Students Discuss the Philosophy of Sex Changes

Alex Abbot ’17, Guest Writer

On Wednesday, September 25, eight Hampden-Sydney students and Professor Patrick Wilson traveled to Randolph College in Lynchburg to discuss philosophy for the 85th meeting of the Undergraduates of Virginia Philosophy Association.

The meeting marked the 23rd year of the relationship between Hampden-Sydney and Randolph College—formerly Randolph-Macon Women’s College. Over the history between the two schools, many discussions have been held on both campuses. Topics have ranged from ethical treatment of animals to moral issues within philosophy, which includes the theme of this year’s discussion: the moral and ethical implications of sex changes for minors.

The forum was a semi-formal affair, with a nice dinner followed by discussion of “The Permissibility and Regulation of Sex Changes” and “the privilege to form personal identity.” The conclusion that the state should not restrict sex changes rested on two main arguments: that humans are self-autonomous and therefore are permissible to make decisions concerning their body, and that a person’s decision to change sex creates no guaranteed harm to self or others.

A student from Randolph College led the conversation, but students from both schools chimed in with different perspectives and clarifying statements. The discussion was lively and hit on a number of key points, both within the argument and pertaining to the rest of the world. The topic was unique for a group of gentlemen from one of the most conservative schools in the area, and the conversation ended up being intriguing and thought-provoking, with active participation from nearly everyone.

The discussions that UVPA sponsor have been going on since 1990. They have been altered in small ways since the beginning, but they are group efforts with minimal time commitments, and they inspire serious thought about many issues in philosophical thinking.

UVPA trips have become a fundamental part of Dr. Wilson’s method of teaching students philosophy and getting them involved. Discussions occur twice each semester; one instance is on H-SC’s campus and the other is at Randolph College. Discussions are largely student-based and the topics student-decided, so they tend to mirror what students are interested in and care about. Also, since Randolph College is a co-ed institution, there is an opportunity to meet a girl or two!

The students from Hampden-Sydney were: Dylan Schlaak, Dylan DelliSanti, Kyle Hart, Ryan Rivas, James Crandall, Adam Witham, Alex Abbott and Tom Kurtzweil. Dr. Wilson describes the affair as an “eccentric approach to moral theory” as well as a good opportunity to meet peers in another setting. It is one of many collaborative efforts with nearby schools. Dr. Wilson encourages students who are interested to contact him.


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