Fall 2023

All talks will be held online Friday at 12:15 pm MST, in person and on Zoom, unless otherwise noted. Contact Alastair Norcross at alastair.norcross@colorado.edu for Zoom information.


September 8: Jason Raibley (University of Kansas)
In person only, DLC1B65

"Hurka's Critique of Well-being"
In a recent article, Thomas Hurka argues that well-being "makes no substantive contribution to ethics." This is true, he says, so long as we understand well-being as an evaluative concept, and one that is irreducible to Moorean intrinsic value (e.g., what is "simply good" and a state of a person and desired by them). Hurka first argues that common-sense does not unambiguously feature the concept of well-being, because ordinary uses of "good for" may instead concern a "purely descriptive" concept, while ordinary uses of "well-being" might concern a Moorean concept. Given this, he says, there is not sufficient warrant to posit well-being as a distinct normative concept, provided that one already accepts the existence of the "simply good." For one can do all the important normative work with the concept of "simply good." I argue (1) that Hurka's conception of "evaluative concepts" may be so narrow as to trivialize his argument, (2) that his alternative — i.e.,"purely descriptive" and Moorean — interpretations of welfare-discourse are implausible and require bad philosophy of language, and (3) that there are many facts concerning what people have justifying reason to do – and what it is appropriate for them to hope, wish, fear, and feel – that cannot be captured on a Moorean view. Perhaps Hurka's arguments give a committed Moorean non-naturalist who is a proud ideal utilitarian about the "just-plain-ought" – and also a "welfarist" – reason to economize and drop their welfarism. The rest of us can ignore them. (Note: this paper is based in part on previous collaborative work with Guy Fletcher, Brad Cokelet, and Dale Dorsey).

September 15: Brian Talbot (CU Boulder)
In person only, UMC 247

"If there can't be practical reasons for belief, then there must be practical reasons for belief"
There's a debate about whether there are practical reasons for belief. E.g. let's say believing x makes you happy; does that give you some kind of reason to believe x? I am interested in this debate because (I think) it requires us to examine what reasons are "for," and why it matters whether or not something is a reason. In this talk, I address a very influential form of argument against practical reasons for belief. Basically, the argument starts with the claim that our beliefs are not responsive in "the right way" to practical benefits (different philosophers have different views of what "the right way" means). For example, it is claimed that practical benefits can only indirectly cause us to believe things. Because of that, the arguments go, these benefits don't count as reasons for belief. Those who disagree typically argue that our beliefs are responsive in the relevant way. But that's not my approach. I want to grant that our beliefs are not responsive in these ways. I argue that, because of this unresponsiveness, practical benefits are reasons for belief. To see why, we have to think about why reasons are supposed to be normatively important.

September 22: Alastair Norcross (CU Boulder)
In person, UMC 247, and on Zoom https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/91271415821

“Conservatism: Political and Moral”
My main concern in this paper is a particular version of political conservatism, which is roughly what theorists refer to as “Burkean Conservatism” or “Traditionalist Conservatism”. The central claim I want to examine is that social/societal/cultural traditions have a (probably defeasible) moral value. One way to think of this is in terms of burden of proof. The burden of proof is on the person who wants to change or eliminate a tradition. Traditions are innocent until proven guilty. In fact, they are not just innocent, but positively worthy. I am not talking about a view which claims that there is positive value in having traditions in general, but doesn’t say anything about whether existing traditions are the ones we should have, as opposed to any other set of traditions. My concern is with the view that says, of the traditions that currently exist, that their status as traditions is prima facie justification for preserving them. For my purposes in this paper, I will simply call this view about the value of traditions “Traditionalist Conservatism” or TC. I’m not claiming that that is how the term is used by political philosophers in general, or even any others. I don’t find terminological disputes very interesting. Although the political version of this thesis is my main concern, if time permits, I will explain what I take to be some interesting parallels in the realm of normative morality.

Handout for the talk can be found here.

September 29: Robert Pasnau (CU Boulder)
In person, UMC 247, and on Zoom https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/91271415821

"Why Can’t Mary Sin?”
Suppose there is an all-powerful being who has decided that it is for the best that some perfectly ordinary human being should be unable to sin. But—-and this is the tricky part—-that ordinary human being must also be meritorious in her actions.  Can someone be unable to sin and yet be morally praiseworthy? Could even an all-powerful being bring about that state of affairs? I will consider how William Ockham, in the Middle Ages, attempted to answer those questions in the affirmative.

January 20: Spencer Case

“A foothold for moral realists”
Here I’ll consider two strategies for arguing for moral realism, the thesis that some moral statements are objectively true. I’ll contrast the Moorean strategy for arguing for realism with what I call the “foothold strategy.” The Moorean appeals directly to putative moral facts based on moral intuitions in order to discredit certain forms of anti-realism. The foothold strategy is to argue that we have at least some normative knowledge. This is very hard to deny, and it might even be self-defeating to deny. Once this is conceded, the realist has a foothold from which it’s possible to press for more. If there’s normativity, then why not categorical normativity? And if there’s categorical normativity, why not specifically moral normativity? One advantage that the foothold strategy has over the Moorean strategy is that the realist’s opponents are divided over which premises to reject, and why.

February 10: David Boonin (CU Boulder)

“Racial Profiling, Predictive Policing Algorithms, and Arguments From Fairness”
I’m going to talk about three fairness-based arguments that have been offered against racial profiling and ask whether any of them can be made to work as arguments against using predictive policing algorithms to guide police deployment decisions on the assumption that the use of such algorithms also results in racially imbalanced policing decisions. I’ll argue that the arguments don’t work as arguments against racial profiling and that in some cases, they can’t work as arguments against predictive policing even if they do work as arguments against racial profiling.

March 3: Lizzie Fricker (Magdalen College, Oxford)

“On what grounds may one believe what one is told? Epistemic Individualism versus communitarianism about doxastic responsibility: a critique of McMyler’s view”
In my paper I explore some issues for McMyler’s radically communitarian account of the epistemology of testimony. I link it to the account of testimony offered in John Greco’s recent book, The Transmission of Knowledge. McMyler’s contention that another’s command to believe provides a categorical reason to do so is similar to the uncritical acceptance of another’s word that Greco posits as obtaining within an epistemic community, such as a scientific research team. But hard questions remain as to how the details of such a view work out.

March 10 [Special Time 11:10 AM] Connor Kianpour (CU Boulder)

“You Should Have Known Better: Epistemic Privilege and the Duties of the Oppressed”
One might hear a Black opponent of affirmative action policies, or a pro-life woman, or a gay man who thinks gay people aren’t entitled to government protection from employment or housing discrimination defend their views and think to oneself: “You should know better than that!” The Black opponent of affirmative action policies is sometimes presumed to, in virtue of being Black, have information or reasoning abilities that would dispose them toward being favorable to such policies; women are sometimes presumed to, in virtue of being women, have information and reasoning abilities that would dispose them toward being favorable to pro-choice legislation; and gay people are sometimes presumed to, in virtue of being gay, have information and reasoning abilities that would dispose them toward being favorable to policies that protect gay people from housing and employment discrimination. Moreover, it might be claimed that those who, in virtue of their social identity, have such information and reasoning abilities are obliged to conduct themselves in a certain way in light of such information and reasoning abilities. In this essay, I will illuminate the problems with this strain of thought, a strain of thought which, to my mind, has become par for the course in the current culture. First, I construct and motivate the plausibility of what I call the epistemic privilege argument (EPA) which is meant to guide us to the conclusion that the epistemic privilege that Blacks, women, and gays have in virtue of being Blacks, women, and gays, respectively, generates obligations for them to conduct themselves in certain ways. I build this argument by drawing on the works of critical legal scholars, feminists, and analytic political philosophers. Then, I mount criticisms of both premises of EPA to show the legs on which the argument stands cannot support the argument, at least in the way some proponents of EPA might think it would.

March 17: Morteza Lahijanian (Aerospace Engineering Sciences, CU Boulder)

"Social Trust in Autonomous Robots: a Formal Methods Perspective"
Autonomous systems are poised to become an integral part of our economy, infrastructure, and society. They are rapidly gaining more capabilities via AI components and serving in ever more safety-critical roles. However, as their complexities grow, the more impossible it becomes to provide safety guarantees for their decisions and overall performance. Recent (and frequent) catastrophic accidents involving autonomous systems, e.g., several Tesla autopilot fatal accidents per year, also show that sole engineering progress in the technology is not enough to guarantee a safe and productive partnership between a human and a robot.

In this talk, I argue that formal methods combined with control theory and machine learning techniques can form powerful tools to address some of these problems, but not all.  We also need to advance our understanding of the role of social trust within human-robot relationships, and formulate a theory for expressing and reasoning about trust in the context of decisions affecting collaboration or competition between humans and robots. This requires cross-disciplinary collaborations to study the formalization of social trust in the context of human-robot relationship. I show my attempt to lay down a groundwork for such a study.

April 14: Andrea Asker (Stockholm University)

“Posthumous Harm and Changing Desires”
Prominent desire-satisfactionist defenses of the possibility of posthumous harm hold that a person incurs posthumous harm when a posthumous state of affairs frustrates one or more of the desires that they had while they were alive. I discuss how the so-called problem of changing desires poses a challenge to the desire-satisfactionist defense of posthumous harm. I argue that the problem of changing desires remains despite suggested means to overcome it, and tentatively defend an alternative solution that has previously been rejected by some.

April 21: Brian Talbot (CU Boulder)

"Is anything really interesting?"
Does anything have genuine, mind-independent, epistemic value?  Probably not.  And we should sincerely hope not.

April 28: Moti Gorin (Colorado State University)

"Pediatric Gender-Affirming Care: What is it For?"
There is today a great deal of controversy over the medicalized gender transition of youth. In the United States, much of the controversy is playing out heatedly in the courts and in the public square. The central question is whether or not so-called “gender affirming care,” which involves some combination of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery is clinically justified. One set of arguments pertains to empirical questions regarding the medical risks and benefits of this treatment model. Here, there are significant differences between the more aggressive American approach and the more cautious one recently adopted in some European countries. Other arguments step back from the empirical debates and ask about the fundamental aims of pediatric gender transition and whether these aims are best conceived of in clinical terms—e.g., improved health, favorable risk/benefit profile, etc—or in terms of bodily autonomy and identity instead. After providing an overview of these debates, I will focus more narrowly on a recent paper arguing that pediatric gender-affirming care is best conceived not in clinical terms but, analogous to reproductive healthcare, in terms of bodily autonomy and identity. I will argue that the analogy between gender-affirming care and birth control and abortion does not hold and, more generally, that bodily autonomy-based arguments do not work. My main conclusion is that strong empirical evidence showing a favorable risk/benefit profile remains necessary if gender-affirming care is to be justified.

August 26: Ted Shear (CU Boulder)

“Causal One-Boxing” (co-authored with Kenny Easwaran and Ben Levinstein)
According to the conventional understanding, causal decision theory recommends two-boxing in Newcomb's problem. But, it is also widely acknowledged that the choice scenario is left deeply under-specified in standard presentations. We discuss a number of more precise variations — some of them old, some of them new — in which causal decision theory recommends one-boxing. We explore these variants to draw out philosophical insights relating to agency, habit formation, and rational choice.

September 23: Alastair Norcross (CU Boulder)

“Do the Numbers Get in the Way?: Intuitional Innumeracy in Ethical Thought Experiments”
Philosophers are fond of thought experiments, often constructing elaborate hypothetical scenarios to elicit intuitions about ethics, epistemology, mind, language, and metaphysics. In ethics, the currently dominant methodology consists of appeals to intuitions about mostly hypothetical (and often outlandish) scenarios. The intuitive judgments thus elicited (or at least avowed by the authors of these scenarios) are then appealed to in constructing and critiquing various ethical approaches. My focus in this talk is on a subclass of such scenarios, that involve, in some way or other, mathematical intuitions, especially those involving large numbers. It is well-known, and easily demonstrable, that most people’s intuitions about mathematics are highly unreliable, especially concerning large numbers (whether numerator or denominator). Given this, it is highly likely that ethical intuitions about scenarios involving large numbers will also be unreliable. Ethicists need to accept that our intuitive judgments about such cases can tell us nothing about moral reality (though they may be able to tell us something about the consistency, or lack thereof, of our own commitments). This will be tough for some philosophers, whose entire careers have been built on appeals to such intuitions. But better an honest acceptance of a wasted intellect (up to this point) than a stubborn insistence on continuing to waste it.

September 30: Jennifer Carr (University of California San Diego)

“The infectious indeterminacy of indeterminate credences”
Credence functions are thought to be too precise to adequately represent belief states. On this view, agents -- perhaps even ideally rational agents -- don’t always have a sharp degree of belief in every proposition. An alternative belief model confers many of the benefits of the credence function model, without its costs: imprecise credences, typically modeled as a set of credence functions.

There are two common interpretations of imprecise credences:

Indeterminate interpretation: It’s indeterminate what one’s credence in some proposition is. This view is generally paired with supervaluationism.
Mushy interpretation: It’s not indeterminate what one’s credence is; it’s just not real-valued (sharp), but instead determinately spread out over multiple real values (mushy).

My thesis: the indeterminate interpretation has lots of unattractive consequences: normatively, for epistemic and pragmatic evaluation; and descriptively, for plausible belief modeling. Best to go with either mushy interpretation or the precise credence model.

October 7: David Boonin (CU Boulder)

“Two Puzzles About the Ethics of Divestment”
Suppose you own stock in Acme Corp. and you learn that it consistently acts in seriously immoral ways. What should you do? A common answer maintains that owning stock in Acme Corp. makes you complicit in its immoral behavior and that you should therefore divest yourself of it. But as Steven M. Cahn has argued, there seems to be something puzzling about this answer. If you sell your stock to someone, then they will own it. If it’s wrong to own the stock, then they’ll be doing something wrong. So if you divest yourself of the stock, you’ll be helping someone do something wrong. But it seems wrong to help someone do something wrong. So how can a company’s immoral behavior make it wrong for you to own stock in the company but not make it wrong for you to get rid of the stock by selling it to someone else? In this talk, I will present two versions of Cahn’s divestment puzzle and explain the reasoning that leads to each of them. I will then discuss the published responses that have appeared since Cahn first presented the puzzle and argue that none of them are successful. I will conclude by defending an alternative response.

October 21: Emily Slome (CU Boulder)

"Moral Testimony Pessimism and Epistemic Responsibility"
I argue for pessimism about moral testimony. My argument is based on the claim that deference to moral testimony is problematic because it comes with the ability for the hearer to pass the epistemic responsibility and thus, the moral responsibility for a belief, onto the speaker. My view is that this ability that comes with moral deference is problematic for two main reasons. First, when a hearer has the ability to pass on epistemic responsibility, our understanding of how to evaluate the hearer as a moral agent is obscured. Second, having this ability threatens to erode the hearer’s sense of personal moral responsibility, which could potentially diminish the hearer’s moral drive.

November 4: Eirik Lang Harris (Colorado State University)

"The Han Feizi on Politically Relevant Merit"
The most prominent advocacy of political meritocracy in recent years has come from those who see themselves inspired by the Confucian philosophical tradition. Unfortunately, they often ignore competing Chinese visions of political meritocracy and direct challenges to the Confucian vision from within the Chinese tradition.

The Confucian conception of political merit is intertwined to its conception of morality and as such virtue is seen as an essential component. To defend such a position and its applicability, they need to show both that inculcation of virtue is possible and that these virtues are politically relevant. One prominent historic critic of Confucianism, Han Feizi, worries about both claims. While agreeing that political merit matters and that ministers and bureaucrats should be chosen on the basis of their merit, he has a vastly different conception of what constitutes politically relevant merit, one that is both is both task specific and amoral in nature.

What Confucians fail to grasp, argues the Han Feizi, is that what leads to virtue is non-identical to what leads to a well-ordered, flourishing state. At times, a choice must be made between following morality and securing the state. Insofar as Confucianism requires moral virtue as a core component of merit, it not only misidentifies what constitutes politically relevant merit, it focuses on and characterizes as meritorious traits that are actually detrimental to a well-ordered and flourishing state.

November 18: Megan Kitts (CU Boulder)

"Throwing the Embryos Out with the Bathwater? A Novel Evaluation of the Value of Embryos"
Much of the discussion on appropriate treatment of embryos has focused on whether it is permissible to destroy embryos in order to obtain stem cells for research. I aim to develop a new account of the value of embryos whereby embryos are intrinsically valuable in virtue of their relationship to persons that could exist. I call this symbolic value. To establish this value, I first show that corpses have this same symbolic value in virtue of their relationship to prior persons, and then show that the cases of corpses and embryos are relevantly similar. Because of this value, we ought to treat embryos in particular respectful ways. It is currently common practice in the United States to discard extra embryos that exist as a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF). I argue it is generally impermissible to discard embryos because it does not treat them in accordance with their value, and thus is an act of disrespect.

December 2: Kate Schmidt (Metro State University)

"Toxic Positivity and Emotional Mistreatment"
Toxic positivity is a folk term that has recently gained popularity. Ethicists should be concerned with understanding this because it seems to be used as a novel form of ethical critique. In this talk I’ll look at three questions while clarifying the significance of this term (1) Is there a central conceptual phenomenon to “toxic positivity”? (2) Is there a novel or unique ethical harm being addressed? (3) What are the implications for how we ought to tune our feelings of optimism or pessimism?

January 21: Caleb Perl (Zoom only)

“Normativity as Reactive Shield”
This paper pioneers a construal of normativity that descends from Mill's classic account of moral wrongs as what ought to be sanctioned. My core contribution is to generalize Mill's account to avoid objectionable circularity, by taking normative judgments to play a distinctive role in our social lives. On the resulting picture, the normativity of moral requirements, the normativity of prudential requirements, and the normativity of epistemic requirements all consist in a common role that they play in our social lives. I aim to show that the resulting picture is on a par with more familiar Humean or Kantian pictures of normativity. Establishing parity helps us ask which metaethical questions should be central: it opens up the possibility that social questions might matter over individualistic questions.

February 4: Ken Shockley (Colorado State University)

"Vulnerability, Adaptation, and our Changing Environment"
It is intuitively clear that humans are vulnerable to our changing climate; our adaptation strategies are ideally designed to mitigate those vulnerabilities. However, typical characterizations of vulnerability do not adequately reflect the ability of humans to adapt to changing background conditions. A better understanding of the dependence of human flourishing on background ecological conditions should lead us to rethink our understanding of vulnerability, and, accordingly, our strategies for adapting to a world with decreasingly familiar ecological conditions. This paper explores that dependence and argues that when it comes to humans adapting to a changing climate, vulnerability should be framed in terms of the precarity of meaningful access to the goods necessary for flourishing.

February 11: Marion Hourdequin (Colorado College)

"Sustainability and Intergenerational Ethics from A Relational Point of View"
Common conceptions of sustainability and intergenerational ethics focus on either “stuff” or welfare.  On the first approach, sustainability requires passing to future generations an undiminished supply of natural resources (i.e., material “stuff”).  According to the second approach, it is human welfare across generations that should be sustained.  Although there are important differences between these views, they share some common features.  For example, both approaches focus on intergenerational distributive justice: How much does each generation deserve, relative to others?  Relatedly, both approaches treat sustainability as a constraint on the behavior of present generations, framing intergenerational ethics as involving tradeoffs between the good of present and future people.  These tradeoffs, in turn, raise motivational questions: Why should present people constrain their use of natural resources (or other goods) to save for the future?  Given power asymmetries, how can present people be held accountable to the future?  In this talk, I argue that relational approaches to sustainability and intergenerational ethics can provide an important complement or alternative to approaches that emphasize intertemporal distributive justice.  Rather than focus primarily on what each generation “gets” relative to others, relational approaches emphasize the value and significance of sustaining relations and shared projects over time.  As compared to theories of intergenerational distributive justice, relational approaches: 1) emphasize shared values and concerns rather than conflicting interests; 2) provide a ground for motivation based in shared commitment to common projects across time; and 3) offer space for a richer conversation about what those common intergenerational projects are and should be, and thus a more expansive conception of what matters intergenerationally. 

February 15: Henrik Andersson (Visiting Fellow, CVSP)

"Millian Value Relations Generalised and Interpreted"
John Stuart Mill argued that there are intellectual pleasures and physical pleasures and that no amount of the latter is better than any amount of the former. In the following paper, we attempt to illuminate the general notion of superiority to which he appealed by showing that its underlying structure occurs not only where items are better/worse than one another, but also where they are equally good or on a par. We also provide an interpretation of this type of value relation that avoids invoking the notions of infinite value and diminishing marginal value.

February 25: Tristan Rogers (Visiting Fellow, Benson Center)

"Stoic Conservatism"
Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in Stoic ethics among the general public. But Stoic approaches to politics are comparatively rare. What might a Stoic approach to politics look like? David Goodhart aptly describes the political divide pervading Western societies in terms of the “somewheres,” who are communitarian, rooted in particular places, and resistant to social and political change, versus the “anywheres,” who are cosmopolitan, mobile, and enthusiastic embracers of change. Stoicism recognizes a similar distinction. “My city and state are Rome,” Marcus Aurelius writes, “But as a human being? The world.” This paper defends a conservative interpretation of Stoic politics. According to “Stoic conservatism,” cosmopolitanism is an ethical ideal through which we perform the obligations assigned by our communitarian role(s) in society. The view is “conservative” in the sense that there is an assumption in favor of existing institutions as the starting point for virtue, instead of reasoning a priori about what virtue requires. Stoic politics consists neither in the cosmopolitan transcendence of particular attachments, nor in passive acceptance of the communitarian status quo, but in ethical improvement toward virtue within the political structure of society.

March 4: Steve Vanderheiden (Political Science/Environmental Studies, CU Boulder)

"The Ethics of Prisoner Exchanges for Post-war War Crimes Prosecution"
The history of prosecuting political leaders for jus ad bellum war crimes is fraught, with few examples of such actors being brought to trial and even fewer successful prosecutions. So also is the politics of international war crimes jurisprudence, with the United States refusing to participate in the International Criminal Court, despite having played a central role in its establishment through the Rome Statute. Both the history and politics are fraught in part because of the arbitrariness of conditions under which war crimes can be pursued: charges can only effectively be brought against leaders of countries that are parties to the Rome Statute and are also practically limited to being brought only against those from the losing side of violent conflicts. Indeed, future prosecution of political leaders for jus ad bellum war crimes may be complicated by ethical objections against this arbitrariness. Bracketing the question of whether post-war prosecution of war criminals is itself ethically defensible, I focus here on two related issues. First (and in what should be a fairly straightforward but nonetheless necessary step), I consider the ethics of limiting war crimes prosecution in this way—that is, prosecuting only those from the losing side of conflicts and only if their countries are parties to the Rome Statute. Second, I consider a potential remedy that could potentially rectify the institutional unfairness of a judicial body like the ICC that is limited in this way: allowing the prosecution of an accused war criminal from the winning side of a conflict and/or from a country that is not a party to the Rome Statute in exchange for allowing the prosecution of an accused war criminal from the losing side. Drawing upon a relatively small literature of the ethics of prisoner exchanges (grounded also in conventional accounts of the ethics of war and punishment of political leaders for war crimes), I develop an account of when such an exchange might be defensible and offer conditions under which it might be justified.

March 11: Ricardo Simmonds (PhD candidate, Environmental Studies)

"Meataphysics: Clean Meat, Messy Matters"
Animal meat (fish, pork, chicken, beef, foi gras) has long been a source of concern for ethicists, but new technologies make it possible to use animal stem cells to produce meat in laboratories, possibly avoiding many, if not most, ethical concerns. Some forecasters anticipate that such products may be readily available to consumers in the United States this year. The production of laboratory meat for human consumption, advertised as clean meat, gives rise to ethical, epistemic and ontological questions about the nature of this new non-slaughtered animal product.  In this talk, I explore the ontology of clean meat by examining the different philosophical implications of natural and unnatural  in an ongoing set of discussions among religious communities. While several Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars have drawn distinct, and at times contradicting, conclusions about the ontology of clean meat, I develop a Catholic position, based on Aristotelian hylomorphism, and borrowing concepts from other traditions, that challenges the conclusion that lab meat is meat in the first place.

March 18: Anna Folland (Uppsala University)

"Misfortunes and Missing Out"
The badness of death is often understood in comparative terms: a person's death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of the benefits of life, which she otherwise would have enjoyed. However, things that are comparatively bad in this sense do not always seem to be misfortunes or evils in the sense that death seems to be. For instance, the fact that my lottery ticket lacks the winning number or that I am never invited to meet my celebrity role model does not seem aptly described as a misfortune, nor as an evil. Kaila Draper (1999) raises a challenge for proponents of this form of comparative understanding of badness: given that both death and not winning the lottery are bad in the same way, why is only the former a misfortune or evil?

In this paper, I take on the largely neglected task of examining what a misfortune or evil in the relevant sense plausibly is. As we shall see, these questions bear close connections to the debate about the nature of harm. I argue that there is a parallel challenge involving harm. This challenge proves problematic for the prominent counterfactual comparative account (CCA) of harm and it might push us into examining an overlooked view of harm – namely, a fitting attitudes analysis.

April 1: David Boonin (CU Boulder)

"Artificial Intelligence, Criminal Justice, and Risk Assessment: The Right to An Explanation Objection to Opaque Recidivism Prediction Algorithms"
Risk assessment tools like COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction) use sophisticated algorithms to calculate the probability that an offender will commit an additional crime within a certain number of years of the date of the assessment. These calculations are based on information about the offender and their past conduct. Courts and parole boards frequently use such algorithms when making decisions about parole, probation, bail, and even sentencing. The inner workings of these tools remain inaccessible to the defendants whose fate is in part determined by them when the algorithms in question belong to a private corporation (as is the case with COMPAS) or are driven by advanced forms of artificial intelligence that generate unfathomably complex predictive models. In such cases, it seems plausible to conclude that using these algorithms in these ways is morally objectionable because it seems plausible to suppose that defendants have a moral right to receive an explanation of the reasoning that led to the decisions that were made in their cases and that the opacity of such algorithms prevents them from receiving one.

In this talk, I will discuss two arguments that have been offered in defense of this right to an explanation objection to using opaque risk assessment tools in these ways. The first maintains that using them for these purposes is analogous to other practices that clearly violate a defendant’s due process rights. The second maintains that using them in these ways violates a requirement of state transparency that is a necessary condition for political legitimacy. I will try to show that both arguments are unsuccessful. In addition, I will offer what I believe to be a novel argument in defense of the claim that defendants do not have a right to an explanation of the reasoning that led to the decisions that were made in their cases about parole, probation, bail, and sentencing. The argument is based on the claim that offenders do not have a right to have jurors explain the reasoning that led to their decision to vote to convict them and that if this is so, then they also lack the right to have courts and parole boards explain the reasoning that led to their decisions about parole, probation, bail, and sentencing. This conclusion about the merits of the right to an explanation objection may prove disturbing, but I will argue that the implications of the alternative position are even harder to accept.

April 8: Dan Jacobson (CU Boulder)

April 15: Ben Hale (CU Boulder)

"Clean Meat and Dirty Dollars: Substitution and Indeterminacy in Technocratic Solutions to Climate Change"
The past few years have been big for meat substitutes. The Impossible Whopper is now available at Burger King, Beyond Meat has found its way into grocery stores, and recent technological advancements look increasingly likely to enable the production of synthetic ‘cultured’ meat burgers in the lab. The hope and promise of these technologies is that they will serve as inexpensive substitute proteins that replace meats made by the much more problematic animal agriculture industry. In this paper, we flip the problem of meat on its head: asking not what is wrong with meat, so much as how consumer indifference and producer strategy might influence the uptake of clean meat in the economic market. Rather than approaching the problem in terms of substitution value, which appears to be the prevailing interpretive framework for making sense of many environmental problems, meat included, we approach the problem of substitution from the standpoint of reasons-for and reasons-against. Doing so, we suggest, exposes complications with “causal indeterminacy” that in turn implicate our thinking both about moral responsibility and the broader nature of technocratic solutions to environmental problems.

Authors: Benjamin Hale, Sebastian Dueñas Ocampo, Alexander Lee

April 22: Moti Gorin (CSU)

Title TBA

April 29: Chris Heathwood (CU Boulder)

"Ill-Being and Desire”
In a seminal paper, Shelly Kagan notices how philosophers of well-being tend to neglect ill-being – the part of the theory of well-being that tells us what is bad in itself for subjects – and explains why we need to give it more attention. This paper does its part by addressing desire-based theories. Two main ill-being options for such theories have presented themselves: the frustration view and the aversion view. I aim to show that Kagan’s objections to both views are wanting; to give a new argument for the aversion view; and to show how whether this and other arguments for the aversion view succeed – and indeed whether the aversion view is a distinct alternative at all – depends crucially on the conception of desire at play in the theory.

August 27: Scott Hill (CU Boulder)

"The Relevance of Desert to the Footbridge Case"
I identify a desert sensitive version of consequentialism that is able to accommodate the intuition that pushing in Footbridge is wrong, accommodate intuitions about Shroeder’s (2007) variants of Footbridge, explain why there is a difference between killing and letting die, accommodate Mun~oz’s (2021) criticism of such forms of consequentialism, and remain true to the conequentialist intuition that we should do the best we can. This suggests a way to recast Mun~oz’s negative argument as a positive one in support of the version of consequentialism that I identify. In the end, I argue that desert sensitive versions of consequentialism have underappreciated resources to address problems in this body of literature.

September 3: Robert Pasnau (CU Boulder)

"To Die So That Others May Live"
There’s great optimism in certain scientific circles for the project of radically extending the length of healthy human lives, perhaps allowing us to live for a millennium or longer. I argue that it would be deeply immoral to prolong our lives so dramatically, and that we therefore ought to limit this research in something like the way we restrict research in other problematic cases, like human cloning.

September 10: Alastair Norcross (CU Boulder)

"Doing, Allowing, and Demandingness"

September 17: Tim Burkhardt (CU Boulder)

"Epicureanism and Prudence"

October 1: Derek Hughes (CU Boulder)

"Against Virtue Externalism"
I offer an argument against virtue externalism: the view that morally good effects, independent of agents’ internal states, are necessary for moral virtue. On the assumption that virtues are character traits, I show that the virtue of modesty is a counterexample to virtue externalism. 

October 8: Jonas Harney (Saarbrucken)

"The Problems of the Interpersonal Comparative View"
According to the person-affecting view, the part of ethics that is concerned with the welfare of individuals should be cashed out in terms of how the individuals are affected. While the narrow version, which considers intrapersonal comparative value to be morally significant, fails to solve the Non-Identity Problem, the wide version, which focuses on absolute personal value, is subject to the Repugnant Conclusion. Recently, a middle view has been proposed that promises to capture our moral concerns towards future individuals but avoid their flaws. It modifies the narrow view by abstracting away from individuals’ identities in order to account for interpersonal, not just intrapersonal, comparative value. I call this position the Interpersonal Comparative View. In my talk, I will argue that that view is flawed. By striking the middle, it cuts to many things along the way: it abandons intuitions that underlie the narrow view, obstructs the advantage of the wide view to account for the welfare of all future individuals, and violates its own presuppositions.

October 29: Lisa Miracchi (Penn)

“Permissible Uncertainty and Meaningful Human Control”

I propose that we shift debates on LAWS away from questions about whether we should let robots make decisions or perform ethically assessable actions and instead work to articulate what the human agents involved, at different stages of command, need to know in order for them to make responsible and ethical decisions about the deployment of such systems. As human agents rarely have total relevant knowledge of the systems they use, I suggest we frame debates around what uncertainty is permissible, for a user, occupying a role, in a physical and socio-political context. This enables us to treat ethical issues around LAWS as continuous with those for other weapon systems and more easily make comparisons between them, and it helps robotics researchers articulate concrete design, explainability, and testing criteria that are sensitive to the complexity of the ethical issues at stake.

November 5: Erich Riesen (CU Boulder)

"A Technological-Systems Approach to AI Ethics: Reframing Some Important Debates"

Much of the recent ethics of AI literature is spent debating whether AI systems (either currently or in the future) deserve legal/moral rights, whether they will be conscious and/or free, and whether we ought to consider them as (or build them to be) moral agents with moral autonomy. Such debates are at best premature and at worst conceptually confused. In this talk, I attempt to diagnose a problem with the Moral Machine approach to AI safety that has dominated philosophy of AI over the last decade. I contend that many thinkers implicitly assume a hardware (or machine) based conception of technology. The hardware definition of technology holds that technological artifacts are objects fundamentally independent from the human beings that design and use them. This has led some authors to mistakenly emphasize machine responsibility and autonomy when in fact AI systems will (for the foreseeable future, if not forever) merely extend human responsibility and moral autonomy. Instead, we ought to switch to a technological-systems conception of technology, which sees human beings and machines as parts of larger systems, thus dropping the independence condition. I use the technological-systems definition to reframe some standard problems in the ethics of AI literature including the responsibility gap problem and the problem of getting machines to act ethically.

November 12: Cheryl Abbate (UNLV)

"The Animals in our Living Rooms: Friends or Family?"

The relationships between humans and the animals who live in our homes are, in most cases, loving relationships. But love can take many different forms. There is, for example, romantic love, familial love, parental love, and friendship. Heather Stewart (2018) points out that many human-companion relationships closely resemble parent-children relationships and moreover argues that relationships between humans and companion animals should be treated as involving parenting. Stewart is right that, descriptively speaking, many human-animal relationships closely resemble parent-children relationships, Yet, as I argue in this chapter, normatively speaking, parental love is not the kind of love we should strive to mirror in our loving relationships with companion animals. Rather, we should strive to form relationships with animals that involve a kind of friendly love rather than parental love-- that is, we should form companion friendships with animals. This is because friendships, unlike parent-child relationships, are characterized by mutuality, choice, equality, and respect for differences, and these are ideals we should try to foster in our relationships with animals, who are autonomous creatures with their own unique lives. Although human relationships with animals often resemble parent-child relationships, they need not, and should not, be that way.

November 19: Tristan Rogers (Benson Center, CU Boulder)

"Socrates’ Ignorance of Justice: An Epistemic Argument for the Rule of Law in Plato’s Crito"

Despite affirming the injustice of breaking the law in Plato’s Crito, Socrates gives several examples in his Apology speech where he himself refused what appear to be lawful orders. This paper argues that Socrates strikes the right balance between moral virtue and deference to the rule of law as equally integral to the good society whose citizens are virtuous partly because they obey the law. More specifically, the Crito argument for the rule of law can be buttressed against the common objection that it requires compliance with unjust laws by appeal to Socrates’ epistemological claim about his ignorance of justice.

December 3: Chris Heathwood (CU Boulder)

"Are Adaptive Preferences a Problem for Subjective Theories of Well-Being?”

January 15: Associate Professor Kendy Hess (Brake-Smith Professor of Social Philosophy and Ethics, College of the Holy Cross)

"To Serve and Inspect: Foucault's Discipline in the Age of Employee Well-being"
One of the fundamental tasks of the government is to “secure generally the comfort, safety, morals, health, and prosperity of its citizens...by insuring to each an uninterrupted enjoyment of all the privileges conferred upon him or her by the general laws” (Black's Law Dictionary, citing Keystone Coal).  This authority is commonly known, appropriately enough, as the "police power." Sometimes the government regulates its citizens directly in its exercise of the police power, but here I explore the implications of a different technique. It is becoming increasingly common for the government to impose the responsibility inherent in the police power on business enterprises, making firms legally liable for the health and well-being of their employees. I suggest in this paper that implementing such regulations, in which one entity (the firm) is made liable for the well-being of another (the employee) establishes some unfortunate incentives. After introducing Foucault's panoptic theory of discipline, I draw on developments in health and safety regulation and workplace climate regulation to suggest that we should heed the warning inherent in Foucault's work. When the government makes one entity liable for the well-being of another it introduces a dangerous logic into workplace management, leading to the near-inevitable exposure and exploitation of the very people the government was trying to protect. 

January 22: Dr Zak Kopeikin and Ms Alex Lloyd (University of Colorado)

"'It’s just allergies': COVID-19 and Relevant Alternatives"
In his recent book The Pandemic Information Gap, economist Joshua Gans’s primary contention is that “pandemics are an information problem" (2020: 8). Of special concern is information about who is infected and contagious: if the noses of those infected and contagious with COVID-19 lit up and shone bright red, for example, we could more effectively identify and isolate those who are ill and pose a risk of spreading the disease. Rudolph-nose is unfortunately not a symptom of COVID-19, but the point stands: knowing whether one is infected and infectious is crucially important to battling the ongoing pandemic.

In this talk, we show how a relevant alternatives framework (RA) provides a compelling explanation for why perceptual experiences of our bodily health are generally insufficient to justify beliefs about whether we have COVID-19.  We start by examining how asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases of COVID-19 provide a relevant alternative that undermines our justification for whether we are infected and whether we are contagious based on perception of bodily health (i.e., not having symptoms). We then examine symptoms of COVID-19 and argue that RAs for many COVID-19 symptoms can undermine justification for the belief that one is infected and the belief that one is contagious. Our results help explain the epistemic mess in which we find ourselves and provide a line of justification for widespread rigorous testing (especially for those who are more likely to have asymptomatic or milder cases of COVID-19).

January 29: Dr Alex Wolf-Root (University of Colorado)

"COVID-19: Mask Off the NCAA’s Collegiate Model Myth"
“COMMITTED TO WELL-BEING” This is the headline that pops up when visiting the NCAA’s homepage during the Fall semester during the 2020 global pandemic. It is overlaid onto a picture of what appear to be a victorious Indoor T&F relay team – a sport that has seen teams slashed across the country allegedly due to the pandemic. Below this picture, a banner invites you to click for more information on COVID-19, all while schools prepare for tens of thousands of in-person fans at their home football games.

If we were to trust the NCAA’s advertising, grand statements, and explicit statements of purpose, we’d think that college athletics in the US are primarily for the health and betterment of “student-athletes” across the country. But even the most stalwart defender of the status quo must recognize how decisions made during this age of COVID-19 clearly undermine the stated purpose of the current intercollegiate model in the US. Quite simply, COVID-19 has been mask off for the NCAA’s “collegiate model.”

This paper will start by presenting the alleged goals and values of the NCAA and some of the more powerful member-institutions. Then, it will show how many decisions made during COVID-19 are clearly incompatible with these goals. In doing so, we will see that there is one purpose that is in line with sporting decisions during the 2020 pandemic: revenue generation through mass entertainment. Simply put, the NCAA’s rhetorical commitment to student-focused activities has been uncovered for the hypocrisy that it always was.

A discussion of possible solutions or alternative models is far outside the scope of this paper, but in pulling off the mask of the collegiate model, we can take a first step towards a less unjust, less hypocritical system of college sport in the US.

February 5: Dr Ben Kultgen (University of Colorado)

"Indeterminately Permissible yet Determinately Imperative"
It seems reasonable enough that it can be indeterminate whether it is permissible for S to φ. We could understand such cases as being either instances of ontic indeterminacy—an indeterminacy of the world itself—or instances of semantic indeterminacy—an indeterminacy of our language and thought. Very few philosophers endorse any sort of ontic indeterminacy view. (In fact, some very famous philosophers declared the notion incoherent). However, if we understand cases of indeterminate permissibility as cases of semantic indeterminacy, all sorts of very odd results follow. I will focus specifically on the difficulties created for our commonsense understanding of the relationship between permissibility and reasons. These issues could be avoided either by allowing for ontic indeterminacy, or by rejecting that it can be indeterminate whether it is permissible for S to φ. I suggest the second option is worth considering. 

February 12: Professor Michelle Montague (University of Texas, Austin)

"Rethinking the Attitudes"
Many mental states exhibit intentionality, the property of being about something, or of something in the sense of ‘of’ exemplified by phrases like ‘a view of Florence’, ‘an account of the Battle of the Bulge’. Paradigm cases of intentional mental states include beliefs, desires, thoughts, hopes, fears, supposings, wonderings. It has long been standard practice in analytic philosophy to describe these intentional mental states in terms of three distinct metaphysical elements: a subject-element, an attitude-element, and a content-element. I call it ‘the Tripartite view’, because it posits three fundamental distinct elements. In this paper I argue that the Tripartite view is mistaken, and propose that it should be replaced by what I will call ‘the Dual view’. According to the Dual view, all there is to the metaphysics of our intentional states is (i) a content and (ii) a subject; there is no need to postulate distinct metaphysical relations and call them ‘the belief relation’, ‘the desire relation’, and so on.

February 19: Assistant Professor Cheryl Abbate (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

"Why Ghosts Aren't So Spooky: The Ethics of Indirect “Relationship” Dissolution"
There are both direct and indirect ways people can communicate romantic disinterest to their actual or potential romantic partners. It’s commonly assumed that “initiators” who use indirect communication, i.e., “ghosting,” behave wrongly. Against this view, I use a theory of moral rights to explain why most initiators who use indirect communication to express romantic disinterest are morally justified. I argue that if non-initiators have a right against initiators to direct communication, it’s because non-initiators have a “right to know” or a “right to access.” Yet, as I will argue, the “ghosted” have neither. The ghosted don’t have a “right to know,” because either (1) the initiator can’t provide them with understanding, (2) understanding would be harmful and unproductive, and/or (3) using direct communication requires initiators to disclose their personal mental states, to which the ghosted don’t have a right. Moreover, the ghosted don’t have a “right to access” because having access to initiators usually results in disrespectful treatment of initiators and/or non-initiators. Consequently, most people who use ghosting behavior to communicate romantic disinterest to non-initiators act well within their moral rights, promoting the personhood of everyone involved.

February 26: Professor Alastair Norcross (University of Colorado)

“Is Premarital Sexual Abstinence Immoral?”
Many people claim that premarital sex is immoral. Some groups, such as “True Love Waits” even pressure teenagers to sign a pledge to abstain before marriage. But, given the seriousness of the promises we make to each other when we marry, and the high incidence of divorce, with its attendant harm for all involved, especially the children, perhaps it’s actually premarital abstinence that’s immoral. We owe it to our partners and our children not to make serious promises, before getting as much evidence as we can that we will keep those promises. To protect the institution of marriage, and for the sake of the children (won't somebody think of the children?), we need to recognize the serious immorality of premarital abstinence.

March 5: Associate Professor Rob Lovering (City University of New York, Staten Island)

"All Persons Are Equal, But Some Persons Are More Equal Than Others: On the Incoherence of Alabama’s Abortion Ban"
In 2019, the governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, signed into law House Bill 314—the Human Life Protection Act.  The law criminalizes all abortions, including in cases involving rape and incest, except when abortion is deemed necessary for the prevention of a “serious health risk.”  As a Class A felony, abortion is punishable by up to 99 years in prison, and attempted abortion, a Class C felony, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  However, only the one performing or attempting to perform the abortion—the doctor, in the standard case—is subject to said punishments.  The one procuring or attempting to procure the abortion, the mother, is not subject to any punishment whatsoever.  Given that the purported view in which the Human Life Protection Act is rooted is that (a) the human fetus is morally equal to every other human being and, thus, (b) it is just as prima facie seriously wrong to intentionally kill the human fetus as it is to intentionally kill any other human being, two questions arise: Does it make sense to punish only the one performing or attempting to perform the abortion?  And does it make sense to do so by sentencing him or her to no more than 99 years in prison?  In this paper, I argue that, relative to the conjunction of the law’s purported underlying moral rationale and the Alabama criminal code, these things do not make sense and, in that regard, the Human Life Protection Act is incoherent.  Lest there be any confusion, I am not arguing that the abortion-performing doctor or abortion-procuring mother should be punished—indeed, I do not believe that abortion is immoral, generally speaking, let alone that it should be criminalized and punishable by death.  I am merely arguing that, relative to the conjunction of the law’s purported underlying moral rationale and the Alabama criminal code, Alabama’s abortion ban is incoherent.

March 12: Professor Elinor Mason (University of California, Santa Barbara)

"Consent and Consensuality"
It is well recognized by feminist thinkers that the standard conception of consent is problematic when applied to sexual consent in a patriarchal context. Consent has a contractual feel to it, in which one person allows another to do something to them (or their property). This does not capture what goes on in the ideal sort of sex, and, in the common assumption that in heterosexual relations the woman is the one to consent, further entrenches a problematic view of gender relations. I argue that we should make a distinction between consent and consensuality. Consensuality is symmetrical, and is not contractual, but captures the element of willingness that is essential to morally permissible sexual contact.

March 19: Professor Dan Jacobson (University of Colorado)

"Immoralism and Contextualism"
The 20th century saw a robust debate over autonomism, the thesis that the moral features of artworks are irrelevant to their aesthetic value. Moral worries about art go back to Plato, and they have been developed in various ways through the history of aesthetics. Until recently, however, those philosophers of art who denied autonomism assumed the truth of moralism, the view that the moral defects of artworks, whenever they are aesthetically relevant, count as aesthetic flaws in the work. This assumption was called into question at the end of the century, when it was noted that moral defects in artworks might be aesthetically relevant without figuring as defects; they might instead sometimes figure as aesthetic qualities of the work, in an analogous way to how the moralist sees them as blemishes. This thesis is sometimes referred to as immoralism but that seems a misnomer, since no one holds that moral defects figure as aesthetic qualities whenever they are aesthetically relevant. A better term for the view that such moral flaws can figure either as blemishes or qualities of artwork is contextualism. I argue against autonomism on familiar grounds, but then suggest that the best arguments against autonomism support contextualism rather than any form of moralism. Philosophers too often ignore the myriad ways in which audiences do not apply the same moral standards to works of art that they would apply were they real-life spectators of the actions depicted in it (somehow prevented from intervention). Indeed, our appreciation of narrative art in particular requires that we do not do so. In light of this point, the rejection of autonomism should lead us to contextualism rather than moralism. Or so I argue.

March 26: Associate Professor Claudia Mills Emerita (University of Colorado)

"Ethics and Children's Literature"
Children’s literature has always been charged with the task of helping to shape children as moral beings. But didacticism has also been its original sin – present in the 18th and 19th century origins of the field and continuing to this day in preachy, moralizing stories (most of which fortunately get rejected!). As a philosopher specializing in ethics who is also the author of sixty books for young readers, I’ve wrestled with how to engage children morally in the stories I tell. In this talk I will share some examples of my recent books that have ethically charged subject matter and show how I tried to present this in a way that offers young readers more questions than answers, leaving space for them to develop their own skills as moral reasoners.

April 2: Assistant Professor Duncan Purves and Dr. Jeremy Davis (University of Florida)

"Public Trust, Institutional Legitimacy, and the Use of Algorithms in Criminal Justice”
A common criticism of the use of algorithms in criminal justice is that algorithms and their determinations are in some sense ‘opaque’—that is, difficult or impossible to understand, whether because of their complexity or because of intellectual property protections. Scholars have noted some key problems with opacity, including that opacity can mask unfair treatment and threaten public accountability. In this paper, we explore a different but related concern with algorithmic opacity, which centers on the role of public trust in grounding the legitimacy of criminal justice institutions. We argue that algorithmic opacity threatens the trustworthiness of criminal justice institutions, which in turn threatens their legitimacy. We first offer an account of institutional trustworthiness before showing how opacity threatens to undermine an institution’s trustworthiness. We then explore how threats to trustworthiness affect institutional legitimacy. Finally, we offer some policy recommendations to mitigate the effects of the opacity problem.

April 9: Associate Professor Michelle Maiese (Emmanuel College, Boston)

"Autonomous Agency, Enactivism, and Psychopathy"
Most philosophical discussions of psychopathy have centered around its significance in relation to empathy, moral cognition, or moral responsibility. However, related questions about the extent to which they are capable of exercising autonomous agency have remained underexplored. Two central conditions for autonomous agency that are highlighted by many existing accounts include (1) reasons-responsivity, and (2) authenticity. However, available evidence indicates that psychopaths are inadequately responsive to reasons in general and other-regarding reasons in particular, and also seem to lack a set of enduring concerns that might reveal which desires and attitudes are truly theirs. This leads them to behave impulsivity and to disregard the interests and concerns of others. Drawing from the enactivist approach in philosophy of mind and the notions of habit and affordance, I argue that both their prudential deficits and apparent moral failings are rooted, at a deeper level, in a lack of well-developed affective framing patterns.

April 16: Dr. Bodhi Melnitzer (University of Colorado)

"Adaptive Preferences are Preferences formed for the Wrong Kind of Reason"

Standardly conceived, an adaptive preference is a preference for what a person can get because they can get it, and against what they can’t because they can’t. Adaptive preferences have interested philosophers because such preferences are widely held to be defective, though stating what about them is defective is itself a matter of heated controversy. But failure to carefully consider the differences between adaptive and standard preference change has, I believe, stymied the debate’s progress. In this talk I will develop a view that proceeds from reflections on what distinguishes adaptive from standard preference change. Most importantly, I argue, standard preference changes are different from adaptive ones in that, in cases of standard preference change, an agent downgrades an alternative in virtue of its undesirable properties, whereas an adaptive agent will downgrade an alternative in virtue of its desirable properties. Because none of the factors that explain an agent’s adaptive preference can justify a preference change with such a character, adaptive agents lack sufficient reason for their preference change. Or, at least, they lack what is sometimes called a sufficient ‘content-related’ reason for their preference change. Instead, I argue that an adaptive preference is a preference formed for the Wrong Kind of Reason, where attitudes formed for the Wrong Kind of Reason are frequently thought to be irrational.

April 23: Ms. Maggie Taylor (University of Colorado)

"Is That All There Is? COVID-19 and Wittgenstein's Family Resemblances"

April 30: Dr. Samuel Director (University of Colorado Boulder)

“On Cancel Culture"

This talk seeks to examine the term  "cancel culture." I have two main goals. First, I want to offer an intuitive definition of cancel culture, which may be useful in assessing how and when we use the term. I believe that the definition I offer helps to sort out different forms of cancellation and makes it clear when, for example, politicians claiming to be cancelled are in fact just being criticized. Second, I want to explore arguments against cancel culture, reaching the ultimate conclusion that cancel culture is very bad for society.

August 28: Tim Burkhardt (Snider Scholar in Residence, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization)

"B-B-B-Bad to be Born: Epicureanism and the Badness of Birth"
Lucretius noticed that our fear of death is not matched by a similar loathing of birth, even though prenatal and posthumous nonexistence seem relevantly similar. This thought inspires the contemporary symmetry argument, which claims that birth and death are prudentially symmetrical: if either of the two can be bad for us, then so can the other. Together with the claim that our births cannot be bad for us, this entails that our deaths cannot be bad for us either-a conclusion which most philosophers of death reject. Their most common criticism of the symmetry argument is that birth and death differ in prudentially relevant ways. Some think the difference lies in the impossibility of being born substantially earlier than one was, whereas it is not impossible to die substantially later. Others claim that the difference lies in our temporal biases: we prefer to have goods in our futures rather than our pasts, and whereas our births deprive us of past goods, our deaths deprive us of the preferred future ones. My position is different: I reject both premises of the symmetry argument but accept its conclusion. In order to defend this position, the bulk of my talk will be concerned with sketching an account of how and when our births can be bad for us. I will then offer a brief explanation for why this account does not produce similar implications when applied to death. In doing so, I reach the surprising conclusion that our births can be bad for us even though our deaths cannot be. I close by suggesting that the prudentially relevant difference between birth and death is due to features which are far more obvious than those to which philosophers of death usually appeal.

If you missed this talk or want to hear it again, click here for a Zoom recording. (Access Passcode: %DW75PdW)

September 4: Brian Talbot

"Degrees of Wrongness in Modeling Ethical Views"
If one must choose between either killing a person or breaking some number of promises, one should break the promises, no matter how many one will break. There are a number of competing explanations for why this is, and sophisticated defenses of each. Which explanation is correct?  I show how to answer this question by focusing on an often ignored aspect of ethics: degrees of wrongness.

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September 11: Iskra Fileva

"The Games We Play with Truth and Beauty"
Suppose I tell you that the irises on Van Gogh's painting Irises are blue. You would be perfectly justified in acquiring the belief that they are blue on the basis of my say-so. But suppose I tell you that Van Gogh's Irises --- which you haven't seen -- is a beautiful painting. Can you acquire the belief that the painting is beautiful on the basis of my testimony?

Pessimists about aesthetic testimony argue that you cannot. Opinions differ regarding the details. Some pessimists claim that you won't be justified in forming the belief that Irises is a beautiful painting on the basis of my testimony. Others contend that while you may be justified, you shouldn't form aesthetic beliefs in that way.

I am going to suggest that pessimists are mistaken. Other people's testimony -- provided others are qualified to judge -- is a perfectly good basis for aesthetic beliefs. It can provide adequate justification and there is no non-epistemic norm against relying on others' testimony. However, the sorts of cases pessimists appeal to in order to motivate pessimism have some intuitive force. We therefore need an account that explains why that is. My purpose in this talk is to develop such an account. On the view I propose, aesthetic life is complex. We want to know the truth about beauty and other aesthetic properties, but we have other important goals. We might say, there are different games we play in aesthetic life. The pessimists' error is in that they focus on the wrong kind of game. 

Join Zoom meeting: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/97345443559

September 18: Dale Dorsey (Professor of Philosophy, University of Kansas)

"The Aesthetic Life?"
We often think that aesthetic values have a role to play in the good life: appreciation of, engagement with, etc., of such values tends to be a good thing for a person.  But it is generally held that, though engagement, say, with aesthetic values can be good, it would be absurd to say that the aesthetic value of a life itself can be good for a person.  After all, aesthetically good lives can be horribly tragic (MacBeth), fraught with misfortune (Odysseus), or fools (Falstaff).  In this talk, I challenge this general skepticism.  First, I say a little about what it might mean for a life itself to possess aesthetic value.  Second, I discuss some reasons against the suggestion that the aesthetic life can be good.  Finally, I (somewhat tentatively) conclude that the aesthetic value of a life can be good for the person who lives it, and that we have little reason to look so askance at this thesis.

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September 25: Jessica Flanigan (Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton University, Richard L. Morrill Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values, University of Richmond)

"Procreation and Sustainability"
Is having babies bad for the environment? Is procreation so environmentally bad that people have moral reasons to avoid having kids? In this essay I defend natalism against environmentalist challenges. My central claim is that having kids isn’t as bad for the environment as many people seem to think, and that having kids would still be permissible and good even if it were bad for the environment. I begin in section 1 by describing the anti-natalist environmentalism. On this view, people have duties to protect the environment and satisfying these duties is inconsistent with creating new people. I then show in section 2 that anti-natalist environmentalists often exaggerate the negative environmental impact of children, and they do not consider the positive effects that higher fertility rights can have on the environment. In section 3, I make the case that discouraging people from having children, even if successful, would be one of the least effective ways of addressing climate change compared to other commonly cited solutions. In section 4, I argue that even if procreation were harmful to the environment on balance, that would not be a sufficient moral reason to justify discouraging people from having children anyhow. I continue with this argument in section 5, where I argue that parents and children can adopt behaviors and invest in environmental offsets that compensate for whatever harms they inflict on the environment.

October 2: Leo Yan (Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University Pennsylvania)

"Nondeterminacy and Lexical Priority"
It is plausible that certain values admit of nondeterminacy so that they allow for some items to be neither better than, worse than, nor equal to some other items with respect to that value. Anders Herlitz has recently argued that such nondeterminacy poses a number of potentially serious problems for both axiology and rational choice. In particular, he has shown how the nondeterminacy of values can result in cyclical value orderings and choice situations that violate Basic Contraction Consistency. In this talk, I show how these problems arise not from nondeterminacy alone but from nondeterminacy in conjunction with the lexical priority of some values over others. That is, cyclical orderings and violations of Basic Contraction Consistency will not occur in cases of nondeterminacy where lexical priority is not involved. However, I will also show that even in the absence of lexical priority, there is a temptation to use certain intuitively compelling principles that are similar in spirit to those used in cases of lexical priority. While the application of these principles does not result in cyclical orderings or violations of Basic Contraction Consistency, they do result in other problematic commitments. What’s more, the solution that Herlitz proposes cannot be used in these new cases since his solution cannot be justified in the absence of lexical priority. Finally, I suggest that the right response to these new cases is to reject the intuitively compelling principles and that this response in turn sheds light on what we should do in cases involving lexical priority as well.

October 9: Scott Hill

"A Defense of Reparations"
I defend a new argument for reparations that builds on and combines elements of Boonin’s Compensation Argument and Boxill’s Inheritance Argument. A problem for Boonin’s argument is that it doesn’t go far enough in identifying what is uniquely owed to people who are descended from U.S. slaves. A problem for Boxill’s argument is that it depends on questionable premises. My argument does not have these problems. It extends Boonin’s modest premises in defense of an even more ambitious conclusion about reparations than Boonin himself defends. And it does so without relying on the sorts of controversial premises on which Boxill’s insightful argument depends.

The talk does not presuppose acquaintance with the paper.  However, for those who may want to read it first Scott has provided this link:  


October 16: Spencer Case (International Research Fellow, Wuhan University)

"Small Evils and Live Options"
I bring issues in metaethics to bear on the evidential problem of evil, with the aim of showing that knowledge of horrendous evils is compatible with the epistemic rationality of theism. Many atheists and theists agree that small, broadly dispersed evils don’t pose a very strong challenge to theism. At least such evils pose less of a problem for theism than large, concentrated (“horrendous”) evils like the Nazi Holocaust. Elsewhere, philosophers have given interesting arguments for value additivity, which entails that there’s no intrinsic moral difference between causing/allowing horrendous evils and causing/allowing many small harms with the same total disvalue. If both claims can reasonably be accepted – that the existence of small evils fails to refute theism, and that horrendous evils aren’t inherently different from small evils of the same total disvalue – then an interesting, and heretofore unexplored, strategy for defending theism becomes available. For we can then reasonably say that the large, concentrated evils are no more evidence against theism than small evils are. Therefore, the evidential argument from evil is significantly less compelling than it appears when we focus on cases of horrendous evil. Belief in God can be a “live option” for someone who accepts value additivity,

Jan 17: Scott Hill (Snider Scholar in Residence, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization)

"A Problem for Some Defenses of Markets in Sex"
Abstract: Some philosophers think markets in sex should be permitted. They agree that prohibition of such markets enjoys intuitive support. But they think the relevant intuitions are subject to various debunking arguments. I show that these arguments, if sound, would also debunk the intuitions that support the prohibition of markets in sex with children.

Tuesday, Jan. 21 12:30-1:30: Caleb Perl (Instructor, CU Department of Philosophy)

"Positivist Consequentialism"
Abstract: This talk introduces and defends a new kind of rule consequentialism - `positivist consequentialism' - that cleanly solves a range of problems for classic rule consequentialism. The talk begins with the complaint that rule consequentialism involves an objectionable kind of rule worship, and shows how positivist consequentialism answers the complaint. In fact, I think positivist consequentialism solves all the classic problems for rule consequentialism, though I won't have time to discuss all of them - but I'll close by suggesting that it has a better shot at being the one true ethical theory than traditional rivals.

Jan 24: Matthew Kopec (Research Fellow, Australian National University)

"A New Precautionary Principle for Manufactured Uncertainty"
Abstract: Many have proposed so-called 'precautionary principles' to guide policy makers through decisions made under conditions of serious uncertainty. Typically, these principles hold that when we have good reasons to believe that a choice carries some possibility of serious, irreversible harm, we can abandon our usual cost-benefit analyses and instead simply rule out that choice as a matter of precaution. Although such precautionary principles have intuitive appeal, they have also faced serious criticism and are employed, in practice, only intermittently at present. In this talk, I present a novel justification for taking precautionary measures in cases of uncertainty that bypasses much of the criticism. In particular, often times certain corporate entities - e.g. fossil fuel companies, big agriculture, chemical manufactures, and the like - are directly responsible for the uncertainty facing policy makers, and these very same entities are the ones that stand to gain when precautionary measures are not taken. I argue that in such cases of 'manufactured uncertainty', what I call the Pragmatic Precautionary Principle ought to be triggered, as a strategic way to level the information playing field. I finish by sketching how we can justify applying the Pragmatic Precautionary Principle in a wider range of cases than is typical, since we can rightly apply the principle even in cases where (1) we lack a strong scientific basis for the possibility, seriousness, or irreversibility of harm and (2) we have no feasible way to measure the costs the relevant corporate entities would incur by our taking precautionary measures.

Jan 31: C.E. Abbate (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, UNLV)

"What Epistemology Can Tell Us About Moral Responsibility for Meat Eating"
A widely accepted view in epistemology is that we don’t have direct control over our beliefs. And we surely don’t have as much control over our beliefs as we have over simple actions. For instance, you can, if offered $1,000, immediately throw your hamburger in the trash, but a meat eater can’t, at will, start believing that eating animals is wrong to secure a $1,000 reward. Yet, even though we have more control over our behavior than we have over our beliefs, some of our behavior, especially moral behavior, is heavily influenced by our beliefs. Meat eating is one example. So, if we don’t have direct control over our beliefs and our beliefs influence our moral behavior, it’s no wonder meat eaters aren’t immediately boycotting McDonald’s and lining up for the Impossible Burger after reading Alastair Norcross’s paper on meat eating. Are meat eaters, then, morally excused for their harm-causing dietary behavior? And what needs to take place for meat eaters to change their beliefs regarding the moral significance of meat eating and, consequently, their animal-eating behavior? In this presentation, I propose answers to these questions.

Feb. 7: Ben Hale (CU Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy)

"Incommensurability and Indeterminacy in Consumer Choice"
Abstract: In this paper I argue against the idea that demand-side decisions on the part of individual consumers can adequately capture the complicated moral dimensions of any given product. I argue this position by pointing to two intermingled features of consumer choice: value incommensurability and market indeterminacy.

Feb. 14: Brian Talbot (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, CU)

"Deontology for actions, consequentialism for beliefs"
While consequentialist approaches to ethics and epistemology are both counter-intuitive, consequentialist epistemology is the more seemingly implausible of the two.  Even so, no matter how attractive we find deontological ethics, we should be consequentialists about epistemology.

Feb. 21: Sam Director (PhD Student, CU Department of Philosophy)

"Of Blood Transfusions and Feeding Tubes: Anorexia-Nervosa and Consent"
Individuals suffering from anorexia-nervosa experience dysmorphic perceptions of their body and desire to act on these perceptions by refusing food. In some cases, anorexics even want to refuse food to the point of dying. In this paper, I answer the following question: if an anorexic, A, wants to give consent to refuse food when the food would either be life-saving or prevent serious bodily harm, can A’s consent be valid? I argue that there is compelling reason to think that anorexics can give valid consent to refuse food, even in these extreme circumstances.  My argument for this conclusion is based on the following cases:

Jehovah’s Witness: a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) is brought into the ER with a severe injury which will require her to get a blood transfusion to survive. She expresses her religious belief that this is not permissible. The doctors try to persuade her that she must get the transfusion, otherwise she will die. She persists in refusing, even after understanding all of the ramifications of her decision.

Anorexia: an individual with anorexia (A) is so malnourished and thin that she is near death. She is brought to the ER. The doctors explain to her that she must eat if she is to remain alive. But, A explains to the doctors that she doesn’t want to eat the food, even though she understands that she will die if she doesn’t.

It seems clear to me that most people’s initial intuitions are that JW can validly consent to refuse the transfusion and that A cannot give valid consent to refuse food. Based on these cases, my argument will proceed as follows: I argue that there is no reason to believe that JW can consent and that A cannot consent. Any purported reason that JW can consent and that A cannot consent either (1) applies equally to JW or (2) is independently implausible as a reason to invalidate A’s consent. This leads to the conclusion that A can give valid consent to refuse life-saving food. 

Feb. 28 Renaud-Philippe Garner (Renaud-Philippe.Garner@colorado.edu)

"We are what you were, we will be what you are: Depersonalised flourishing"
This paper argues that collective or depersonalised flourishing is an important part of the human good although it is often misunderstood or ignored. Depersonalised flourishing differs from personalised flourishing on two dimensions. One, the relevant self-understanding engaged is collective: one is numerically distinct and qualitatively indistinct. Two, the activity or practice subordinates individual success to collective success: if we do not succeed, you do not succeed.

The first part of the paper summarizes the standard ‘individualistic view of flourishing by drawing on some well-known authors and passages. The second part identifies some cases that are hard to explain when viewed according to an individualistic view of flourishing. In particular, I focus on cases of mass mobilization and political activity. In the third part, I examine the psychological mechanism at the heart of collective flourishing: depersonalisation. In the fourth part, I present my view of collective flourishing. Special attention is given to the importance of self-understanding, shared narrative, and the link between participation in collective action and shared claims to success. Finally, I briefly discuss some upshots and objections.

March 13: Javiera Perez Gomez (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver)

Online via Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/7827795943
Meeting ID: 782 779 5943

"Indirect Benefits, Race, and Double Jeopardy in the Allocation of Scarce Lifesaving Resources"
When laypeople are asked to allocate scarce medical resources, they tend to appeal to the benefits that a candidate would bring about for society. Many bioethicists assume that doing this would be wrong; yet the arguments that have been offered for this view are surprisingly weak. By recruiting the notion of ‘double jeopardy,’ I seek to offer a stronger foundation for the view that an allocation scheme that counted benefit to society would be wrong. As I argue, there are two concepts of ‘double jeopardy,’ weak and strong, and the latter is sometimes worse than the former. With these concepts in hand, I then argue that in the contemporary U.S., an allocation scheme that counted benefit to society would risk putting black Americans in strong double jeopardy and would thereby amount to a grave wrong.

March 20: Anthony Kelley (PhD Student, CU Department of Philosophy)

Online via Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/7827795943
Meeting ID: 782 779 5943

"What Should the Desire Theorist Say about Ill-Being?" 
Proponents and critics of the desire theory of well-being have narrowly focused on the positive side of the theory while virtually ignoring its negative side. On the positive side, the desire theorist says that getting what you want is basically good for you. But what should the desire theorist say about what is basically bad for you? On the frustration theory, failing to get what you want is bad for you. This view implies, implausibly, that being made worse off is just a matter of failing to procure a benefit. The theory also has a problem with accommodating the dissonance constraint, the doctrine that there must be a certain kind of dissonance or estrangement between a person and the things that are basically bad for her. I argue that the desire theorist should instead go in for the aversion theory of ill-being, the view according to which getting what you are averse to is bad for you. I defend the view from the objection that it implies, implausibly, that something can be both basically good and basically bad for a person.

April 3: Graham Oddie

Online via Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/7827795943
Meeting ID: 782 779 5943

"Can Hume’s true judges diverge and still yield an objective aesthetic value ordering?"

David Hume

Hume famously argued that despite widespread disagreements in aesthetic sentiments in the populace at large, there is, nevertheless an objective standard of taste: “a rule by which the various sentiments of men can be reconciled, or at least a decision reached that confirms one sentiment and condemns another” (Hume). This standard is underwritten by the aesthetic judgements of true judges.  True judges are those who possess the following attributes:  "Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment,  improved by practice,  perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice.”   Hume claims that “the joint verdict of [those who have these attributes], wherever they are to be found, is the true standard of taste.”  The most widely accepted criticism of Hume’s proposal is that there is no compelling reason to think that Hume’s true judges will converge in their judgements of aesthetic merit.  Those who have defended Hume’s satndard have felt it necessary to deny the possibility of such divergence, and that just seems implausible. I will show that one can save Hume’s theory of aesthetic value  comparison  by applying a new and rather attractive account of value relations, one developed by Wlodek Rabinowich within the fitting attitude program.  I argue that the verdicts of true judges can indeed diverge without that imperiling a Humean theory of an objective aesthetic value ordering.

April 10: Kate C.S. Schmidt (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver)

Online via Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/7827795943
Meeting ID: 782 779 5943

“Epistemic Humiliation and Bald-Faced Lies”
Telling a bald-faced lie occurs when an individual makes an assertion where both the speaker and the audience know the statement is a lie. This type of case presents an interesting puzzle as the person who lies may have no intent to deceive and does not mislead anyone, yet it intuitively seems like an action working against a community's epistemic goals. In this talk, I focus on cases where individuals are intentionally placed into situations where they must tell a bald-faced lie (e.g., Galileo telling the Catholic Church and the public that he no longer believes in the truth of his work). In these cases, individuals are mistreated as epistemic subjects by being forced to participate in this practice of telling a bald-faced lie. Specifically, they might fittingly feel epistemic humiliation and, as a result, have their self-confidence and efficacy undermined.

April 17: Luc Bovens (UNC Chapel Hill) and Luke Davis (UNC Chapel Hill)

Online via Zoom: https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/7827795943
Meeting ID: 782 779 5943

“Polarization of Political Value Profiles in the General Social Survey Data”
We examine the 2018 General Social Survey data to paint a surprising picture of how race, gender, community type, age and education levels affect views on issues that polarize liberals and conservatives, such as abortion, gay marriage, gun control, climate change, support for the military, welfare payments, health care … What stands do various demographic groups tend to take on each of these issues? Is the polarization between Democrats and Republicans greater or smaller as education levels increase?

April 24: Erich Riesen (PhD student, CU Philosophy)

"Autonomous Weapon Systems and the Principle of Unnecessary Risk"
Autonomous Weapon Systems (AWS) are artificial intelligence systems that can make and act on decisions concerning the killing of enemy soldiers without direct intervention from a human being. In this paper, I extend Bradley J. Strawser’s principle of unnecessary risk (PUR) to cover psychological and moral risk. PUR asserts that states should avoid exposing their soldiers to unnecessary lethal risk. Of course, lethal risk is not the only type of risk that modern soldiers face. Psychological risk, including PTSD, and moral risk (such as the risk of killing a non-combatant unjustly) have a severe and negative impact on our soldiers. I then show that the extended PUR provides strong prima facie reasons for the development and deployment of technologically sophisticated AWS. Finally, I respond to two recent in-principle objections to AWS, demonstrating that these objections do not outweigh the normative force of the extended PUR.

This event will take place online. For details about how to access the talk, please contact the CVSP director at david.boonin@colorado.edu

May 1: Alisabeth Ayars (PhD Candidate in Philosophy, Princeton University)

"Normative Judgment as Decision"
Practical deliberation, as traditionally conceived, is directed at the question of what to do. According to Allan Gibbard and others, the normative question of what one should do is just the practical question of what to do. To judge that one should φ is to decide to φ. This is an account of first-personal normative deliberation. But of course we make judgments about what others should do as well. We reason about whether our friend should leave her marriage, whether the government’s response to the crisis is appropriate, etc. The nature of third-personal judgments of the form X should φ is that they involve endorsements of other peoples’ actions. Is this deliberation also practical in nature? If so, what is the practical question addressed? I object to Gibbard’s account of third-personal judgments as involving de se “contingency plans” concerning what to do in far-flung counterfactual situations. I argue for an idea many would consider radical: third-personal deliberation about what X should do addresses the practical question of what X is to do. The judgment that X should φ is a decision that X φ . We can “decide for others.” But how can we decide for others, if our deliberation has no power to modify their intentions? I argue we can alter the intentions of others indirectly, and decisions for others “aim” at modifying their intentions in these ways.

This event will take place online. For details about how to access the talk, please contact the CVSP director at david.boonin@colorado.edu

Sept. 6: Alex Wolf-Root (University of Colorado, PhD Student)

"Rethinking Doping"
Abstract: How long should athletes caught for doping be banned? Do current anti-doping regulations violate athletes’ rights? Should companies sponsor known dopers? To address such important questions, we need to understand what doping is. Unfortunately, we don’t. This talk is intended to do two things. First, I will show that our current partial and operational definitions of doping are insufficient. Second, I will then offer a novel definition of doping, one which is grounded in sport directly. That new definition is that doping is a means of gaining a competitive advantage through the use of exogenous substances, where such means undermine the relevant sporting institution.

Sept. 13: Scott Hill (CVSP/CWCTP Scholar in Residence)

"The Non-Identity Theodicy"
Abstract: I argue that a strong version of origin essentialism together with the view that God compensates undeserved suffering explains why God allows evil.

Sept. 20: Jay Geyer (University of Colorado, Lecturer)

"Ordinary and Profound Moral Uncertainty"
Abstract: There are two widely accepted claims in the literature on moral uncertainty that are in tension with each other.  The first is that moral uncertainty sometimes presents agents with choices that seem to them to be morally reckless. The second is that the right way to model moral uncertainty is by positing two or more moral value functions.  I argue that these two claims are incompatible and that the second claim should be rejected.  More precisely, I argue that the kind of moral uncertainty that the multiple value function model accurately captures is profound, highly unusual, and necessarily fetishistic.  It would be a mistake to orient the literature on moral uncertainty around such cases.  One implication of this is that the Problem of Inter-Theoretic Value Comparison – considered by some to be an intractable problem for certain normative theories for actions under moral uncertainty – is irrelevant.

Sept. 27: Lisa Miracchi (University of Pennsylvania, Assistant Professor)

"Beyond Balances, Trade-Offs, and Lunchtime Meditation: How Wellness Work Can Transform Academia for the Better"
Abstract: Departments and universities are increasingly responding to evidence that students and professors are stressed out, burnt out, and suffering from mental health challenges. While addressing these issues in any way is a huge step, work and wellness are often framed as being in conflict with one another. In this talk, I argue that if we really want to make progress on the wellness issues we face in academia we need to let a commitment to inclusive wellness practices transform how we do our work too. Far from being a trade-off of between work and health, I will explain how an inclusive wellness approach within teaching and research settings improves our work: it makes our research deeper and more intentional, our professional practices more ethical and intellectually rigorous, and our teaching more effective.  I'll discuss how I am putting these ideas into practice as the Penn Philosophy Department Wellness Advisor, and in other areas of my research, teaching, and mentoring.

Oct. 4: Renaud-Philippe Garner (CVSP/CWCTP Scholar in Residence)

"For whom do we do or die: the psychological implausibility of cosmopolitan views of war"
Abstract: This talk will argue that cosmopolitan views of war are unfeasible because they misjudge the psychological realities of war. More precisely, such views seem ignorant of the distinction between the individuated self and the deindividuated self, the latter being crucial to social cooperation. This leads to two problems. First, cosmopolitan views do not seriously engage with the problem of sustaining large-scale cooperation, sacrifice, and trust which war demands. A consistent finding in the psychological literature is that overly broad or ill-defined groups are incapable of effectively motivating their members while bounded, differentiated, and homogenous groups are highly effective. Thus it seems that cosmopolitan ethics of war that claims that we ought to fight for fellow human beings qua human beings run afoul of these felicity conditions. Second, if cosmopolitans are to make use of deindividuation, they seem compelled to endorse elite-manipulation. If fostering bounded identities is only a way to promote cosmopolitan causes, how stable is it as a project? As a consequence of failing to adequately engage with social psychology, cosmopolitans propose what J.L. Mackie referred to as an “ethics of fantasy”, however intricate it might be. 

Oct. 11: Graham Oddie (University of Colorado, Professor)

"How important is this question?"
Some questions seem more important than others. For example, the question of how many blades of grass there are on the lawn in Norlin quad, of whether the number of particles in the universe is odd or even, or of who will win Eurovision 2020, don’t seem to matter much, if at all. The question of who will win the 2020 US Presidential election, what the causal relationship is between GHG emissions and climate change, or whether or not God exists, are quite important-–or at least seem so to many. In this talk I propose a general measure of the importance of questions, show how it captures a range of intuitive judgements, and  (as is the custom) show that none of the objections that spring to mind are any good.

Oct. 14 [MONDAY]: Thorsten Helfer (Saarland University, PhD Student)

"Hedonism and the Object View"
According to Desire-Satisfaction Theories of well-being, a person A’s well-being depends on how many of A’s desires are satisfied. Wlodek Rabinowicz and Jan Österberg introduced two different views of Desire-Satisfaction Theories of value. The object view claims that it is only the desired state of affairs p that is of value. The combo view on the other side says that it is the combined state of affairs of A desiring p and p that is of value.

This distinction of Desire-Satisfaction Theories can be translated to theories of well-being so that one question might be: Is it of prudential value for me that I desire to listen to 99 Luftballons and that I do listen to 99 Luftballons (combo view) or is it only of prudential value for me that I listen to 99 Luftballons given that I desire it (object view)? Joseph Van Weelden has argued in On Two Interpretations of the Desire-Satisfaction Theory of Prudential Value that all subjectivists should embrace the object view because only the object view satisfies our most basic subjectivist intuition. If this is true, it seems that Hedonists should be concerned that Hedonism does not satisfy our subjectivist intuition. I will argue that if we appeal to the concept of attitudinal pleasure and apply the general idea of the object view, we arrive at a plausible version of Hedonism that can satisfy the subjectivist intuition. According to this version, it is the object of A’s attitudinal pleasure that is of prudential value for A. So, if the Hedonist is convinced by Van Weelden’s general line of argument about Desire-Satisfaction Theories of well-being, she should go for my suggested object view of Hedonism!

Oct. 18: Regina Rini (York University, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair)

"Moral Disagreement is Special"
Abstract: Most of the literature on moral disagreement is framed in strictly epistemic terms. I argue that this framing is misleading, as moral disagreement is unlike peer disagreement in other epistemic domains, owing to the special character of the moral domain. I defend the claim that disagreement with peers gives us reason to reduce confidence in disputed moral beliefs, but not for epistemic reasons. Rather, we have moral reason to do so. Reducing confidence in this way is morally required by recognition respect for the moral agency of the peer with whom we disagree.

Oct. 25: Lisa Thomas-Smith (University of Colorado, PhD Student)

"Empathy, Capacity, and Boundedness: When You Can't Walk a Mile in Another Person's Shoes"
Given the importance of empathy as an affect trigger for moral concern, empathetic capacity is a critical issue. My concern here is not with cases of psychopathy or affective disorder in which people have some brain structural or psychological limitation. My claim is that a different kind of affective capacity to empathize is operating, and that capacity is flexible, limited, and bounded by experience and culture. Some situations are beyond our personal perspective, and in those cases, the empathetic response is at best difficult and at worst impossible. In these situations, empathy is an insufficient indicator for moral concern. and more reflective methods should be used to determine if moral engagement is appropriate.

Nov. 1: Anandita S. Mukherji (Regis University, Assistant Professor)

“Think Global, Act Local: Moral Responsibility for the Local Effects of Global Institutions”
The policies and activities of international financial institutions (like the IMF and WTO) affect the lives of billions of people worldwide, and contribute significantly to extreme global poverty. In this talk I will consider what kinds of evidence would count as relevant and conclusive to determine the moral responsibility these institutions bear for those negative effects, given that determining institutional intent is extremely hard or impossible, and that there often isn’t a single causal story to be told about complex economic realities. I will argue that in certain cases, institutional intent can be reasonably determined. However, given that this determination is impossible in many cases, avoiding negligence ought to be considered a far more significant moral obligation for institutions than individuals.

Nov. 8: Erica Nieblas (University of Colorado, PhD Student)

"Borders: In the Interests of Whom/What? Reassessing the Scope and Focus of Migration Debates"
Abstract: Contemporary debates on migration have focused on weighing two sets of interests against one another. On the one hand we have the interests of citizens whose membership in states (often conceptualized as liberal democracies) entitles them to member-specific rights and benefits. And on the other, we have the interest of individual migrants wishing to enter and to establish membership in such states. In light of these distinct sets of interests, debates in the philosophy of migration have focused on whether it is morally permissible in principle for states to restrict immigration (i.e., does the state have a right to prevent migrants from crossing its borders?) and if so, what, if any, moral limits do the rights of migrants place on polices states can adopt?  In both cases, borders are conceptualized as inactive boundaries of political units. However, if we refocus the debate around the functions of borders in today’s global context, we see that borders play a crucial role in shaping the already varied relationships between and amongst citizens and migrants such that it becomes difficult to interpret what moral obligations governments have and to whom they have such obligations without taking into account the effects of borders on specific types of migrations. By focusing on how borders interact with transnational relations of gender inequality, I argue that what morality requires from states with regard to migration depends in part on the different sets of needs and interests their borders help to shape.

Nov. 15: Larry Temkin (Rutgers University)

"Neutrality and the Relations between Different Possible Locations of the Good"
Abstract: This talk takes up certain questions concerning what neutrality requires of us in assessing outcomes. In particular, I consider whether we should be neutral between different possible locations of the good: space, time, and people. I suggest that from a normative perspective we should treat space differently than time, and people differently than space and time. I also argue that in some cases we should give priority to people over space and time, and to time over space, but also suggest, controversially, that in some cases, we should give priority to time over people, as it were. 

Nov. 22: Ittay Nissan (Hebrew University)

Dec. 2: C. E. Abbate (University of Nevada Las Vegas, Assistant Professor)

"It’s not Just a Personal Preference: Racialized Discrimination in the Tinder Context"
Abstract: It’s certainly wrong for employers to accept applications from only white people. Universities that open admissions to only white people surely act wrongly. But do people who date, or consider dating, only white people do something wrong? Many people say that racialized attraction is just a matter of personal preference. Against this view, it will be argued that it often constitutes wrongful discrimination.

Dec. 6: Andrew Greetis (University of Colorado, Lecturer)

"The Separateness Of Persons: Defending The Rawlsian Institutional Approach To Distributive Justice"
I offer a case for the Rawlsian institutional approach to distributive justice, which holds that distributive principles exclusively organize socioeconomic institutions. My case uses a constructivist framework, with a conception of moral agency, to show how value pluralism—the idea that we have incompatible ideas of the good—supports the institutional approach. I explain and defend Rawls’s argument that “utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons” (TJ, 27). I show that if we hold that distributive justice adjudicates the conflicting claims of people who cannot be expected to share ideas of the good, then our reasoning for principles ought to accurately represent separate agents. The reasoning for anti-institutionalist accounts, including utilitarianism and act-egalitarianism, does not represent separate agents, whereas Rawls’s institutionalism does.

January 14: Cara Nine, (University College Cork, Ireland)

“Territory as Moral Space and Political Obligations”

Abstract: (1) Political obligations to particular others can emerge from place. I call this place ‘territory as moral space’. (2) These place-based political obligations are similar in normative force to the norms that construct state-based legal obligations. (3) Place-based obligations and state-based legal obligations will often not agree on which persons are obliged by their sets of rules. (4) I suggest that this should inform a new paradigm of flexibility and re-thinking of the nature of state territorial borders.

Jan 25: David Boonin

“Consent and Third-Party Coercion”

Abstract: Suppose Al threatens to beat Betty if she doesn’t agree to give him the money in her purse, that Al’s threat is credible and sincere, that Betty knows this, and that Betty has no way to get Al to withdraw his threat.  It’s clear that if Betty says yes in response to Al’s threat in this case, the consent she gives to let Al take control of her money isn’t valid.  Now suppose Al threatens to beat Betty if she doesn’t agree to give the money in her purse to Charles, that Al’s threat is credible and sincere, that Betty and Charles both know this, and that neither Betty nor Charles has a way to get Al to withdraw his threat.  It seems natural to suppose that if Betty says yes in response to Al’s threat in this case, the consent she gives to let Charles take control of her money isn’t valid either and that, more generally, if consent is invalid in cases of two-party coercion, it is also invalid in cases of third-party coercion.  In this talk, I will argue that this view is mistaken.  While consent is invalid in cases of two-party coercion, it is nonetheless valid in cases of third-party coercion.  This has important theoretical consequences for our understanding of what makes consent invalid in standard two-party cases and important practical consequences in such areas as sexual ethics and medical ethics, where instances of third-party coercion can and do occur.

Feb 1: Robert Pasnau

“Dilemmas of Epistemic Injustice”

Abstract: Recent philosophy has paid considerable attention to the way our biases are liable to encroach upon our cognitive lives, diminishing our capacity to know and unjustly denigrating the knowledge of others (e.g., Fricker 2007). The extent of the bias, and the range of domains to which it applies, has struck some as so great as to license talk of a new form of skepticism (Saul 2013). I argue that these depressing consequences are real and, in some ways, even more intractable than has previously been recognized. For the difficulties we face in this domain are fueled not only by illicit biases but by various other sorts of entrenched cognitive attitudes we bear toward others, whether or not we judge them to be our peers. Inasmuch as the epistemic standing of this broader set of attitudes is itself quite dubious, the problem of epistemic injustice turns out to be just one special case – albeit of a particularly nasty kind – from a broader domain of cases where the collaborative character of knowledge clashes with tendencies that make collaboration difficult. This makes the threat of skepticism all the greater, and at the same time makes it harder to see what path of escape there might be.

Feb 8: Ben Hale

“Unconscious Consumers: Individual Actions and the Indeterminacy of Outcomes”

Abstract: Many people argue that to respond to a range of environmental concerns, from carbon emissions to habitat destruction, one appropriate response is to become a more conscientious consumer: to abstain from products or boycott companies that engage in damaging or harmful practices. There are a variety of justifications speaking in favor of conscious consumerism, but chief among them is that individual actions, when taken in aggregate, will amount to big effects. In the literature, there are generally two sorts of causal impotence objections that reject this justification, the argument from inefficacy and the argument from overdetermination, both of which are subject to plausible responses.  In this paper I introduce and discuss a third causal impotence objection: causal indeterminacy.

Feb 15: Sam Director

“Dementia and Prior Consent to Sexual Relations”

Abstract: In this talk, I answer the following question: suppose that two individuals, C and D, have been in a long-term committed relationship, and D now has dementia, while C is competent; if D agrees to have sex with C, is it permissible for C to have sex with D? Ultimately, I defend the view that, under certain conditions, D can give valid consent to sex with C, rendering sex between them permissible. Specifically, I argue there is compelling reason to endorse the following thesis: Valid Prior Consent Thesis: D, when competent, can give valid prior consent to sex with her competent partner (C) that will take place after she has dementia, assuming that D is the same person as she was when she gave prior consent, meaning that, if D, when competent, gave prior consent to sex with C, then C may permissibly have sex with D.

March 1: Brian Hedden (University of Sydney)

"Consequentialism and Collective Action"

Abstract: Consequentialists have a standard response to collective action problems like climate change mitigation and voting. You ought to do your part, they say, because (i) all such problems are triggering cases, in which there is a threshold number of people such that the outcome will be worse if at least that many people act in a given way than if fewer do, and (ii) doing your part in a triggering case maximizes expected value. I show that both claims are false, for reasons previously unnoticed: Some triggering cases cannot be solved by appeal to expected value, since they involve infinities, and some collective action problems are not triggering cases, since they involve parity. I then show that consequentialists can give principled responses to both problems, first by moderating their ambitions and aiming to solve only most realistic collective action problems, and second by adopting Prospectism as a theory of decision-making under parity.

March 8: James Willoughby (PhD Candidate, Australian National University)

Special time: 1:00-2:00, Hellems 169

"Our Well-Integrated Epistemic Goals: a Defense of Epistemic Instrumentalism"

Abstract: This talk is a defense of the instrumental conception of epistemic normativity from the too few reasons objection by, among others, Thomas Kelly (2003). Roughly, the objection is that epistemic normativity is categorical whereas instrumental normativity is not, so epistemic normativity can't be instrumental. In the talk, I present a version of epistemic instrumentalism that doesn't focus on explicit goals agents might have, but rather 'well-integrated goals' that agents actually have. A well-integrated goal is a goal that when achieved, helps the agent achieve many other goals they have. Think about 'being healthy'. Being healthy helps you have a good career, have good relationships, and enjoy life more broadly.  So 'being healthy'  is a well-integrated goal. So too, I argue, is achieving your epistemic goals. Well-integrated goals establish a more robust instrumentalism. This instrumentalism resists the challenges of the too few reasons objection by providing a plausible ontology of the goals and by providing a plausible explanation of the intuitions driving the objection.

March 15: Zak Kopeikin

“A Reconceptualization of, and an Argument Against, Lemos's Argument for Value Invariabilism”

Abstract: Following G. E. Moore, value invariabilists deny that something's intrinsic value can be affected by extrinsic, contextual features. In this paper, I do three things. First, I reconceptualize the disagreement between variabilists and invariabilists in light of distinctions in contemporary value theory. Second, I apply the reconceptualization to Lemos’s argument for the invariabilism of final value simpliciter and argue that, while it fails, the argument supports the invariabilism of final welfare value. Lastly, I consider how one might leverage this conclusion to establish the invariabilism of final value simpliciter, and argue that the principle appealed to is less plausible than an incompatible weak prioritarian principle of final value simpliciter.

March 22: Daniel Coren

Special time: 2:00-3:00pm, Hellems 169

"Freedom, Resentment, and Parenting"

Abstract: Strawson's “Freedom and Resentment” is often understood to argue that what it means to be morally responsible is determined by our practices of holding morally responsible. Recently that view has come under fire because it seems to entail that if we blamed young children then young children would be blameworthy. But commentators have little to say about Strawson’s discussion of how and why we punish (or praise) young children. That’s my focus here. As I understand Strawson, he argues that the way we respond to young children’s behavior is not explained by a theoretical conviction that young children are (or are not) determined to do what they do. I explore each of Strawson’s premises and discuss an implication of my reading in conjunction with the Strawsonian reversal. Parenting turns out to be an especially concrete illustration of the view that moral realism can tolerate a good deal of vagueness.

April 5: Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD (Center for Bioethics and Humanities, CU Anschutz Medical Campus, CU Denver)

“From Explainability to Accountability for Machine Learning in Medicine”

Abstract: Artificial intelligence (AI) – and, in particular, machine learning – has the potential to revolutionize medicine, but only if its end users trust it.  However, biased data and highly publicized AI errors, such as an autonomous vehicle hitting a pedestrian or a blatantly incorrect cancer treatment recommendation, threaten that trust. In response, many have advocated that for AI to be trustworthy, it must be explainable. Explainable AI stands in contrast to “black box” AI whose mechanisms may be both unknown and unknowable. I will argue that focusing on explainability is a mistake, as are approaches that emphasize transparency and/or keeping health care professionals in the decision-making loop.  Instead, I will suggest that it is far more important that we develop robust accountability systems for AI than that it be explainable, and that a critical part of any accountability system will be managing the unique errors AI could make.

April 12: Caleb Pickard

“Black Pot Boycotts”

Abstract: One common complaint against boycotting is that targeted parties often end up being treated unfairly. This concern takes a number of forms, but (what I take to be) the most plausible version takes issue specifically with boycotter hypocrisy – that is, with activist consumers who seek to punish targets for misdeeds of which they themselves are guilty. This objection was first suggested by Claudia Mills (1997) and has recently been revived and reinforced by Linda Radzik (2017). Radzik argues that since punishments require authorization and since authority is precisely what hypocrites lack, hypocrite boycotters punish illegitimately – and are therefore being unfair to their targets. In this talk, I stand with the hypocrites. I argue there is nothing particularly objectionable about two-faced boycotting.

April 19: Chris Heathwood

"An Opinionated Guide to 'What Makes Someone's Life Go Best’"

Abstract: Derek Parfit’s monumental 1984 book Reasons and Persons contains a little appendix called “What Makes Someone’s Life Go Best,” a mini-essay on well-being that has taken on a life of its own apart from the body to which it is attached.  This talk is based on an in-progress paper, being written for a forthcoming volume on Reasons and Persons, that is meant to serve as a critical guide to the appendix.  Topics to be discussed include some subset of the following: the nature of pleasure and pain and the relation of this question to theories of well-being; the unrestricted desire-fulfillment theory and the problem of remote desires; whether a person’s actual preferences should determine their counterfactual well-being; summative vs. global desire-fulfillment theories; the single-life repugnant conclusion; and objective vs. subjective vs. hybrid theories of well-being.

April 26: Maggie Taylor

"Conceptual Challenges to the Harm Threshold"

Abstract: Children are presumptively regarded as incompetent to make their own medical decisions, and the responsibility for making such decisions typically falls to parents. Parental authority is not unlimited, however, and ethical guidelines identifying appropriate bounds on this authority are needed. One proposal currently gaining support is the Harm Threshold (HT), which asserts that the state may only legitimately intervene in parental decision-making in cases of imminent, serious, and preventable harm to children. This talk considers two questions: (1) In virtue of what underlying principle or property does the HT gain its purported justification? (2) Does this underlying principle or property ground the HT as its proponents conceive of it? I identify two separate grounds represented in the literature: (i) Mill’s Harm Principle and (ii) the liberty interests of parents. I find that the HT is not sufficiently grounded in either of these, revealing a substantial conceptual difficulty for its advocates.

Sept 7: Govind Persad (Sturm College of Law, University of Denver)

"Differential Payment to Research Participants: An Ethical Analysis"
Abstract: In order to answer important scientific questions, clinical trials require both a sufficient number of participants to achieve statistical validity and an adequate cross-section of the population to enable generalizability. Without this, clinical trials pose serious ethical concerns by exposing participants to burdens and risks without good reason and potentially overburdening certain groups by failing to spread research burdens and risks fairly across the population. Therefore, to the extent that offering payment for participation influences decisions to enroll in and complete research, choices about how much to pay implicate both science and ethics.
It is widely accepted that offers of payment to participants are permissible. However, resolving that ethical concern does not provide insight into how much participants should be paid or the question we address here: whether it is ethically permissible for researchers to offer different amounts of money to participants within a single study. In discussions about the permissibility of research payment, it is typically assumed that participants in the same study all will receive the same amount of payment. Some argue that this is an ethical requirement. Identical payment is an acceptable default rule, but we argue that there are often good reasons to permit differential payment, which may sometimes even lead to obligations to do so.

Sept 14: Caleb Perl (Three-Year Visiting Instructor)

"Debunking Arguments in Normative Ethics”
Abstract: Peter Singer argues that we should ignore some of our moral intuitions -- for example, the intuition that it's morally wrong for a surgeon to cut up one to save five. He argues that there is an evolutionary explanation of why we have that intuition. And he suggests that it's a mistake to rely on the intuition, given the evolutionary explanation of why we have it. In arguing in this way, he is giving what is sometimes called a "debunking" argument. He wants to use his debunking argument to defend a particular moral view: act consequentialism. So he intends his debunking argument to apply only to some of our moral intuitions, but not to others; the others are supposed to be evidence for his own view. However, several philosophers have argued that it's impossible to give a debunking argument that applies only to some of our moral intuitions. I defend the legitimacy of local debunking arguments against this charge. 

Sept 21: Brian Talbot

"Do mistaken moral beliefs generate moral duties?"

Abstract: Most people believe, or put some credence in, false moral claims.  Can there be moral duties to act in accordance with these mistaken beliefs? If so, when?  And how strong are these duties?  I will present a new, and hopefully attractive, approach to answering these questions.

Sept 28: Julia Staffel

“A Puzzle About Probabilistic Knowledge”
Abstract: Bayesian epistemology and knowledge-centered epistemology are usually thought to be poor companions. In her new book Probabilistic Knowledge, Moss (2018) skillfully brings them together, by arguing that credences or subjective probabilities can exhibit all the hallmarks of knowledge, when those are properly understood. While she mostly focuses on probabilistic knowledge of contingent matters such as “Jones probably smokes”, her account is supposed to extend to domains that are often thought to be a priori. If this is right, then, under suitable conditions, a belief such as “89 is probably a prime number” can constitute knowledge. I argue in this paper that the claim that non-extreme probabilistic beliefs about a priori discoverable truths can constitute knowledge is incompatible with commonly held assumptions about the relationship between propositional and doxastic rationality. Either we have to reject the possibility of probabilistic knowledge about the a priori, or we must radically change the way in which we think about epistemic rationality.

Oct 5: Alex Worsnip (CVSP Visiting Fellow)

“Compromising with the Uncompromising: Political Disagreement Under Noncompliance”
Abstract: It is fairly uncontroversial that when you encounter disagreement with some view of yours, you are often epistemically required to become at least somewhat less confident in that view. This includes political disagreements, where your level of confidence might in various ways affect your voting and other political behavior. But suppose that your opponents don’t comply with the epistemic norms governing disagreement – that is, they never reduce their confidence in response to disagreement. If you always reduce your confidence, but your opponents never reduce theirs – and everyone participates in the political process accordingly – then it seems like the deliberative process will be unfairly skewed in favor your opponents’ (initial) views. This gives rise to an apparent dilemma from your perspective: you seem to be forced to choose between violating your epistemic obligation, on one hand, and allowing political debates and outcomes to be unfairly skewed in favor of your opponents, on the other. In this paper, I introduce and elaborate this dilemma, and explore some possible strategies for dissolving or resolving it.

Oct 12: Douglas MacLean (UNC Chapel Hill)

"True Enough"

Abstract: Moral claims can be true or false. They are made true by facts about ourselves, our cultures, our history, and the world around us.  Moral theories built around this idea are called cognitivist. But because the facts that make moral claims true or false are rooted in our culture and our history, they are to that extent “local,” not universal. If moral truths are not independent of us or agent-neutral, then at least some familiar versions of moral realism are false. I defend a version of moral cognitivism that does not imply moral realism. Some moral philosophers worry that a denial of realism implies moral relativism. I will sketch a version of relativism that we should accept and explain why it is not a threat to our ordinary understanding of the cognitivist nature of moral claims.

Oct 25: Jennifer Kling (University of Colorado Colorado Springs)
Special time: 3:30-4:30 Hellems 269

"Fighting Organized Crime: Military Conflict or Domestic Dispute?"

Abstract: In recent years, police have taken an increasingly militarized posture towards organized criminal groups, including drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist organizations. In response to such large-scale organized crime, the militarization of police may be understandable, but the question remains whether the adoption of such a framework is justified. Should drug cartels, gangs, and terrorist organizations be treated as entities that are capable of going to war? Should cartel members, gang members, and terrorists be subject to the international strictures of jus in bello rather than to domestic laws and policies? In this paper, I provide an answer to the first question, and suggest that this determines the answer to the second.

Oct 29: Nathan Hanna (Drexel University)

"Hearts of Darkness: Why Punitive Intent Matters"

Abstract: Many philosophers think that punishment is intentionally harmful. Many also have the intuition that this makes punishment especially hard to justify morally. Attempts to explain this intuition often say questionable things about the significance of intending to harm. I'll show that there’s a better way to explain the intuition. My aim is to show that the intuition is credible and that justifying punishment is more complex than many philosophers of punishment realize.

Nov 2: Anthony Kelley

"Well-Being and Alienation"

Abstract: The alienation constraint is one of the most important and widely held doctrines about well-being. It says that a person cannot be alienated from that which is basically good for her. Indeed, one of the central objections to objective theories of well-being is that they violate the constraint, and one of the central motivations for subjective theories is that they respect it. It is surprising, then, that few philosophers have attempted to provide a theory of prudential alienation (i.e., a theory of what it would be for a person to alienated from something in a way that would plausibly rule it out as a basic welfare good for her). I give a partial account of such a theory. The results are surprising: it turns out that the alienation constraint is a far more demanding requirement than has been previously thought.

Nov 9: Nathan Hanna (Drexel University)

"Gambler’s Justice"

Abstract: Legal punishment is morally risky – when we punish people we risk acting in ways that are seriously wrong. This is because it's easy to be mistaken about things that affect the morality of punishment, like what people have done and how responsible they are for what they've done. These mistakes can lead us to do things like punish the innocent and overpunish the guilty. In light of this risk, some punishment theorists argue that we should be very risk averse about punishment – that we shouldn't punish people unless doing so is highly likely to be permissible. This view is plausible, but its advocates and sympathizers often state it in objectionable ways. I'll argue that there's a better way to state it.

Nov 16: Alastair Norcross

"The Non-Identity Non-Problem”

Sidgwick pointed out that our decisions affect not only how people fare, but sometimes which people come into existence. Parfit popularized the idea that this existential dependence creates puzzles, problems even, for some common approaches to ethics. These supposed problems have even led philosophers to devote whole books or dissertations to attempts to solve them (one book and two dissertations in this department alone). In this talk, I explain how a scalar version of consequentialism, combined with a contextualist semantics for some moral terms, dissolves this apparent problem. And I do this in approximately half of a chapter of a short book!

Nov. 19: Cheryl Abbate

"Save the Meat for Cats: Why It's Wrong to Eat Roadkill"

Abstract: Because factory-farmed meat production inflicts gratuitous suffering upon animals and wreaks havoc on the environment, there are morally compelling reasons to become vegetarian. Yet industrial plant agriculture also causes extensive harm to field animals, and this leads some to question whether consumers ought to get some of their protein from certain kinds of non factory-farmed meat. Donald Bruckner, for instance, argues that the harm principle implies an obligation to eat roadkill, as this is a food source that, according to him, doesn't harm animals at all. He thus boldly concludes that strict vegetarianism is immoral. But Bruckner's argument works only if the following claims are true: (1) all humans have access to roadkill, (2) the roadkill would go to waste if humans don't consume it, (3) it's impossible to harvest vegetables without killing animals, (4) the animals who are killed in plant production are all-things-considered harmed by crop farming, and (5) the best arguments for strict vegetarianism all endorse Bruckner's version of the harm principle. As I will argue in this paper, each of these claims are false. Consequently, in most cases, humans ought to strictly eat vegetables and save the roadkill for cats. 

Nov 30: Iskra Fileva

"You Disgust Me. Or Do You? On the Very Idea of Moral Disgust"

Consider a man who steals money left by his parents for his newborn child and spends it on gambling and alcohol. What is your reaction to this story? In me for one, it provokes something I can only describe as moral disgust.  However, some have questioned the existence of moral disgust. It has been argued that so-called moral disgust is either not genuinely moral or not really disgust. Are moral disgust skeptics correct? If not, what makes an affective response an instance of moral disgust? Its cause? Its object? Its phenomenal qualities? All of the above? Those are the questions I propose to answer here. I will argue that there is a distinct emotional response that is best described as "moral disgust". I will then go on to offer an account of its constitutive features.   

December 7: Chris Heathwood

“Irrelevant Pleasures and Objectless Happiness: On Two Problems for Desire-Satisfaction Theories of Happiness”

Abstract: I’ll be presenting a couple of sections from a larger paper investigating the plausibility of a desire-satisfaction theory of happiness.  My focus will be on Daniel Haybron’s objection from irrelevant pleasures to hedonism about happiness (an objection that also applies to some desire-based theories) and on the objection from the possibility of objectless happiness.

Jan 26: Marion Hourdequin (Colorado College)

"Climate Change, Climate Engineering, and the 'Global Poor': What Does Justice Require?"

In recent years, scientists have begun to seriously investigate intentional, planet-wide engineering strategies to counteract global climate change.  Although many options have been explored, prominent scientists such as David Keith at Harvard University have focused on “solar geoengineering," which would reflect sunlight away from the earth to cool the planet.  In recent work, David Keith and Joshua Horton argue that solar geoengineering research is justified because the resulting knowledge has the potential to benefit everyone, particularly the least advantaged.  In fact, they hold, there is a moral obligation to research solar geoengineering in order to help the global poor.  In response, I argue that Horton and Keith’s argument is problematic in at least three ways: 1) it focuses only on distribution, excluding other dimensions of justice, 2) it rests on a narrow consequentialist perspective that fails to capture adequately the concerns of those it purports to benefit, and 3) it relegates to the background questions of how research should be governed, implicitly suggesting that the decision to pursue geoengineering research should happen first, followed by decisions about how to govern it.  In this talk, I argue that distributive and consequentialist reasons should be considered not prior to, but in tandem with, concerns for participatory and recognitional justice, and I explain why such concerns are particularly salient in the current political context.

February 2: Sam Director

“Speciesism, Prejudice, and Epistemic Peer Disagreement”

Peter Singer famously argued that speciesism, like racism and sexism, is based on a prejudice. As Singer argued, since we reject racism and sexism, we must also reject speciesism. Since Singer first articulated this line of reasoning, it has become a widespread argument against speciesism. Shelly Kagan has recently critiqued this argument, claiming that one can endorse speciesism without doing so on the basis of a prejudice. In this paper, I defend Kagan's conclusion (that one can endorse speciesism without being prejudiced). However, I find Kagan's argument unsatisfactory; so, I advance an alternative argument, different from Kagan's, in support of his conclusion. I argue that, if there is epistemic peer disagreement about a view, then the parties to this disagreement cannot reasonably label each other as prejudiced in their beliefs about this view. Then, I argue that there is epistemic peer disagreement about the truth of speciesism, from which it follows that the parties to this disagreement cannot reasonably label each other as prejudiced. Thus, one can affirm speciesism without being prejudiced. If I am correct that one can affirm speciesism without being prejudiced, then Singer's argument (that if one rejects racism, one must reject speciesism) is unsound.

THURSDAY February 8: Andrew Light (George Mason University)

"Beyond Bifurcated Climate Responsibilities: Why the Paris Agreement Matters and How We Must Defend It"
4:30 - 5:30, Hellems 199

Abstract: In December 2015 over 190 countries met in Paris and finally succeeded in creating a comprehensive and universal international agreement on climate change after 25 years of negotiations. Among its many virtues, the agreement finally moved beyond the strict bifurcation of responsibilities between developed and developing countries that had long hindered this process. Nonetheless, some argue that this doesn't matter as the cumulative climate committments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements' lofty aspirations. Today the agreement is undergoing an early and serious stress test, with the announcement of the intended withdrawl of the United States. Is Paris worth defending? We will review the core arguments for and against Paris, and look at what the future holds for global climate cooperation.

February 9: Spencer Case

“Epistemic Value and Meta-Ethical Realism”

Abstract: Some philosophers claim that cognitive states with epistemic value ground epistemic normativity. I argue that the existence of this type of value supports moral realism, the view, roughly, that there are some objective truths about morality. If epistemic value is valuable simpliciter, as it would have to be if epistemic normativity is to be authoritative, then we plausibly have some reasons to promote or respect epistemic value. Hence we have some genuinely authoritative reasons for action. Further argumentation will show that it makes sense to classify these reasons as moral reasons.

February 16: Jay Geyer

"Normative Externalists Cannot Have Their Poison Cake and Eat It Too"
1:00 - 2:00, Hellems 269

ABSTRACT: Much of the literature on moral uncertainty presupposes that internalist factors such as moral beliefs and evidence are relevant to what an agent ought to do.  Some authors, such as Elizabeth Harman and Brian Weatherson, reject this presupposition.  On their view, called 'Normative Externalism', an agent's descriptive uncertainty, but not their normative uncertainty, is relevant to what they subjectively ought to do.  For example, a descriptively uncertain agent who is not sure whether she has accidentally added poison to a cake should hedge and not serve the cake according to Normative Externalism.  But if her uncertainty was over moral matters instead, then she would be obligated to do what morality actually requires.  I argue that this hybrid view, which treats the two kinds of uncertainty differently, is incoherent.  But the purely externalist alternative view is absurdly strong.  So, Normative Externalism should be rejected.

THURSDAY February 22: Ryan Jenkins (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo)

“Machines and the Virtues”
12:30 – 1:30, Hellems 269

Abstract: The majority view among non-philosophers and many 20th century Anglophone philosophers is that technological artifacts are merely morally neutral instruments that can be used for good or bad purposes -- thus it has been the purposes themselves that have attracted the attention of philosophers. In this talk, I defend another view: that the trajectory of the development of machines has tended to satisfy the desire of humnas to mollify the difficulties of life, protecting us from surprise and disappointment, ultimately eroding our capacity for virtue. Whether virtues are intrinsic or instrumentally valuable, this makes us worse off in a respect. I respond to two objections, ultimately leading to the conclusion that a world of machines that satisfy all of our first-order desires threatens to make us into the worst version of ourselves.

February 23: John Doris (Washington University)

"The Future of Character"

Abstract: For almost twenty years, philosophy's "virtue ethics-situationism debate", like the "person-situation debate" in psychology that prefigured it, has too often polarized discussions of character and morality. Happily, the robustly interdisciplinary field of character studies is now producing research -- some of which will be presented in this talk, which promises to move beyond this polarity. However, the resulting progress is unlikely to vindicate those defending "traditional" understandings of virtul

March 2: Matt Kopec (Australian National University)

"No Harm Done? An Experimental Approach to the Non-Identity Problem"

Abstract: A central driving force behind much of the literature on the non-identity problem is the widely shared intuiton that actions or policies that change who ends up coming into existence don't, as a result, lose their morally problematic features. Even those who end up arguing that there is a substantial moral difference in identity-affecting cases agree that the intuition to the contrary is both strong and widespread. While we agree that this intuition is widespread among philosophers, we aren't so certain that it is shared by the general public. And, if our hunch is correct, this might have widespread implications concerning how to best motivate public support for large-scale, identity-affecting policies like those involved in climate change mitigation. To test this, we developed and ran a behavioral economic experiment designed to mimic the public's morally charged behavior and attitudes in identity-affecting choice problems. The results were rather striking, and we think the data may have practical and theoretical implications for both the non-identity problem and our understanding of harm more generally. 

March 9: Izaak Taylor (CWCTP Scholar in Residence)

"Political Obligations and Public Goods"
1:00-2:00, Hellems 269

Abstract: The principle of fairness is a moral principle which states that individuals are under an obligation to contribute toward beneficial cooperative projects. It has been appealed to in arguing that citizens are obligated to pay for public goods that their government supplies. Yet the principle has faced a number of powerful objections, most notably that of Robert Nozick. In responding to these objections, proponents of the principle have placed a number of conditions on its application. However, by doing so, they have reduced the number of public goods that the principle can generate obligations to contribute towards, and consequently reduced its relevance to questions of political obligation. It will be argued that less demanding conditions need to be placed on the principle to avoid Nozick's objections than has been thought, and thus that it is capable of grounding a greater number of political obligations that we might have supposed.

MONDAY March 12: Kit Wellman (Washington University)

"The Space Between Justice and Legitimacy"

Abstract: This talk explores whether there is any space between justice and legitimacy and what, if anything, occupies this space. And if there is space between justice and legitimacy, what follows from this? More specifically, this talk considers (1) whether legitimate states act permissibly when they act unjustly, (2) whether the constituents of legitimate space have a moral obligation to obey unjust laws, and (3) whether external actors have principled reasons to refrain from forcibly intervening to prevent legitimate states from perpetrating injustices upon their constituents.

TUESDAY, March 13: Jovana Davidovic (University of Iowa)

"Liability to Defensive Harm, Forfeiture of Rights and the Reciprocity Theory of Rights"
12:30-1:30, Hellems 269

Abstract: According to forfeiture theories of rights one can become liable to defensive harm when they act in ways that forfeit their right not to be harmed, for example, when they unjustifiably threaten harm to innocent victims. Forfeiture theories are traditionally normative theories; they are attempts to justify imposing harm on culpable or morally responsible aggressors. In this talk, it will be argued that forfeiture is best understood as a conceptual rather than a normative or justificatory aspect of the right not to be harmed. Understanding forfeiture in this way can nonetheless put limits on the sorts of justifications one can offer for grounding the right not to be harmed and consequently for liability to defensive harm. Specificially, understanding forfeiture as a conceptual feature of the right not to be harmed gives us reasons to embrace relational, inter-agential grounding for that and similar rights; a grounding that in addition to protection of an interest requires that an agent respect similar protections for others. Furthermore, understanding forfeiture as a conceptual feature of rights can also help fill noted gaps in forfeiture accounts: the so-called mechanism gap and the central normative transition gap.

March 16: Benjamin Kultgen

"Posthumous Repugnancy"

Abstract: What does a life not worth living look like? A life spent in a state of constant and overwhelming physical suffering would not be worth living. A life in which every conscious experience was that of intense emotional anguish would not be a life worth living. But what about a life that was exceptionally good, day in and day out, right up until the moment of death? Could that life wind up being one not worth living? If it is possible to be harmed after death then yes, that life could wind up being one not worth living. This talk presents a kind of repugnancy case involving posthumous harm. Supposing the existence of posthumous harm, a person whose wellbeing was extremely high while they were alive could incur small posthumous harms over a long enough period such that it is true of that person that they had a life not worth living. I address several routes by which the posthumous harm proponent might argue that her view entails no such repugnancy, showing each to be unworkable. My discussion suggests that there is an experential constraint on desire satisfaction such that my desire's satisfaction or frustration affects my wellbeing only if it affects my experiences in some way.

April 6: Ben Bryan (CWCTP Scholar in Residence)

"How (Not) to Evaluate the Programming of Self-Driving Cars"

Abstract: How should programmers program self-driving cars to handle situations where collisions can't be avoided? It is tempting to deal with this question by asking what a human driver with the information-processing capacities and driving abilities of a self-driving car ought to do. According to this approach, programmers should be trying to build cars that make the driving decisions that the correct moral theory would require a human driver to make if she had the superior abilities of a self-driving car. Call this the "moral code approach" to evaluating the programming of self-driving cars. In this talk, Bryan argues that the moral code approach is misguided and offers an alternative approach, which he calls the "moral Pareto improvement approach". This approach recommends that programmers look for what he calls "moral Pareto improvements" -- improvements in some morally significant dimensions of driving behavior that do not set back any other morally significant dimension.

April 13: Mary Ann Cutter (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs)

"Epistemologies of Clinical Uncertainty and their Ethical Implications"

Abstract: Anyone who has been diagnosed with a clinical condition or who has known someone who has been diagnosed knows that uncertainty pervades clinical diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. There is uncertainty about the nature of the clinical condition, how clinicians know it, how clinicians predict what will happen, and how clinicians treat it. There is also uncertainty on the part of patients and in light of their own life values and plans. This talk offers a way to think about uncertainty in clinical medicine and isolates some of the ethical implications of recognizing uncertainty in clinical medicine. Mary Ann G. Cutter, Ph.D., is a philosopher of medicine and biomedical ethicist in the Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and the 2018 CU President's Teaching Scholar.

MONDAY, April 16: John Corvino (Wayne State University)

"Against Integrity: On the Weaknesses of Certian Conscience-Based Arguments for Legal Exemptions"

Abstract: In today's debate over religious exemptions, some philosophers have moved away from specifically religious rationales to more "egalitarian" ones. For example, Joceyln Maclure defends exemptions based on "meaning-giving beliefs and committments". Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis defend exemptions based on "moral and religious integrity", which you achieve by "trying to harmonize your choices, actions, and expressions with your moral convictions: your best judgements about what morality requires", and "with whatever transcendent source of meaning and value there might be". In this talk, Corvino will explain why these arguments fail, especially as arguments for exemptions from antidiscrimination law.

April 27: Luc Bovens (UNC Chapel Hill)

"An Efficiency Argument for Gender-Neutral Restrooms"

Abstract: Gender-segregated restrooms pose problems for trans* people, for the disabled, and for young children accompanied by carers of a different gender, and they stand in the way of potty parity, that is, the goal of reducing lines in front of women's restrooms in public venues. Gender-neutral restrooms solve all these problems, but they meet resistance from various corners. One advantage that all should be able to appreciate is that they are much more efficient. Computer simulations show that if we preserve the current architecture, then opening all stalls to everyone leads to a drastic reduction in waiting times. or, if we respect the maximum waiting time that is implicitly allowed by current legislation, then by moving to a gender-neutral policy, we can reduce the need for facilities, while attaining the same waiting times. This talk considers whether any Nudge policies can be implemented to overcome the resistance to gender-neutral restrooms.

All talks take place in Hellems 269, 12:00-1:00
(unless otherwise noted, speakers are members of the CU Philosophy Department)

Sept 1: Robert Pasnau

“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.

Sept 8: Heather Demarest

“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.

Sept 11: Daniel Munoz (MIT)

“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.

Sept 15: Iskra Fileva

“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.

Sept 22: Mark Jensen (United States Air Force Academy)

“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.

Sept 29: Elizabeth Brake (Arizona State University, CVSP Visiting Fellow Fall 2017)

"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.

Oct. 6: Izaak Taylor (CVCTP/CVSP Scholar in Residence)

“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.

Oct 13: Kendy Hess (Holy Cross)

“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.

Oct. 20: Sarah Krakoff (University of Colorado Law School)

“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.

Oct. 27: Stanislaus Husi (Wisconsin)

“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.

Nov. 3: Ben Bryan (CWCTP/CVSP Scholar in Residence)

“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.

Nov. 9: Regina Rini (York University)

Special date and time: Thursday, Nov. 9, 11:00-12:00 in Hellems 269

“Intuition Inversion”

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.

Nov. 10: Barret Emerick (St. Mary’s College of Maryland)

“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.

Nov. 17: Eric Lee

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.

Dec. 1: Alex Zambrano

“Allocation of Resources and the Moral Importance of Scarcity”

Dec. 8: David Boonin

“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.

Jan 27: Monique Wonderly (Princeton University)

"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.

February 3: Thierry Ngosso (University of St Gallen)

"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.

February 10: Noel Saenz (Illinois)

"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.

February 17: Thierry Ngosso (University of St Gallen)

"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.

February 24: Graham Oddie (Colorado)

"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.

March 3: Krister Bykvist (Stockholm University, Institute for Futures Studies)

"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.

March 10: Eden Lin (Ohio State)

"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.

March 16: Helena de Bres (Wellesley)

"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.

March 17: David DeGrazia (George Washington University)

"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.

March 24: David Boonin (Colorado)

"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.

April 7: Alastair Norcross (Colorado)

"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 wouldn’t justify the relevant behavior.

Monday, April 10: Tom Dougherty (Cambridge)

"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.

April 21: Maggie Taylor (Colorado, PhD student)

"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 one’s children is not discharged by philosophical or religious beliefs a parent may hold in opposition to vaccination.

April 24 David Plunkett (Dartmouth)

"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.

April 28: Mark Meaney (Leeds School of Business)

May 5: Adam Hosein (Colorado)

"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.

Aug 29: Professor Neil Sinhababu (University of Singapore)

"The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism"

Sept 2: Francis Beckwith (Baylor University)

"Taking Rites Seriously: Liberalism, Religion, and Cultural Conflict"

Sept 9: David Boonin (University of Colorado Boulder)

"Sex, Lies and Harm: Dougherty on Deceptive Seduction"

Monday Sept 12: Professor Dare (University of Auckland)

"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.

Sept 16: Professor Hallie Liberto (University of Connecticut)

"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.

Sept 23: Professor Emeritus Paul T. Menzel (Pacific Lutheran University)

"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.

Sept 30: Professor Aya Gruber (CU Law School)

"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.

Oct 7: Professor Bonnie Steinbock

"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.

Oct 14: Professor Iskra Fileva (University of Colorado Boulder)

"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.

Oct 21: Professor Alison Jaggar (University of Colorado Boulder)

"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.

Nov 4: Professor Chris Heathwood (University of Colorado Boulder)

"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.

Dec 2: Alexander Zambrano

"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.

Dec 9: Professor Sarah Song (University of California, Berkeley)

"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.

Jan 29: Cheryl Abbate

"Extension in Animal Rights Theory: How a New Account of Respect Can Make Sense of Collective Harms"

Feb 5: Eric Lee

"Consent and 3rd Party Coercion"

Feb 12: Professor Michael L. Radelet (Sociology)

"History of the Death Penalty in Colorado"

Feb 12: Professor Ken Shockley (SUNY Buffalo)

"Framing Harm In a Time of Climate Change: Climate, Development, and the Environment"

Feb 19: Caleb Pickard and Alexander Zambrano

"Don't Block It 'Til Ya Eyed It?: A Defense of Ad Blocking and Consumer Inattention"

Feb 26: Professor Robert Pasnau

"Belief in a Fallen World"

Mar 4: Professor Ahmed A White (Law School)

"The Labor Movement and the Dilemma of Labor Militancy"

Mar 14: Alfred Nsodu Mbinglo (founder and executive director of RECFAM (Research and Counselling Foundation for African Migrants))

"The Biblical Proportion of Internal and Cross Border Migration in Africa"

Mar 18: Spencer Case

"From Epistemic Realism to Moral Realism: A Defense of Cuneo's Parity Premise"

Oct 2: Professor Adam Hosein

"Racial Profiling and Reasonable Resentment"

Oct 9: Dr. Govind Persad (Stanford)

"Why We Don't Need More Organ Donors"

Oct 21: Profesor John Corvino (Wayne State University)

"Why I Don't Like Religious Exemptions"

Oct 22: Ryan Anderson (Heritage Foundation), John Corvino (Wayne State University), Sherif Girgis (author), Andrew Koppelman, (Northwestern University)

"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.

Oct 23: Sherif Girgis (Princeton)

"On God's Authority: Discussion"

Nov 6: Laurie Calhoun (Curio Bay, Southland, New Zealand)

"When Lethal Drones Come Home: The Path to Political Perdition"

Nov 20: Professor Michele Moody-Adams (Columbia University)

"Civic Art of Remembrance and Democratic Imagination"

Jan. 30: Jonathan Spelman

"Moral Obligation and Blame"

Feb 6: Dr. Hye-Ryoung Kang

"Can Rawls' Non-Ideal Theory Save His Ideal Theory?"

Feb. 13: Alastair Norcross

"On Wanton Self-Assurance: I Promised Myself I'd Write This"

Feb. 20: Shane Gronholz

"Welfare: Does Thinking Make it So?"

Feb. 27: Professor Dominik Perler (Berlin University/Princeton University)

"What is a Dead Body? Medieval Debates on a Metaphysical Puzzle."

Mar. 13: Alberto Ghibellini (Leo Strauss Center of the University of Chicago)

"Leo Strauss on Natural Right"

Apr. 10: Paul Bowman

Title TBA

Apr. 24: Professor Joseph Ulatowski (University of Texas at El Paso)

"On Where the Action Is"

Sept 26: Andrew Chapman

"The Existential Dimension of Morality"

Oct 3: Prof. David Boonin

"Status Quo Bias and the Experience Machine"

Oct 10: Prof. Peter King (University of Toronto)

"Moral Fatigue: The Deadly Vice"

Oct 17: Prof. Joe Ulatowski (University of Texas at El Paso) 


Oct 31: Prof. Caroline Arruda (University of Texas at El Paso)

"The Metaethical Problem of Suffering"

Nov 7: Joseph Stenberg

"Happiness on Earth (kind of) as it is in Heaven: Aquinas on Imperfect Happiness"

Nov. 21: Prof. Iskra Fileva

Title TBA

Jan 31: Prof. Eric Chwang

"Consent's Been Framed: How and When to Solve the Problem that Framing Effects Pose for Consent"

Feb 21: Prof. Michael Huemer

"Can Constitution Protect Freedom?"

Mar 7: Prof. Iskra Fileva (University of Michigan)

"The False, the Bad, and the Beautiful"

Mar 14: Prof. David Boonin

"Sex, Lies, and Consent"

Mar 21: Prof. Chris Heathwood

"Which Desires Are Relevant to Well-Being?"

Apr 11: Prof. Stephen M. Campbell (Coe College)

"The Good Death"

Apr 18: PhD Student Shane Gronholz

"Are Philosophers and Laypeople Talking About the Same Thing When They Talk about Morality?"

Apr 25: Prof. Adam Beresford (University of Massachusetts at Boston)

"Aristotle's Humanism"

May 2: Glenn Loury (Brown University)

"When Speaking Truth to Power is Not Enough: On the Ethics of Being a Public Intellectual in America Today"

Sept 6: Prof. Eric Chwang

"Against the Moral Relevance of the Similarity between Research Subject and Beneficiary"

Sept 20: Prof. Claudia Mills

"Manipulation as an Aesthetic Flaw"

Sept 27: PhD Student Chad Cliest (Marquette University)

"Killing for Food and Tragic Dilemmas: Capabilities Analysis"

Oct 4: Prof. Chris Heathwood

"Irreducibly Normative Properties"

Oct 11: Prof. Bradley Monton

"Morality Grounds Personal Identity"

Oct 18: Prof. David Hildebrand (CU Denver)

"Pragmatism, Objectivity, and Democracy"

Oct 25: Prof. Iskra Fileva (University of Michigan)

"Playing with Fire: Art and the Seductive Power of Pain"

Nov 1: Christopher Lewis (Stanford University)

"Inequality, Incentives, Criminality and Blame"

Nov 8: Prof. Mary Ann Cutter (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs)

"The Ethical Implications of Gendering Disease"

Nov 15: Prof. Ajume Wingo

"A Free Person as a Maker of Surprises"

Dec 6: Dr. Eamon Aloyo

"The Last of Last Resort: Why the Last Resort Criterion in Just War Theory Should Not Exist"

Jan 25: Prof. Michael Huemer

"Probabilistic Proof of Moral Realism"

Feb 1: Dr. Brian Talbot

"Conflicting Intuitions in Ethics and Elsewhere"

Feb 8: Dr. Eamon Aloyo

"Why Just Assassinations are Morally Preferable to Just Wars and Some Harmful 'Peaceful' Policies"

Mar 1: Prof. Eric Chwang

"Pediatric Consent"

Mar 8: Duncan Purves

"The Harm of Death"

Mar 15: Dan Lowe

"Why Counterexamples Fail (and What To Do About It): A Talk on Moral Epistemology and Philosophical Method"

Apr 5: Paul Studtmann

"The Game of Laws"

Apr 12: Prof. Ajume Wingo


Apr 19: Prof. Benjamin Hale


Apr 26: Prof. Adam Hosein

"Freedom, Sex-Stereotype and Anti-Discrimination"

Sept 14: Prof. Alison Jaggar

"Does Poverty Wear a Woman's Face? Some moral dimensions of a transnational feminist research project"

Sept 21: Dr. Abigail Gosselin

"Women, Justice, and the Global Context of Mental Disorder"

Sept 28: Prof. Michael Huemer

"The Duty to Disregard the Law"

Oct 5: Prof. David Boonin

"Harm After Death"

Oct 12: Annaleigh Curtis

"The Problem of Evidentialism in Moral Epistemology"

Oct 19: Prof. Mary Ann Cutter (CU Colorado Springs)

"The Ethics of Gender-Specific Disease"

Oct 26: Chelsea Haramia

"What are our Responsibilities to the Non-Existent?"

Nov 2: Prof. Alastair Norcross

Title TBA

Nov 9: Martin Chamorro

"The Proportionality of Open Borders and Exclusion"

Nov 16: Prof. Adam Hosein

"Where Are You Really From? Ethnic Selection in Liberal Democracies"

Nov 30: Annaleigh Curtis

"A Problem for Evidentialism in Moral Epistemology"

Dec 7: Ryan Jenkins

"Which Consequentialism?"

Jan 27: Prof. David Boonin

"Parfit's latest defense of the No Difference View"

Feb 10: Prof. Chris Heathwood

"Preferentism and the Experience Requirement"

Feb 17: Dr. Brian Talbot

"Which Epistemic Norms Matter?"

Mar 9: Prof. Philip Cafaro (CSU)

"For a Species Right to Exist"

Mar 23: Prof. Alastair Norcross

"Why and How Death is Bad for Animals, and People"

Apr 6: Prof. Chad Kautzer (CU Denver)

"Arendt, Occupy, and the Challenge to Political Liberalism: A Reply to Charles W. Mills"

Apr 13: Annaleigh Curtis

"Epistemic Injustice and Moral Knowledge"

Apr 20: Prof. Marion Hourdequin (Colorado College)

"Geoengineering, Solidarity, and Moral Risk"

Apr 27: Prof. David Boonin

"Why Blackmail Should Be Legal"

May 4: Prof. Robert Pasnau

"Veiled Disagreement"

Jan. 14, 2011: Dr. Nick Ferreira (University of Witwatersrand)

Jan. 21: Eric Chwang

“A Qualified Argument against Athletic Doping"

Jan. 28: Christian Lee

“Dissolving Indeterminacy and Incommensurability in Values”

Feb 4: Claudia Mills

“The Ethics of Parenthood”

Feb. 11: Michael Huemer

“Authority and Hypothetical Consent"

Feb. 18: Jarrod Hanson (Education)

"Defending Deliberative Democracy in the Classroom: Bridging Epistemological Divides"

Feb. 25: Adam Hosein

"Immigration and Equality: Must Governments Treat Aliens the Same as Citizens?"

Mar. 4: Eamon Aloyo (Political Science)

"A Democratic Justification for Nonmilitary Humanitarian Intervention: Reconciling Human Rights and Collective Self Determination"

Mar. 11: Charles Mills

"Body Politic, Bodies Impolitic"

Mar. 18: Horst Mewes (Political Science)

“The Function of Religion in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

Apr. 1: Bob Pasnau

"Trust Yourself, Be Irrational" 

Apr. 8: David Boonin

"Famine, Affluence, and Mortality: A Non-Consequentialist Response to Singer and Unger"

Apr. 22: Ben Rich (UC Davis School of Medicine)

"Existential Suffering and the Ethics of Palliative Sedation"

Apr. 29: Kent Northcote, M.D.

“Perception and Memory”

Sept. 3, 2010: Eric Chwang

“Freedom from Autonomy”

Sept. 10: Mike Huemer 

“Against Democratic Authority”

Sept. 17: Ben Hale

"Undoing and Disallowing"

Sept. 24 at 12:00 noon: Robert Pippin (University of Chicago)

“Cinematic Action Theory”

Oct. 1: Eamon Aloyo

“Basic Democratic Rights: Conditionally Deriving Human Rights from a thin Procedural Conception of Democracy”

Oct. 8: Kacey Warren

"Recognizing Disability: Reconceptualizing a Vision of Social Justice for the Cognitively Disabled"

Oct. 15: Amandine Catala

“Reframing the Normative Question of Secession”

Oct. 22: Michele S. Moses

“Are Ballot Initiatives a Just way to Make Public Policy?”

Oct. 29: Brian Talbot

"Normative Dilemmas"

Nov. 5: Adam Hosein

"Doing, Allowing, and the State"

Dec. 3: Ajume Wingo

"The Politics of the Apolitics of Racism"

Jan 29: Prof. Claudia Mills

“Playing Favorites”

Feb 5: Prof. Alison Jaggar

"Hearts Starve As Well As Bodies: Leisure As an Indicator of Agency and Wellbeing"

Feb 12: Prof. David Boonin

"The Non-Comparative Account of Harm"

Feb 19: Prof. Ben Hale

"Nonrenewable Resources and the Inevitability of Outcomes"

Feb 26: Heather Roff (PoliSci)

"Kant's Permissive Law: A Principle for the Perplexed"

Mar 5: Cory Aragon

“Situating Responsibility for Global Justice”

Mar 12: Christian Lee

“A Trivial Organic Unity?”

Apr 2: Dr. Uri Leibowitz

"What is Friendship?"

Apr 9: Prof. Alastair Norcross

"Animal Experimentation"

Apr 16: Prof. Steve Vanderheiden (PoliSci)

"The Ethics of Free Riding"

Apr 23: Michaela McSweeney

"Against Tolerance"

Feb 13: Prof. David Boonin

"Why I Hate Hate Speech Codes (But Still Don’t Hate Hate Crime Laws)"

Feb 20: Prof. Michael Zimmerman

"Rapture of the Nerds: The (allegedly) coming technological 'Singularity'"

Feb 27: Prof. Eric Chwang

"On the Moral Force of Coerced Promises"

Mar 6: Prof. Dan Kaufman

"Sinful Actions and Sinfulness"

Mar 13: Christian Lee

"Basic Evaluative Properties"

Mar 20: Prof. Ben Hale

"Carbon Sequestration, Ocean Fertilization, and the Problem of Permissible Pollution"

Apr 3: Prof. Matt Tedesco (Beloit College, CU PhD)

"Harm, Consent, and Practical Joking"

Apr 10: Prof. Alison Jaggar

"The Philosophical Challenges of Global Gender Justice"

Apr 17: Dan Demetriou

"Honor: The Ethic for Real Men?"

Apr 24: Prof. Mike Huemer

"Is There a Right to Immigrate?"

Sept 4: Prof. Chris Heathwood

"Moral and Epistemic Open Question Arguments"

Sep. 11: Prof. Claudia Mills

"Artistic Integrity"

Sept. 18: Prof. Eric Chwang

"Consent and Cluster Randomization"

Sept. 25: Scott Wisor

"Philosophical Reflections on Sudan Activism"

Oct 2: Prof. Alastair Norcross

"Fetishism and Deontology"

Oct 9: Dr. Jason Wyckoff

"Why Political Legitimacy Entails Political Obligations"

Oct 16: Prof. Brad Monton

"Against Multiverse Theodicies"

Oct 23: Prof. Rob Rupert

"Against Group Mental States"

Oct 30: Dr. Ryan Mott

"Why Political Legitimacy Doesn't Necessarily Entail Political Obligations"

Nov 6: Barrett Emerick

"Kantian Ethics and the Puzzle about People in Great Need"

Nov 13: Amandine Catala

"Is There a Right to Secede?"

Nov 20: Tom Metcalf

"Empirical Ethical Intuitionism"

Dec 11: Pamela Lomelino

"Why Relational Autonomy Is Better Than Traditional Accounts of Autonomy"

Jan 18: Prof. Christina Van Dyke (Calvin College)

“Ethical Vegetarianism: Feminist Requirement or Patriarchal Burden?

Jan 18: Prof. Alastair Norcross

“Euthanasia and Self-Defense”

Feb 2: Dan Demetriou

“What Moral Intuitions Are”

Feb 8: Prof. Claudia Mills

“Stigma and Openness”

Feb 22: Kendy Hess

“The Modern Corporation as Moral Agent”

Feb 29: Lisa Bates

“Privatization, Democracy, and Public Goods”

Mar 14: Prof. David Boonin

“What’s Wrong with Racial Profiling?”

Mar 21: Dr. Michael Peirce

“It’s Not My Concern: Singer and Plato, Rules, Roles, and Social Organization”

Apr 4: Prof. Chris Heathwood

“Desire-Based Theories of Welfare, of Pleasure, and of Reasons”

Apr 11: Prof. Gordon Finlayson (University of Sussex)

"Not Much Ado about Habermas and Rawls"

Apr 18: Prof. Eric Chwang

“Futility Clarified”

Apr 25: Prof. Neera Badhwar (University of Oklahoma)

"Is Realism Really Good for You? A Realistic Response"

Sept 5: Ajume Wingo

"Trustees of Themselves: A New Framework for Human Rights"

Sept 12: Harry Platanakis (University of London)

"Aristotle on Political Participation"

Sept 19: Jason Wyckoff

"Can Gratitude Serve as a Basis of Political Obligation?"

Sept 25: Dr. Uri Leibowitz

"Particularism in Aristotle's Ethics"

Oct 10: Prof. Eric Chwang

"Three Ways of Speaking and the Futility of Coerced Promises"

Oct 17: Prof. Chris Heathwood

“Could Morality Have a Source?"

Oct 24: Prof. Alastair Norcross

"Intentions, Character, and Consequentialism"

Oct 31: Ryan Mott

"Reviving Weber's Ghost: Attitudinal Accounts of State Legitimacy"

Nov 14: Prof. Brad Monton

"Should Intelligent Design Be Taught in School?"

Nov 21: Kendy Hess

“The Metaphysics of Corporate Agency"

Dec 5: Prof. David Boonin

“Why I Don’t Hate Hate Crime Laws”

Dec 12: Jason Hanna

"Ulysses Contracts and the Relevance of Consent"

Sep 7: Dr. Jackie Colby

“Health Disparities, Ethics, and the HPV Vaccine”

Sep 14: Prof. Alison Jaggar

“Ideal Theory versus Critical Theory: Comparing the Philosophical Methods of John Rawls and Iris Marion Young”

Sep 21: Prof. Chris Heathwood

“Desire-Based Theories of Welfare and the Possibility of Self-Sacrifice”

Sep 28: Jason Hanna

“How Soft Is Soft Paternalism?”

Oct 12: Prof. Philip Cafaro (CSU)

“The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States”

Oct 26: Prof. Alastair Norcross 

“Utility, Determinism, and Possibility”

Oct 29: Prof. Mariam Thalos (Utah)

“Risk and Resources”

Nov 2: Cindy Scheopner

“Creating God: Mormon Metaphysics and the Politics of Polygamy”

Nov 9: Prof. Steve Vanderheiden (CU Poli Sci)

“Justice and Global Climate Change”

Nov 16: Prof. Claudia Mills

”Fathers and Mothers”

Nov 30: Prof. Eric Chwang

“Against Assent”

Dec 7: Audra King

“Justice, Development, and Just Development: An Institutional Approach to Analyzing Development”