On March 16, the Queens College Philosophy Club co-sponsored with Student Organization for Democratic Alternatives and the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding for a symposium to explore and discuss the notion of freedom.
The event took place at the Q-side lounge for an evening of food, conversation and philosophical discussion with Queens College Professors Abigail Doukahn, Anthony Malagon and Antonio Donato.
Luis Campos, the Philosophy Club president, and Michele Jackson, a QC alumna, began the symposium, thanking attendees and those involved for setting up the event, which was in the works before the spring semester even began. Two spoken words poets followed, projecting their voices to speak out about family and the societal issue of sexual harassment. The pieces shared were open for interpretation by the audience to think about society at large.
Each speaker brought a different perspective in approaching the idea of free will, and provided audience members the opportunity to ask questions and share their own ideas. Professor Donato gave a brief overview of the history of Western thought, explaining how heavyweight philosophers Aristotle and Plato didn’t address the concept of free will in their writings. He spoke about how Christianity sparked a spiritual freedom in society and made people search for human integration, which gave them an affirmation of who they were.
Professor Doukahn’s speech gave a modern perspective on the issue. He emphasized that today we are in the prison of the self. Truly being free means to transcend the bondage of the self and connect with one another because humans are intrinsi- cally relational beings.
Professor Malgon explained the three different approaches to free will: libertarian, determin- istic and compatibilist. He favored the phenological approach, which says that there are different degrees of freedom, as humans are self conscious beings—the more conscious a person is, the more free he or she becomes.
The event concluded with a conversation between professors and students, who spoke more in depth about the concept of freedom.
Anita Dos Santos, a senior Latin American studies major, said, “I feel this was a really insightful event. What’s great about Queens College is that they have cool events like this, where you can have engaging conversations with people who are vastly different from yourself. All you have to do is look.
Campos was pleased to see other QC students expressing interest in the club, stating that we are in a “divisive climate,” and participating in the Philosophy Club is more important than ever.
“Philosophy itself is a very important field that underpins everything we do. It is how we view the world and how we understand our place and relation to it,” Campos said. “It is even an understanding of ourselves.”
Campos discussed how the event helped him feel more connected to the student body. “It is important to come to events like the symposium, where students are making the effort to understand freedom more clearly. As Doukahn said, ‘true Freedom works when we work for each other.’”