Who and what should we forgive?

THE QUESTION will wrap up the 2015-16 academic year focusing on the topic of forgiveness. WVU philosophers Matthew Talbert, Jessica Wolfendale and Sharon Ryan, along with Glen Pettigrove from the University of Auckland, share some insights to stimulate further thought and discussion.

What is forgiveness?  Must we always forgive?  Should forgiveness be conditional upon a sincere apology and genuine remorse?  Is it ever morally acceptable to not forgive?  Are some actions, or the people who perform them, fundamentally unforgivable?  What is the role of apology in forgiveness?  Is forgiveness a power we have over others?  If so, how does it work?  Are the guiding principles of self-forgiveness the same as the guiding principles of forgiving others?  What are the emotional costs and benefits of forgiving, failing to forgive, or mindfully choosing to not forgive?

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What does recovery mean to you?

WVU's newly formed Collegiate Recovery Program provides students with a supportive community to help them map out a more gratifying, healthy, and successful college experience. Through THE QUESTION, WVU's Collegiate Recovery Program is reaching out to students, community members, mental health professionals, faculty, and staff to begin a discussion about what recovery means to you.   What is recovery?  How could a recovery program help you or someone you care about?   What are some of the challenges of college life that make the road to recovery particularly difficult for students? Do you have any helpful words of wisdom and encouragement for students committed to this courageous, life changing journey? Have you found any activities, places, people, or ideas helpful in recovery? Many students, for a wide variety of reasons, seek out healthy and enjoyable alternatives to the college party scene.  How are students having sober and healthy fun at WVU? 

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How is the world different in another language?

Continuing WVU's celebration of the arts and humanities, this issue of THE QUESTION features WVU's Department of World Languages, Literatures & Linguistics.  Daniel Ferreras Savoye, Lisa DiBartolomeo, and Pablo Loaeza Garcia, who are faculty members in the department, begin a discussion of a question long pondered by linguists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, and everyday people trying to communicate: How is the world different in another language?  Other interesting questions immediately arise.  How does language shape our understanding of the world?  Is the world really different in another language, or is the world exactly the same no matter the language and different languages just provide alternative ways of usefully organizing and understanding reality? How does our language influence how we experience the world? How does a language reflect beliefs and cultural practices? What can we understand about other people by understanding their language?  If a language lacks a precise way to express an idea or concept, does that mean that users of that language are prevented from adequately understanding that idea or concept? What kind of trouble can we get into by using, but failing to adequately understand, another language?

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What are our ethical responsibilities as producers and consumers of images?

“A photo is worth a thousand words.”  We all make use of photos and other images to communicate and understand our history, our world, and ourselves.  We also use images for entertainment and for artistic expression.  Photos and other images can be insightful, revealing, and beautiful, but they can also be hurtful, misleading, and inappropriate.  Are there any guiding principles that we can rely upon to help us make wise decisions about when to take a photo; how to take a photo; when to share a photo; where to share a photo; how to view a photo; and what conclusions we should draw upon viewing a photo?

Using photos to tell a story raises a host of thorny ethical issues.  Although these issues are most obvious when the photographer is a journalist, with a professional responsibility for getting accurate and news worthy stories to us in a timely manner, these issues pertain to all of us, whether we are producers or consumers of images.

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What would academe look like without the university press?

THE QUESTION (2015-2016) is devoted to a celebration of the arts and humanities.  In this issue, we focus on the West Virginia University Press.   Several staff members at the WVU Press share with us their thoughts about the essential role a university press plays in the intellectual and cultural life of a university and society.  A university press specializes in the publication of carefully researched, dutifully edited, peer-reviewed work that provides us with reliable sources that help us understand our world.  What would academe be like without the university press?  What would we know without a university press?  As always, the blog (scroll way down to the very bottom) is open for you to share your own ideas.  THE QUESTION promotes a vibrant intellectual culture at WVU that encourages learning, exploration, and inquiry.  

Please check out the links below for some exciting opportunities at the WVU Press.  You can weigh in on a book cover contest for West Virginia poet laureate, Marc Harshman's newest book. Just follow the link, choose your favorite, and cast your vote.  And, if you are a graduate student interested in learning about how to get your work published, on February 18, from 9am-11am, the WVU Press is hosting a panel of experts to help you.  Click the link below for details.

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How does travel shape our histories?

The WVU History Department, along with WVU President E. Gordon Gee, pose this question and lead the discussion. For further reading, I added a link to Cannot Stay, WVU English Professor Kevin Oderman's collection of creative non-fiction essays on the experience of being a traveler.  

Historians aim to provide us with an accurate and illuminating understanding of the past.  Through their research, which often involves travel, historians uncover fascinating new evidence and clues.  As a result of their careful investigations, our stories of the past are updated constantly. How does travel shape the questions historians ask, the way they understand themselves and their own culture, and the way they understand the people, places, ideas and time periods they study?  How does travel crack open and shed light upon the body of evidence used to shape and inform our stories of the past? 

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How does music release the imagination?

Continuing WVU’s celebration of the arts and humanities, this issue of THE QUESTION will focus on the transformative power of music.   Although we don’t all enjoy the same type of music, everyone loves music.  Victor Hugo noted that whether we are musicians or appreciative listeners, music provides a way of feeling and expressing emotions and insights that cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent. Faculty and students from the WVU School of Music will lead us in discussion of how music releases the imagination in performance, through listening, and as a tool to promote well-being in a variety of therapeutic settings.  I’m also including links to some additional sources of fascinating research on how listening to and performing music stimulates the brain.

Please help build WVU’s intellectual community.  Share your own insights and suggestions for additional sources of information in our blog. 

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Why Read or Write Literature?

This chapter of THE QUESTION focuses on the literary arts. How does literature enhance the quality of our lives? Does reading a short story, novel, poem, creative essay, or play make us more authentic, interesting, compassionate, perceptive, and whole? Does writing creatively make life more meaningful? According to Goethe, "The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation." What makes the reading and writing of literature essential to the health of a civilization?  What do YOU think?  Have any literary works, broadly construed, made an impact on the way you think, understand, feel, or behave?  Please help build community and share ideas in the blog.

Please share your own insights in the blog!  

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Has the Bible been a positive or negative force throughout history?

This year, departments and programs in the arts and humanities at WVU are invited to pose a question for discussion to our campus and beyond. The question posed by the WVU Religious Studies Program is, “Has the Bible been a positive or negative force throughout history?” 

Several Religious Studies faculty members from WVU, and one guest faculty member from Oklahoma City University, contributed short essays in response to the question.

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