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Philosophy Dialogue Series: Promoting Peace on Campus


By Austin Sanders

Texas State’s most recent Philosophy Dialogue, “Promoting Peace: An Interdisciplinary Panel,” informed students about maintaining peace among their classmates despite political differences.

The Tuesday afternoon panel, part of an annual series of philosophy dialogues which began 20 years ago, included presentations from Texas State faculty members Dr. Richard L. Warms, anthropology professor and Dr. Patricia M. Shields, political science professor. Dr. Catherine Hawkins, social work professor, moderated the panel.

The dialogue provided an overview of peace movements throughout history. Shields, who has spent most of the last decade studying the life and activism of Jane Addams, focused on how students can achieve greater peace through social work.

“One of the key insights Jane Addams had about peace was that we needed to recognize that being an advocate of peace takes courage,” Shields said. “We need to understand and celebrate that courage.”

Addams, considered the “mother of social work,” was a prominent reformer during the Progressive Era of American politics.

Warms, who has focused his academic career on West African society, offered a broad overview of peace efforts throughout human history.

“We are neither peaceful nor violent; both capacity for violence and for peace seem to be deep-wired into the human species,” Warms said.

He described the struggle for peace among humans as an effort to achieve mutual understanding, a point with which Shields agreed.

During the dialogue’s Q&A, the presenters were asked about how students could maintain a culture of peace on campus when political divisiveness permeates life.

Shields suggested students should avoid “rigid moralisms,” which can drive wedges between groups who feel their point of view is the only “true” way to understand a particular issue, and any diverging perspective is “wrong.”

Warms recommended that students of disparate political ideology find activities to participate in together in attempt to build mutual respect for one another. However, he cautioned against relying on the “warm and fuzzy feelings” which accompany such colorations as an enduring solution to conflict.

When asked about specific incidents of intimidation at Texas State relating to the dissemination of flyers promoting a white supremacist group called “American Vanguard,” the presenters demurred. One would only offer comment under the condition of anonymity, out of concern that their advice would be construed as political advocacy.

“Getting together to discuss the issues is not necessarily the right way to go, but a good step is to avoid issues that emphasize difference,” the presenter said. “If you want to emphasize continuity and commonality, you have to choose things that build each other’s humanity and cooperation.”

A panel attendee, who also wished to remain unnamed out of concern his comments would be considered political advocacy, offered a differing perspective on how students can pursue the effort to maintain peace.

“It would be nice for representatives of the ‘American Vanguard’ group to meet with students of other political groups on campus for a structured dialogue,” the attendee said. “Because the group is attempting to fear monger, it would be honorable for them to not hide behind anonymity.”

The Philosophy Dialogue Series continues for the next several weeks, covering topics relating to the Texas legislative session, immigrants and refugees and “truth and lies in a post-rational age.”

The series concludes Tuesday, April 4. More information can be found on the series here.