Centre senior presents paper at meeting of the Kentucky Philosophical Association
RELEASED: Nov. 17, 2005
[Editor’s note: Ben Angel '06, a philosophy major and English and creative writing minor from Campbellsville, Ky., wrote this story about his classmate Conrad Robinson '06 for the Centre College student newspaper.]
DANVILLE, KYTo the philosophers, professors and graduate students assembled at the Kentucky Philosophical Association's fall meeting, he was just another well-spoken, highly intelligent scholar. What many may not have realized was that the presenter of a paper titled "The Coherence of Tenses" was a Centre College undergraduate.
Conrad Robinson, a senior philosophy major from Lexington, Ky., was one of four scholars to have papers accepted after a blind review of works submitted primarily by upper-level graduate students and professional philosophers from across the Commonwealth.
"The Coherence of Tenses" deals with the "tensed theory" of time, which espouses the idea that grammatical past, present, and future tenses are descriptive of the nature of time itself (they possesses grammatical and ontological significance). In his paper, Robinson analyzes critiques of the theory, defends the theory, and explains what he finds to be an acceptable approach to understanding that the past and present tenses are actually ontologically compatible.
Robinson asked Stodghill Professor of Philosophy Brian Cooney to serve as a commentator on his paper at the meeting, which took place Oct. 29 in Louisville. Cooney summarized Robinson's arguments and offered a few objections to Robinson's description of time as flowing. "I accused him of having the same problem with time that [Isaac] Newton has," Cooney says, "and his responses were excellent and very professional."
Cooney explains that it isn't uncommon for acquaintances to comment on one another's work at such a meeting, but says it's unusual for a professor to comment on an undergraduate's work while the student is still enrolled in his institution. "It is extremely rare for an undergraduate's work to be accepted," Cooney says, "The people doing the accepting were very surprised to learn he was still an undergraduate."
Cooney describes Robinson's performance as "polished" and remarkably professional, and with good reason—this was not Robinson's first time presenting his work to a body of his peers and professionals. Robinson delivered an address to the State University of New York (SUNY) national philosophy undergraduate conference in Oneonta, N.Y., last spring, and his paper "The Resurgence of Mind: Active Epiphenomenalism and the Will" was published in the journal for that program. Robinson presented another of his papers, "Realism, Conventionalism, and Objectivity," at the University of Louisville's Humphrey Student Colloquium, a regional undergraduate event, just prior to the KPA meeting.
"I find it pretty exhilarating," Robinson says about the presentations, "particularly when people are asking questions, because it stimulates me to think about things in new ways."
In the introduction to "The Coherence of Tenses," Robinson describes his thesis as a "modest" one, although the senior's academic career at Centre has been anything but quiet. Robinson is infamous among his peers and the faculty for going above and beyond the required amounts of scheduled readings, assignments, and what many would describe as the sane number of course and audited hours a student should undertake. Of Robinson's in-class performance, Cooney says, "Conrad not only understands immediately, but is also capable of quickly mounting serious objections."
Robinson says he hopes to graduate from Centre and be accepted into a top-ranked philosophy Ph.D. program. He hopes to continue writing about metaphysics and focus his teaching on ethics.Cooney has no doubt that Robinson's future will be bright. "Being a professional philosopher is a very competitive field and it is considerably difficult to break into it. I'm often hesitant to tell students to pursue it, but I have no doubt that Conrad will be admitted to a top program."
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