Phil Fest’ celebrates department’s students

Jessia Allen and Maria LaMagna

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Northwestern’s philosophy department hosted a “public party” Wednesday night to showcase the research of undergraduate students.

Six students presented at the event held in Swift Hall, which about 40 people attended. Topics ranged from the existence of God to whether literature is a legitimate form of art.

“We were looking for ways of celebrating the accomplishments of students who go the extra mile for writing an honors thesis, and at the same time, to have a celebration of the philosophy department’s undergraduate community,” said Prof. Axel Mueller, who ran the honors seminar during Spring and Fall Quarters. “All six presentations are going to be from very different angles and fields of philosophy, so it shows the breadth of research that is possible.”

More people than department advisers alone attended the event, which is a testament to all the students have accomplished, Mueller said.

At the end of each presentation, Mueller gave the student two roses.

“It means we love you whether or not you receive honors,” said Mueller after one student joked about holding off on the flowers until he had received his honors.

Weinberg senior Stephanie Leopold took two quarters writing her thesis on sexual and gender-based justice.

“I started writing it Spring Quarter of last year, then I worked on it a little bit during the summer and finished it Fall Quarter of this year,” Leopold said.

She said events like “Phil Fest” are a great idea because of the small number of students studying philosophy at NU.

“It’s wonderful that the department is starting to publicize itself more through events like Phil Fest,” Leopold said.

Weinberg senior Avi Emanuel presented a thesis on “The Ideological Argument for the Existence of God.”

Emanuel said he developed his thesis based on the argument presented by Descartes. He tried to prove that from the idea of God itself, it follows that God must exist.

The philosophy event allowed him to use the presentation to gauge what people thought of his thesis, he said.

Emanuel said students should not be hesitant to give the philosophy department a try.

“It’s not as scary or as intimidating as you might think,” Emanuel said. “If you actually take a philosophy class, you’ll probably expand your horizons in ways you never realized you could.”

Georgi Gardner, a visiting pre-doctoral student in philosophy at NU, said the presentations were all understandable and audience-friendly. Undergraduates need the chance to present their research and ideas because it eliminates the “scariness,” Gardner said.

She said she philosophically weighed the positives and negatives of attending the event.

“It’s funny because my Facebook status right now is, ‘Am I really virtuous enough to walk 50 minutes in the rain?'” she said. “I’m glad I did.”