CWU News

CWU Professors Present in Beijing at World Congress of Philosophy

Professor Matthew Altman stands outside World Congress of PhilosophyCentral Washington University philosophy professors Matthew Altman and Cynthia Coe recently presented at the 24th World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing, China. The World Congress is hosted by the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, the highest non-governmental world organization for philosophy.

“Today, we are confronted by important philosophical questions,” said Altman. “Does the creation of autonomous military drones put us at moral risk of dehumanizing the enemy, or does it protect against human error? What kinds of limits should we put on the right to control our own bodies? Philosophy can guide our discussions about war and terrorism, science and technology, law and morality.”

Altman presented "Why Punish? Parallel Reasoning in Retributivism and Consequentialism" during a session on the philosophy of law. His lecture focused on how we justify punishment, specifically how giving people what they deserve and deterring future crimes share social aims. 

Professor Cynthia CoeDuring a session on Jewish philosophy, Cynthia Coe’s presentation, “A Levinasian Reading of Compassion Fatigue," explored why our moral attention to the suffering of others is so fragile and easily disrupted, especially when that suffering is experienced by a large group, such as Syrian refugees.

“It was an amazing experience to be among so many philosophers from a variety of countries, specializations, and concerns. One highlight was a keynote lecture by philosopher and author Judith Butler, on the apropos topic of translation as a philosophical issue — as a reminder that what is familiar is always open to reinterpretation” said Coe.

Coe and Altman were among a number of speakers from throughout world, including Yale University, National Autonomous University of Mexico, University of Nigeria, Tokyo University, and Russia’s Saratov State Law Academy. Their papers were also accepted to be published in the conference proceedings.

Every five years, the World Congress brings together philosophers to address emerging global issues through interactions with other disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. This was Altman’s and Coe’s first time attending and presenting at the conference.

Learn more about the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies by visiting the CWU website.

Media contact: Dawn Alford, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1484,