Discussant Guidelines

Process and Purpose

At Oneonta, we strongly believe that Philosophy is a communal activity, requiring open and honest dialogue between thoughtful and reflective individuals. To foster high caliber intellectual exchange during the conference, each paper is assigned a discussant who is given 3 minutes to pose questions, offer commentary, and provide directions for the ensuing discussion.

If you are interested in participating, just review the paper abstracts to see which (if any) papers still need discussants. Decide which of those best fit with your background and interest, then send us an email with the title and author of your preferred paper. Discussants, naturally, receive the paper a few weeks before the conference to allow adequate time for preparation.

Specific Guidelines

  • Read the paper prior to the conference. It is often helpful to discuss basic concepts and ideas with others (including the author, fellow students, and your professors).
  • Communicate with your presenter! You are the bridge between their presentation and the open discussion. Make sure you are both prepared.
  • Identify key themes and concepts. Compare the paper to other materials that you have read to determine what, if anything, makes the student’s approach insightful, distinctive, or philosophically interesting. Decide what aspects of the paper you like, what you don’t, etc.
  • You may wish to prepare an outline or note cards to guide your discussion and keep you on track. Many students find that marking up a manuscript with a highlighter and marginal notes works equally well.
  • Practice your presentation in advance. Be sure to time yourself. (Remember, you may have to cut some comments to allow adequate time for presentation of more important thoughts.) You may want to enlist the aid of a patient and honest friend, videocamera, or taperecorder.
  • Arrive a few minutes before your session begins. Introduce yourself to the other participants. Make sure you understand the gestures the session chair will use to signal time (see Guidelines for Session Chairs).
  • You will be given 3 minutes to present your perspectives. Feel free to disagree with the speaker, but do not allow yourself to be rude or abusive. Remember, your remarks should initiate discussion, not serve as the final word.

As a courtesy to the other speakers, you are expected to be present for and participate in the entire session to which you have been assigned.

Above all, have fun!

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