A series of public lectures sponsored by the Center for Values and Social Policy in the Department of Philosophy, CU-Boulder. These lectures are funded through the generosity of The Collins Foundation.

Unless otherwise noted, all talks run from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in HUMN 1B50, on the CU Boulder campus. All lectures are free and intended for the public. Contact Iskra Fileva with any questions. 


Thursday, September 15, 2022
Location: Via Zoom (https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/4791870027)
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST

Rachana Kamtekar (Cornell), “Why should we feel guilt for accidental injuries for which no-one should blame us?”

Listen to a recording of this talk here

I raise two puzzles about our emotional reactions to “accidental agents” like the lorry driver who faultlessly hits a child in Bernard Williams’ “Moral Luck”:  (1) why do such agents feel guilt, when they could hardly be blamed for what happened? (2) why do observers judge both that agents should not feel guilty but that if they do not feel guilty, they are somehow deficient?  Drawing on Aristotle’s mapping of the relations between agents and actions, I argue that action that is involuntary because of ignorance nevertheless allows the rational agent to make guilt’s constitutive judgment, namely, that she could have done something different to avoid the bad outcome. Drawing on Dan Sperber’s distinction between the proper and actual domains of functional mechanisms, including many emotions, I argue that while an accidental agent’s guilt feeling is a false positive in the actual domain, observers appropriately use false-positive responses as evidence of the agent’s emotional character.

Thursday, February 9, 2023
Location: Via Zoom (https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/4791870027)
Time: 5:30 - 7:00 PM MST
Richard Moran (Harvard University), "The Philosophical Retreat to the Here and Now: Notes on Living in Time"

Listen to a recording of this talk here

In this lecture I want to consider one strand in a familiar philosophical critique of how we inhabit the temporal dimension of our lives. The ordinary human concerns with the past and the future can be seen both as forms of suffering (anxiety toward the future, regret toward the past, etc.) and as illusory because they involve the failure to appreciate the primary reality of the present. Insofar as the diagnosis presents our suffering as dependent on the illusion, we will naturally be open to being free of both. The restricted point I hope to make in his lecture is that while there are certainly ways of being occupied with past or future times that we have reason to criticize, both as forms of suffering and as ways of losing perspective on our ongoing lives, such criticism cannot base itself on any metaphysical claim to the singular or exclusive reality of the present. The task of developing useful forms of describing and assessing the different ways we can go wrong in temporalizing our lives is hindered rather than helped by the suggestion that our concerns with the past and with the future are as such forms of attachment to the Unreal.
Thursday, March 9, 2023 - POSTPONED to April 27
Location: Via Zoom (https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/4791870027)

Time: 5:30 - 7:00 PM MST
Troy Jollimore (California State University, Chico), "Love and Belief"

Listen to a recording of this talk here

As proponents of so-called “epistemic partiality” have claimed, we tend to see those we love through rose-colored glasses, i.e. to see them more positively than we view those to whom we are indifferent. But what does “seeing more positively” amount to? Currently dominant accounts of epistemic partiality tend to wrongly view the lover as naïve or epistemically irrational, to center on the denial of well-grounded facts, or to be oversimplistic in their accounts of love’s influences on epistemic practices and on resulting beliefs. In this talk I argue that love’s epistemic dispositions should be largely understood as motivating and grounding practices of interpretation. This gives us reason to resist the assumption that objective epistemic standards must be in conflict with the practices and tendencies of a good friend or lover.
Troy Jollimore holds a PhD from Princeton University and has published on topics in ethics, metaethics, personal relationships, and aesthetics. His philosophy books include Love’s Vision, On Loyalty, and Agent-Relative Morality. He is the author of several books of poetry. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, McSweeney’s, and New England Review, among others. His poetry book Tom Thomson in Purgatory won the National Book Critics Circle award while his Syllabus of Errors was selected by the New York Times as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2015.

Thursday, April 6, 2023
Location: Via Zoom (https://cuboulder.zoom.us/j/4791870027)

Time: 5:30 - 7:00 PM MST
Graham Oppy (Monash University), "The Rise of Naturalism and Atheism"

Abstract: The world was not a safe place for naturalists and atheists in 1000 A.D. This did not change, in the West, until well into the eighteenth century. In this talk, I shall discuss, in very broad terms, some of the factors that explain how and why some parts of the world became safe places for naturalists and atheists. To set the scene for this discussion, I shall begin by explaining what naturalism and atheism are; I shall also say something about what religion is, and how it is related to naturalism and atheism. In the talk proper, I shall focus on developments in Western Europe, with a particular focus on the UK and, to a lesser extent, France. While I have a particular interest in the intellectual history, I do not believe that this history can be separated from the relevant social and material history.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Location: Zoom
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST
Kieran Setiya (MIT), “Meaning and Absurdity.”

It is a cliche about philosophers that they ponder the meaning of life. Except they don’t! In recent philosophy, the question of life’s meaning is usually dismissed as nonsense; and for most earlier philosophers, the question doesn’t arise. In this talk, I’ll use the surprisingly recent origins of “the meaning of life” to argue that the question of life’s meaning does make sense. I’ll relate this question to the problem of life’s absurdity, explaining how it could have a positive answer—even if there is no God—and how the answer depends on us.

Kieran Setiya is Professor at the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Head of the Philosophy Section. He is the author of Practical Knowledge, Reasons without Rationalism, and Knowing Right from Wrong. Setiya writes for a broad audience as well. His book Midlife has been reviewed in multiple high-profile venues including the Economist, the Spectator, the Guardian, the LA Review of Books, the New Yorker, and it was selected as Times Higher Education book of the week. His work on midlife has been featured in Aeon, Hi-Phi Nation, Five Books, and the New Yorker. He has also written about baseball and philosophy, H.P. Lovecraft, and stand-up comedy. He is currently working on a new book for a general audience, Life is Hard. In this Think! Talk, Setiya will discuss ideas on the meaning of life from the new and not yet published book. 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Location: Zoom
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST
Taylor Carman (Columbia University), “Existential Authenticity”

Listen to this talk here

There are a number of different ideas that go by the name of “authenticity,” both in popular culture and in philosophical discourse. Something like the philosophical concept can be traced back to Søren Kierkegaard, who stands at the beginning of a tradition that in the 20th century came to be known as “existentialism.” In this talk I want to tease apart several different notions of authenticity by way of shedding light on what I take to be the distinctive existential conception, which finds its canonical articulation in Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time. Authenticity in Heidegger’s sense is what I shall call situationally attuned wholeheartedness. Although the idea of authenticity has emerged as a theme in philosophy, ethics, and moral-psychology only in the last two hundred years or so, I will argue that the existential conception identifies a phenomenon that is no mere idiosyncrasy of modern consciousness, but rather a universal possibility of human character and action.  

Taylor Carman is Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. His main interests are in existentialism, phenomenology, and 19th and 20th century European philosophy. He is the author of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger’s Analytic. He is also co-editor of Routledge’s series Intersections: Continental and Analytic Philosophy

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Location: Zoom
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST

Thi Nguyen (University of Utah), "The Seductions of Clarity


Listen to this talk here


The feeling of clarity can be dangerously seductive. It is the feeling associated with understanding things. And we use that feeling, in the rough-and-tumble of daily life, as a signal that we have investigated a matter sufficiently. The sense of clarity functions as a thought-terminating heuristic. Thus, if an epistemic manipulator can imbue a belief system with an exaggerated sense of clarity, they can induce us to terminate our inquiries too early — before we spot the flaws in the system. How might the sense of clarity be faked? 


Let’s first consider the object of imitation: what a manipulator is trying to fake. The object is genuine understanding. Genuine understanding has certain features: it grants cognitive facility, it allows us to create categorizations, and generate explanations. Once we have genuine understanding, we can also communicate it to other people. In order to encourage us to accept a system of thought too early, then, an epistemic manipulator will want the system to have features that mimic those of understanding. The system should provide its users with the feeling that they can easily create categorizations, generate explanations, and communicate their understanding. These features can be fact. Indeed, I suggest that manipulators have a significant advantage in imbuing their systems with a pleasurable sense of clarity since they are freed from the burdens of accuracy and reliability. I offer two case studies of seductively clear systems: conspiracy theories; and the standardized, quantified value systems of bureaucracies, such as the modern style of educational assessment.


Thi Nguyen is a professor at the University of Utah. He is the author of Games: Agency as Art His paper, "Games and the Art of Agency" won the 2020 APA Article Prize and was selected for Philosophers Annual's "10 Best Philosophy Articles of 2019." His "Moral Outrage Porn" co-authored with Bekka Williams was selected for Philosopher Annual's “10 Best Philosophy Articles of 2020.”

He also writes for a broad audience. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Review, Aeon Magazine, The New Statesman, and other venues.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Location: Zoom  
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST
Paul Bloom (Toronto), "The Joys of Suffering"

Listen to this talk here

Many psychologists and philosophers believe that people are hedonists, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. But what about our appetites for spicy foods, hot baths, horror movies, sad songs, BDSM, and hate reading? How can we explain our choices to suffer—in pursuits such as art, ritual, sex, and sports, and in longer-term projects such as training for a marathon or signing up to go to war? Drawing on research from developmental psychology, social psychology, anthropology, and behavioral economics, I suggest that we are driven by non-hedonistic goals; we revel in difficult practice, we aspire towards moral goodness, and we seek out meaningful lives.

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. He studies how children and adults make sense of the world, with special focus on pleasure, morality, religion, fiction, and art more generally. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching. He is past-president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and co-editor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He has written for leading scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for popular outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of six books, including his forthcoming, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning. In this talk, Paul Bloom will discuss themes of his newest book.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Location: Zoom
Time: 5:30 PM -- 7:00 PM MST
Lisa Feldman Barrett (Northeastern University), "Emotions: Separating Fact from Fiction"

Listen to this talk here.

This presentation will describe scientific experiments about the nature of emotion whose conclusions seem to defy common sense. We’ll learn that common sense has been for over 2000 years, spreading three widespread fictions about emotions that lurk in classrooms, boardrooms and bedrooms around the world. We’ll then explore a radically new scientific understanding of what emotions are and how they work.

Lisa Feldman Barrett is a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University and also holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is Chief Science Officer for the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior. She has published more than 240 peer-reviewed articles in journals such as Science and Nature Neuroscience, and is among the top one percent most cited scientists in the world. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in Psychology in 2021 from the American Psychological Association.   

Feldman Barrett’s popular book How Emotions Are Made has been translated into more than 15 languages. Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell says that How Emotions Are Made “did what all great books do. It took a subject I thought I understood and turned my understanding upside down,” while Forbes Magazine says that the book is: “chock-full of startling, science-backed findings, is an entertaining and engaging read.” Her second popular book, Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, is on Amazon’s Best Books of 2020 list and on Barnes & Noble’s Best Science Books of 2020 list. Discover Magazine called it a “must read.” Feldman Barrett’s TED talk has been viewed more than 6 million times.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Location: HUMN 250
Time: 5 PM -- 6:30 PM MST
Agnes Callard (University of Chicago), "What is Free Speech?"

In a country where one can be jailed for one's political opinions, one lacks freedom of speech. Freedom of speech entails the absence of coercive government interference in speech.  But the absence of such interference is a merely necessary condition on free speech. What more needs to be the case in order for speech to be truly free? I explore a Socratic answer to this question, which rejects many of the standard liberal models of free speech--free speech as open debate; free speech as the marketplace of ideas; free speech as openness to persuasion--on the grounds that they fail to guard against the politicization of speech. I explain what politicization is; why it is coercive, i.e. unfree; and how Socrates' approach to conversation offers a way of avoiding it.

Agnes Callard is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. She is the author of numerous articles on the role of emotions in deliberation and moral life more generally. Her book Aspiration was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, and The New Yorker, among others. She has written for The New York Times and maintains a monthly column at The Point Magazine.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

"A Philosophical Proof of Reincarnation"
Michael Huemer
5:30 - 6:30, Hellems 252

Abstract: The universe plausibly has an infinite future and an infinite past. Given unlimited time, every qualitative state that has ever occurred will occur again, infinitely many times. There will thus exist in the future persons arbitrarily similar to you, in any desired respects. A person sufficiently similar to you in the right respects will qualify as literally another incarnation of you. Some theories about the nature of persons rule this out; however, these theories also imply, given an infinite past, that your present existence is a probability-zero event. Hence, your present existence is evidence against such theories of persons.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

"On Losing Your Self in Your Afterlife"
Yuval Avnur (Scripps College)
5:00-6:30, Hellems 252

Whether an afterlife is possible seems to depend on what the self is. This thought has led some people to argue, on the basis of a restrictive view about the self, that an afterlife is impossible. They argue, for example, that what you are is a living human animal and that if this is so, then an afterlife is impossible. In this talk, Professor Avnur will argue that such arguments fail. Whatever the self is, he will argue, either it could survive death or its survival is not necessary for there to be an afterlife. Professor Avnur will discuss what makes a post-death situation one that you should regard as your afterlife, which factors determine what counts as “the same self,” and why the idea of an afterlife in which you no longer exist seems incoherent. The talk will conclude that considerations about the self fail to show that an afterlife is impossible.

Thursday, March 12, 2020 - Cancelled

"We Might Soon Build AI That Deserve Rights"
Eric Schwitzgebel (University of California, Riverside)
5:00 – 6:30, Room TBA

Within a few decades, we will likely create AI that a substantial proportion of people believe, rightly or wrongly, to deserve human-like rights.  Given the chaotic state of consciousness science, it will be genuinely difficult to know whether and when machines that seem to deserve human-like moral status actually do deserve human-like moral status.  This creates a dilemma: Either give such ambiguous machines human-like rights or don't.  Both options are ethically risky.  To give machines rights that they don't deserve will mean sometimes sacrificing human lives for the benefit of empty shells.  Conversely, however, failing to give rights to machines that do deserve rights will mean perpetrating the moral equivalent of slavery and murder.  One or the other of these ethical disasters is probably in our future.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

"Moral Extremism"
Spencer Case (Postdoctoral Fellow, Wuhan University)
5:00 - 6:30, Hellems 252

Abstract: We sometimes accuse people of being “too extreme” in their moral views, or in the ways that they act on them. Basically, we mean that their hearts are in the right place, but they're taking things "too far." Can we make sense of this as a substantive criticism, though? If an “extreme” view is simply one that falls outside of mainstream opinion, then the charge of extremism doesn’t amount to much. On the other hand, if we have some independent reason for thinking the extreme view is wrong, not just unpopular, then we may sensibly ask: what does the charge of extremism add to that criticism? Here I offer an analysis of moral extremism as a moral vice, and a defense of the idea that it represents a significant danger. I understand moral extremism, to be inordinate or excessive moral passion. “Morally extreme” is thus a descriptor that applies directly to agents, and indirectly to the actions that moral extremists characteristically perform. We shall see that one counterintuitive upshot of my account is that a certain amount of cognitive dissonance can be morally virtuous inasmuch as it saves people from being overwhelmed by their moral emotions.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lisa Miracchi (University of Pennsylvania)
5:00 - 6:30, Room TBA

Fall 2019 Schedule

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"Everyone is Wrong on the Internet: Disagreement and Error in Social Media Discourse"
Regina Rini (Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition, York University)
5:00 – 6:30, Hellems 252

Public debate requires that we regularly encounter people we disagree with, and that we respond appropriately to other people's mistakes (mistakes according to us!). In a well-functioning democracy, we have open discussions with people we think are wrong, hoping to change their minds, while also acknowledging that they have a right to sincere beliefs we don't accept. Social media once seemed like an enabler of democratic discussion, since it can put many people in contact over distances. But it looks as if the opposite has happened. Social media debate seems to be worsening the quality of public discourse, encouraging us to treat others as hopelessly misguided, or targets for trolling, or even as bots without real opinions at all. What can we do - as policymakers or as individual citizens - to fix the broken state of social media debate?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019  - Cancelled, reschedule TBA

"A Strange Proof of Immortality"
Professor Michael Huemer
5:00 – 6:30, Hellems 252

The universe plausibly has an infinite future and an infinite past. Given unlimited time, every qualitative state that has ever occurred will occur again, infinitely many times. There will thus exist in the future persons indistinguishable from you, in any desired respects. Professor Huemer will argue that a person sufficiently similar to you in the right respects qualifies as literally the same person as you. Some theories about the nature of persons rule this out; however, these theories also imply, given an infinite past, that the probability that you would exist now would be zero. Since you do exist now, all such theories are false. Hence, everyone who lives at any time lives infinitely many times.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

"Liking What We See"
Jennifer Matey (Southern Methodist University)
5:00 – 6:30, Hellems 252

Many psychological studies reveal that our knowledge about a person’s moral character can influence how physically attractive we judge them to be. People we take to have good character we tend to judge to be more attractive and people with character we disapprove of, we tend to rate as less attractive. How do we explain these changes in aesthetic evaluation? One possibility is that the aesthetic evaluation is merely a judgement that people make based on a number of factors, including the person’s character. While this is possible, in this talk Professor Matey will argue that it does not provide the best explanation. Rather, she will argue that aesthetic evaluations can be a matter of how things really appear to us. And at least one mechanism by which this can occur involves the influence of emotions, such as esteem for the person, on how they are experienced in perception. We take perception as a mode of acquiring information about the world. Professor Matey will discuss a proposal about what these evaluative experiences might be telling us and will extend the case to talk about the perception of people we love.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

“Political Correctness: A Solution and a Problem”
Spencer Case

5:00 – 6:30, Hellems 252

Political correctness (PC), is central to the so-called American “culture wars.” Dictionary.com provides the following definition: “The avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” PC, so understood, can’t be all bad. Progressives can point to a number of examples of political correctness that seem entirely appropriate. This doesn’t, however, refute the conservative contention that these responses to speech are, indeed, being “taken to extremes.” In this talk, Dr. Case will consider a number of episodes involving PC where it does appear that things were taken too far. But how can we tell when this is the case? To answer this question, Dr. Case will consider a number of rules of thumb. He will argue that of central importance in arriving at a satisfactory answer is the distinction between political correctness as a guardrail for conversation and political correctness as a conversation stopper.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

"What's Wrong with Big-Time College Sports?"
Alex Wolf-Root

5:00-6:30, HUMN 1B80

It's clear that Big-Time College Sports are central to the image of many top-tier colleges across the country. Indeed, the first thing many people think of when hearing about schools such as Penn State, Duke, or even the University of Colorado, are sports. Nonetheless, it's not so clear that Big-Time Sports belong on campus in the first place. While there are many dimensions to this question, there are two major issues at play. The first is the connection between Big-Time Sports and academics. The second is the question of exploitation of atheletes, including its disproportionate impacts on young black men. This talk will look at these two major issues in an attempt to help us tackle the question of what should be done about Big-Time College Sports.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

"In the Shed of Power: Democratizing Democracy"
Professor Ajume Wingo

5:00-6:30, HUMN 250

Abstract: Although democratizing African states is a worthy goal, there is a certain democratic zealotry that would paint traditional/indigenous royalty and African dictatorships with the same brush. There are profound moral differences between traditional African royalty and dictatorship. Our drive to "democratize" African nations must take care not to trample on meaningful and proven forms of indigenous rule -- indeed, democracies worth having will be informed by the wisdom of traditional political systems. In this talk, Professor Wingo will describe a topography of power of an African dignitarian democratic society that acknowledges what individual citizens cannot help but do, i.e., control and dominate the bodies, sex, sexuality, and posessions of others. The dense architecture of power that provides an individual qua individual a metaphorical "shred of power" in the world permeated by domination of others, he will argue, gives us a clue to why addressing the problem of governance in Africa through a single-minded focus of getting rid of African tyrants is barking up the wrong tree. Life in an African dignitarian well-ordered government suggests otherwise: we do not abolish royalty, we make every woman into a queen and every man into a prince. We do not abolish the caste system; we make everyone into a Brahman.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"Emotional Knowing: How Feelings Can Reveal the World to Us"
Rick Anthony Furtak (Colorado College)

5:30 – 7:00 Hellems 201

In this talk, Professor Furtak will argue that human emotions play a crucial role in our recognition of meaning, value, or significance – and that their felt quality is intimately related to the sort of awareness that they provide.  This is exemplified most clearly by cases in which dispassionate reason is inadequate, because we cannot grasp what matters to us without being upset.  

Rick Anthony Furtak is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado College, where he has taught for over twelve years since receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago.  His research is focused on moral psychology, existential thought, and the philosophy of literature.  Knowing Emotions: Truthfulness and Recognition in Affective Experience, his most recent book, was published by Oxford University Press earlier this year.

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018

“How Should We Distribute the Risks of Sea-Level Rise?”
Lisa Ellis (University of Otago)

5:30 – 7:00 Hellems 201

Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, our existing emissions have locked in sea-level rise for many decades to come. We can expect homes to become uninhabitable, inundation events that are now rare to become regular, businesses and infrastructure to need expensive defenses or relocation, and crucially, communities to be disrupted or even dispersed. We are used to thinking of natural hazards as unpredictable, one-off events like earthquakes. Now we are facing a predictable, accelerating, long-term threat to our collective wellbeing.

What is worse, the status quo in sea-level-rise policy is an ongoing, accelerating moral disaster. If we do not take action, we can expect delayed and uneven responses to these new natural hazards, suboptimal choices made under conditions of radical uncertainty, emergency measures imposed from above rather than community-led long-range planning, and overall, a transfer of risk from the least to the most vulnerable. In this talk, Professor Ellis will argue that a critical descriptive account of the gap between our practices and our values reveals failures to vindicate both equality and agency in climate adaptation policy.

Lisa Ellis is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Politics and Director of the Programme in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Professor Ellis is also political theory field editor for the Journal of Politics and she has been writing lately on the value of biodiversity, the collective ethics of flying, and climate adaptation justice.

Thursday, November 9, 2018

"(Un)just Deserts"
Nathan Hanna (CVSP Visiting Fellow, Drexel University)

5:00-6:30 HUMN 250

Abstract: It's common to suppose that people can deserve all sorts of things: success or failure, praise or blame, rewards or punishments, and so on.  The standard view of desert says that when someone deserves something, it's good if she gets it and we have a reason to give it to her if we can.  This view is often assumed, but rarely argued for.  Retributivists, for example, usually assume it and use it to defend the morality of punishment.  In this talk, Professor Hanna will argue that there are good reasons to doubt the standard view: there seem to be cases where someone deserves something, but there's no reason to give it to her and her getting it would be bad. In light of such cases, retributivists must do more to show that desert can do the moral work they need it to do.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Feline Liberty and the Right to be a Cat"
Cheryl Abbate

5:30-7:00 PM HLMS 199

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Sexual Consent and Non-Physical Coercion"
David Boonin

5:30-7:00 PM HLMS 199
Abstract: Suppose Pat threatens to inflict significant physical harm on Kris unless Kris agrees to have sex with Pat. Kris says yes to having sex with Pat because of this threat, and Pat then has sex with Kris. In this case, it seems clear that Pat is guilty of having sex wiht Kris without Kris' valid consent. But suppose Pat instead threatens to inflict significant emotional harm on Kris unless Kris agrees to have sex with Pat. Suppose, for example, Pat says, "If you don't have sex with me, I will break up with you," or "I will kill myself," or "I will relentlessly continue pestering you for sex," or "I will reveal an extremely embarrassing secret of yours," or "I will post nude photos of you on the internet". Cases of this sort are sometimes referred to as examples of non-physical coercion. If Kris really doesn't want to have sex with Pat but gives in and says yes to having sex with Pat in response to threats of this sort, has Kris given valid consent to having sex? The answer in such cases seems less clear. In this talk, Professor Boonin will present and defend a general account of coercion and use that account to help answer the questions raised by cases of non-physical coercion.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Meaning and Regret"
Jessica Flanigan (University of Richmond)

5:30-7:00 PM Humanities 250

Abstract: The ancient Roman philosopher Lucretius argues that, since people do not regret having not existed before birth, it is also a mistake to fear death or to regret future non-existence. On my view, Lucretius was mistaken, and reflecting on the harmful nature of death can explain why life is meaningful and valuable. The harmful aspect of death is not that it makes a person worse-off, but that it frustrates one's plans. Future-oriented projects are the primary source of meaning in life. In light of these observations on death, it will be argued that meaningful lives are lives that are invested in future-oriented projects, such as having children, contributing to collective endeavors, and participating in a community of ideas. Reflecting on which projects are meaningful in our own lives can also help us better understand and recognize our moral obligations to each other.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Why We Are Irrational About Politics"
Professor Micheal Huemer

7:30-9:00 PM EDUC 220

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"If There Is One God, Why Are There So Many Religions?"
Dr. Jerry L. Martin

7:30-9:00 PM HUMN 150

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"How to Search for Extraterrestial Life"
Professor Carol Cleland

7:30-9:00 PM HLMS 199

Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Forgiving, Forgetting and Un-Forgiving"
Professor Monique Wonderly (Princeton University Center for Human Values)

7:30-9:00 PM HUMN 150

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Designer Babies: Choosing Our Children's Genes"
Professor Emerita Bonnie Steinbock (SUNY Albany)

7:30-9:00 PM HUMN 150

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Affirmative Consent and Anti-Rape Culture"
Professor Aya Gruber (CU Law School) 

7:30-9:00 PM BENSON 180

The slogans are ubiquitous: "Only 'Yes' Means Yes';" "Got Consent?;" "Consent is Hot, Assault is Not!" Clear consent is the rule, but the meaning of sexual consent is far from clear. In this talk, Professor Gruber clarifies the requirement of "affirmative consent," that appears occasionally in criminal rape law and frequently in university conduct codes. She maps the affirmative consent debate to reveal exactly what is at stake in this new world of reform. In addition, Professor Gruber argues that some of the stricter affirmative consent formulas (i.e. "an enthusiastic verbal yes") reflect a burgeoning "anti-rape culture" -- a set of empirical conclusions of rape's prevalence, causes, and effects and a set of value judgements about sex, gender, and institutional authority.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Hooking Up: Viral Videos and Cochlear Implants as a Case Study of Deaf Feminism"
Professor Teresa Blankmeyer Burke (Gallaudet University) 

5:00-6:30 PM HLMS 199

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Navigating Racial Satire"
Professor Professor Luvell Anderson (University of Memphis)

7:00-9:30 PM HALE 270

What has to go wrong in order for racial satire to be racist? Does the fact that something is satirical automatically mean it is free from blame? In this talk I explore these issues and offer suggestions on how to broach racial subjects satirically.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"One True Love"
Professor Justin Weinberg (University of South Carolina) 

7:00-9:00 PM HUMN1B50

Whispered to a lover, sung by a pop star, or projected onto the movie screen, the idea that there is one special person out there for you to love--your one true love--has an intoxicating appeal. When looked at in the cold light of day, however, this idea, the "one true love thesis", seems preposterous. Yet what if it were true? I argue that for at least some people the one true love thesis is indeed true. I further argue that, though the idea of having one true love is popularly thought of as good, whether it is in fact good is ambiguous. These reflections on love are then used to argue that generally, we misunderstand how specialness or uniqueness contributes to value.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Cowspiracy" Movie Screening
6:30-9:30 PM, MATH 100

Free vegan food will be provided! A panel discussion will follow.

Panel moderated by:
Dr. Alastair Norcross, associate professor of philosophy, CU-Boulder

Panelists include the following:
Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, CU
Dr. Greg Litus, Western Colorado Research Center, Colorado State University
Jessica Sandler, senior director, PETA
Keith Akers, author of "A Vegetarian Sourcebook"
Zoë Sigle, CU's student organization Vegan Justice League

The event is co-sponsored by the CU Center for Values and Social Policy.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Ayn Rand and the Scope of One's Interests"
Ari Armstrong

Ayn Rand says that selfishness is a virtue, a claim that many people find odd or outlandish. Won't an egoist abuse others; ignore the interests of others; free-ride on the efforts of others to better the world; and lie, cheat, and steal if he can get away with it? On the contrary, argued Rand: A rational egoist is concerned with principle, virtue, and justice. How could this be so? The key to the paradox is to discover what, in fact, is in a person's interests. This talk explores why acting on principle, developing meaningful social relationships, and working toward a rights-respecting society are integral to a person's rational self-interests.

Bio: Ari Armstrong is an associate editor for the Objective Standard and the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles. He has written about such issues as abortion rights, gun rights, and the drug war for various newspapers, including the Denver Post and Boulder Weekly. In 2009 Ari won the Modern Day Sam Adams award, and in 2011 he was a finalist in the Hoiles Prize for regional journalism.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Abortion and Amendment 67"
David Boonin (CU Boulder)


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Unbound: Zero Factor of Production Beyond Capitalism in African States"
Ajume Wingo (CU Boulder)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Don't Fear the Reapers: A Moral Argument for Drone Strikes"
Ryan Jenkins (CU Boulder)


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Fragmented Cognition and the Death of the Self"
Rob Rupert (CU Boulder)


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ajume Wingo (CU Boulder)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Philosophers' Problems are Everyone's Problems"
Brian Talbot (CU Boulder)


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Why Blackmail Should Be Legal" 
David Boonin (CU Boulder)

David is legally free to decide whether or not to reveal embarrassing personal information about Alastair. Alastair is legally free to decide whether or not to give David some of his money. David's act of blackmailing Alastair seems to be nothing more than a combination of David and Alastair exercising these two freedoms. But David's act of blackmailing Alastair is illegal. In this talk, Professor Boonin will present a puzzle that arises from these facts, consider a variety of solutions that have been offered to the puzzle, argue that none of these solutions are satisfactory, and conclude that blackmail should be legal.

7:30–9:00 pm in Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Is Premarital Abstinence Immoral?" 
Alastair Norcross (CU Boulder)

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, we need to recognize the serious immorality of premarital abstinence.

7:30–9:00 pm in Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Killing and Priming: Some Recent Research into Moral Evidence" 
Brian Talbot (CU Boulder)

Whether or not some one person has killed another is morally significant... isn't it? This talk discusses a relatively novel approach to investigating the moral significance of killing: studying the evidence we have about the morality of killing to see if it is good evidence. We can study the quality of this evidence partly through research into its psychological basis. The talk will discuss some recent research into this that was conducted on the C.U. Boulder campus. This research has implications for our personal lives, for public policy, and for philosophy as well.

7:30–9:00 pm in Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Should You Try to Be Morally Perfect?" 
Diana Hsieh, Ph.D. (2009 CU Alumna)

Most people dismiss any ideal of moral perfection as beyond their reach. "I'm only human," they say. That view is a legacy of Christianity, which teaches that moral perfection is possible to God alone and that any attempt at moral perfection is the sin of pride. In sharp contrast, Ayn Rand argues that moral perfection is not only possible to ordinary people, but also necessary for anyone who wants to live a virtuous and happy life. Hence, pride, understood as moral ambitiousness, is one of her seven major virtues -- as seen in the heroes of her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
This talk will explore Ayn Rand's views of moral perfection, ambition, and pride. What does she think that morality demands? How can people achieve that? How should people respond to their own moral wrongs and errors? We will compare Rand's answers to these questions to those of Aristotle. We will find that, despite some differences in each philosopher's conception of virtue, they share the compelling view that seeking moral perfection is crucially important to a person's life and happiness.

7:30–9:00 pm in Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Political Legitimacy and Territorial Rights" 
Kit Wellman (Washington University in St. Louis)

Few deny that states should be delineated territorially, but questions abound as to what moral rights states can claim to which parcels of territory. In other words, even if one assumes that states can be legitimate and must be territorially districted (and not everyone does, of course), why think that Norway is entitled to exclusive jurisdiction over the particular piece of territory it currently occupies? And even if Norway does have a special claim to this land, what rights does this give it against which parties? More specifically, does Norway have exclusive rights of jurisdiction (the right to make and enforce law on its territory), resources (the right to control and consume the natural resources available in its territory), and/or border control (the right to design and enforce its own immigration policy as it sees fit)?
It is tempting to suppose that legitimate states enjoy these three rights to jurisdiction, resources, and border control. It is far from clear, however, how the dominant approach to political legitimacy -- functional accounts -- can ground these rights. Thus, prominent authors like David Miller have recently suggested that functional theories of political legitimacy must be replaced or at least supplemented with nationalist elements. I am not convinced that invoking a nation's claim to territory can do the desired work, but I shall not press this critique here. In this paper, I shall merely explore how a functional theorist might try to ground a legitimate state's claims to jurisdiction, border control and resources. In my view, functional theorists can provide plausible accounts of the first two territorial rights, but it remains unclear how they can justify the third. Assuming that this is correct, the plausibility of non-nationalist functional theories of political legitimacy will depend upon whether natural resources should be understood as belonging exclusively to the citizens of the country in which they lie.
6:30-8:00pm in Eaton Humanities 135. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Elections by Contract: An African Covenant of Justice and Legitimacy 
Ajume Wingo (CU Boulder)

ABSTRACT: Professor Wingo has developed a new electoral system with the potential to solve many African democratic problems, from which Americans can learn a great deal about their own electoral system.

7:30–9:00 pm in Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Constructing Practical Ethics" 
Dale Jamieson (NYU)

In this talk my aim is to shed light on contemporary practices by exposing some of their origins. I proceed by presenting a broad history of practical ethics that is somewhat speculative and impressionistic. My most general conclusion is that the diversity of activities collected under the rubric of “practical ethics” is fed by a wide range of intellectual and cultural sources. Seeing contemporary practices in the light of their historical background will, I hope, contribute to greater methodological self-consciousness and sophistication, and help to clarify the relationship of practical ethics to the discipline of philosophy.

5:30–7:00 pm in Humanities 1B50. Free and open to the public.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"...But What About the Animals?" 
Cheshire Calhoun (Arizona State)

Immanuel Kant famously claimed that we have no direct duties to animals and that animals are things that we may dispose of as we will. Even Kantian moral philosophers have sometimes called this a repugnant moral doctrine. Utilitarian ethics, by contrast, gives us a much more animal-friendly account of our moral obligations: we are obligated to take into account the interests of all sentient animals, both human and nonhuman. However, there is much that is attractive in Kant's moral thinking-especially his emphasis on the importance of not using persons for one's own ends and of avoiding contempt and arrogance. So it is worth taking a second look at Kant's relatively brief and scattered remarks about animals before concluding that utilitarianism provides a superior account of our duties to animals. In this lecture, I imagine asking Kant, "But what about the animals?" And I come to the surprising conclusion that Kant offers us helpful ways of thinking not just about animal welfare but also about the attitudes a well-formed moral agent should have toward nonhuman animals and about the morally appropriate responses to the service animals and pets with whom we share a social world.

5:30–7:00pm in Humanities 1B50. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"What's Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?" 
John Corvino (Wayne State University)

Is homosexuality unnatural? Does gay marriage threaten society? Is sexual orientation hardwired, and does that matter to the debate? Combining philosophical rigor with sensitivity and humor, Dr. John Corvino — aka "The Gay Moralist" from 365gay.com — answers these questions and more. In the process, he challenges people from all sides of the debate to rethink easy assumptions about sexuality, morality, and society.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Philosophy and Race: The Whiteness of Being" 
Charles Mills (Northwestern University)

Philosophy is one of the "whitest" of the humanities, both demographically and conceptually. The demographic claim is undeniable, but the conceptual claim may seem more dubious and controversial. In this talk, I will try to demonstrate its accuracy, as well as giving some possible recommendations about how to make philosophy a more inclusive and welcoming discipline for racial minorities.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in HUMN 250. Free and open to the public.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Paths for the Perplexed: The Perils of Leadership in Modern Africa" 
Ajume Wingo (University of Colorado)

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Time Travel" 
Bradley Monton (University of Colorado)

Is time travel possible? Could you change the past? Could someone be their own mother and father? If time travel is possible, where are all the time travelers?

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Report on the Search for the Worst Thing in the World" 
Michael Huemer (University of Colorado)

The world contains so many awful or frightening things to worry about — cancer, global warming, terrorism, the threat of nuclear war, and so on. But which is the worst thing? After considering the numbers of lives affected or likely to be affected by each problem, Professor Huemer discusses which problems are the strongest candidates for “worst thing in the world,” and which are overblown. Many strong candidates for the world’s most serious problem are hardly discussed at all and have prompted far less concern than other, much smaller problems. Most of the worst problems in the world are problems that we are making little or no effort to solve.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Virtues and Video Games: How Should You Feel About Simulated Evil Acts?" 
Brian Talbot (University of Colorado)

Recent video games have allowed players to participate in the simulated murder, rape, and torture of innocents. What is the moral status of these acts, and of those who participate in them? How should such acts and such players affect us? This talk will investigate these questions by looking at the connection between video game acts and the character of players from both the philosophical and psychological perspectives.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Divinely Mandated Genocide in the Bible: Is God Bad? Or Is the Bible Wrong about God?" 
Wes Morriston (University of Colorado)

Many people believe both that God is perfectly good and that the Bible contains an accurate portrait of God’s character and behavior. I will argue that this combination of views cannot be sustained in the face of biblical texts that represent God as having commanded genocidal warfare.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"What Is Wrong with the World, and Who Is to Blame?" 
Michael Tooley (University of Colorado)

The list of things that are wrong with the world would be a very long one indeed. I shall argue, however, that most of the world’s ills have their source in three related things: irrational beliefs, the absence of a capacity for critical thought, and a general unwillingness to think seriously about important matters.

If this is right, who is to blame? The obvious answer is that educators are to blame. It would be difficult initially, however, to make the needed changes at the primary and secondary school levels because of the control that communities and politicians exercise over the schools. The universities, however, are not generally subject to such control, and their failure to develop in students a strong capacity for critical thought, to provide students with crucial information, and to encourage them very strongly to think seriously about fundamental beliefs and values, is unacceptable.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog, or a Chicken: Why You Shouldn't Eat Meat" 
Alastair Norcross (University of Colorado)

If someone were to torture dogs just for human pleasure, we would be outraged (remember Michael Vick?), and rightly so. But every year in the US alone billions of animals suffer horribly while being intensively reared for human consumption. Given the easy availability of cheap vegetarian foods, eating meat is no more essential to human well-being than is attendance at dog-fighting events. Why think it's acceptable to do to chickens, pigs, and veal calves what would be unconscionable to do to dogs?

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"America’s Crumbling Economy" 
Michael Huemer (University of Colorado)

What just happened to America's economy? What caused the housing bubble, and what should we do, as individuals and as a society, to prevent similar occurrences in the future? Will the government's stimulus measures help, or only make things worse? What lies ahead for the U.S. economy? Philosophy professor Michael Huemer will discuss these and other questions this Tuesday evening.

7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel. Free and open to the public


Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Abortion and Personal Identity" 
Don Marquis (University of Kansas)

Abstract: Abortion is presumptively seriously immoral for the same reason it is wrong to end YOUR life: Ending your life deprives you of the experiences you would have valued had you continued to live. Some have argued that because no fetus is the same person as the adult she would become, an abortion is different from ending the life of an older human being in a morally significant way. I argue that this view is incorrect.

5:30 - 7:00 pm, Humanities 1B50. Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Where Is My Mind?" 
Rob Rupert (CU-Boulder)


This lecture critically evaluates the view that the mind extends into the environment. Recent decades have seen an explosion of scientific research on the mind. Much of this work emphasizes the environment's active role in human problem-solving. What does the success of such research tell us about the mind? Do external contributors to problem-solving partly constitute the human mind? Is, for instance, my computer's hard drive part of me? Some philosophers and cognitive scientists say 'yes', and we shall try to understand and evaluate the reasons offered in support of this revolutionary claim.

7:30 - 9:00 pm, Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Monday, March 2, 2009

"Making a Virtue of Selfishness? A Debate about Ayn Rand's Ethics"
Onkar Ghate (Ayn Rand Institute) and Michael Huemer (CU-Boulder) 


Dr. Onkar Ghate: "Ayn Rand challenges the idea, dominant in the West since Christianity, that morality consists of commandments. Even though this conception of morality has often been secularized, its essence has remained: the source of morality is something external to the self, to which the self owes obedience. In sharp contrast, Rand correctly argues that the nature and purpose of morality is to teach one how to achieve one's self-interest."
Dr. Michael Huemer: "Ayn Rand champions an excessively egoistic ethic, one in which individuals must place themselves before everyone and everything else. This ethic can lead one to hurt, exploit, or simply ignore the needs of others, when it suits one's own interests to do so. Rand's ethic of selfishness clashes with the moral sense of philosophers, spiritual leaders, and ordinary people the world over. These people are not all wrong -- Ayn Rand is wrong."
7:30 - 9:00 pm, Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Freedom in the Making of Peace "

Ajume WIngo (CU-Boulder) 

Why is virulent conflict such a fixture of life in most of the developing world? Why is it that in the wake of bloody conflicts, people in the developing world look not to justice (as in the Western world) but to reconciliation as a way forward to peaceful coexistence? Dr. Ajume Wingo argues that the conflicts we find in Africa and the Middle East do not imply that ethnic, cultural, political, religious, and cultural differences between parties there are necessarily deeper or more passionate than those found between groups in Western Europe or North America. Why, and how, different societies respond to deep differences between individuals and groups holds the key to understanding the bloodletting conflicts we see in different societies around the world today. He also will examine Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's recent proposal for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the misdeeds of the Bush administration.

7:30 - 9:00 pm, Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"What's Wrong with Racial Profiling" 
David Boonin (CU-Boulder)

Racial profiling is a policy that takes race (or perceived race) into account when determining which people should be investigated, or how thoroughly they should be investigated, in the attempt to reduce crime. Polls consistently show that most Americans, all across the political spectrum, find it objectionable. But while it seems clear to many people that racial profiling is wrong, Dr. Boonin will argue that it is surprisingly difficult to say just what, precisely, is wrong with it.

7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design"
Bradley Monton (CU-Boulder)

The doctrine of intelligent design has been maligned by atheists, but even though I'm an atheist, I'm of the opinion that the arguments for intelligent design are stronger than most realize. After trying to figure out what the doctrine of intelligent design actually is, I'll argue that it's legitimate to view intelligent design as science, that there are somewhat plausible arguments for the existence of a cosmic designer, and that intelligent design should be taught in public school science classes.
7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.

Link to mp3: id.mp3


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Why You Don't Have to Love Nature to Be Green"
Ben Hale (CU-Boulder)

For many years running, the clarion call of environmentalism has been to extol the virtues of nature, to carry on about the magnificence of mountains and polar bears. Nature's preciousness has been trumpeted by almost all of the luminaries in the environmental movement. And yet, this sentimental refrain doesn't resonate with the millions of people who simply don't find nature all that compelling. In this talk, I'll side with the challenger. I'll argue that though you wouldn't know it by asking your environmentalist
friends, you don't have to love nature to be green.

7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Thursday, February 21st, 2008

"Why No One Needs to Fear Going to Hell"
Wes Morriston (CU-Boulder)

In June 2007, the Gallup Poll reported that eighty six percent of Americans believe in God, and that sixty nine percent believe in hell. Dr. Morriston will argue that if you believe in God, you probably should not believe in hell -- at least not if you think that God is very good and hell is a very bad place to be. Along the way, he'll be taking a critical look at one popular attempt to explain why a just and loving God would allow many people to spend eternity in hell -- an application of the so-called free will defense to the special case of hell.
7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Thursday, March 6th, 2008

"Two Cheers for Affirmative Action"
David Boonin (CU-Boulder)

People on both sides of the affirmative action debate tend to agree that the issue is a matter of justice. Defenders of the practice maintain that affirmative action is morally required while opponents maintain that it is morally prohibited. One side thinks it's wrong to practice affirmative action, in other words, while the other side thinks it's wrong not to do so. In this talk, Professor Boonin will critically examine a number of arguments that have been given for and against affirmative action and will argue that both sides are wrong.
7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public.


Thursday, April 24th, 2008

"Is Virtue Only a Means to Happiness? An Analysis of Virtue and Happiness in Ayn Rand's Writings"
Neera Badhwar (University of Oklahoma)

In Ayn Rand's ethics, as presented in her fiction and philosophic works, what is the ultimate value and what is its relationship to virtue? Professor Badhwar will argue that Rand's views on these topics are inconsistent, but that the dominant view in her fiction is that the ultimate value is happiness, understood as eudaimonia (rather than life), and that virtue is partly constitutive of happiness (rather than merely a means to it). This dominant view is also the true view. Along the way, she will also examine Rand's view of the emotions and compare her ethical views with Aristotle's.
7:30-9:00 p.m., Old Main Chapel, Free and open to the public. 


Thursday, September 13th, 2007

"The Search for Extraterrestrials: What is Life?"
Carol Cleland (CU-Boulder)


Many scientists and lay persons assume that the search for extraterrestrial life requires a definition of "life." I argue that this is a mistake. What is needed to answer the scientific question "what is life?" is not a definition but a general theory of living systems, which we currently lack.
In the absence of such a theory, we are in a position analogous to someone from the seventeenth century trying to define "water" before the advent of molecular theory. No analysis of the seventeenth century concept of water could have revealed that water is H20. Yet this is what is required to answer the question "what is water?" The upshot is that it is a mistake to design instrument packages for detecting extraterrestrial life around a specific definition of "life." But this seems to result in a dilemma: If we don't have a definition of "life" to guide the design of biological instrument packages, how will we recognize truly alien life if we find it?
I discuss a strategy for circumventing this problem.


Thursday, October 11th, 2007

"Honor Thy Mother and Father. But Why? "
Claudia Mills (CU-Boulder)

8:00 to 9:30 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel


Thursday, November 8th, 2007

"What Counts as Art? "
Simon Sparks (Ogelthorpe University)

8:00 to 9:30 p.m. in the Old Main Chapel


Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

"Dangerous Professors and Academic Freedom"
Alison Jaggar (CU-Boulder)


This talk offers an account of academic freedom. By way of context, it begins with a brief history of challenges to academic freedom at the University of Colorado and then turns to the following questions. Who enjoys academic freedom and which of their activities does it protect? What is the relationship of academic freedom to constitutionally and internationally protected civil liberties? From whom or what does academic freedom provide protection? Is academic freedom compatible with public accountability? What are the rationales for academic freedom?


Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

"Justice in War: A Debate "
Yaron Brook (Ayn Rand Institute) and Martin Cook (US Air Force Academy)

Note: This event will be held in the Wittemyer Courtroom in the Wolf Law Building), at the usual time of 8 to 9:30 p.m.

Dr. Martin Cook (abstract & bio)

For centuries the "just war tradition" has provided a moral framework for assessing the justification for the use of military force and also the methods for its application. The "sole remaining superpower" status of the United States, coupled with the exigencies of the "war on terror" (or "the long war") raise questions about the continued applicability of that tradition. Dr. Cook will examine this question and note areas where existing just war standards (especially as codified in International Law) are challenged by this new strategic environment.

Dr. Martin L. Cook is Professor of Philosophy and Deputy Department Head at the United States Air Force Academy. He has lectured widely in the United States to military and civilian audiences, as well as delivered invited lectures to the military educational institutions of the United Kingdom, Ecuador, Norway, Singapore, and Australia. His most recent book is The Moral Warrior: Ethics and Service in the US Military.

Dr. Yaron Brook (abstract & bio)

America's failed "War on Terrorism" is the result, not of any practical inability to defeat the Islamic Totalitarian movement and its state sponsors, but its leaders' moral unwillingness to wage all-out war in self-defense. American leaders accept the altruistic code of "Just War Theory," which demands that a nation follow self-sacrificial restrictions for the sake of its enemies and their supporters. Dr. Brook will advocate an alternative theory of war based on Ayn Rand's ethics of rational egoism, arguing that a government is right to go to war whenever the rights of its citizens are threatened by a foreign aggressor and to do anything necessary to defeat the enemy and return to normal life.

Dr. Yaron Brook is president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. A former finance professor, he has published in academic as well as popular publications. In addition to his frequent interviews by the media, he lectures on Objectivism, business ethics, and foreign policy at college campuses and for corporations across America and throughout the world. He is the co-author of "'Just War Theory' vs. American Self-Defense" published in The Objective Standard, Spring 2006.


Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Michael Tooley (CU-Boulder)


Thursday, October 5th, 2006

“Why Johnny Can’t Think or Distinguish Right from Wrong”
Brad Thompson (Clemson)


What’s wrong with America’s adolescent boys? Why are they so angry, and why are they committing mass murder in America's government schools? How are we to understand and explain what happened at Columbine high school?

In this lecture, C. Bradley Thompson rejects the leading theories of conservatives and liberals and instead advances a radical proposition—that the cause of America’s epidemic of school shootings is to be found in the schools themselves. He argues that the root cause for all these shootings might very well be found in the destruction of the minds and souls of America's young people by an education establishment bent on using our children as guinea pigs for their bizarre experiments in schooling.

C. Bradley Thompson is the BB&T Research Professor at Clemson University and the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.


Thursday, November 16th, 2006

“What We Owe to Animals: A Debate”
David Barnett and Robert Hanna (CU-Boulder)

David Barnett (abstract)

People who take the interests of men more seriously than those of women are sexists. People who take the interests of whites more seriously than those of blacks are racists. And people who take the interests of humans more seriously than those of non-humans are speciesists. Today sexism and racism are generally considered immoral. Speciesism, however, continues to be seen as morally acceptable. Most people believe, for instance, that it is more important to prevent humans from experiencing pain than to prevent pigs, chickens, and cows from experiencing pain. Following the lead of Peter Singer, I will argue that speciesism, like sexism and racism, is immoral. If my argument is sound, then we need to reevaluate our treatment of non-human animals, including such practices as factory farming and animal experimentation.

Robert Hanna (abstract)

My argument aims to establish three theses. The first thesis is that

there is good reason to believe that the pain of human or nonhuman animals that are persons in the moral sense, especially insofar as that pain is experienced as suffering, is substantially more morally significant than the pain of any species of animals that are not persons.

This is what I call the Moral Comparison Principle. The Moral Comparison Principle and the argument that supports it jointly entail my second thesis, the Killing-or-Using Principle, which says that

it is morally permissible to kill or use, with some amount of pain, nonhuman animals that are not persons, although the amount of pain inflicted for those purposes should be strictly minimized and it is also impermissible to torture them.

Consistently with both the Moral Comparison Principle and the Killing-or-Using Principle, I think that it is also plausible to assert the following thesis:

by means of an extension of our other-directed moral feelings, we can collectively agree to treat select groups of nonpersons temporarily or permanently as if they were persons.

This is what I will call Associate Membership in the Kingdom of Ends. The conjunction of these three theses is what I will call the Person-Based Theory of the morality of our treatment of nonhuman animals.


Thursday, December 7th, 2006

“Integral Ecology”
Michael Zimmerman (CU/Boulder)


Drawing on the theoretical work of Ken Wilber, Michael E. Zimmerman outlines the principles of integral ecology, a multi-perspectival approach to characterizing and proposing solutions to environmental problems. Integral ecology emphasizes that natural science is crucial for understanding environmental problems, but so are the humanities, social sciences, arts, and other domains of inquiry. Many human-caused environmental problems arise from cultural attitudes and social practices that lie beyond the purview of the natural sciences. While welcoming insight from the perspectives of all pertinent stakeholders and investigators, integral ecology also emphasizes that some perspectives are better - that is, more comprehensive, inclusive, integrative - than others. With co-author Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, Professor Zimmerman is completing a book on this topic, Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World.