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Philosophy Professor survives lifeboat

Playing devil’s advocate pays off for Dr. Richard Polt

By saunta anderson
On November 17, 2011

At the first annual Lifeboat Debate, Dr. Richard Polt, professor of philosophy and playing the devil's advocate, was voted last professor standing by Xavier students

and faculty last Thursday. This event was organized by

Dr. Timothy Quinn and the philosophy department.

The hosts of the evening, Hannah Dahlby and Chris Dobbs,

asked the nearly 130 in attendance to pretend they were the last survivors on the planet and about to rebuild society. However, there was only enough room for one out of the six professors left. Professor Kelly Austin, Dr. Arthur Dewey, Dr. Richard Mullins, Dr. Timothy Quinn, Dr. Bernd Rossa and Dr. Richard Polt were all on the chopping block. "We saw the debate as a way to reinvigorate critical thought on Xavier's campus. We hoped to challenge both the participating professors and the audience," Dobbs said.

Each professor represented a different major and the students voted for the professor they felt would rebuild society best, if any. For the first round, each professor

had five minutes to explain why his or her major was the most important. In the second round, each professor had five minutes to refute the other professors' arguments.

Mullins, from the chemistry department, went first. He

emphasized the importance of chemistry as a

central science of survival and technology. He ended with, "What can an organic chemist do for you?" Dewey represented the theology department and surprisingly

decided to reject the lifeboat situation. Instead, he told stories because he knew staying on this boat would lead to

"boredom." During the second round, he refused to defend theology again. He said the debate was "not about a contest" and thought beyond being simply a vote. "Survival is a matter of the heart," Dewey said. From the philosophy department, Quinn questioned why instead of how. Quinn said, "philosophy sets us free". Austin represented the English department, and pointed out how literature is a source of entertainment and allows the exploration of people and human condition. Her last words of the first round were, "Literature feeds us." Rossa, of the mathematics department, said that math is the way we define why and when things happen. He compared math to

empty piping that follows logical pathways. Polt played the devil's advocate and wanted to leave all of the professors behind. He argued that while chemistry is helpful for medical reasons and tools of survival, the technology chemists build could be the reason why the apocalypse happened. Dewey was already willing to drown, but Polt pointed out that saving a major based on mystery and faith is unwise. As for philosophy, Polt argued it is only good for tearing down civilization with an endless amount of questions. He said Austin was unnecessary because

the survivors will continue the English language and stories. For math, he argued that civilizations were made before the invention of mathematics.

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