Nammour 2010: The Meaning of Success

This is the program for Nammour 2010.  The program for Nammour 2011, April 26 and 27 will be available soon.

All events are in the University Union, Hinde Auditorium.

Tuesday, April 20th  
9-10:15 AM

Keynote Address:  The Meaning of Success

Emrys Westacott, Alfred University

"Success" like "intelligence", is a blanket term that can cover many things.  It becomes more interesting and useful if we specify: a) what we are applying it to, b) what criteria we are using, and c) what benchmark we have in mind.  Doing this helps clarify how some kinds of success - those that are easily measured and involve public recognition - tend to dominate our notion of what it means to succeed.  It also helps us bring into focus the question of whether this tendency should be welcomed or resisted

Tuesday, April 20th
10:30 - 12:30 AM

What is Success?

Rachel August,  CSUS

Women's Career Success: Looking Through the Kaleidoscope

In this talk, I will explore career success as described by women.  Traditionally, psychologists have described career success as involving advancement up the career ladder, the accumulation of wealth and/or financial security, and attaining work-related prestige.  Recent research suggests that those elements of success do not fully capture women’s workplace experiences.  Studies focused on women’s perceptions of career success indicate that women perceive success as being able to effectively balance three main parameters with regard to their careers:  (1)  authenticity, that is, being true to oneself and making decisions that suit the self above others, (2) balance, that is, making decisions so that the various aspects of one’s life, including work and non-work, form a coherent whole, and (3) challenge, that is, engaging in activities so that one can pursue autonomy, responsibility, and control while learning and growing.  Research indicates that the three needs alternately move into the foreground and background of women’s lives, becoming more and less intense as orienting features of women’s careers with changes in life context and associated obligations and opportunities.  Consequently, the equation for effectively balancing these parameters, and consequently achieving “success”, varies as women enter and pass through various life stages.

Mark Alfino, Gonzaga University

Wisdom and the Negotiation of Standards for Evaluating Success


In this short talk, I suggest that many problems that concern people about success have to do with the tension between internal and external standards for evaluating success.  Internal standards of success are modeled and negotiated within a personal and interpersonal social environment.  They are at least partly subjective and expressed in term of personal narrative of development.  External standards of success are also socially conditioned, but model socially desirable achievement using an objective scale of human performance which makes objective and comparative judgments of performance possible.  Recent research on wisdom suggests that it may be the sort of capacity that can help us understand the nature of our personal success by helping us negotiate these two frames of reference for the evaluation of success. I explore the usefulness of wisdom as a capacity for understanding success within this framework.

Jeremy Garrett, CSUS

The Myth of the Self-Made Man: The Significance of Luck, Privilege, and Community in Success and Failure

Frequently in political debates about property, taxation, and economic justice, one hears the following kind of claim: governments ought not interfere with the highly unequal results of market activity since these outcomes are proportional to the effort, achievement, and abilities of the individual actors within the market.  Lying behind this claim is the classic ideal of the “self-made man” who, relying only on his own resources, receives from the market exactly what he “deserves” (whether much or little).  In this presentation, I will argue that this picture of human agency and activity is seriously distorted.  Humans do not operate in a vacuum removed from community and unaffected by luck and privilege; and socio-economic outcomes (both good and bad) in the (often fickle and unequal) marketplace do not adequately reflect the effort, achievement, and abilities of the individual actors who bear them.  Using a more honest and accurate account of the factors influencing success and failure, and a more compelling vision of social cooperation, I draw out some important political philosophical implications for debates on economic justice.

Tuesday, April 20th  

1:30-3:30 PM

Authenticity and the Art of Failure

Christina Bellon, CSUS

Failure Is More Than an Option: On When and Why We Should Stop Trying
Abstract: Failure has too long been relegated to the shadows, eclipsed by the sparkle and sheen of success. In this presentation, Bellon will argue not that failure can be valuable or worth experiencing for the benefit it can bring, but makes the stronger case that sometimes failure may be morally required. Echoing the distinctions between preventing from dying, allowing to die and causing to die from arguments regarding the moral permissibility of euthanasia, Bellon distinguishes between preventing from failing, allowing to fail and causing to fail. Generally, little dispute arises when suggesting that the prevention of failure is a moral obligation. But, Bellon will argue that failure prevention may be morally over-rated, and actually undermine proper moral action. She shows how allowing to fail and causing to fail can be understood as moral obligations. The recent implosion of global finance and the subsequent efforts at bailout will serve as one among several of the evidentiary backdrops to the discussion.

Garrett Merriam, University of Southern Indiana

In Praise of Failure

Few outcomes in our society are as feared and reviled as that of failure.  To commit ourselves to a project only to have our  ambitions thwarted often leaves us feeling inadequate and pathetic, as though it were a condemnation not only of our actions and efforts but also our inner selves.  I wish to argue that this view is deeply mistaken. Rather than being a source of shame, failure is a profound opportunity, a moment of truth that can be (and often is) the mark of a life well lived.  When we fail, we learn more about ourselves than we ever do when we succeed, and no matter what is revealed we are better off than we were before... and better off than we would have been, had we succeeded.

Will Smith, Seattle University

Existential Success: Heidegger on Being a Self

In his magnum opus of 1927, Being and Time, Martin Heidegger gives us what might be called an “existential” account of success, an account that traces the meaning of success back to a notion of authentic selfhood.  To succeed in this existential sense is to succeed at being a self.   I will suggest in this talk that – if understood appropriately – this existential notion of success need not undermine or supplant our ordinary understanding what it means to lead a successful life; rather, it provides our ordinary understanding of success with an existential foundation.  Indeed, this Heideggerian account selfhood offers us an answer (of sorts) to one of the most profound and poignant questions we experience in our everyday lives: what makes life worth living?  Or put more simply: what’s the meaning of life?

Wednesday, April 21st
10:30-12:30 AM

Alumni Panel: Reflecting on Success

John Peloquin, Rachael Lamkin, Chris Miguel and Lance Kennix

Lance Kennix

After high school, Lance attended community college and worked at the Sacramento Children’s Home.  While a philosophy student at 

Sacramento State, he taught at St. Hope Public Schools.  Lance graduated in 2008 and is currently a law student at UC Hastings College of the Law.

Rachael Lamkin

Rachael graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in philosophy in 2000.  She
 is a former professional athlete, and a stage IV cancer survivor.  Rachael is currently an Oakland-based trial attorney specializing in high-stakes complex litigation.  

Chris Miguel

Chris Miguel grew up in a small migrant farm working community and was the first in his family to graduate high school.  He was Sacramento State from 2004 to 2007, majoring in philosophy, and is currently a law student at UC Hastings College of the Law. 

John Peloquin

John attended Sacramento State until 2005, majoring in mathematics and minoring in philosophy, before transferring to UC Berkeley to complete his math degree.  John is currently a web developer in San Jose.  He dedicates his free time to juggling and criticizing Platonism.  

Wednesday, April 21st
1:30-3:30 PM

The Pursuit of Success

Russell DiSilvestro,  CSUS

Wax on Wax Off: Indirect Success from Demosthenes to Peyton Manning

Sometimes the advice given to those wanting to be good, or good at something, is “just try harder.”  But better approaches are often indirect, where we do what we can do to enable us to do what we cannot do directly.  These approaches go by different names—some speak of “habit formation”, while others talk of “disciplines” or “training”.  But the core idea is arguably the same: by a process of small, strategic steps, repeated over time, we can transform ourselves in ways that make it possible for us to do things that would have been impossible at the start of the process.  This talk will explore what is valuable in such approaches, what distinguishes them from other common approaches, and what limits such approaches face.

Philip Robichaud, Rice University

Success and the Scientific Image of Human Agency

If the degree to which one is successful in life can be explained scientifically, then why does the successful person deserve to be praised?  If the degree to which an agent succeeds or fails is not 'up-to-her', then why should she anxiously strive for success or worry about failure?

 In an effort to show how these sorts of questions can be answered I'll first gesture at several ways of reconciling determinism with the value we place on success and the reactions we have to successful agents. I'll show that the reasons for thinking that moral responsibility is consistent with determinism also justify much of our success discourse. Second, I will show that, rather than diminishing our motivation to be successful, our reflections on scientific explanations for behavior actually provide us with many tools for securing success. Careful attention to the ways in which we are likely to be influenced by factors 'outside' of us can help us make better decisions and, thereby, pave the way to greater success.

Rick Schubert, Cosumnes River College

Have Goal, Will Get Groin Kicked: Why Goals Just Get in the Way of Success

Anglo-European culture at large contends that goal setting is requisite for human flourishing in any field of endeavor. Traditional Asian Martial Arts, in contrast, given their roots in Classical Philosophical Taoism, eschew goal setting, contending it to be harmful to a flourishing martial practice.  I provide an account of the traditional eschewal of goals in these martial arts, sketching their philosophical roots in Taoism, and explaining why, from the Taoist perspective, goal-orientation precludes the transformation of an ordinary individual into someone who really is a martial artist. I suggest the Taoists have a point non-martial artists would also do well to consider.