All talks take place in Hellems 269, 12:00-1:00
(unless otherwise noted, speakers are members of the CU Philosophy Department)
“The Possibility of Altruism: A History”
Abstract: Ancient ethical theory, on most accounts, is grounded in the pursuit of one's own happiness. Such eudaemonistic theories strive to account for other-regarding virtues such as justice, but ultimately they must bottom out in concern for self. The teachings of the Christian gospels, however, were extremely hard to square with such a perspective. So what was a Christian ethicist to do? I will consider various strategies, and ultimately I will describe how the voluntarists of the early fourteenth century - Scotus and Ockham - make room for the sort of unqualified altruism that is characteristic of modern ethical theory.
“Similarity and Enjoyment: Predicting Continuation for Women in Philosophy”
Abstract: On average, women make up half of introductory-level philosophy courses, but only one-third of upper-division courses. There has been a great deal of recent interest in explaining this drop-off. I will report the striking results of our study at the University of Oklahoma. We found that two attitudes are especially strong predictors of whether women are likely to continue in philosophy: (i) feeling similar to the kinds of people who become philosophers, and (ii) enjoying philosophical puzzles and issues. In a regression analysis, they account for 63% of variance in continuation. Importantly, women are significantly less likely to hold these attitudes than men. Thus, instructors who care about improving the retention of women undergraduates should find ways to improve these attitudes – for instance, by demonstrating the ways in which professional philosophers are like them. I will discuss some tentative but intuitively plausible suggestions for interventions, though further research is required to establish the effectiveness of those interventions.
“Rights Against Oneself”
We have rights against others. Do we have the same rights against ourselves? Egalitarians say "Yes." But the obvious answer, you would think, is "No." Intuitively, I am not forbidden, but you are, from kicking my heel, filling my mouth with gin, and sending my paycheck to your mailbox. There is also something paradoxical about the very idea of a right against oneself -- one is bound to obey yet free to waive. Sounds like Egalitarians are doomed. Not yet, I argue. There's nothing paradoxical about releasing oneself from an obligation (one is bound until the release), and there is a good reason why I don't violate my rights when kicking my own heel: by deciding to kick, I consent to the action, and so waive my right that it not be done. These ideas suggest a new (though strange) answer to the question of when people wrong themselves: they do so when they violate their own rights, by failing to give themselves valid consent. So the Egalitarian makes a big prediction: we wrong ourselves precisely when our action would be wrong if done to a consenting other.
“Moral Luck and Practical Commitment”
Abstract: I propose a novel solution to the moral outcome luck problem: I argue that when the control condition is properly interpreted, responsibility for outcomes will be seen to be compatible with control. I briefly suggest that the solution can be applied to other kinds of moral luck such as constitutive and circumstantial. At the end, I discuss what I call a “residual problem” of moral luck -- a problem with luck’s affecting our moral judgments (not moral responsibility or moral status) when it should not.
“The Epistemology of Political Disagreement: Some Millian Reflections”
Abstract: In an obscure article, John Stuart Mill seems to defend a virtue of political polarization. He suggests that, in the face of violent disagreement, the epistemically virtuous response is for contending parties to take up an increasingly principled position on the issues that divide them rather than look for compromise. In this presentation, I explore this proposal from three angles. First, I contrast this virtue with those that political liberals suggest should govern disagreements in pluralistic democratic society. I argue that the substance of policy debates among citizens in liberal democracy undercuts the resonance of the liberal virtues associated with public reason. Second, I contrast this virtue with those that epistemologists suggest should govern our judgments in the face of disagreement in general. I argue that the conditions of citizens will never satisfy the requirements of epistemic peerage so as to justify withholding judgment on issues of contention. Finally, I compare this virtue with Herbert Marcuse’s provocative argument that we must withdraw tolerance from some of those with whom we disagree on political matters. While Marcuse’s approach probably comes closest to explaining how Mill’s proposed virtue counts as a virtue, I draw on other Millian resources in order to defend a non-Marcusian and ultimately unique account of the virtue of political polarization.
"Disaster Recovery and The Political Importance of Place"
Abstract: This paper addresses the state’s role in rebuilding after disasters – and its limits. State disaster response can be construed as an insurance policy. The challenge is to explain why it should be mandatory, and – more particularly – why it should extend to assistance in rebuilding. This paper will focus on the latter question: why should the state ever assist rebuilding in disaster-prone areas? While a liberal egalitarian case can be made that fair equal opportunity justifies state assistance in recovery, at least for disadvantaged citizens, further argument is required to show that the state should ever subsidize rebuilding in place, if citizens can have access to equally good opportunities in a safer area. To explain this, I note another distinctive characteristic of disasters: their threat to the continuing existence of “place communities.” Place communities are the various, overlapping networks which support social, economic, religious, and other practices within a given place. I argue that protecting membership in place communities through rebuilding is one way to implement fair equal opportunity. This account of disaster policy, however, extends the scope of response to communities threatened by other forms of displacement.
“Legitimacy and Security Policy”
Abstract: Many political philosophers believe that, in order for a state to be legitimate, it must provide a certain degree of security for its citizens. Yet it is unclear what exact institutional arrangement governments must put in place in order to meet this "security condition". Some hold that relying on the standard practices associated with national defence (a standing army, weapons systems, intelligence services, and so on) is enough; although international cooperation on security matters may often be useful, on this view, it is not necessary for legitimacy. Against this, I argue that, given the sort of good security is, it cannot in principle be supplied solely at the level of state institutions. International cooperation on security matters, far from being a matter of discretion on the part of states, as is often assumed, is in fact a core requirement of state legitimacy.
“Do We Want Dirty Hands? The Complexities of Claiming a Moral Exemption for Business"
Abstract: Many prominent figures have argued that moral concerns have no place at the office, and modern business practice takes this claim to heart. The claim is no doubt carelessly stated, but something at the core of it is taken quite seriously. Business practitioners are generally taken to be either legally or morally bound to maximize profit, and (other) moral obligations are ignored as illegitimate constraints on this higher duty; the business practitioner is thus taken to be exempt from moral obligation. We often recognize a similar exemption for politicians, and philosophers have defended that exemption in the literature on “dirty hands.” In this paper I explore four possible justification for the moral exemption in business (effectiveness, efficiency, and two version of “dirty hands”), rejecting all except the fourth as inadequate to the task. The fourth treats business as a particular kind of MacIntyrean practice, and it perhaps succeeds where the others fail. It does so at a significant cost, however, and we can still decide that it is not worth paying.
“Public Lands and the Possibility of Justice”
Abstract: On December 28, 2016, President Obama issued a proclamation designating the Bears Ears National Monument pursuant to his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows the President to create monuments on federal public lands. Bears Ears, which is located in the heart of Utah’s dramatic redrock country, contains a surfeit of ancient Puebloan cliff-dwellings, petroglyphs, pictographs, and archeological artifacts. The area is also famous for its paleontological finds, as well as its desert biodiversity. Like other national monuments, Bears Ears therefore readily meets the statutory objective of preserving “historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Unlike every other monument since the passage of the Antiquities Act, however, Bears Ears was proposed by a coalition of American Indian Tribes. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which submitted the proposal to protect Bears Ears, included representatives from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Zuni tribal governments. The Bears Ears Proclamation recognizes the Tribes’ longstanding connections to the landscape by establishing a Bears Ears Commission, which gives the Tribes a special role in managing the Monument.
Historically, the Antiquities Act and other federal conservation laws played very different roles in the lives of Native people. Conservation laws divested Tribes of their lands and cultural heritage in the name of preserving these resources for others. Moreover, federal laws and policies designed to destroy tribal political structures were at their ascendancy during the same period that early conservation policy was formed. Together, and complemented by other laws that privatized vast swathes of the federal public domain, these laws and policies effected a joint project of Indian elimination. This talk explores that dark side of conservation history, and describes the very different process that led to the Bears Ears designation. It argues that Bears Ears National Monument should be seen as an act of reparations that restores tribal connections to the landscape, and therefore serves as a step toward redeeming the dark side of American conservation.
“The greatest landmark of willed moral progress in human history? The Abolition of Slavery and its Implications for Moral Philosophy”
Abstract: The abolition of Atlantic slavery constitutes a paradigmatic case of moral progress. Some even characterize it as “the greatest landmark of willed moral progress in human history.” Any plausible theory of morality must accommodate, and better explain, this fact. Yet philosophers eager to vindicate common sense morality without recourse to an objective realm of moral facts encounter remarkably tall obstacles in discharging this obligation. Moral realists are likely to say, “Told you so,” but some of their opponents are increasingly worried as well. To placate such worries, Richard Rorty recommends that “instead of seeing progress as a matter of getting closer to something specifiable in advance, we see it as a matter of solving more problems.” In the talk, I will show why even a most sympathetic development of Rorty’s recommendation threatens to collapse in the face of the historical realities of Atlantic slavery and its (not fully complete) abolition.
“Backing Away from the Edge of Anarchy: A Lockean Theory of Political Obligation”
Abstract: Locke argues that political obligation can only arise through consent. As critics since Hume have recognized, however, most citizens have not consented to be governed. It seems, then, that Lockeanism leads to philosophical anarchism. I argue, however, that a proper understanding of Lockean rights leads away from the philosophical anarchist position. In order for Lockean rights theory to be plausible, it must hold, as Eric Mack does, that our natural rights are “abstract rights.” This means that our rights underdetermine exactly how we must treat one another. On this view, there are gaps of a sort in the concrete guidance our rights provide. I argue we have a “duty to fill in the gaps” in the requirements of our rights by establishing and following conventions. This duty provides the basis for a rather unusual theory of political obligation, on which we have duties to follow conventions established by laws, but not necessarily laws themselves. This theory offers a surprisingly commonsensical way of thinking our moral relationship with the law.
Special date and time: Thursday, Nov. 9, 11:00-12:00 in Hellems 269
Abstract: The practice of contemporary moral philosophy revolves around the consideration of intuitive reactions to test cases. This practice presupposes that many moral intuitions are universally shared. This leaves philosophical practice open to a challenge: how could we respond to a person whose intuitions are exactly the opposite of ours, with whom we have no shared intuitions? I argue that there is no effective response from intuitionist methodology, and that this is a serious problem for moral philosophy’s aim to discover universal imperatives.
“The Limits of Compassion”
Abstract: Compassion is often said to be an uncompromising virtue; we are encouraged in places of worship, on social media, and on billboards (encouraging us to “pass it on”) to be compassionate with others. Of course it is clearly morally appropriate to be compassionate sometimes; to fail to be compassionate is one method by which someone practices what Jean Harvey called moral abandonment and leaves another to suffer alone. At the same time, it is also clearly morally appropriate at times not to practice compassion. In this paper I explore when and under what circumstances we should and should not be compassionate. I begin by distinguishing compassion from sympathy and empathy. Then, I explore some of the moral reasons that justify compassion, followed by those reasons that count against it. I conclude by responding to the common, recent claim that those who voted against President Trump ought to be compassionate with many of those who voted for him, since many of his supporters like those in the Rust Belt or in Coal Country voted for him out of a sense of justified anger for having been marginalized or economically exploited. I argue that claim is misguided both conceptually and morally, and that though empathy might be an appropriate response, compassion is not.
Special time: 1:00-1:50pm
“Is Voluntariness Necessary for Valid Consent?”
Abstract: The following claim seems extremely plausible: consent must be given voluntarily in order to be valid. But consider the following case. Your physician, Dr. M, happens to be developing an experimental treatment for Ebola. In order to test its efficacy, Dr. M needs live human subjects who are infected with the Ebola virus. However, Ebola is a rare disease and Dr. M cannot find any test subjects. To remedy this, Dr. M decides to infect her own patients. During a routine checkup, Dr. M inspects the inside of your mouth using a tongue depressor that she laced with the Ebola virus. Dr. M then tells you that she has just infected you with Ebola and that you will die unless you consent to her experimental treatment. The experimental treatment will be painful but it gives you the best chance of being cured. You consent to the treatment. I argue that your consent to treatment is valid even though you do not give it voluntarily. If this is correct, then we will need to identify some other condition that is necessary for valid consent. I will suggest one possibility.
“Allocation of Resources and the Moral Importance of Scarcity”
“Recent Work on the Non-Identity Problem”
Abstract: In my 2014 book, The Non-Identity Problem and the Ethics of Future People, I analyzed the non-identity problem as a conflict between five seemingly plausible premises and the seemingly implausible conclusion that follows from them, presented three criteria that any solution to the problem must satisfy in order to prove successful, provided a critical survey of the extant literature on the problem, and concluded that of all the solutions that the literature then contained, the one that did best by those criteria involved accepting the conclusion rather than rejecting one of the premises of the argument that leads to it. This approach to the non-identity problem involves accepting, for example, the claim that it is not immoral to conceive a child with a condition that will have a significant negative impact on that child’s quality of life even if one could easily conceive a child without such a condition instead. Most people who have written on the non-identity problem find accepting this kind of implication to be too big a price to pay, but in my book I argued that the price of accepting the alternatives was even greater. In the relatively short amount of time since the book’s publication, the literature on the non-identity problem has already grown considerably. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the solutions to the problem that have been offered in the last three or four years, including the approach that Derek Parfit was working on at the time of his death, and provide a critical response to those arguments (including Parfit’s) that seem to be among the most important.
"Attachment and Felt Necessity: Engaging with Value in Love and Addiction"
Philosophers have employed two different varieties of felt necessity to explain central aspects of agency in addiction and love, respectively. In addiction, the relevant felt need is often described in terms of an appetite, whereas love is characterized by necessities arising from a particular kind of caring. On my view, the extant literature offers an instructive, but incomplete picture of the roles of felt necessity in addiction and love. I argue that a third form of felt necessity -- attachment necessity -- often better captures central aspects of agency in love and addiction. Recognizing the role of attachment necessity will not only illuminate how felt necessity can impact the value of certain relationships, but it will also allow us to discern important features of addiction and love that remain obscured on extant approaches.
"Where Should Corporate Responsibility Stop?"
In this talk I discuss where corporate responsibility should stop. I argue that corporate responsibility should stop at obligations arising from each firm's effective power provided that they are also compatible with those necessary for that firm to achieve its normative function. My argument combines a certain interpretation of the 'can implies ought' principle with a functional differentiation proviso. This approach appears more appealing than potential general frameworks on the delimitation of corporate responsibility.
"Sets and Grounding"
When it comes to grounding, talk of sets is standard. Someone asks 'what is grounding?' Many respond 'it is that relation of dependence that obtains between a set (or its existence) and its members (or their existence).' In this paper, I argue in favor of a principle of grounding that, in conjunction with a plausible claim about sets, tells against their existence. One implication of this is that reflecting on the nature of grounding motivates thinking that something that illustrates grounding well is, by the lights of grounding itself, impossible. Another is that contrary to what many think, we should not be so permissive when it comes to what grounded things exist. Grounding things can be, and in the case of sets is, more costly than we think.
"Should Firms Be Morally Neutral?"
Neutralist Liberals claim that it is both inappropriate and useless to require firms to be morally neutral like states. It is inappropriate because, unlike states, firms are voluntary and perfectionist organizations. It is useless because reasonable accommodations are sufficient to protect the freedom of conscience of employees inside firms. I object to these claims and argue for firm neutrality. First, the opposition between the firm and the state is not substantial regarding the neutrality principle. In this respect, firms are closer to states than to churches. Second, even if reasonable accommodations incorporate a certain idea of neutrality, they do not exhaust its normative requirements inside firms.
"What's So Good About Being Happy?"
Happiness and well-being have both played rich roles in the history of value theory and of ethics, and they also feature prominently in popular culture and in psychology. Both have been held to be of fundamental intrinsic value. Despite the crucial roles that these two concepts play there is no general consensus about what they are or what their relationship is. I take my cue from a broadly Meinongian theory of emotions. This theory yields a natural, indeed rather obvious, account of the nature of happiness and of its relation to well-being. The account of the nature of happiness that I sketch also yields an appealing answer the question that is the title of this talk (appealing, because true). However, the answer might come as something of a surprise to some. Happiness is not itself intrinsically good thing and, even if consequentialism were correct, we would have no moral obligation to pursue it, promote it, or maximize it.
"Well-Being and Changing Attitudes"
The fact that our attitudes change poses well-known challenges for attitude-sensitive well-being theories. Take Kierkegaard's famous conundrum, for example. If I were to get married, I would prefer being unmarried; if I were to remain being unmarried, I would prefer being married. Which life is better for me? More generally, how can we find a stable standard of well-being, if the standard is in part defined in terms of unstable attitudes? In my talk, I will present a framework that will help us clear up the problems posed by changing attitudes. In particular, it will help us see what is at stake, which principles that can or cannot be combined, and what might be the best solution.
"Attitudinal and Phenomenological Theories of Pleasure"
Abstract: On phenomenological theories of pleasure, what makes an experience a pleasure is something about what it is like or the way it feels: pleasures are pleasures in virtue of possessing a certain kind of phenomenology. On attitudinal theories, what makes an experience a pleasure is something about its relationship to the favorable attitudes of the subject who is having that experience: a particular experience is a pleasure in virtue of being, say, liked or desired by the subject who is having it, or in virtue of consisting of that subject's liking or desiring something else. I advance the debate between these theories in two ways. First, I argue that the main objection to phenomenological theories, the heterogeneity problem, is not compelling. While others have argued for this before, I identify an especially serious version of this problem that resists existing solutions, and I explain why even this version of the problem does not undermine phenomenological theories. Second, I argue that a grand reconciliation can be effected between the two types of theory: it can be true both that pleasures are pleasures in virtue of how they feel and that they are pleasures in virtue of how they are related to their subjects' favorable attitudes, so long as the attitudes that are constitutively related to pleasures are ones that feel a certain way. Hybrid views of this sort have significant advantages over pure attitudinal or phenomenological views.
"Narrative and Meaning in Life"
Abstract: Many theorists have argued that the meaningfulness of a life is related in some way to the narrative or story that can be told about that life. Relationists claim that a life gains in meaning when a particular set of "narrative relations" obtain between the events that constitute it. Recountists claim that it is the telling of a story about those relations, not the relations themselves, that confers meaning. After identifying problems with existing versions of both of these positions, this paper introduces a new and more satisfying variant of Recountism, centered on the old-fashioned idea that a meaningful life is, in part, an intelligible one. I argue that personal narration does play a role in a meaningful life and that my "Fitting Story" account provides the best explanation of how and why that is so.
"A Framework of Principles for Animal Research Ethics"
Abstract: My purpose is to present a defensible framework for the ethics of laboratory animal research. I hope, in doing so, to accommodate reasonable pluralism about animals' moral status, avoid begging questions about whether animal models work, and indicate the inadequacy of current policies and the preeminent "3 Rs" framework. I will present and defend three principles pertaining to social benefit and four principles that address animal welfare. If the arguments are successful, the framework offers the possibility of agreement among open-minded members of the biomedical and animal-protection communities.
"Thomson's Violinist and the Ethics of Abortion Restrictions"
Abstract: In her 1971 article, "A Defense of Abortion", Judith Jarvis Thomson argued that abortion is morally permissible even if the fetus is a person. The analysis at the heart of Thomson's article generated a large secondary literature, virtually all of which followed Thomson in focusing exclusively on the question of whether abortion is morally permissible. In this paper, I apply Thomson's analysis of what follows (and what doesn't follow) from the claim that someone is a person to two further questions: a question about the moral status of laws prohibiting abortion and a question about the moral status of laws that permit abortion but restrict its availability in various ways. First, I present an argument, based on Thomson's analysis, for the claim that abortion should be legal. I argue that in several respects this argument for the claim that abortion should be legal is stronger than Thomson's own argument for the claim that abortion is morally permissible. Second, I argue that Thomson's analysis can also be used to ground a successful response to popular arguments in favor of various legal restrictions on abortion. I focus, in particular, on laws that impose a mandatory waiting period on women who seek abortions and on laws that require minors to obtain parental consent before they can have an abortion. But I also suggest that the analysis can be generalized to ground moral objections to most, if not all, legal restrictions on abortion.
"More Mistakes in Moral Mathematics"
Abstract: Many significant harms, such as the mass suffering of animals on factory farms, global warming, or the presence of unqualified dangerous madmen in the White House, can only be prevented, or at least lessened, by the collective action of thousands, or in some cases millions, of individual agents. In the face of this, it can seem as if individuals are powerless to make a difference, and thus that they lack reasons, at least from the consequentialist perspective, to refrain from eating meat, to reduce their individual warming-related emissions, or to vote in presidential elections. This has become known as the "causal impotence" problem. The standard response, as exemplified by a paper of mine from 2004, and one of Shelly Kagan's from 2011, is to appeal to expected utility calculations. Recently, this response has been attacked, mostly on the grounds that the relevant causal mechanisms are more complex than Shelly or I are said to assume. In this paper, I argue that the attacks are unsuccessful, both at undermining the specific expected utility calculations we urge, or even at showing that significantly different expected utility calculations wouldnâ€™t justify the relevant behavior.
"The Normative Scope of Consent"
Abstract: By giving consent, we permit a range of actions. But which range? I will discuss whether we need to intend to permit a particular action in order to permit it, and whether we need to express this intention.
"Won't Someone Think of the Children?: Reorienting the Moral Debate on Vaccination"
Abstract: The prevailing moral account in support of compulsory vaccination for children relies on the harm that unvaccinated children pose to other members of their communities. In contrast, those who oppose compulsory vaccination for children tend to argue that parents are within their rights to determine what is in the best interest of their own children, and that, where parents hold the belief that vaccination is not in their children's best interest, that belief should be sufficient to guard against intervention by the state or other parties who might compel vaccination.
This talk identifies a common problem with both views: they neglect the interests of the particular child who will (or will not) be vaccinated in favor of the interests of others. I will defend a positive account in favor of compulsory vaccination grounded in parental duties, which include duties to protect and promote the physical well-being of one's children. This account will maintain that the duty to ensure the physical security of oneâ€™s children is not discharged by philosophical or religious beliefs a parent may hold in opposition to vaccination.
"What Are/Should We Be Doing In Normative Inquiry?"
Abstract: In this paper, we focus on bringing out the nature and interest of two important dimensions of complexity in normative inquiry. These dimensions concern (1) which goals to pursue in normative inquiry and (2) which topics to investigate in normative inquiry. We argue that choices within these dimensions are neither trivial nor arbitrary: choices within these dimensions can be given interesting rationales, and can have important consequences for how it makes sense to proceed in one's normative inquiry. Our aim in this paper is not to settle how these choices should be made. Rather, our aim is to map some of the key considerations that matter for thinking about these choices, and how these considerations interact with each other in interesting, often complicated ways. In so doing, we highlight the import of what Alexis Burgess and David Plunkett have dubbed conceptual ethics: roughly, normative or evaluative assessment of words and concepts, including, crucially, the assessment of which concepts a given agent should use in a given context, and which words she should use to express those concepts. These issues in conceptual ethics, we argue, are especially important in this context given the diverse ways in which philosophers use key normative terms (e.g., 'morality', 'justice', and 'knowledge'), and given the ways they often tacitly switch between different uses. We also underscore the import of the fact that there are a variety of kinds of normativity that one might be interested in, for a range of different reasons. Part of our aim is to underscore the import of these varieties of normativity, and put forward what we think are some important distinctions between them. We conclude the paper with some broad suggestions for moving forward in normative inquiry in a more productive, methodologically reflective way, and avoiding some of the key pitfalls that we think often occur in the absence of such methodological reflection.
"Freedom of Movement: A Moderate View"
According to a familiar argument, people have a fundamental right to freedom of movement and that right means open borders are morally required. In my talk, I will try to give an account of the right to freedom movement and its grounds. These do not commit us, I will argue, to open borders, but they do put some significant constraints on immigration policy, such as ruling out religious tests for entry and requiring substantial efforts to accommodate refugees.
"The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism"
"Taking Rites Seriously: Liberalism, Religion, and Cultural Conflict"
"Sex, Lies and Harm: Dougherty on Deceptive Seduction"
"Permissible Profiling: Predictive Risk Modelling and Child Maltreatment"
Abstract: New Zealand researchers have developed a predictive risk modeling (PRM) tool using an algorithm with significant capacity to ascertain and stratify children's risk of experiencing maltreatment in the future. The potential benefits of the tool are considerable and are of obvious moral value. However the application of predictive risk modeling to child maltreatment also has very clear ethical risks and costs, including those generated by predictable false positives, by the possible stigmatization of already vulnerable populations, by the probable use of data without consent, by predictable resource allocation issues the tool will raise, and by difficulties in designing and implementing effective interventions. This paper gives an overview of the issues and asks whether these ethical costs can be ameliorated or completely addressed, and whether those that cannot be addressed are outweighed by the benefits that might be delivered by the tool.
"Crimes of Non-Consent"
Abstract: Some sexual behavior is criminal because of a failure of consent. In these cases, courts try to determine whether the victim did not give consent in the legal sense and, also, whether the perpetrator of the crime could have reasonably known that the victim did not consent, or could have been reasonably expected to know that the victim did not consent. I am going to distinguish three different ways in which a law can map onto the truth about consent: it can get the existing, moral and legal facts of the matter right; it can engage in the full normative construction of the facts that it maps onto; or it can engage merely in the legal construction of the facts that it maps onto. I argue that both the first and second of these correspondences are desirable, and only the third is problematic. These distinctions help answer (and, in some cases, help articulate) some of the objections to consent policies and laws that have recently been implemented by states, universities, and the Canadian government.
"The Fundamental Challenge for Advance Directives"
Abstract: Advance directives have been widely embraced as morally legitimate means through which people exercise self-determination and personal autonomy in medical care. Their most fundamental problem, "then-self vs. now-self," however, continues to be an extremely difficult challenge: why should the earlier self have authority over the current incompetent self who no longer values autonomy and does not care about the previous directive? Several related defenses have been offered to address the problem, among them self-ownership, the reality of an enduring narrative self, and the moral need to treat previously competent patients differently from never-competent patients. Menzel argues that something more is needed to make these intuitively compelling defenses work: a richer understanding of patients' current interests, and clarification of what constitutes a "change of mind." Individual cases are used to illustrate the problem and its potential resolution.
"Murder, Minority Victims, and Mercy"
Abstract: Should George Zimmerman have been acquitted of Trayvon Martin's murder? Should enraged husbands receive a pass for killing their cheating wives? Should the law treat a homosexual advance as adequate provocation for killing? Criminal law scholars generally answer these questions with a resounding "No". Theorists argue that criminal laws should not reflect bigoted perceptions of African Americans, women, and gays by permitting judges and jurors to treat those who kill racial and gender minorities with undue mercy. According to this view, murder defenses like provocation should be restricted to ensure that those who kill minority victims receive the harshest sanctions available. Equality is thus achieved by ratcheting up punishment. There is a similar bias in the death penalty, where those who kill racial minorities are treated more leniently than those who kill whites and are often spared execution. But the typical liberal response here is to call for abolition rather than more frequent executions. Equality is thus achieved by ratcheting down punishment. This article asserts that the divergence between the accepted scholarly positions on the provocation defense and capital punishment can be explained by provocation critics' choice to concentrate on spectacular individual instances of leniency toward those who kill gender minorities and death penalty theorists' tendency to view the entire institution of capital punishment as racist and retrograde. The article then provides the institutional sketch of noncapital murder law currently missing from provocation analysis by discussing sentencing practices, the demographic composition of murder defendants, and the provocation defense's potential role as a safety valve. It concludes that inserting institutional analysis into the critical assessment of provocation might undermine the prevailing scholarly dogma supporting pro-prosecution reform.
"Physician-Assisted Death and Severe, Treatment-Resistant Depression"
Abstract: In recent years, Belgium and the Netherlands have allowed some cases of euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) to be provided to patients with severe, treatment-resistant depression. The paper looks at the reasons for regarding this as evidence of a very slippery and dangerous slope, or alternatively as a reasonable and compassionate development.
"Two Senses of 'why': Traits and Reasons in the Explanation of Action"
In ordinary practice, character traits are often cited in an attempt to explain why an action was done. Thus, we say, "Young Abraham Lincoln walked through a storm to give the correct change to a customer because he is honest" or "James Tyrone refuses to pay for his wife's medical treatment because he is miserly". But how exactly do traits explain actions? In what sense of "why" does Lincoln's honesty or the stinginess of Eugene O'Neill's Tyrone tell us why Lincoln or Tyrone acted as each did?
We do not have a satisfactory answer to this question, and surprisingly few proposals are on offer. While there is voluminous literature on action explanation, philosophers interested in the explanation of action have tended to focus exclusively on reasons explanations. Traits, on the other hand, especially morally-laden traits, are discussed almost exclusively in relation to action evaluation. But traits, as evidenced by ordinary discourse, are relevant to the explanation, not just to the evaluation, of actions. In this talk, I examine the precise role traits play in the explanation of action, and I discuss the connections between traits and reasons explanations.
"Agency, Complicity, and the Responsibility to Resist Global Injustice" by Corwin Aragon and Alison Jaggar
Abstract: Philosophers working on global ethics pay increasing attention to wrongs that result from systemic injustices. They look beyond the actions of individual "bad apples," the failings of corrupt states, and the practices of supposedly "illiberal" cultures to provide increasingly comprehensive accounts of the global structural processes that produce and perpetuate many injustices. Structural analyses reveal connections among wrongs that at first sight appear unrelated to each other and show how the actions of individuals can contribute to injustice at local, national, regional, and even global levels. However, although these accounts illuminate the empirical situation, the ethical picture remains blurred. How, if at all, are individual citizens morally responsible for injustices rooted in the global order? This paper builds on Iris Marion Young's work to offer an answer based on people's complicity with unjust social-structural processes.
"Unconscious Pleasures and Attitudinal Theories of Pleasure"
This talk is part of larger project that aims to explain the nature of hedonic phenomena -- sensory pleasure, attitudinal pleasure, enjoyment, happiness, and their unpleasant opposites -- in terms of desire. My aim in this talk is to respond to a new and interesting objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures or pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations only in a weak sense, and this weak sort of unawareness of a sensation does not preclude its being an object of one's attitudes.
"Organ Procurement and Posthumous Rights"
Under a policy of organ conscription, the State takes organs automatically from the bodies of the dead, regardless of whether people consented or wanted to donate. Some bioethicists believe that a conscription policy would be an improvement over the current system because it would yield more usable organs and hence save more lives. These same bioethicists also claim that the interests of living patients who need organs to continue living outweigh whatever interests the dead may have in keeping their organs. I disagree. In this talk, I develop an account of posthumous rights and argue that a conscription policy would violate at least some people's posthumous bodily rights. I then argue that if people have posthumous rights about their body that are violated by a conscription policy, then the interests of the dead in having their rights protected do outweigh the interests of the living.
"What, If Anything, Justifies The State's Power Over Immigration?"
What, if anything, justifies the state's power over immigration? I examine three answers advanced by contemporary political theorists and philosophers writing about immigration, all of which appeal to the idea of collective self-determination but are ultimately based on 1) the value of distinctive cultures and national identities, 2) the right to private property, and 3) the value of freedom of association. I discuss the limits of these justifications and offer an alternative view in which the subject of self-determination is not a nation, joint-owners of state institutions, or members of voluntary associations but a people engaged in a shared political project.
"Extension in Animal Rights Theory: How a New Account of Respect Can Make Sense of Collective Harms"
"Consent and 3rd Party Coercion"
"History of the Death Penalty in Colorado"
"Framing Harm In a Time of Climate Change: Climate, Development, and the Environment"
"Don't Block It 'Til Ya Eyed It?: A Defense of Ad Blocking and Consumer Inattention"
"Belief in a Fallen World"
"The Labor Movement and the Dilemma of Labor Militancy"
"The Biblical Proportion of Internal and Cross Border Migration in Africa"
"From Epistemic Realism to Moral Realism: A Defense of Cuneo's Parity Premise"
"Racial Profiling and Reasonable Resentment"
"Why We Don't Need More Organ Donors"
"Why I Don't Like Religious Exemptions"
"On God's Authority: Conscientious Objection in the Age of Same-Sex Marriage"
7:00-8:30 PM, Eaton Humanities 1B50
Presented in conjuction with the Center for Western Civilization, Thought and Policy.
"On God's Authority: Discussion"
"When Lethal Drones Come Home: The Path to Political Perdition"
"Civic Art of Remembrance and Democratic Imagination"
"Moral Obligation and Blame"
"Can Rawls' Non-Ideal Theory Save His Ideal Theory?"
"On Wanton Self-Assurance: I Promised Myself I'd Write This"
"Welfare: Does Thinking Make it So?"
"What is a Dead Body? Medieval Debates on a Metaphysical Puzzle."
"Leo Strauss on Natural Right"
"On Where the Action Is"
Sept 26: Andrew Chapman
"The Existential Dimension of Morality"
"Status Quo Bias and the Experience Machine"
"Moral Fatigue: The Deadly Vice"
"The Metaethical Problem of Suffering"
"Happiness on Earth (kind of) as it is in Heaven: Aquinas on Imperfect Happiness"
"Consent's Been Framed: How and When to Solve the Problem that Framing Effects Pose for Consent"
"Can Constitution Protect Freedom?"
"The False, the Bad, and the Beautiful"
"Sex, Lies, and Consent"
"Which Desires Are Relevant to Well-Being?"
"The Good Death"
"Are Philosophers and Laypeople Talking About the Same Thing When They Talk about Morality?"
"When Speaking Truth to Power is Not Enough: On the Ethics of Being a Public Intellectual in America Today"
"Against the Moral Relevance of the Similarity between Research Subject and Beneficiary"
"Manipulation as an Aesthetic Flaw"
"Killing for Food and Tragic Dilemmas: Capabilities Analysis"
"Irreducibly Normative Properties"
"Morality Grounds Personal Identity"
"Pragmatism, Objectivity, and Democracy"
"Playing with Fire: Art and the Seductive Power of Pain"
"Inequality, Incentives, Criminality and Blame"
"The Ethical Implications of Gendering Disease"
"A Free Person as a Maker of Surprises"
"The Last of Last Resort: Why the Last Resort Criterion in Just War Theory Should Not Exist"
"Probabilistic Proof of Moral Realism"
"Conflicting Intuitions in Ethics and Elsewhere"
"Why Just Assassinations are Morally Preferable to Just Wars and Some Harmful 'Peaceful' Policies"
"The Harm of Death"
"Why Counterexamples Fail (and What To Do About It): A Talk on Moral Epistemology and Philosophical Method"
"The Game of Laws"
"Freedom, Sex-Stereotype and Anti-Discrimination"
"Does Poverty Wear a Woman's Face? Some moral dimensions of a transnational feminist research project"
"Women, Justice, and the Global Context of Mental Disorder"
"The Duty to Disregard the Law"
"Harm After Death"
"The Problem of Evidentialism in Moral Epistemology"
"The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease"
"What are our Responsibilities to the Non-Existent?"
"The Proportionality of Open Borders and Exclusion"
"Where Are You Really From? Ethnic Selection in Liberal Democracies"
"A Problem for Evidentialism in Moral Epistemology"
"Parfit's latest defense of the No Difference View"
"Preferentism and the Experience Requirement"
"Which Epistemic Norms Matter?"
"For a Species Right to Exist"
"Why and How Death is Bad for Animals, and People"
"Arendt, Occupy, and the Challenge to Political Liberalism: A Reply to Charles W. Mills"
"Epistemic Injustice and Moral Knowledge"
"Geoengineering, Solidarity, and Moral Risk"
"Why Blackmail Should Be Legal"
“A Qualified Argument against Athletic Doping"
“Dissolving Indeterminacy and Incommensurability in Values”
“The Ethics of Parenthood”
“Authority and Hypothetical Consent"
"Defending Deliberative Democracy in the Classroom: Bridging Epistemological Divides"
"Immigration and Equality: Must Governments Treat Aliens the Same as Citizens?"
"A Democratic Justification for Nonmilitary Humanitarian Intervention: Reconciling Human Rights and Collective Self Determination"
"Body Politic, Bodies Impolitic"
Mar. 18: Horst Mewes (Political Science)
“The Function of Religion in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America”
"Trust Yourself, Be Irrational"
"Famine, Affluence, and Mortality: A Non-Consequentialist Response to Singer and Unger"
"Existential Suffering and the Ethics of Palliative Sedation"
“Perception and Memory”
“Freedom from Autonomy”
“Against Democratic Authority”
"Undoing and Disallowing"
“Cinematic Action Theory”
“Basic Democratic Rights: Conditionally Deriving Human Rights from a thin Procedural Conception of Democracy”
"Recognizing Disability: Reconceptualizing a Vision of Social Justice for the Cognitively Disabled"
“Reframing the Normative Question of Secession”
“Are Ballot Initiatives a Just way to Make Public Policy?”
"Doing, Allowing, and the State"
"The Politics of the Apolitics of Racism"
Jan 29: Prof. Claudia Mills
"Hearts Starve As Well As Bodies: Leisure As an Indicator of Agency and Wellbeing"
"The Non-Comparative Account of Harm"
"Nonrenewable Resources and the Inevitability of Outcomes"
"Kant's Permissive Law: A Principle for the Perplexed"
“Situating Responsibility for Global Justice”
“A Trivial Organic Unity?”
"What is Friendship?"
"The Ethics of Free Riding"
"Why I Hate Hate Speech Codes (But Still Don’t Hate Hate Crime Laws)"
"Rapture of the Nerds: The (allegedly) coming technological 'Singularity'"
"On the Moral Force of Coerced Promises"
"Sinful Actions and Sinfulness"
"Basic Evaluative Properties"
"Carbon Sequestration, Ocean Fertilization, and the Problem of Permissible Pollution"
"Harm, Consent, and Practical Joking"
"The Philosophical Challenges of Global Gender Justice"
"Honor: The Ethic for Real Men?"
"Is There a Right to Immigrate?"
"Moral and Epistemic Open Question Arguments"
"Consent and Cluster Randomization"
"Philosophical Reflections on Sudan Activism"
"Fetishism and Deontology"
"Why Political Legitimacy Entails Political Obligations"
"Against Multiverse Theodicies"
"Against Group Mental States"
"Why Political Legitimacy Doesn't Necessarily Entail Political Obligations"
"Kantian Ethics and the Puzzle about People in Great Need"
"Is There a Right to Secede?"
"Empirical Ethical Intuitionism"
"Why Relational Autonomy Is Better Than Traditional Accounts of Autonomy"
“Ethical Vegetarianism: Feminist Requirement or Patriarchal Burden?
“Euthanasia and Self-Defense”
“What Moral Intuitions Are”
“Stigma and Openness”
“The Modern Corporation as Moral Agent”
“Privatization, Democracy, and Public Goods”
“What’s Wrong with Racial Profiling?”
“It’s Not My Concern: Singer and Plato, Rules, Roles, and Social Organization”
“Desire-Based Theories of Welfare, of Pleasure, and of Reasons”
"Not Much Ado about Habermas and Rawls"
"Is Realism Really Good for You? A Realistic Response"
"Trustees of Themselves: A New Framework for Human Rights"
"Aristotle on Political Participation"
"Can Gratitude Serve as a Basis of Political Obligation?"
"Particularism in Aristotle's Ethics"
"Three Ways of Speaking and the Futility of Coerced Promises"
“Could Morality Have a Source?"
"Intentions, Character, and Consequentialism"
"Reviving Weber's Ghost: Attitudinal Accounts of State Legitimacy"
"Should Intelligent Design Be Taught in School?"
“The Metaphysics of Corporate Agency"
“Why I Don’t Hate Hate Crime Laws”
"Ulysses Contracts and the Relevance of Consent"
“Health Disparities, Ethics, and the HPV Vaccine”
“Ideal Theory versus Critical Theory: Comparing the Philosophical Methods of John Rawls and Iris Marion Young”
“Desire-Based Theories of Welfare and the Possibility of Self-Sacrifice”
“How Soft Is Soft Paternalism?”
“The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States”
“Utility, Determinism, and Possibility”
“Risk and Resources”
“Creating God: Mormon Metaphysics and the Politics of Polygamy”
“Justice and Global Climate Change”
”Fathers and Mothers”
“Justice, Development, and Just Development: An Institutional Approach to Analyzing Development”