Continental Humanism: An Introduction -- CFI Summer Seminar in Amherst, NY

Friday, July 18, 2014 - Saturday, July 19, 2014

Location: Center for Inquiry (CFI)

1310 Sweet Home Road
Amherst, NY 14228
United States

Continental Humanism: An Introduction
Existentialism, Phenomenology, and
Humanism in the 20th Century

In-Person Seminar
July 18-19, 2014
Center for Inquiry Transnational
1310 Sweet Home Road
Amherst, NY

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Beginning on Friday, July 18 we will examine continental sources of humanism, realism, and naturalism in the 20th century, including discussion of Husserl, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and others who were instrumental in the early existentialist and phenomenological movements in philosophy. We will discuss the distinctions and similarities among these thinkers and the more familiar Anglo-American analytic tradition. You will learn a different perspective on naturalism and philosophy and expand your humanistic horizons.

FRIDAY, July 18

7:00pm   | Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray: "Hell is Other People (In Yoga Pants): How Existentialism Can Save Us From Ourselves"

Jean-Paul Sartre spoke to a 20th century post-war audience when he gave his infamous talk “Existentialism is a Humanism” in 1946, but his words and ideas still hold true in the 21st century, with the internet, smart phones, FaceBook, and expensive yoga pants.  The core concepts of authenticity, freedom, and responsibility do in fact pertain regardless of whether a person has religious faith or not.  But the biggest appeal of existentialism is its flexible morality and wide ranging applicability:  these electronic, global economic community, modern days we live in have given rise to horribly complicated, ethically cloudy situations where the moral theories of old just don’t work or provide practical solutions.  The world has never been 'black and white’ morally, but today the shades of grey are far more intense and various than ever.   Many things that are legal aren’t just; many areas of technology are still not covered by the protection of the law so it seems ‘anything goes’; and there are so many situations where the right action might be considered morally wrong by society, and vice versa.  It’s like we need an anti-hero, and existentialism is just that.

In this talk I will discuss how existentialism can and does function as a valid moral theory in this modern climate we live in, and I will do so with some pop culture examples: they offer the best probative value as well as some levity to an otherwise heavy discussion.  In the end I hope everyone will come to see why existentialism as a humanistic moral theory is the best answer,  that it offers the best solution to our modern conundrums - like that lady blocking the grocery aisle with her kart, in her yoga pants talking on the phone, oblivious to your presence and needs for peanut butter!  


10:00am | David Koepsell: Greetings and Introduction

10:30am | Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray: “Existentialism as Humanism: Three Approaches to a Morality Without God”

In this seminar, we will begin with a brief historical overview of humanism as a movement and as a theory of morality. This will set the stage for the discussion of existentialism and how it is a modern form of humanism. We will then cover the basic themes and concepts of existentialism, with a careful focus on how Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus all contribute to existentialism as a humanistic moral theory albeit uniquely due to essential differences of gender, social class, education, race, etc. The result, when their three unique perspectives are combined, is that existentialism has the ability to be a well-rounded and completely inclusive moral theory. Existentialism puts to rest the idea that 'without God all things are permitted’ and leaves no person behind. 

12:30pm | Lunch (provided for $10)

2:00pm  | J. Edward Hackett: "William James, Pure Experience, and Phenomenology"

William James is the best known pragmatist of the classical pragmatists and a very popular intellectual at the turn of the 20thcentury. His intellectual legacy is constantly returning, ever prompting and inspiring a new generation of philosophers. More than Dewey or Peirce, James led an impressive fight to base his entire system of thought upon what we can call experience or what came to be known as pragmatism.

Every phenomenologist read William James. In this seminar, I will summarize the central themes of the phenomenological movement while paying attention to the movements closeness to James’s pragmatism. The richness and phenomenological character of James’s thought can be best be seen with attention to a collection of essays delivered between 1904-1906 and collected together under the title Essays in Radical Empiricism published in 1912. One intended consequence is to make room for subjective experience as the central notion of any way we might claim to know the world, including science. Experience, therefore, “leans on nothing,” and is all there is. Science is not found to be privileged, but a form of experience. That is to say, while many in the room might share in the naturalism underlying the Center for Inquiry’s core values, a naturalistic reductionism qua science is incapable of allowing for the richness of subjective experience since it privileges objects over acts. Only a science grounded upon experience is a coherent vision for any prospective humanism.

4:30pm  | Summary, Questions, Discussion

5:00pm  | Adjourn


Hackett_James Edward.jpgJ. Edward Hackett, PhD. is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Akron in Akron, OH. He specializes in ethical theory and phenomenology. He received his doctorate from Southern Illinois University where he is also a member of the Phenomenology Research Center headed by Dr. Anthony Steinbock and completed his Masters degree from Simon Fraser University. He has also been an Editorial Assistant for the Library of Living Philosophers. He is the author of a forthcoming monograph Being and Value in Scheler: A Phenomenological Defense of Participatory Realism with Lexington, and the volume editor for House of Cards and Philosophy. Hackett's current research is developing connections between Jamesian pragmatism and Scheler's phenomenology as well as applying Scheler's phenomenology to contemporary cultural problems in religion and ethics.


Baltzer_Kim.jpegKimberly Baltzer-Jaray, PhD. is a philosophy instructor at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario. Her area of expertise is in early phenomenology and existentialism, but she can be said to have interests in just about every area in the history of philosophy. She is president of the North American Society for Early Phenomenology (NASEP), a member of the Albert Camus Society (both in the USA & UK), and has published several articles in both scholarly journals and pop culture books on topics relating to existentialism and phenomenology. She is an executive board member and writer for Things & Ink Magazine (UK), where she has contributed both philosophical and historical articles on tattoo culture, history, and the female experience.


koepsellDavid Koepsell, JD, PhD. is Director of Education for the Center for Inquiry, and formerly served as Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism from 2003-2008. Since then, he has been an associate professor of philosophy at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he teaches ethics and engineering as well as research ethics to masters and PhD students. He holds a law degree (1995) and PhD in Philosophy (1997) from the University at Buffalo, and has authored and edited numerous books, as well as popular and scholarly articles, and has spoken to audiences worldwide on issues relating to civil rights, secularism, science and technology, ethics, humanism, and ontology. He has provided commentary on these topics in a variety of media outlets including: MSNBC, Fox News Channel, The Guardian, NPR, and the Associated Press, among others. His complete CV can be found at


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Conference program is scheduled for:
Friday, July 18: 7:00pm-9:00pm
Saturday, July 19: 10:00am-5:00pm

Friday & Saturday - $59 for the public; $39 for Friends of the Center.
Friday only - $15 for the public; $10 for Friends of the Center.
Saturday only - $45 for the public; $30 for Friends of the Center.
(Includes Saturday morning coffee and snacks)
$10 for Saturday catered lunch 

Local Accommodations:

Candlewood Suites Buffalo/Amherst (1.1 mi.) - 1-800-225-1237
DoubleTree Inn Buffalo/Amherst (1.1 mi.) - 1-877-846-3446

Other Local Options:
Motel 6 Buffalo-Amherst (0.7 mi.)
Comfort Inn University (1.2 mi.)
Red Roof Inn Unviersity at Buffalo Amherst (1.2 mi.)
Buffalo Mariott Niagara (1.4 mi.)
Ramada Amherst (1.8 mi.) 


For more information about the CFI Institute, please visit our web site.
Specific questions? Email a CFI Institute representative
or call us at (716) 636-4869

CFITransnational is located directly across from the University at Buffalo's North Campus
Free parking is available at the Center

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