Story by Shannon Dale

Ancient Greek symposia were once a gathering of prominent members of society for an evening of music, food and vibrant discussion on literature, politics and philosophy. Symposia were held in private houses, providing an intimate setting for scholarly debate often portrayed on Greek urns and in theatre productions, as well as acting as the setting for two famous Socratic dialogues, Plato’s Symposium and Xenophon’s Symposium.

With roots buried deep in philosophical history, the Colorado State University Bodaken Philosophy Symposium seeks to provide that same rich philosophical discussion and an intimate space for intellectual exploration by welcoming top philosophers from around the world to speak on the CSU campus.

“The symposium will elevate the reputation of the Department of Philosophy by bringing in top philosophers, who will present their cutting-edge research on a variety of critical topics of conversation and thought,” said John Didier, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “We anticipate that, as word of the symposium spreads, other renowned philosophers and other great minds and voices will attend and enrich the conversations.”

Inspired alumni generosity

Bruce Bodaken at inaugural Bodaken Philosophy Symposium
Bruce Bodaken

The Bodaken Philosophy Symposium was established by Department of Philosophy alumnus Bruce Bodaken (’73), whose great passion for the discipline of philosophy and his education at CSU inspired his transformational gift. Bodaken continued studying philosophy after he graduated from CSU, earning a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Colorado and completing Ph.D. coursework before leaving academia for a career in the health insurance industry.

Bodaken recently retired as president, chairman and CEO of health insurance nonprofit Blue Shield of California. His long and successful career was groundbreaking, as he advocated for universal health care in California more than eight years before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. Bodaken currently teaches part-time in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, where his courses focus on leadership ethics and health care topics.

“Alumni like Bruce are very special; he has said on many occasions that his training in philosophy was central to his successful career, and now he is giving back to ensure future generations have a similar opportunity to explore ideas and develop the skills that will help them in their future lives, as well,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Ben Withers.

Impact of the gift

Ezekiel Emanuel speaks at inaugural Bodaken Philosophy Symposium
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel

Thanks to Bodaken’s generosity, the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium will host speaker events and workshops in the Department of Philosophy for five years. The two-part symposium will feature themed seminars and workshops for CSU students in the fall semester, followed by a large community lecture on the same theme in the spring semester. These visiting scholars will engage intensively with graduate and undergraduate students to enhance their understanding of the chosen theme and its connection to other philosophical discussions, better prepare them for their careers, and offer opportunities to connect closely with leading figures in the discipline of philosophy.

For the inaugural spring 2018 lecture, the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium welcomed renowned bioethicist and health policy expert Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. Well-known for his controversial 2014 Atlantic article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Emanuel expanded upon his argument in his lecture entitled, “Why I (Still) Hope to Die at 75: Why the American Drive to Live Forever is Misguided.”

Watch Dr. Emanuel’s talk at the Lory Student Center, filmed on March 26, 2018.


Fall 2018 Plans for the Bodaken Philosophy Symposium

The theme of this year’s Bodaken Philosophy Symposium is Economic Inequality, Well-Being, and Democracy. On October 4, David Schmidtz (University of Arizona) will present “Moral Science 2.0.” David Schweickart (Loyola University Chicago) will present “Capitalism and Climate Change: Why Are We Not Doing What Needs to Be Done?” on October 11.

Details and information about these events, including additional speaker Ronald Formisano (University of Kentucky), are forthcoming.