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Philosophy and Religious Studies

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Department Newsletter



Spring 2019




photo of zen garden courtesy of Jeff DippmannSpring 2019 has finally arrived in Ellensburg! Cool nights are giving way to mild and sunny days, while flowering trees and plants are beginning to “pop” all over town. Shorts and sandals are now the norm, though I have yet to see any hammocks strung up outside my office window. As you know, spring also marks the beginning of the end of the 2018-2019 academic year, and the end of my first official term as Department Chair. It’s been a productive and exhilarating year for the department, its faculty and students, and I have been grateful for the opportunity to become even more aware of and involved in the great things being accomplished within the Philosophy & Religious Studies Program and among its alumni (you!).  Accordingly, we have created a new web portal for you to submit updates and news about your life and careers. HereTrees in Japanese garden courtesy of Jeff Dippmann, you’ll be able to update your contact information, tell us what’s up in your life, and, with your permission, allow us to share your news with your fellow Philosophy & Religious Studies travelers in forthcoming newsletters. Please take a look at and send us an update! We look forward to hearing about your adventures!!


Faculty: Matthew AltmanOur faculty have been busy as always. To note just a few highlights, congratulations go out to the following: Dr. Altman has been awarded a two–quarter sabbatical, along with a spring quarter Faculty Research Appointment, for 2019-20 in order to complete work on his latest monograph, tentatively titled “A Theory of Punishment.” Dr. Coe has been named a Fellow for the upcoming Faculty: Cynthia CoeRegional Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University and the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes against Humanity of Western Washington University. Dr. Vuong is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the International Catacomb Society and the Shohet Scholarship program for her project “The Apocryphal Mary in Text, Pictorial Art, and Iconography.” Please Faculty: Lily Vuongextend your congratulations to each of them if you get an opportunity!


Senior Thesis Colloquium posterWe’ve also had an exciting year for departmental colloquia and related events. We kicked the year off with an illuminating presentation by Dr. Jordan D. Rosenblum, Belzer Professor of Judaism and Director of Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, entitled “Rabbinic Drinking: Beer and Wine in Judaism in the Roman World.” This was followed by a colloquium featuring Drs. Bartlett, Coe, and Nuckols, along with Dr. Ralf Greenwald from Psychology, on “Zombie Brains: Thinking about the Undead.” As part of a series on Chinese Culture, I offered presentations on whether “Confucius was a Foodie” and “‘Great Togetherness’” (Datong 大同): Utopian Idealism From Confucius to Mao Zedong.” Dr. Coe and I also participated in an Asian Studies program focusing on protest, memory, and trauma as it relates to the 1980 Gwangju Massacre in South Korea. In January, Philosophy alum Nash Fung (2005) returned to campus and wowed our students with his magic performance. Dr. Clayton Bohnet rounded out our lineup in February, when he presented his research project on “A People on the Edge of the Void: Towards a Philosophy of Protest.’ Our final colloquium of the year will feature six of our seniors, who will be sharing their thesis projects with each other and the community on April 30th.



Fall 2019 Schedule

PHIL 101 - Philosophical Inquiry
PHIL 103 - What is Enlightenment?
PHIL 104: Moral Controversies
PHIL 106: Asian Philosophy
PHIL 107: Political Philosophy and Democracy
PHIL 110: Beyond Belief?
PHIL 150: Critical Thinking
PHIL 153: Arguments about Social Issues
PHIL 184: First Year Seminar: Humans and Animals
PHIL 325: Women & Philosophy
PHIL 352: Greek and Roman Philosophy
PHIL 488: Junior Seminar: Transformative Experience

RELS 101: World Religions
RELS 102: Food, Sex, and the Other: Everyday Religion and Morality
RELS 103: World Mythologies
RELS 184: First Year Seminar: Why Religion Matters
RELS 353: Judaism


Mountain View ParkOur end-of-year BBQ is going to be a little different this spring. As you all know, it has been hosted annually by our faculty members, who have graciously opened up their homes and backyards to the departmental family. This year, we are planning to gather at Ellensburg’s Mountain View Park on the corner of S Maple and Manitoba. The BBQ will be held on May 30th beginning at 5 PM. If you are familiar with the Park, you know it boasts a picnic shelter, large grassy area for Frisbee, a basketball court, and a baseball diamond. In addition to good fellowship and food, we will be holding initiation ceremonies for our Honor Societies, Religious Studies’ Theta Alpha Kappa (for which we have an astounding 13 student-scholars eligible!), and Philosophy’s Phi Sigma Tau. I would like to invite not only current students and faculty, but any alum who are able to join us. As always, families and friends are welcome, and we would love to see all of you for a reunion and celebration of the Philosophy & Religious Studies family!!

Sculpture in Nishida’s Study which reflects our feelings reading Nishida. Photo courtesy of Jeff Dippmann

Our faculty reading group has continued working our way through Kitaro Nishida’s An Inquiry into the Good. I think we will all attest to the fact that the sculpture to the left, located in Nishida’s study, and currently housed at the Nishida Museum of Philosophy (Kahoku Japan), accurately represents how we’ve often felt trying to wrap our heads around his thought. It has been a challenge and a great opportunity to exercise our philosophical muscles! If you have been reading along with us, we are on track to finish by the end of the quarter, having discussed his views on Ethics last month, and then spending our next two meetings wrapping up with Nishida’s perspective on Religion and God.


Portrait by Samuel van Hoogstraten, 1662-1667, believed to be Anne ConwayFor next fall, we have already chosen an obscure, but very important work by the 17th century philosopher, Lady Anne Conway (1631-79). As described by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Her only surviving treatise, Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy … propounds an ontology of spirit, derived from the attributes of God, which she sets out in opposition to More, Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza. Her concept of the monad, which is indebted to the [sic] Kabbalism, anticipates Leibniz.” If you are interested in reading along with us, we will be reading the Cambridge University Press version (1996).


AAR/SBL conference informationWe are also very excited to be the hosts for this year’s annual Pacific Northwest Regional conference of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). For those of you in Religious Studies, you know that AAR and SBL represent the national community of scholars within our field. While our faulty have been active participants in the region over the past twenty years (with Dr. Szpek and myself serving as President from 2011-12 and 2006-07 respectively), we have never hosted the conference. We are looking forward to showcasing our program and the beauty of the Ellensburg campus to nearly 100 scholars representing the geographically largest region in the country. In addition to Washington State, we are joined by the finest scholars from Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta, as well as others from around the country. The conference runs from May 3-5, with sessions being held in Hogue and Michaelson Halls. If you are in the area, please join us for a stimulating weekend of cutting edge, innovative scholarship! If you can’t make the entire conference, one day registration is also available. Go to for more information.


Celebrating 50 years of philosophy and religious studiesWatch this space and our homepage for news about upcoming events starting this fall. 2019-2020 marks the 55th anniversary of the department’s founding (1965-2020), and the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the religious studies program (1974-2019). We are busily planning a year long slate of programs and special events celebrating a half-century of alumni, faculty, and intellectual excellence!!


Finally, I am pleased to announce the winner of last newsletter’s “I identified all the faculty members in the photograph, and all I got was this lousy shout-out” contest! Emeritus Professor Heidi Szpek was the only one to correctly name the following individuals in the 2001 photo taken at the Brooks Library.  From left to right: Drs. Jay Bachrach, Jeff Dippmann, Peter Burkholder, Eliza Kent, Chester Keller, and Raeburne Heimbeck. Behind the camera was Emeritus Professor Chenyang Li. Congratulations Dr. Szpek!! The occasion marked the receipt of a limited edition (one of only 500 copies) Chinese version of Confucius’ Lunyu (Analects), presented to Central Washington University by the Confucius Hall of Hong Kong. Housed in the Brooks Library Special Collections, the slip cased edition was secured through the efforts of Professor Emeritus Heimbeck.

This volume’s contest features a photograph from 2011, and may be a little easier than the last. Good luck and be sure to send your guesses to


Happy spring, and I hope to see many of you May 30,

Jeff Dippmann



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