by Victoria Collier

The University of West Georgia’s philosophy department recently brought together David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, W.E.B. Dubois, Frantz Fanon, Simone de Beauvoir and Iris Marion-Young together—well, more accurately, their ideas and personalities—for a single event. UWG students once again portrayed famous contemporary and historical philosophers during the annual Meeting of the Minds. Moderated by Connor Pierce, the event gives philosophy majors the opportunity to perform a debate while playing the roles of some of the most famous philosophers in history.

Meeting of the Minds: UWG Students Discuss Race and GenderJanet Donohoe, philosophy professor and dean of the Honors College, hosted the event. This year’s topic, “Does Race and Gender Really Matter?”, shows the department does not shy away from difficult but necessary conversations.

Despite this difficult topic, students did a great job at simultaneously lightening the mood with witty commentary, yet encouraging students to think critically in rebuttal to their opinions.

Alex Clark, who played Nietzsche, and Isabella Torres, who played Hume, argued that race and gender don’t matter. Playing out their character’s beliefs, Clark and Torres said that there is a distinction between race and gender because some races are naturally superior to others.

Clark stayed in character as Nietzsche and said, “You're either going to have the will to overcome your situation or you're not, and that’s what makes someone superior.”

On the other hand, Dubois, portrayed by Joshua Dorsey, argued a different opinion on the matter and described this through the concept of the veil, which is a metaphorical barrier between minorities and opportunity.

West Poindexter’s rendition of Fanon agreed with him and stated, “The way we experience things and when we reflect on these experiences, we find it’s one of constant categorization in which the categories of race and gender sit supreme.”

In addition, Lauren Blastow filled in as the understudy for De Beauvoir. She agreed with Dubois and Fanon that race and gender do matter because society has decided to target a “weaker” gender or “lesser” race. She encouraged people to look past these socially constructed norms and to think for themselves.

Likewise, Maria Constanza Garrido, who played Marion-Young, argued that race and gender do matter because if one group is oppressed, another is privileged. She argued that a dominant group could label women and minorities as others and therefore take advantage of privilege and power.

Blastow shared after the event, “Being passionate about truths of the world was my favorite part of participating.”

When asked about her experience with Meeting of the Minds, Garrido said, “This really brought our community together, and it was great getting to know each other and working together.”

Panel of philosophy studentsTorres elaborated on her experience portraying Hume during the event: “While I definitely do not agree with Hume's views on race and gender, I think it was important to portray him in contrast with the other panelists.”

Students and faculty got involved in the dialogue by asking questions at the end. The questions asked covered topics such as post-feminism, the melting-pot effect and the realities of inequalities.

“I took it in as a wonderful display of diversity in perspective, both for our time and representing the past all coming together in harmony, even though people were disagreeing because they were representing past views,” said Dr. John Garner of the philosophy department.

UWG student Anya Delamore, who attended the event, said, “I heard these philosopher’s beliefs in different times and settings, so to have them all together and compare their beliefs was very interesting.”

The goal of the event was to challenge students and faculty to think critically and with open minds. A general conclusion the audience came to was that we should all respect each other’s opinions though we don’t agree with them.

“Some things will make you bristle, which is not necessarily a bad thing because it can lead to deeper thinking,” Donohoe concluded.

Posted on April 12, 2017