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Why Does Nietzsche Think the Will to Power is So Important - Professor Maudemarie Clark           

Nietzsche claims that “life is will to power,” evidently meaning that the behavior of all living things is a striving after power.  And this is apparently fine with him.  “What is good,” he says, is “everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself.”  But isn’t this a dangerous idea?  Doesn’t it encourage the idea that we humans can do whatever we want to the environment?  After all, our behavior simply expresses our will to power, which is apparently what we are.  Furthermore, doesn’t it encourage the human addiction to the feeling of power, to the feeling we get, for instance, from whipping the world into shape according to our needs and desires?  So how can I expect environmentalists—or anyone else sensitive to the problems that arise from an addiction to the feeling of power (e.g., the preference for bombs over negotiation)—to have any initial sympathy with Nietzsche’s claims about and evaluation of the will to power?  I can’t.  And that is the reason I’ve decided to try to convince you that Nietzsche’s claims about the will to power are more interesting and complex than they might initially seem, and very much worth taking seriously. 

Thursday, October 29th at 6:30pm in Alumni Hall, Randolph Hall


Is it a Boy or  a Girl?  Intersexuality in the Pediatric Patient - Professor Kenneth Kipnis           

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Kipnis been doing ethics work in hospitals since 1983, when he was present following the birth of a child with ambiguous genitalia. He consulted on the advisability of "normalizing" surgery for the infant. He later collaborated with Milton Diamond, an international expert on reproductive anatomy, co-authoring an influential paper on the ethics of pediatric "normalization". The talk describes both his clinical work and the issues raised by such surgery.   Professor Richard Nunan will follow by discussing a related pair of local cases: M.C. v. Amrhein and M.C. V. M.U.S.C Both cases concern an intersex child who was a ward of the State of South Carolina as an infant, when subjected to genital modification surgery.  The first of these is an interesting federal constitutional law challenge , decided earlier this year in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The second is a somewhat more “traditional" medical malpractice case, still in litigation in a state court.

Thursday, October 15th at 3:15 pm in Wells Fargo Auditorium in the Beatty Center


PhilosoFest II

Please join us for our sedond PhilosoFest - a mini conference featuring CofC Philosophy faculty presenting their own research and keynote presentations by Prof. Susan Wolf of the University of North Carolina and Prof. Kristi Dotson of Michigan State University.  Feel free to attend all sessions or those that particularly interest you.

Friday, October 9th 3:30 - 7:00, Saturday October 10th 10:00 - 3:50 in 202 Tate Center


The Neuroscience of the Criminal Psychopath - Kent Kiehl 

Dr. Kent Kiehl is an author and neuroscientist who specializes in the use of clinical brain imaging techniques to understand major mental illnesses, with special focus on criminal psychopathy, psychotic disorders (i.e., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, affective disorders), traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and paraphilias.  His latest book The Psychopath Whisperer, was published in April.

Thursday, October 1st at 6:00 pm in Maybank Hall, Room 100


2015 Bachelor's Essay Presentations

Rebecca Stanley and Jake Webb will be presenting their Bachelor's Essays.  

Thursday, April 17th at 2:00 pm in ECTR111


Narrative and Social Justice - Sally Haslanger

Recent work on social injustice has focused on implicit bias as an important factor in explaining persistent injustice in spite of achievements on civil rights.  In this paper, I argue that implicit bias offers a familiar sort of individualistic narrative to explain injustice, but taken alone, it is inadequate.  Most importantly, such narratives miss what is morally at stake.  An adequate account of how implicit bias functions must situate it within a broader theory of social structures; changing structures is often a precondition for changing patterns of thought and action and is certainly required for durable change.  So we must learn to develop different sorts of narratives that address not only the question, "What can/should I do?" but also "What can/should we do?"

Thursday, March 13th at 6:30pm in Alumni Hall of Randolph Hall



Internationally Celebrated Cognitive Scientist Douglas Hoftsadter

Dr. Douglas Hofstadter is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington. His best-known book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and the National Book Award for Science. It, along with some of his other books, addresses perennial philosophical questions about the nature of the human mind and language. His 2007 book I Am a Strange Loop won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science.  Hofstadter is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He will be at the College of Charleston for two events. Join us!

Sunday, January 25th 2:00 pm at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (161 Calhoun Street): Dr. Hofstadter will participate in a discussion woth Halsey Institute director Mark Sloan & artist Particia Boinest Potter focused on her exhibition at the Halsey Institute, Patterns of Peace.

Monday, January 26th 6:00pm in the CofC School of Science and Mathematics Auditorium Dr. Hofstadter will be giving a lecture The Countless Personal Consequences of my Passionate Craving for Pattern.

Tuesday, January 27th 7:00pm at The Citadel, Duckett Hall Auditorium.  Dr. Hofstadter will be giving a lecture Do Machines Understand? Could Machines Ever Understand?




Please join us for our first PhilosoFest - a mini conference featuring CofC Philosophy faculty presenting their own research and a keynote presentation by Prof. Valerie Tiberius of the University of Minnesota.  Feel free to attend all sessions or those that particularly interest you.

Friday, January 16th 3:30 - 6:45, Saturday January 17th 10:00 - 3:30 in 202 Tate Center



Moral Knowledge for Sentimentalists - Professor Simon Blackburn

The sentimentalist tradition in moral thought, from Hume and Adam Smith to the present day, has often been called "non-cognitivism", suggesting that there is no such thing as moral knowledge. But this is not an implication we need to accept, and when we challenge it, we find a story about moral knowledge in much better shape than various rivals have claimed.

Friday, November 7th at 3:15pm in the Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance (86 Wentworth Street)



Shimmering Presences: Frog, Toad, and Toxic Interdependencies - Professor Alexis Shotwell

This paper is about anurans – frogs and toads. I attend both to the trope of gender-bending and disabled amphibians and to their actual bodies and lives, arguing for a queer disability attention to the toxic present as a kind of responsibility. Anurans have, over the last ten years, been frequently held up as warning signs for biological dangers inherent in many of our practices around food, climate, and mining. Industrial production, whether of corn or petroleum, has effects on the world around it. As I'll explore, one of the main ways people argue that these effects are too harmful to justify current production practices evokes gender and disability danger; humans, the warning goes, will be born disabled, queer, or genderqueer if we continue using or producing certain substances. And the way we know this, the narrative continues, is that frogs and toads are being born with bodily anomalies including ambiguous genitalia, changed voiceboxes, extra limbs, and more. My agenda is not to argue that we should not be worried about toxins and their effects – worry and action are both, I believe, at least justified and almost certainly necessary. Rather, I argue that we ought to cultivate practices of responsibility for the toxic present we are implicated in creating that do not rely on anti-disability or trans-hating tropes and that simultaneously do not attend to anurans merely as indicator species. I look toward “civilian scientists” – ordinary people who practice a naturalist’s attention to their world – as exemplars of this kind of practice of responsibility.

Thursday, October 2nd at 6:30pm in the Alumni Center, School of Education, Health, & Human Performance (86 Wentworth Street)



Age of Man Environmentalism and Respect for an Independent Nature- Professor Ned Hettinger

The debate over whether we have entered a new geological epoch known as “The Anthropocene” has helped spawn “Age of Man Environmentalism” (AME). According to AME, humans’ planetary scale impact indicates that respect for an independent nature can no longer serve as a guiding value for environmentalism. Traditional environmental goals of nature preservation and restoration are problematically grounded in the illusory ideal of pristine nature. Humans are now fully integrated into nature and have no choice but to become responsible managers of the earth we have created and to govern it according to our ideals.

This talk critically examines AME and defends traditional environmental values of naturalness and respect for nature’s autonomy. AME’s serious exaggeration of the extent of human influence over Earth manifests an anthropocentric narcissism that is blind to the ongoing agency of nature. Rather than becoming gods or parents of a nature that allegedly needs us, human flourishing requires we strengthen our commitment to humility, restraint, and respect for the gifted character of the world. Naturalness is increasingly valuable the more rare it becomes. AME’s insistence on a thoroughly managed future ignores the possibility of rewilding and turning nature loose. Its promotion of non-native species and ill-defined “novel ecosystems” is an attempt to polish the image of human-impacted nature and denigrate the value of preserved wild areas. Taking seriously the massive human impact on earth does not require abandoning traditional environmental values.

Tuesday, September 9th at 3:15pm in Arnold Hall, Jewish Studies Center


Dirty Politics: The Role of Disgust in Policital and Moral Judgment - Professor David Pizarro

In recent years a great deal of psychological research has highlighted the powerful role emotions play in shaping our attitudes and judgments. Evidence has been found that individuals who are more easily disgusted in everyday life tend to have different moral and political views than those who are less easily disgusted. This research helps shed light on how basic differences in emotion can give rise to differences in our judgments about the social world that surrounds us.

Monday April 7, 2014 6:00 PM Wells Fargo Auditorium (Beatty Center)


Normativity and Practical Justification in Hobbes- Professor Larry Krasnoff

In contemporary philosophical usage, at least, a normative claim is an evaluation that others ought to accept, or more specifically, a claim that is supposed to provide reasons for action (understood to include reasons for belief). This identification of normativity with reason-giving poses a special problem for the traditional project of philosophical justification. If norms are, as most naturalistic philosophy and the other academic disciplines seem to presume, simply social facts of one sort or other, how can the reasons they provide be capable of any deep sort of justification?  Unless we are prepared to say that norms are something other than social facts, it would seem that philosophy ought to give up its traditional project of justification, because any reason-giving project must already take place within a socially existing normative space.

This talk is taken from a book project arguing that this now-familiar problem about justification is not as fundamental and intractable as it might seem, because the identification of reasoning and normativity is itself a historical project.  For long periods of its history, I argue, Western philosophy pursued projects of practical justification that made no essential reference to norms, or to normativity in general.  In this chapter of the book, I show how Hobbes’ secularization of the concept of natural law not only made normativity central to practical philosophy, but also required a rethinking of the notion of normativity itself.  It was the implications of this rethinking that created the relation between normativity and justification that we now take to be so fundamental, and so problematic.  Thinking about Hobbes’ project can thus remind us of the historical dimension of the contemporary problem of justification, which is a first step toward dissolving it.

Tuesday, March 18th at 3:15pm in Maybank 316


Aldo Leopold - A Standard of Change

A one-man, one-act play Jim Pfitzer, writer and director

The play is set in one evening around the Wisconsin Shack of Aldo Leopold, an American  author, forester, and ecologist. It has been 64 years since his death, and the influences and challenges that led to his widely popular work, A Sand County Almanac are explored. There are many memories, emotions, and stories that reacquaint him with his beloved landscape.

Monday, March 24th at 6:30pm in Physicians Auditorium


Can Reasoning Influence Perception?

Dr. Susanna Siegel Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy Harvard University

Normally, we have pretty good reason to believe our eyes. But there seem to be cases in which we reason our way to having some perceptions rather than others. Does the rational support provided by experience change, if our perceptual experience is influenced by expertise? What effects, if any, can background influences on perception have on the rational power of perception?

Susanna Siegel is Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.  She is the author of The Contents of Visual Experience (Oxford University Press, 2010), and many articles on topics in the philosophy of mind and epistemology.

Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall (Randolph Hall)


Empathy for the Devil: Mirror Neurons & the Appeal of Horror

Dr. Daniel Shaw Journal Editor, Film & Philosophy Professor of Philosophy, Lock Haven University

The ability of at least some of us to take pleasure in watching monsters and horror films is something of a paradox.  Why do we enjoy depictions of beings and actions that we would find repugnant if faced with them in real life?  Dr. Shaw will address this issue in regards to his favorite human monster of film and TV, Hannibal Lecter.  It will focus on several factors that allow those of us who love him to enjoy his depictions on the big and small screens.

These factors include the extensive use of close ups (which trigger our mirror neurons to cause us to feel empathy with the character), his exquisite aesthetic and culinary taste, his genius for evil deeds (done to unsympathetic victims), and his romantic acquaintances (Clarice Starling and Lady Murasaki).   Most significant, however, is what Dr. Shaw characterizes as Lecter’s Will to Power, drawing on Friedrich Nietzsche's existential theory of value.  Lecter is one of the most powerful characters in the history of the moving image, for he is in complete control of every situation and individual that he confronts.


CCCL/Department of Philosophy Lecture: Time Travel and Causal Loops

Ulrich Meyer
Professor of Philosophy at Colgate University
Thursday, October 31st, 2013
6:30 pm, Randolph/Alumni Hall

South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Department of Philosophy lecture series.  Professor Meyer is the author of The Nature of Time.


Department of Philosophy Coloquium: Title TBA

Adrian Raine
Richard Perry University Professor and Chair of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
3:15 pm, Location TBA

A psychologist, he studies the neurobiology of antisocial behavior in children and adults and is the author of The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime.

Nunan Sabbatical Lecture: Dysfunctional Government and How we Got There: What is the proper purpose of elections? (A Modest Proposal)

Richard Nunan
Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
3:15 pm, EHHP Alumni Center


Constitution Day Lecture: Honor, the Oath, and the Constitution

Paul Horwitz
Gordon Rosen Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law
Thursday, September 12th, 2013
7:30 pm, Location EHHP Alumni Center

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.


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!



 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



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


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


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.


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!



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. 


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


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

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
Flyer                              Article



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


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? 


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.

 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.


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.

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.

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

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

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