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October 21st, 2014
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
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.until October 19
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
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
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
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.
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.
April 3rd, 2014
4:35pm - 6:00pm:
“Nothing in Ethics Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution?? by Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis & Clark College)
Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse, along with other philosophers, have argued for a metaethical position, the natural goodness approach, that claims moral evaluations are, or are on a par with, teleological claims made in the biological sciences. Specifically, an organism’s flourishing is characterized by how well they function as specified by the species to which they belong. In this essay, I first sketch the Neo-Aristotelian natural goodness approach. Second, I argue that critics who claim that this sort of approach is inconsistent with evolutionary biology due to its species essentialism are incorrect. Third, I consider the prospects of understanding ethical normativity as a species of biological teleology claiming that this would be incompatible with our considered moral judgments. Fourth, after presenting gene-culture coevolution theory, I argue that the only way of reconciling naturalism and normativity in accordance with the natural goodness approach requires amending the selected effects function account to include cultural evolution. However, this approach, though not biologically reductionistic, still generates claims incompatible with our considered moral judgments. Finally, I end with a discussion of methodology and revisionistic moral theories.
3:00pm - 4:25pm:
“Legends of the Sperm” by Scott Gilbert (Swarthmore College)
Accounts of fertilization are narratives of origins. Since the discovery of fertilization in the 1870s, these narratives have often reflected the idea that the sperm and egg are the respective microscopic embodiments of that which is masculine and that which is feminine. The scientific discoveries of the interactions between the sperm and egg often become enmeshed in socially constructed stories, wherein the sperm and egg becoming surrogates for men and women. This has skewed the way that we think about our bodily origins, emphasizing differences between the gametes and focusing on masculine agency. Recently, fertilization narratives have begun to include the idea of DNA as the secular analogue of soul. The notion that our DNA is our essence and the basis of our behaviors is delivered to us daily by advertisements, news reports, and visual culture. These ideas play important, but often unacknowledged, roles in the abortion and stem cell debates. Analyzing fertilization stories allows us to propose a critical realism wherein being socially constructed does not necessarily mean being wrong and where controls are needed to rein in social myths as well as alternative scientific explanations.
March 21st, 2014
“How Research on Symbiosis Should Transform Our Understanding of Adaptation” by Frédéric Bouchard (Université de Montréal)
Evolutionary Biology has relied ever increasingly on the modeling of population dynamics. Most have taken for granted that we all agree on what is a population. Recent work has re-examined this perceived consensus. I will argue that there are good reasons to restrict the term population to collections of related replicators and interactors, and that if this is correct, many existing models in population biology exclude by definition many genuine evolving biological individuals such as symbiotic communities. We will examine how symbiotic associations transform our understanding of adaptation and biological individuality.