The Department of Philosophy at the University of Wyoming provides a series of speakers throughout the semester on a variety of topics. Speakers and dates are available of upcoming events as well as past events.
Thurs., November 14, 2013
Dr. Sarah Conly, of Bowdoin College, will present "One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?" on Thurs., November 14, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Business Building, Room 111
- Abstract: This prompts the question whether, for the sake of the preservation of liberty, we might not do the best thing by limiting how many children people can have in order to reduce the population. I will argue that, if there is a sufficient danger of environmental degradation, the state would be justified in trying to constrain the number of children we have. Unfortunately, when we think of state regulations on procreation, we immediately think of forced abortions and sterilizations, and conclude that any such regulations are morally wrong. I agree, forced abortions and sterilizations are unacceptable abuses of individual rights. However, the fact that it’s wrong to prevent an action in certain ways doesn’t actually mean we have a right to perform the action that those unjust sanctions are intended to prevent. So, even if we justifiably conclude that forced sterilizations and such shouldn’t be allowed, it is still possible that government regulations on how many children you have could be morally permissible. I argue that while we may have a right to reproduce, it doesn’t follow that from that that we have a right to produce more than one child per person. I argue that we don’t have a strong interest in having more than one child, and that furthermore rights we do have do not yield a right to have howsoever many children one may happen to want. Secondly, I argue that in certain circumstances—not too distant from our own—the state has a legitimate interest in controlling population by constraining the number of children individuals produce, as long as it does that in morally acceptable ways.
Sponsor: Kaiser Ethics Endowment
Fri., October 25, 2013
Dr. John Christman, of Penn State University, will present "Oppression and the Conceptual Politics of Freedom" on Friday, October 25, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.
- Abstract: It should be a motive for philosophers who give detailed accounts of normative concepts to keep tabs on the general uses of those concepts, especially insofar as such ideas serve a profound motivational function in public discourse. Under the non-ideal conditions of political life, philosophical understandings of central normative concepts should help diagnose those non-ideal conditions as well as illuminate what motivates those who strive to escape or change them. One concept that should especially bother us in this regard is the idea of freedom. Freedom, in what we could call the aspirational, or “rallying cry” sense -- the sense that is expressed when people spur each other to action in a social struggle -- should inform our theorizing about that idea in more rarified philosophical contexts. Freedom must be understood, then, in a way that makes sense of, not only its general value, but its profound import, one which is captured in countless slogans, songs and speeches. More specifically, in such contexts, the idea of freedom appears to refer consistently to escape or overcoming (“we shall overcome…”), and in particular to overcoming particular systemic obstacles that people face as a group. In this paper I look at the idea of freedom as it might be used in non-ideal contexts where it not only picks out something of value but something thought worthy of great sacrifice. I will contend that the dominant approaches to the idea of freedom in the philosophical literature generally do not achieve this end. Consequently, I propose to understand freedom as a kind of liberation, namely escape from conditions (which I will label “oppressive”) which block the establishment of the basic requirements of justice, and I argue that this best captures the use of that idea of much public political discourse.
Fri., October 18, 2013 Rescheduled***
Dr. Mitzi Lee, University of Colorado-Boulder, will present "Greed and Justice in Aristotle's Ethics" on Friday, October 18, 2013 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118
- Abstract: What’s wrong with greed? It has been variously understood as a sin against God, or as a character flaw consisting of an addiction to the pleasure that comes from gain. However, when Aristotle identifies injustice with greed, or pleonexia, he has something else in mind. As I argue, what Aristotle has in mind by ‘greed’ is not simply excessive attachment to profit and gain for oneself, but two characteristic cognitive mistakes that go along with it: (i) the tendency to overestimate the benefit one will derive from material goods, and (ii) the tendency to give undue weight to one’s own interests in making judgments about proportionality and desert. Greed has the effect of corrupting our ability to make accurate and impartial comparative judgments about proportionality, equality, and fairness, when the interests of others are at stake. This is the reason why Aristotle identifies pleonexia as the cause of injustice.
Fri., October 11, 2013
Dr. Joe Ulatowski, University of Texas-El Paso, will present “Raider of the Lost Lecture: Or, How Anscombe May Have Trumped the Knobe Effect” at 4:10 p.m. in Classroom Building, Room 118.
- Abstract: In his most ground-breaking work, Joshua Knobe (2003) discovered that most people believed that an agent brought about a side effect intentionally when they regard that side effect as morally bad than when they regard that side effect as morally good. What is ground-breaking about Knobe's work is that no action theorist seemed to have considered that ordinary judgments of intentionality depended upon the moral evaluation of some action or its side effect. Since the paramount concern of action theory is to devise an account of intentional action consistent with ordinary judgments and since no action theorist had thought to ask ordinary person's for their view of intentional action, we have praised the work of Knobe for the experimental data he collected, disseminated, and analyzed. If it were discovered that Knobe's ground-breaking thesis had been uncovered by an armchair philosopher, one who hasn't collected any data from ordinary persons, then that would likely alter our view of the importance not only of Knobe's fine work but also of the experimental philosophy venture as well. In this paper, by performing some bit of textual excavation, I show how Anscombe had anticipated and trumped Knobe's finding. In a rarely cited and commonly overlooked lecture, "Good and Bad Human Action," Anscombe discusses what looks like the Knobe effect. This seems to show that armchair philosophy is just as reliable a source for ordinary judgments of intentionality as performing any experiment to uncover it. I conclude with a bit of speculation: given what Anscombe argued, ought we turn away from experimental philosophy leaving all analyses of ordinary judgments to armchair philosophers or ought we undertake experimental philosophy merely as a way of testing and perhaps further refining armchair analyses. Either way, this bit of philosophical archaeology doesn't seem to bode all too well for the relevance of experimental philosophy.
9/19/13-9/20/13 Goode Symposium
Sponsored by the Goode Family Excellence Fund in Humanities, Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research, and Gladys Crane Film Fund
Thursday, September 19, Classroom Building, Room 142
2:00 p.m., Dr. William Eamon of New Mexico State University, will present "Medicine as a Hunt: The Pursuit of Secrets in Renaissance Science"
- Abstract: Basically, I aimed to incorporate some of the themes you suggested, about medicine, language, and so forth. I'm going to talk about the metaphor of science/medicine as a hunt in the Renaissance and its implications for early modern medicine and natural history.
- 4:00 p.m., Dr. John Slater of University of
Colorado-Boulder, will present "Medical Satire & the Language of Alchemy in 17th Century Spain”
- Abstract: For the past 50 years, historians of science have understood the emergence of alchemical or chemical medicine during the 1680's to signal the dawn of scientific modernity in Spain. At the same time, literary historians traditionally have identified the death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca in 1681 as marking the end of the Golden Age. It is, in some dubious tellings, as if the embers of artistic and literary greatness had to be extinguished in order to permit the flourishing of something innovative, international, and properly scientific. Viewing the Spanish Baroque as an impediment to scientific and medical development overlooks the role that important writers—playwrights, preachers, and poets—played in making possible novel therapeutic practices related to chemical medicine. Drawing on the works of Quevedo and Calderón, among others, this talk will examine how medical satire and dramatic tropes helped facilitate new medical and alchemical practices, as well as create rhetorical spaces for new alchemical discourses
7:30 p.m., Movie "Roujin Z", Classroom Building, Room 133
- This film is a savage satire about healthcare for the aged in the 21st century. As the story opens, scientists are alarmed that there are too many old people. A group of scientists and hospital administrators, under the direction of the Ministry of Public Welfare, develop a computerized hospital bed with robotic features. The Z-001 takes complete care of the patient and is driven by its own built-in nuclear power reactor. A compassionate young nurse, determined to help an elderly man strapped to one of these revolutionary healthcare beds, starts a series of unexpected consequences. Thus begins a wild chase through the busy streets of Tokyo as the supercomputer/bed/life-support system begins to have the personality of the old man's ex-wife (who just wants to spend the afternoon at the beach) as the government's secret project unfolds. Written by major anime figure Katsuhiro Otomo, whose “Akira” (1990) was an animated vision of a nightmare future urban world.
Friday, September 20, Classroom Building, Room 142
10:00 a.m., Dr. Amy Vidali of University of
Colorado-Boulder, will present "Tipping the Pain Scale: Past and Present Narratives of Gastrointestinal Disorder and Distress”
- Abstract: This talk considers representations of
gastrointestinal disorder and distress in women by examining nineteenth century
and contemporary medical discourse, with attention to the loss of patient
narrative in an age of pain assessment, and the role of advertisements that
encourage women to self-diagnose and cure loosely-identified GI problems.