Past Events

Jay Odenbaugh
October 22, 2021

“Emotions as Multisensory Perceptions; or, What James Got Right” by Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis & Clark College)

Beginning in 1884, William James argued emotions are bodily feelings. However, acceptance of his theory was short-lived due to trenchant criticisms by Walter Cannon (1927) and Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer (1962). In this talk, I first survey this history. Second, I consider the most worrisome objection for James’ theory—bodily feelings are not intentional, but emotions are. That is, emotions seem to be directed towards the world and not our own bodies. Recently, neo-Jamesian Jesse Prinz (2004) has tried to show how emotions both involve bodily feelings and represent features of the world outside us. Third, I argue that his “embodied appraisal” theory fails. Finally, I argue that emotions are multimodal perceptions integrating exteroceptive and interoceptive sources. James was right if only partially so.
Dr. Noell Birondo
October 15, 2021

“Aristotle and Aztec Human Sacrifice” by Dr. Noell Birondo (University of Texas at El Paso)

This paper discusses the defense of Aztec human sacrifice delivered by the Spanish friar Bartolomé de Las Casas in front of the Spanish tribunal convened in 1550 to consider the nature of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. In his defense of the Aztec way of life, Las Casas makes repeated and helpful appeals to Aristotle, for instance to the Topics, Rhetoric, and Nicomachean Ethics. I argue that a detailed examination of the actual historical collision of these two radically distinct belief systems, Christian and Aztec, reveals the possibility—even in the early modern period—of a helpfully “dialogical” Aristotelianism, one that strains to understand, from within, the perspective of alien others. This dialogical approach promises to enrich the best philosophical accounts of the virtues we have, both now and in future research on moral character.
Per-Erik Milam
April 23, 2021

“Letting Go of Blame” by Per-Erik Milam (University of Gothenburg)

Most philosophers acknowledge ways of overcoming blame, even blame directed at a culpable offender, that does not count as forgiving. Sometimes continuing to blame a friend for their offensive comment just isn’t worth it, so we let go instead. However, despite being a common and widely recognized experience, no one has offered a positive account of letting go. Instead, it tends to be characterized negatively and superficially, usually in order to delineate the boundaries of forgiveness. This paper gives a more complete and systematic account of this important practice. We argue that the basic distinction between forgiving and letting go of blame follows from distinctions that most philosophers already accept. We then develop a positive account in terms of the reasons one has to let go rather than forgive and show that letting go is as valuable a part of our shared moral lives as forgiveness.
Eric Winsberg
April 16, 2021

“Why the Models Have Failed Us in the Pandemic” by Eric Winsberg (University of South Florida)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, models have played a larger role in guiding human affairs than perhaps ever in history. Simple models have been used to predict the “herd immunity threshold” for COVID-19. More complex models have been used to predict the natural course of the disease and project the impact of various candidate interventions. Causal modeling has been used to infer the (counterfactual) effects of past interventions. Some of the decisions that have been guided by these models have been disastrous. The brazen character of some of the inferences that have been drawn and widely publicized will likely diminish the future credibility of science in an increasingly politically fractured world. Why has this happened? How can we do better in the future?
March 26, 2021

“Monumentalizing Nature” by Levi Tenen (Kettering University)

There has been much recent discussion of monuments. Such discussions focus primarily on artefactual monuments. Interestingly, however, the first entity designated as a U.S. national monument was a naturalentity: Devil’s Tower. I seek to provide a philosophical analysis of this, and other, natural entities that are designated as monuments. I argue that many of them are genuine monuments but that, in virtue of being so, are subject to three concerns: first, they treat natural entities inappropriately; second, they give rise to a problematic form of ecotourism; and third, they invite a particular kind of political controversy. Forming a contrast, I then argue that designated wilderness areas are a sort of countermonument and that, in virtue of how they differ from monuments, avoid the three previous worries. In this way, my discussion provides a philosophical diagnosis of how The Antiquities Act and The Wilderness Act differ in their approach to the natural environment.

Hannah Tierney is an assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of Califo...
March 5, 2021

“Don’t Burst My Blame Bubble” by Hannah Tierney (University of California, Davis)

How does social media create “blame bubbles?” Join us for the spring 2021 Philosophy Colloquium to learn more.
Anand Jayprakash Vaidya
February 12, 2021

“The Epistemic Argument Against Illusionism about the Self and Consciousness” by Anand Jayprakash Vaidya (San Jose State University)

I present an epistemic argument against a variety of illusionist theses about the nature of the self and consciousness. Illusionism about xis the view that while the experience of xis real, xs are not real. For example, the experience of red is real, but redness isn’t real. Likewise illusionists about the self and consciousness argue that the experience of the self and consciousness is real, but the self and consciousness (under some definition of them) are not real. Rather, they are presentations of something as being other than it is. Neural-Bi-Directional Illusionism is the thesis that both the self and consciousness are illusions produced by the brain. I offer an epistemic argument against this contemporary position.

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December 4, 2020

“Radical Virtue for Climate Action” by Benjamin Hole (Pacific University)

Since dominant ethical systems fail to motivate climate action, some climate ethicists call for radical revision and extension of old virtues. “Radical virtue” serves two aims: consolation in unfavorable circumstances, and prescription to achieve better ones. This paper maps out the theoretical nuances that are important for the practical guidance of climate action. For a Stoic, radical virtue is a way to live well through environmental tragedy. For a consequentialist, it is an instrument to motivate us to combat global warming. For an Aristotelian, it is both. I argue that an Aristotelian approach fares the best, balancing the aim of external success with the aim of living well through practical wisdom. This involves criticizing assumptions about living well that underlie behaviors that contribute to global warming. Some might object that virtue theory suffers from application problems, and that an Aristotelian approach suffers even more because it does not tell the virtuous person how to negotiate her aims. In response, Aristotelian revision starts with moral perception that adds valuable content by navigating through the messiness.
November 6, 2020

“On Being Subject to Conscience” by Monica Mueller (Portland State University)

While examining a technique of power, Michel Foucault critiques pastoral power that becomes particularly effective when it gains the ability to subject an individual through one’s self-knowledge and conscience. Rather than thinking of power as some quantifiable thing to be analyzed or exchanged, Foucault reads power as effected through relations, including the relationship of being subject and subjected to norms. This notion of relations of power in a social political world is influenced by Martin Heidegger’s treatment of the “call of conscience” in Being and Time. According to Heidegger, one feels, or hears the silent “call of conscience”, during an experience of the uncanny. Both accounts employ a relational account of conscience, yet conscientious reflection and action is an individuated affair. Hannah Arendt identifies conscience as an effect of one’s discourse in thinking. She derives this conception from the Socratic admonition to always be in harmony with oneself. Harmony is challenging given the discordant voices at stake in narratives of identity. The objective of this paper, however, is to investigate the “call” of conscience as discourses of power relations in order to invite the critical reflection required for conscientious resistance to oppressive norms.
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