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Conferences and Lectures

 

Sabbatical Lecture: Visible Hands: Virtue Ethics & Market Behavior

Dr. Jennifer Baker
Associate Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston 
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
3:15 pm, Levin Library - Room 209 Yaschik Jewish Studies Center (96 Wentworth)

"Every consciousness upon whatever object it is primarily directed, is constantly directed upon itself," wrote Franz Brentano in 1874 in his seminal work, Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint. This assertion of the unity of consciousness as reflexive awareness, which finds its roots in Aristotle, has been both criticized and vigorously defended by contemporary philosophers working in the interdisciplinary field of Consciousness Studies. In this presentation, I first consider various alternatives to the reflexivist theory of consciousness, specifically higher-order, representationalist, token-physicalist, and dualist theories. I then review evidence from embodied cognitive science that highlights various problems these latter theories face in accounting for the character of consciousness. Finally, I entertain the question whether this sort of evidence provides sufficient ground for claiming that something like a pre-reflective self-awareness is prior to the types of consciousness that presuppose conceptual and narrative competence.

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Moral Pluralism

Dr. Michael Gill
Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona 
Thursday, April 11th, 2013
6:30 pm, Alumni Memorial Hall of Randolph Hall

There are two ways of viewing morality: the monistic and the pluralist. Monists believe that all of morality is based on a single ultimate value, and that all cases of moral conflict can be resolved by determining what that one ultimate value demands. Pluralists, in contrast, believe that there are a number of different ultimate moral values, and that as a result we may sometimes face conflicting moral demands that cannot be completely resolved. We’ll discuss some of the most powerful reasons to believe that pluralism is right by looking at the views of David Hume, Adam Smith, and contemporary moral psychologists. We’ll also examine the implications moral pluralism can have for conflicts between the general welfare and individual property rights.  

This is the second of two lectures sponsored by the Coastal Conservation League and we are grateful for their support!

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 What Nāgārjuna Really Has at Stake in Refuting Motion: Thoughts on Action as a Person-level Phenomenon

Dan Arnold
Divinity School 
University of Chicago

The 2nd century South Asian philosopher Nāgārjuna is considered the founder of the Madhyamaka or "Middle Way" school of thought. In his magnum opus, Stanzas of the Middle Way, Nāgārjuna addresses issues similar to those that concern Western philosophers like Sextus Empiricus, Hume, and Wittgenstein. Specifically, Nāgārjuna offers an analysis of phenomena or processes that appear to exist independently but that, he claims, cannot so exist. These phenomena, though lacking inherent existence, are not, however,  nonexistent. Rather, they are taken to be only conventionally real. Dan Arnold will consider one such skeptical argument, the argument against motion, as concerning essentially the issue of whether a personal level of description can admit of an exhaustively impersonal explanation.

 Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. in Addlestone Library, Room 227

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Personhood, Ethics, & Animal Cognition

Gary Varner
Professor of Philosophy 
Texax A & M University

This talk introduces various conceptions of personhood, including the idea that a person is one who has a biographical sense of self and a robust, conscious sense of his or her own past and future.  It examines recent empirical research related to deciding the question of which non-human animals, if any, qualify as persons or at least near-persons.  The talk concludes by exploring possible implications of these ideas for various human uses of animals, including for food.

 Professor Varner is Head of the Philosophy Department at Texas A&M University and specializes in environmental and animal ethics, utilitarianism, and environmental law.

 Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. in Addlestone Library, Room 227

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Philosophy Department Faculty Panel: Narrative, Ethics, and The Lives of Animals

Roundtable discussion with Jonathan Neufeld (Philosophy), Simon Lewis (English), and Ornaith O'Dowd (Philosophy)

In 1997, J. M. Coetzee's delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values that would become his novella The Lives of Animals. Typically, the Tanner lectures are philosophical essays presenting arguments on specific ethical or political problems or concepts. Instead of presenting the usual set of arguments, Coetzee delivered two lectures that were two chapters from a novella. The novella's central character, Elizabeth Costello, herself delivers two lectures on humans' mistreatment animals (to put it mildly). While she presents arguments and counterarguments, as do other characters in the story, these arguments do not simply stand as arguments—they are also, of course, literary devices that constitute the book as the work of art that it is. Is Coetzee really just making an argument, and just adding color to it with the story? Or does the fact that it is a piece of literature change the status of the arguments in it? Why might we make certain kinds of ethical claims in artistic form rather than in some other form (the form of philosophical argument typically found in the Tanner Lectures, for example)? Is there something about talking about the lives of animals, in particular, that calls for a literary, rather than a philosophical response? 

 Thursday, February 14, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. in the Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance

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Sabbatical Lecture: The Enchantment of Consciousness

Dr. Christian Coseru
Associate Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston 
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
3:15 pm, Tate Center, Room 202

"Every consciousness upon whatever object it is primarily directed, is constantly directed upon itself," wrote Franz Brentano in 1874 in his seminal work, Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint. This assertion of the unity of consciousness as reflexive awareness, which finds its roots in Aristotle, has been both criticized and vigorously defended by contemporary philosophers working in the interdisciplinary field of Consciousness Studies. In this presentation, I first consider various alternatives to the reflexivist theory of consciousness, specifically higher-order, representationalist, token-physicalist, and dualist theories. I then review evidence from embodied cognitive science that highlights various problems these latter theories face in accounting for the character of consciousness. Finally, I entertain the question whether this sort of evidence provides sufficient ground for claiming that something like a pre-reflective self-awareness is prior to the types of consciousness that presuppose conceptual and narrative competence.

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Philosophy Colloquium Series: Justification Without Normativity

Adventures in Rationalism

Dr. Michael Della Rocca
Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy, Yale University 
Monday, November 12th, 2012
6:30 pm, Alumni Memorial Hall of Randolph Hall

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (the PSR) which rejects brute facts has a venerable history but has also fallen out of favor. This is due, no doubt, to the exotic nature of the PSR's implications, especially monism which in one of its forms is the thesis that there is only one thing. Despite this hostile environment, the paper ventures to offer a defense of the PSR and concludes on a surprising note. 

This is the first of two lectures sponsored by the Coastal Carolina Conservation League and we are grateful for their support!

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Philosophy Colloquium Series: Believing in Free Will: A Philosophical / Psychological Investigation

Dr. Thomas Nadelhoffer
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston 
Thursday, November 8th, 2012
3:15 pm, ECTR 113

Recently, psychologists and experimental philosophers have become increasingly interested in people’s intuitions about free will.  However, the goal of this empirical research is not to explore whether humans actually have free will, metaphysically speaking; rather, the goal is to explore the instrumental value of believing in free will.  After all, regardless of whether we have free will, believing that we do could nevertheless be interpersonally and intrapersonally beneficial.  During this talk, I will situate my own research on this front within the broader project of trying to understand how people think about free will. I will also argue that my latest findings suggest that there may be a dark side to believing in free will--which is an issue that calls out for further investigation. 

 
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Philosophy Department-Sponsored Lecture: "Covers as Social Commentary: Dylan, The Monkees, & Tiffany"

Please join the First-Year Experience, the Department of Philosophy and the Music Departments at a lecture, "Covers as Social Commentary: Dylan, The Monkees, and Tiffany" by Theodore Gracyk. A reception sponsored by the Philosophy Society will follow. Theodore Gracyk is a philosopher of music and culture at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, author of several books including Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock (1996); I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity (2001); Listening to Popular Music (2007); and On Music (forthcoming).

Friday, November 2nd, 2012
3:15 pm - 4:45 pm
Tate 202

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Philosophy Department Faculty Panel: The Sustainability of Our Food Choices

When you go to the grocery store or stop at a local fast food restaurant to buy something to eat, how much thought do you put into where the food you are buying comes from? Have you considered what went into creating / preparing it - and whether it was done so in a way that was safe for the environment, fair to the workers, and humane for the animals involved?
More and more, people are becoming concerned about the way our food is produced. For example, here are some disturbing trends:
  • Animal products are increasingly raised purely for profit, without regard to proper stewardship or health.
  • We are mono-cropping, and the government is subsidizing it.
  • Food is transported and processed using large amounts of non-renewable resources.
  • Food is being genetically modified, cloned, and patented.
Sustainable agriculture is a way of raising food that is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides a fair wage to the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.
Join Brian Fisher (Director, Office of Sustainability), Nikki Seibert (Director of Sustainable Agriculture, Lowcountry Local First), and Martin Jones (Mathematics Department) in a panel discussion of the relationship between sustainability and the food we eat.
Monday, October 2nd, 2012
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
ECTR, Room 118
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Philosophy Department Faculty Panel: "Animal Neuroethics and the Problem of Other Minds"

Please join us for a panel discussion of leading neuroscientist Martha Farah's provocative article, "Animal Neuroethics and the Problem of Other Minds".  Thomas Nadelhoffer (philosophy) will be leading the discussion with a presentation of Farah's argument that advances in neuroscience hold out the promise to shed new light on the debate about animal minds.  This will be followed by commentary from Chad Galuska (Psychology), Dan Greenberg (psychology), and Melissa Hughes (biology).  The key question that will be addressed is whether neuroscience gives us qualitatively new access to the menal lives of non-human animals.  If not, why not?  If so, what effects might this have on animal ethics?
Thursday, September 20th, 2012
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Robert Scott Smalls Building, Room 235
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2011 - 2012 Bachelor's Essay: Sentiment and Circuits: the Effects of Human-Robot Interaction on Ethical Intuitions

Meredith Oliver
Friday, April 13, 2012
2:00 - 3:35 p.m. - ECTR 113
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Aesthetics in Participatory, Socially Engaged Art

Dr. Michael Kelly
Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Author of Iconoclasm in Aesthetics, and editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics 
Thursday, April 12, 2012
3:15 p.m. - Tate Center, Room 202
Contemporary art is increasingly participatory and socially engaged. What are the aspirations, operations, and effects of such art? What are its predecessors? How has aesthetics been an explicit partner in the development of participatory art when, by contrast, so much art since the 1960s has been committed to an anti-aesthetic stance? Is art still tied to aesthetics as it becomes ever more socially engaged? 
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Sabbatical Lecture: Austere Affections

Dr. Glenn Lesses
Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston 
Thursday, March 29, 2012
3:15 p.m. - Education Center, Room 113
According to the conventional picture of the ideal Stoic agent, the sage lacks all emotion. Yet, this account of ideal Stoic agency is at best incomplete. As scholars now recognize, the Stoic analysis is more complex and nuanced. In their discussion of affective responses, the Stoics attribute certain types of affect to sages. In this presentation, I first outline some relevant elements of Stoic psychological theory. I next consider a standard reading of affect in the ideal agent. Finally, I discuss problems with this standard reading and suggest an alternative.
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 The Norms of Nature Appreciation

Dr. Glenn Parsons
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Ryerson University 
Thursday, March 15, 2012
3:15 - 4:45 pm, Wachovia Auditorium, 115 Beatty Center
In recent years, philosophers have debated whether there are any normative constraints on the aesthetic appreciation of nature, such that certain forms of aesthetic appreciation of nature can be said to be defective or inappropriate. One view, defended by philosophers such as Yuriko Saito and Allen Carlson, holds that there are such norms, and further, that at least some of them rest on ethical or moral considerations. This view has been contested recently by Robert Stecker, who argues that there are no moral norms constraining the aesthetic appreciation of nature. In this paper, I consider Stecker's case and reassess the relevance of ethical considerations for the aesthetics of nature.
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From Edinburgh to Algiers: Hume and Camus on Philosophical Modesty

Dr. Robert Zaretsky
Professor of French History, The University of Houston 
Thursday, February 23, 2012
6:30 pm, Alumni Memorial Hall, Randolph Hall
David Hume and Albert Camus seems as impossible a pair as, well, David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Yet not only were Hume and Rousseau (briefly) friends, but their relationship also cast remarkable light on the purpose and ends of philosophy. This also applies to Camus and Hume. As we pause between two anniversary celebrations—Hume’s tercentenary in 2011 and Camus’ centenary in 2013—there is much the two men share and offer to our own age. In their tempestuous ties to their native countries, their marginal standing among traditional philosophers, and their uncompromising, yet complex attitude towards Christianity, Hume and Camus are two of a kind. Moreover, as essayists, both men succeeded in reaching a popular readership far beyond their professional peers. Finally, though both thinkers revolutionized the way in which we have come to see the world, they were also conservatives wedded to a philosophy of limits.
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The Inertness of Reason & Hume's Legacy

Dr. Elizabeth Radcliffe
Professor of Philosophy, The College of William and Mary 
Friday, November 4, 2011
2:15 pm, Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance
Hume argues against the seventeenth-century rationalists that reason is impotent to motivate action and to originate morality. Hume’s arguments have standardly been considered the foundation for the Humean theory of motivation in contemporary philosophy. The Humean theory alleges that beliefs require independent desires to motivate action. Recently, however, Hume’s legacy to motivational psychology has been questioned. New commentaries allege that Hume’s argument concerning the inertness of reason has no bearing on belief. This is because Hume’s argument about motivation centers on the practical impotence of reason apart from passion or desire, but does not make explicit reference to the role of belief. So, belief on its own may very well be a motive to action, even though reason is not. This reading appears contrary to the belief/desire model espoused in twenty-first-century philosophy. I consider textual, philosophical, and historical grounds to offer an interpretation of Hume’s argument for the inertness of reason and argue that the new line on Hume is mistaken. It concentrates almost exclusively on texts in Hume’s Treatise and fails to account for later texts in the Dissertation on the Passions and the second Enquiry that also give an important perspective to Hume’s discussion. I argue that contemporary Humeans can rest assured in their claim to Hume’s arguments as ground for their theory.
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Friendship & Commercial Societies

Dr. Neera Badhwar
Philosopher in Residence - Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program, George Mason University 
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
5:00 - 6:00, Arnold Hall, Jewish Studies Center
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Why Do We Mindread?

Dr. Tadeusz Zawidzki
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Mind / Brain / Evolution Cluster, George Washington University 
Thursday, September 15, 2011
3:15 pm, Arnold Hall, Jewish Studies Center
 Human beings spend a lot of time trying to figure out what other human beings are thinking: We try to read each other’s minds.  The thinking is that by observing people’s behavior, we try to infer each other’s hidden thoughts, so that we can better predict future behavior.  There is a lot of debate about how we manage this, but a great deal of consensus about why we do it.  It seems obvious: By figuring out what other people think, we are better able to predict their behavior – and clearly knowing what someone is going to do is very useful!  This is plausible from an evolutionary perspective: If we know what other people are thinking, and hence how they will behave, we are better able to coordinate our behavior. Being able to coordinate in groups gave humans an evolutionary advantage by allowing our ancestors to engage in cooperative projects like group hunts, group warfare, group predator defense, and so forth.
 
However, despite its plausibility, I think this explanation of why we mindread is misguided.  The idea that I must accurately figure out what you are thinking before I can successfully coordinate with you seems implausible the minute we reflect on how quickly and seamlessly humans can interact.  In this talk, I provide some strong reasons to reject the received explanation of why we mindread, and suggest an alternative.
A reception will follow at 14 Glebe Street
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The Belief in Free Will: Source and Status

Dr. Shaun Nichols
Professor of Philosophy, The University of Arizona
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
3:15 pm, Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance
The problem of free will is old and complex. Recent empirical work suggests that people believe that we have indeterminist free will and also that moral responsibility depends on this free will. This poses a major puzzle, ince the belief in indeterminist free will is rather a complicated belief.  This talk explores why people believe in indeterminist free will and the extent to which their beliefs about free will and moral responsibility are unjustified. 
A reception will follow at 14 Glebe Street
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