Recently, I've started toying with the idea of putting on another SOPHIA symposium, this time on the subjects of Philosophy and Disability. It's a growing field. After putting on a SOPHIA event (http://www.philosophersinamerica.com, click on Events, and see the one called "Ethics at the End of Life"), I've found that these events are fantastic ways to get a jump start into an area of study that I'm generally interested in, but have only a little bit of experience studying.
For those who are unfamiliar, SOPHIA stands for the Society Of PHilosophers In America, which in truth does not say much about what we do. That said, it is a group with a long history and an interest in showing the value of philosophy for real life, as well as in learning more about philosophical studies from people who live the matters that we read and write about. At the event in Oxford, we had nurses, doctors, social workers, lawyers, students, members of Oxford's retired community, pastors, and scholars of religion, philosophy, legals studies, and more. The diversity of the group was exactly what we were hoping to have at the event. The first tenet of SOPHIA as the board has been redesigning the organization is to bring philosophical study to communities that could learn from and teach scholars about their work.
The next element of SOPHIA's purpose is to encourage not only paper presentations, which are an incredibly common form of academic presentations, but conversations too - perhaps primarily. Thus, the person who at a usual conference would serve as a keynote speaker would serve at a SOPHIA event more the function of facilitator of discussion. A specialist in the relevant area of research is important, as is someone who would be a good match for the topic of the event in any number of ways, such as a person who has friends or family dealing with the matter at issue, or who lives certain elements of the matter himself or herself.
The idea for a possible upcoming event that would be of interest to me would be the matter of living with or supporting persons with disabilities, with a philosophical framework of consideration of the various facets of this less common way of living. I am sure a great deal of prejudices must be overcome, as well as negative attitudes in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies. Much more is relevant, though, of course, such as concerns of equal opportunity in education, access to proper health care resources in rural communities, and more.
Anyone who would like to send me ideas about putting on such an event can post comments here or send me an email (email@example.com). I'm thinking about developing a program for sometime in the fall of this year (2010).
Philosophy and Disability