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December 5th, 2014

  • Image preview 3:30pm - 5:00pm: A Guilt Trip: Moral Psychology, Expressivism, and the Basic Emotions
    Jay Odenbaugh, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

    According to moral sentimentalism, moral judgments necessarily involve emotions. The most sophisticated version of sentimentalism is that articulated by Allan Gibbard in his Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. On his view, a moral judgment that an action is wrong expresses acceptance of norms that permit guilt for having done it and resentment on the part of others. Shaun Nichols, in his Sentimental Rules, argues that Gibbard’s account is fatally flawed. First, children cannot experience or recognize guilt until they are six or seven years old. Second, children can make moral judgments as early as three or four years old as shown by their ability to pass the moral-conventional task. In this talk, I respond on behalf of Gibbard showing Nichols’ argument fails. Finally, I turn to a more pressing worry about guilt. Since guilt is so difficult to show sincerely, how can it coordinate our moral lives? Using evolutionary game theory, I show how one might respond to this worry.

    Visit his webpage here

November 7th, 2014

October 31st, 2014

  • Image preview 3:30pm - 5:00pm: Imagery, Expression, and Figurative Meaning - Mitchell Green (University of Connecticut)

    Metaphorical utterances are construed as arrayed along a continuum, on one end of which are semi-conventionalized cases amenable to analysis in terms of semantic content, speaker meaning, and satisfaction conditions, and where image-construction is permissible but not mandatory. I call these image-permitting metaphors (IPM’s), and contrast them with image-demanding metaphors (IDM’s) inhabiting the continuum’s other end and whose understanding mandates the construction of a mental image. This construction, I suggest, is spontaneous, is not restricted to visual imagery, and its result is typically somatically marked sensu Damasio. IDM’s may accordingly be used in service of self-expression, and thereby in the elicitation of empathy. Even so, IDM’s may also be vehicles of speaker meaning, and may reasonably provoke banter over the aptness of the imagery they evoke.

October 21st, 2014

  • 7:00pm: Explore Potential Majors 2014

    Still unsure about your major? Come hear from faculty, staff, and students about why a Philosophy major is exciting!

    Already declared? Learn from faculty and upper division students about what’s coming up next!

    You can also attend multiple events over four evenings to make or confirm your choice. Each gathering will start with a short presentation, so please be on time. Also, there will be free food! You can RSVP here.

October 17th, 2014

  • All Day: Socrates: A Conference in Honor of Nicholas D. Smith

    Please join the departments of Philosophy and Classics in honoring Nicholas D. Smith, the James F. Miller Professor of Humanities. Socrates: A Conference brings scholars from across the country who have been influenced by Professor Smith’s scholarly work in epistemology, ancient philosophy, and classical studies, especially his work on Socrates. The conference is free and open to the public.

    Please register for the conference HERE.


    Here is the schedule for the conference.
    until October 19, 2014

September 19th, 2014

  • 3:30pm - 5:00pm: Real Moral Progress: Why Pragmatic Naturalism Requires Moral Realism by William Rottschaefer

    In his recent book, The Ethical Project, Philip Kitcher offers a pragmatic naturalistic metaethical account of moral progress.  Examining ethical practice, Kitcher presents a functional account of it as a social technology for alleviating altruism failures, one exemplified in a phylogeny of moral practice including elimination of chattel slavery and recognition of both women’s rights and gay rights.  He suggests a theory of bio-cultural evolution as an ultimate explanation of this phylogeny and, as proximate mechanisms, social-cultural learning, socially engaged normative guidance and cognitively equipped emotions.  Given these scientifically supported bases, Kitcher argues that pragmatic naturalism offers the best metaethical account of why these changes in moral practice are morally progressive.  Making use of these same scientific bases, I argue that Kitcher’s metaethical account requires the adoption of an objective moral realism, one, nevertheless, that is compatible with his core pragmatism. 

April 26th, 2014

  • Image preview 1:00pm - 4:00pm: Festival of Scholars
    It is our pleasure to invite you to the first Festival of Scholars, an opportunity for student-scholars and artists to present their research and art, while also learning from one another.

April 4th, 2014

  • Image preview 1:10pm - 2:25pm: “Morton’s Skulls, Gould’s Statistics, and the Objectivity of Data” by Jonathan Kaplan (Oregon State University)
    In 2011, Lewis et al published a paper arguing that Gould’s criticisms of Morton’s analyses of skull volumes were, broadly, mistaken. Gould had argued that the average differences in the volumes of skulls between the ‘races’ reported by Morton were the result of Morton’s unconscious biases; Gould further argued that more appropriate methods showed no average volume differences of any significance. Lewis et al counter that in fact Morton’s analysis is to be preferred, and Gould’s analysis inappropriate and biased. But both Gould and Lewis et al are mistaken; both attempt, somewhat foolishly,  to analyze data that cannot speak to the questions it is supposed to. In the end, arguments about the best statistical techniques to deploy serve only to obscure the poverty of the data. While it is possible to accurately measure the skulls that Morton happened to collect, and both Gould and Lewis et al believe, in the end, that Morton did so, there is no appropriate way to use those skulls to answer any of the plausibly interesting questions about the ‘populations’ from which those skulls were drawn (often stolen).

    Followed by a panel discussion, with:

    Jay Odenbaugh, Lewis & Clark College
    Janet Kourany, University of Notre Dame
    Scott Gilbert, Swarthmore College
    Jonathan Kaplan, Oregon State University
    Quayshawn Spencer, University of San Francisco

  • Image preview 10:35am - 12:00pm: “Biological Reality and the Problem of Biological Races” by Quayshawn Spencer (University of San Francisco)
    Since Noah Rosenberg et al.’s (2002) discovery of human population structure that looks racial, philosophers have been scrambling to understand what these results mean for the nature and reality of race.  Although there have been many objections to interpreting any level of human population structure as racial, for the purposes of this talk, I will focus on one specific objection: that biological races must be objectively real.  In my talk, I will debunk this view by arguing that biologically real entities can reasonably be understood as what I call ‘genuine biological entities’, which are not necessarily objectively real.  After introducing the theory, I will motivate it with examples from the history of biology.  Finally, I will return to the original problem and show that all human populations are biologically real despite not being objectively real.  I leave it as an open question as to whether any human populations are races.
  • Image preview 9:00am - 10:25am: “Science—For Better or Worse, a Source of Ignorance as well as Knowledge” by Janet A. Kourany (University of Notre Dame)
    Science is gendered in a variety of ways. One is the way science has produced knowledge of men at the same time that it has produced ignorance of women. Until the end of the twentieth century, for example, archaeology investigated men’s contributions to the great turning points of human evolution while it ignored the contributions of women, and this left the impression that still persists today that men are the great innovators and controllers of human destiny, not women. A second way in which science is gendered also concerns the balance of knowledge and ignorance produced by science, but this time it concerns the way science sometimes persists in producing knowledge when it might more usefully refrain—that is, when it might more usefully maintain ignorance. For example, for centuries it was claimed that women are intellectually inferior to men, and for centuries the basis for such inferiority was sought in biology and later also in psychology. And now, even after centuries of such research, scientists are still seeking to determine whether women are the intellectual equals of men. Meanwhile, studies have documented the harm done to women and girls by the publication of much of this research. So, the question arises whether such cognitive differences research should still continue, or whether ignorance would be preferable.

    I shall argue that an acceptable balance of scientifically produced knowledge and ignorance regarding women and men should reflect societal needs for gender equality as well as the need for freedom of research and the intrinsic value of knowledge. And I shall argue that this will also best meet the demands of objectivity.


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