Friday, November 26, 2010

"Free Will and the Neuro-Sciences": Do We Really Have a Choice?

    Well, you'll be relieved to learn that YES- we do have free will, contrary to scientific experiments' claims that we do not.  So why have we come to believe that we no longer have this ability? The debate has been largely attributed to a 1985 experiment created by Benjamin Libet that just recently became popularized.  However, there is one specific internationally acclaimed philosopher that has debunked the theory.  Dr. Alfred Mele, professor in Philosophy at Florida State University, visited the University of Southern Mississippi's campus on November 19, 2010 to deliver his speech "Free Will and the Neuro-Sciences," in order to discuss his arguments with Libet's notorious theory.  Similar to Dr. DeArmey's lecture on "Evil and Human Dignity," Dr. Mele stressed the concept of intentions.
     According to Dr. Mele, Libet's infamous claim can be neither directly nor explicitly derived from the evidence obtained in the experiment, as questions arise pertaining to the accuracy and empiricism of the conducted research.  I did not expect that a guest speaker would visit hundreds of miles only to discuss the inconsistencies of a twenty-five year old experiment. This form of information, however, has proven to be especially helpful to many scientists and philosophers who are attempting to recreate the experiment in order to obtain more accurate results. In fact, Dr. Mele has participated in one of the new experiments to test the brain's recorded electrical signals in relation to a quick motion of the hand's muscles.  Though I have never before attended a lecture where a single, simple scientific experiment was under review, I will look for more unique lectures just like this one--exercising my free will all the way.

"Evil and Human Dignity": A Lecture by USM Professor Michael DeArmey

     On November 19, 2010, Dr. Michael DeArmey gave a lecture entitled "Evil and Human Dignity" as part of the Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Professorship Lecture at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Lasting roughly an hour, Dr. DeArmey's discussion was set on the objectives of defining "dignity" with a context of Cosmopolitanism, defining "dignity" in his own words, and ending the lecture with a briefing of "What is Evil?".  Dr. DeArmey, who, happens to be my honors philosophy professor, incorporated a powerpoint presentation and hand-out to aid his audience with understanding his presentation. 
     Throughout the lecture, I had learned many concepts and terms that I had never before heard of or meditated on.  Cosmopolitanism, for instance, is the school of thought that follows the three criteria that 1) an interest exists for the varieties of human life, 2) we have moral duties to all, and 3) that we need a new-world order in order to prevent encroaching and threatening evils from increased globalization.  Following the first part of Cosmopolitanism, I was especially surprised to learn that "dignity" had never before been concretely defined.  According to Dr. DeArmey, dignity is aesthetic, ethical, noble, and heroic; it also rests on three levels, which are marked numerically by intentions, thoughtful intentions produced via pairing, and the autonomous control of intentions by designing one's life. I felt that Dr. DeArmey's presentation had a logical fluency to it and that his discussion of evil to close the lecture was especially praiseworthy (pun intended.)

The De Grummond Children's Literature Collection: The Vitality and Importance of the Bookworm

     One would not expect to find children's fiction books in Cook Library at the University of Southern Mississippi, but a very unique collection is exhibited here--right next to a Curious George mascot, himself.  This cherished exhibit, called the De Grummond Children's Literature Collection, was founded in 1966 by University of Southern Mississippi's children's literature professor Dr. Lena Y. De Grummond with the vision of creating a showcase for the creative processes behind children's literature. Since 1957 when Dr. De Grummond received her first contribution, the De Grummond Children's Literature Collection serves as one of the leading children's literature research archives in North America. Containing over 100,000 historical and contemporary works from over 1300 British and American authors and illustrators, the collection holds orignal manuscripts, dummies, illustrations, and sketchbooks.
     Personally, I was thrilled to walk about the display room for the collection at Cook Library.  Even though most of the collection is kept in the McCain Library and Archives, there were many enticing items contained in this room. I loved being able to see Ezra Jack Keats's illustrations for his book Snowy Day, for this was one of my favorite bed time stories to read when I was a child. I could not believe that I was staring at authentic illustrations from one of my all-time cherished books! Additionally, I had never seen anything like the full-paneled storyboards suspended from the ceiling, and I wish I could have had my face imprinted on a medallion like the winners of the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion Award have earned. All and all, this exhibit was a treat, and I hope it is ever the more useful to researchers today.

Friday, October 29, 2010

“100 Alumni”: Masters, or least Bachelors, in Art

            The thing I like most about the art studio at USM is that it showcases a variety of exhibits. In the case of the current art exhibit, “100 Alumni: Centennial Alumni Exhibition”, I was not disappointed.  While visiting it earlier today, I viewed dozens of pieces of art from former USM students.  The exhibit, lasting from October 21 through November 20, is located in the Museum of Art at Marsh Hall.  Containing artwork from over eighty Southern Miss alumni, the collection is diverse in its contents as well as its mediums.
            It was this diversity of the exhibit that appealed to me most.  From the floral oil paintings to the abstract sculptures of clay and metal, the museum is filled with varied artworks.  An oil painting I grew particularly fond of is “Tossed Away” by 1975 alumnus Paula Duren.  Its eddies of color, which appear to have been indiscriminately strewn about on the canvas, almost seem to have been strategically patterned at the same time.  It was my favorite piece to wonder about, as I tried to find objects within the flowing lines of colors.  Another piece I especially liked was “Hot Chicken” by 2001 alumnus Donna Delmas.  This satirical piece, with two shots of a processed chicken lounging on a luxurious pillow, confused me.  I felt challenged by the artist to consider what my reaction should be.  Though still perplexed about both paintings, I am certain about one thing:  my appreciation for and enjoyment of the “100 Alumni” exhibit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Southern Miss Centennial Exhibit: Treasuring Golden Memories

    Typically, the only trip down memory lane I’ve ever taken in a library was either through my cell phone’s text inbox or on my Facebook® page.  Yet, I was able to connect with one hundred years worth of nostalgia on my visit to the Centennial Exhibit.  Located in the former Cook Library computer lab, this exhibit showcases countless memories of all who walked the campus before me.  From buttons to photographs to sports’ uniforms, the Centennial Exhibit was a visually enriching display that allowed me to appreciate how Southern Miss has continually transformed.
     Of all the intriguing artifacts and memorabilia at the exhibit, a handful of them caught my attention most.  The first thing that caught my eye was the framed map of the original campus.  It amazed me how small it looked compared to today, and it reinforced how much I prefer the earlier architecture compared to some of the modern buildings we have now.  Another item that piqued my interest was a hand-made hat of yarn and tin cans by “ultimate fan” Ray “Two Bits” Crawford.  The look of the cap, with its assortment of ticket stubs and pins, made me wish as if I could have seen “Two Bits” in all his glory.  What I prized most, however, were the volumes of past editions of Student Printz.  These age-stained bundles of paper contain decades of history that a single photograph or tattered sports’ uniform simply does not.  And it is in this history of the aforementioned items, as well as the collection as a whole, that excite anticipation in me for all the golden years to come here at Southern Miss.