplify the standards and ideals of the
conference. For 1999, these awards were presented to (alphabetic order):

Brett Bisgrove (SUNY Oneonta)
Daniel J. Bristol (SUNY Oneonta)
Robert Erlewine (St. Mary's College)
Tara K. Hogan (Mary Washington College)

Ninash Foundation East-West Awards honor student presentations that exhibit special expertise and insight in Asian and Comparative Philosophy. For 1999, these awards were presented to (alphabetic order):

Daniel Bristol (SUNY Oneonta)
Christopher P. Martin (Mary Washington College)
Priyadarshi Shukla (LeMoyne College)

To share the excitement of the conference and encourage even higher standards of academic excellence for future events, Oneonta Philosophy Studies, published the twelve best student papers, together with the two keynote addresses, in a volume titled The Fractal Self.

To order a copy of this, or any OPS publication, please contact the Managing Editor at the address listed below or visit our friends at amazon.com

Self and Consequence

  • Hegel And Shankaracharya: On the Non-Dualistic ‘I'
    1. Priyadarshi Shukla
  • The Nature of Mind In Tibetan Buddhist Ethical Theory
    1. Daniel J. Bristol
  • Buddha, Kant, and the Ethical Consequences of Suicide
    1. Katherine Collins

Justice, Freedom, and Responsibility

  • Justice Outside the Polis in Aristotle's Politics and Nicomachean Ethics
    1. Tara K. Hogan
  • The Freedom That Fear Has Wrought
    1. Brett Bisgrove

Logic, Language, and Experience

  • An Analysis of Deontic Logic and Chisholm's Paradox
    1. Matthew A. Ferkany
  • Contextual Influences on Wittgenstein's Philosophy
    1. Jonathan C. Messinger
  • Intuitions in Conceptual Shape? Misconceptions and Motivations
    1. Nathan C. Doty

Heidegger, Nietzsche, and the Daoist Sage

  • An Attack On Tradition
    1. Robert Erlewine
  • Nietzschean Christology
    1. Christopher Rodkey
  • Heidegger, Lao Tzu and Dasein
    1. Christopher Martin

Keynote Addresses

  • The Fractal Self and the Organization of Nature: The Daoist Sage and Chaos Theory
    1. David Jones and John Culliney
  • Reading Socially Engaged Buddhism in Modern America:
    A Case Study of Tibet/Tibetan Buddhism
    1. Jennifer Manlowe
Conference Program
Oneonta Philosophy Studies

The present volume grew from an undergraduate conference in philosophy, held on the campus of SUNY Oneonta, April 16-17, 1999. It was the fourth such conference we had hosted in as many years. If you had told me back in October of 1995 when I first invited a few students to tag along with me to a conference on Greek and Islamic Philosophy that I was setting in motion a series of events that includes organizing an annual undergraduate conference and publishing papers from those conferences in volumes such as this, I would have looked at you with more than a little incredulity.

So much for the siddhi of precognition. The effects of our actions are notoriously wide-ranging and difficult to predict, and that weekend nearly five years ago proved exceptional in many ways. My students came back with a dream about holding a conference of their own, not for professors such as they had seen, but for undergraduates such as themselves. With some simple encouragement and a lot of hard work, we hosted our first conference during March of 1996. Even now, in retrospect, I am amazed by the response we received, the quality of the papers, and the dedication of our own students. Perhaps the distance from there to here is not as great as it sometimes seems.

Our 1999 conference was opened by Shen Pingde, an exchange scholar from Xian, China, with a special presentation titled Chinese Calligraphy: A Philosophical Demonstration. Professor Shen enjoyed rapt attention as he

  1. provided an introduction to the art and development of Chinese calligraphy, including philosophical and religious ideas, materials, styles, and development over time, and
  2. demonstrated the art of calligraphy in two pieces: a poem from the book of the three kingdoms and a short poem of his own written for world peace in the next century.

That evening, David Jones of Kennesaw State University challenged professors and students alike with a keynote address titled The Fractal Self and the Organization of Nature: The Daoist Sage and Chaos Theory. The presentation, based on a paper that he and John Culliney of the University of Hawaii had written for Zygon, employed the perspective of chaos theory to explore interconnections between self and surroundings in Daoist thought, and more specifically, to examine the role of the self in creating emergent form and dynamism in nature and society.

On Saturday, Jennifer Manlowe of Long Island University provided the final presentation of the conference in a key-note address titled Buddhism, Race, Class, Sexuality, and Gender in the Modern World. Professor Manlowe explored the role the Dalai Lama has played in the Human Rights movement as an “Engaged Buddhist,” explained why this movement (over and above others) has become so urgent for so many Americans in the latter half of the 20th century, and offered her views as to whether this kind of philosophical thought and religious practice offers a viable approach to living peacefully in a war-torn world.

I think both Professors Jones and Manlowe were surprised by how quickly our students took to them. I was not. It was exactly the sort of reaction I had hoped for, and the sort of reception I had seen our students give other keynotes in previous years.

I had first met David during the summer of 1995, at an NEH Summer Institute on Japanese Culture and Civilization directed by Thomas Kasulis of Ohio State University. David instantly impressed me as a pleasant, intelligent, and potentially valuable colleague. When we began hosting undergraduate conferences, I knew it would only be a matter of time before we tapped into his unique talents.

David and I stayed in touch via email, but I did not see him again until the summer of 1998 when our paths crossed at another NEH Summer Institute, this time on Chinese Philosophy and Religion, directed by Henry Rosemont, Jr. of Saint Mary’s College. It was not only an occasion to renew my relationship with David, but an opportunity to form new alliances as well. One scholar who quickly caught my attention was Jennifer Manlowe. Jenn was clearly bright, well versed, and articulate. She had an inquisitive and open mind. It was also clear to me that she was a dynamic, caring, and charismatic teacher just the sort of person I was looking to invite to our conference.

Of course, no matter how wonderful our keynotes may be, the true stars of the conference are always the students. The conference was a dynamic interplay of personal commitment, intellectual energy, and youthful exuberance. Stu-dents from twenty institutions made twenty-six philosophically sophisticated and challenging presentations. Each year, we receive submissions from students at an impressive array of geographically and pedagogically diverse institutions. For 1999, students represented the following schools: Amherst College, Boston College, Canisius College, Clark University, Fairfield University, Haverford College, George Washington University, Hunter College, Mary Washington College, Oakland University, Rockland Community College, Saint John's University, Saint Mary's College of Maryland, Saint Vincent College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, Syracuse University, University of Buffalo, University of Massachusetts, and Wheaton College.

Each paper represented an exceptional student's best work. In most cases, it was the first time the student had presented a paper beyond the confines of a classroom. The inherent intimidation of presenting one's work in public, combined with the knowledge that it would be subject to critical blind review, resulted in a significant measure of self-selection. I know many capable students who elected not to submit. But for those who summoned the courage, the experience was remarkable. Presentations were clear, insightful, and informed. Discussion was spirited and robust.

By encouraging excellence, and by treating students with respect and professionalism, we have been rewarded in kind. Six of the eleven student papers published in this volume received special awards, described below. The others, as will be obvious to anyone who reads the essays, made decisions concerning those awards especially difficult.

President's Awards
President's Awards honor student presentations that most clearly exemplify the standards and ideals of the conference. For 1999, these awards were presented to (alphabetic order):

  • Brett Bisgrove (SUNY Oneonta)
  • Daniel Bristol (SUNY Oneonta)
  • Robert Erlewine (St. Mary's College)
  • Tara K. Hogan (Mary Washington College)

Ninash Foundation East-West Awards
East-West Awards honor student presentations that exhibit special expertise and insight in Asian and Comparative Philosophy. For 1999, these awards were presented to (alphabetic order):

  • Daniel Bristol (SUNY Oneonta)
  • Christopher P. Martin (Mary Washington College)
  • Priyadarshi Shukla (LeMoyne College)


Spirit of Conference Awards
Spirit of Conference Awards honor students who contribute to the conference in diverse, sometimes unexpected ways. Special consideration is given to contributions that enhance the academic, intellectual, and positive social atmosphere of the conference. For 1999, these awards were presented to (alphabetic order):

  • Daniel Bristol (SUNY Oneonta)
  • Cynthia Budka (SUNY Oneonta)
  • Gottlieb Jicha III (SUNY Oneonta)

In my preface to Children of Athena (proceedings of the 1998 conference), I wrote about one of my students who was busy in another office, creating the program for our fourth annual conference. That he was doing so on his spring break, I noted, only serves to reinforce my conviction that somewhere, somehow, we must have done something right. That student, Gotti Jicha, I am happy to report, is once again devoting his spring break to work on the conference program. It is sure to become a classic example of the sort of “beyond the call of duty” activity that merits a Spirit of Conference Award.

Kerri Lynn Nicholas Heart and Soul Awards
Named in honor of an alumna who helped found the conference, Kerri Lynn Nicholas Heart and Soul Awards provide special recognition to those who have made truly exceptional, lasting contributions to the conference. The inaugural award was presented to none other than Kerri herself. The second Kerri was presented to Amanda Joy Schwarz, the first student to chair the conference planning committee. On May 22, 1999 a third Kerri was awarded, this time to Daniel J. Bristol. As evidenced by the President’s and Ninash Foundation Awards he received, Dan is an extraordinarily bright student who does not hesitate to share his insights with others. The Kerri, however, honors a somewhat different side of Dan. He is willing to work selflessly behind the scenes and, if needed, to accept positions of responsibility and leadership. The plaque commemorating Dan’s award reads simply:

To honor exceptional contribution
to the planning and conduct
of the 1997, 1998, and 1999
UNDERGRADUATE PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCES

In the midst of realizing that I still had six papers to write for two professors and only about another month left of classes, Dr. Shrader asked if I would like to write the student preface for the book you are now holding in your hands. He told me that the work I had done in terms of editing the papers had earned me that right, if I so chose. I quickly jumped at the chance, but after weeks of thought and reflection, I have come up with nothing more than the paragraph you are now reading. I am hoping the rest will “come to me” as I go along,

I attended the 1998 conference as a spectator. I was a freshman, still quite new to philosophy at that point, and thought I might find out just how much I did not know, and whether I could conceivably pursue it as a major. I have to blame my fiance for this; it is all his influence. He dual-majored in Philosophy and English and worked on the conference committee for three years.

I had a great deal of fun at the conference even though I had no idea what was being said by the people at the front of the room. I did not know much about any philosophers beyond Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. What the heck was this guy Nietzsche talking about? And who is Wittgenstein? Kant? Hegel? Then, for some reason, when I was registering for classes for the fall, I asked Dr. Shrader if I could join the conference committee. Actually, I think that he is the one who asked me, now that I think about it. And even though I knew about the late-night meetings and frantic rush of activities in the months preceding the conference, I agreed. I am happy to say that it was a good decision.

Although working on the conference planning committee is more demanding than traditional classes, it is also far more personally gratifying and may be the best college experience I will ever have. That’s probably the reason I signed on as Student Chair of the committee this year, and will most likely volunteer for the position again next year.

In the year and a half since I attended my first undergraduate conference, I have declared philosophy as my major, taking many classes that I never thought I would. (Metaphysics? What’s that?? . . . umm, wait, I still don’t know!) I have made philosophy my life. My dream is to teach Asian Philosophy, particularly Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism.

Working on the conference last year, I found out firsthand just how much work goes into something like this. And that no matter how well you plan, some things will still go wrong. But if, throughout the year, you have created a good group that works well together, any little mistake can be covered in an instant, and only the committee members will even know that it happened. I would not trade it for any other experience in the world.

At the closing of the 1999 conference, I had an immense feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that ten of us (along with Dr. Shrader’s never-ending and helpful support that we couldn’t live without) had put together a conference where people from all over the country came together and had a great time, and where I actually understood what was being said, felt absolutely wonderful. I now feel confident in my ability to understand what is said to me at the conference, and I feel confident enough in myself that I plan to submit a paper next year.

I cannot begin to explain how being on the conference committee has helped me. I definitely have much better organizational skills, but it’s more than just the superficial things. Much more. It’s the feeling of confidence in yourself, the knowledge that you can help to create a conference for undergraduate students that is quickly growing beyond anyone’s imagination. When Kerri Nicholas and Alex Slater went to Dr. Shrader five years ago and asked if they could put on a conference for students, I’m sure that they never imagined that the conference would, in just five years time, be getting submissions from students in California. Working on this committee has given me something to be proud of myself for. This conference, and the knowledge that I helped to make it happen, has worked wonders for my self-confidence and self-esteem.

All I can say is “thank you” to Dr. Shrader, for letting me be a part of this, and for having the confidence in me to be the committee chair. And of course, thank you to Kerri and Alex, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Cynthia Budka
SUNY Oneonta

The conference and this volume depend on the contributions and good will of many. The following organizations and local merchants provided generous financial and/or professional assistance:

  • SUNY Oneonta Student Association
  • The Ninash Foundation
  • The Philosophy Club
  • The Marketing Club
  • Morris Conference Center
  • The Philosophy Department
  • Oneonta Philosophy Studies
  • Organization of Ancillary Services
  • The Paper Chase
  • Hannaford Foods
  • Price Chopper
  • Oneonta Bagel Company
  • Subway
  • Wal-Mart
  • Stoeger Florist
  • Wyckoff’s Florist
  • Alpine Ski Hut
  • Office Max
  • The Village Printer

Special appreciation is extended to:

  • Shen Pingde, David Jones, and Jennifer Manlowe for donating nearly a week of their precious time to our conference
  • Daniel Bristol for leadership and commitment as student chair of the conference planning committee
  • The rest of the 1998/1999 conference planning commit-tee: Morgan Brenner, Cynthia Budka, Meghan Callahan, Kevin Curran, Howard Fitzpatrick, Gottlieb Jicha III, Denise Nicoletti, Keith Reischmann, and George Savvas
  • Marjorie Holling for secretarial support
  • Mark Ayotte, Morgan Brenner, Cynthia Budka, Meg-han Callahan, Gottlieb Jicha III, and Amanda Rasnick for editorial assistance
  • SUNY Oneonta faculty for patiently reviewing and evaluating a multitude of manuscripts especially Michael Green, Michael Koch, Achim KÃdder-mann, Ashok Malhotra, and Anthony Roda
  • SUNY Oneonta administration for support and encouragement especially Dean Michael Merilan, Provost Anne C. Federlein, and President Alan B. Dono-van
  • Parviz Morewedge, IGCS, SAGP, SSIPS, and Global Publications for financial and in-house support of this series

Finally, a heartfelt Thank You is extended to all the Presenters, Chairs, and Discussants for without them there would have been no Conference.

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