Sac State

Past Lecture Series

Spring 2008

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
3:00-5:00pm, California Suite, University Union
Dr. Ben Rich, JD, PhD, Schools of Medicine and of Law, University of California Davis
Title: The Bioethcs of Pain
Abstract: A core value of medicine is the relief of pain and suffering, particularly when a cure for the source of the pain is unavailable. Yet in an era of ultra-sophisticated, high tech medicine we are confronted by an epidemic of undertreated pain that has been recognized as a major public health problem. This presentation will consider the ethical implications of medicine's failure to competently and consistently provide pain relief to patients, and whether ethical analysis can offer insights into solving the problem of unnecessary pain and suffering in the clinical setting.

Thursday, March 6th, 2008
3:00-5:00pm, Hinde Aditorium, University Union
Dr. Fred D. Miller, Jr., Professor of Philosophy and Executive Director of the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University
Title: Human Rights in Plato and Aristotle?
Abstract: The theory of rights is a prominent feature of modern political thought, but some scholars trace the rights tradition all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Is there in fact any evidence for a theory of rights in either Plato or Aristotle? It will be necessary to distinguish the following questions: Did Plato and Aristotle use any terms equivalent to modern words for "rights"? Did they have a conception of the rights of persons? Did they have any inkling of universal human rights? The lecture will conclude with a brief discussion of philosophical critics of slavery in late antiquity.

Fall 2007

Monday, November 19th, 2007
2:00-5:00pm, Orchard Suite, University Union
Prof. Becky Cox White, PhD, RN, Philosophy, California State University, Chico
Title: Moral Reasoning and Problem Solving
Abstract: Professor White will describe a systematic method for resolving moral dilemmas and apply that method to the resolution of a case that she will present. Should the audience prefer, she will apply the method to the resolution of a case described by a member of the audience.

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
2:00-5:00pm, Orchard Suite, University Union
Dr. Scott Rae, Biola University
Title: Lies, Swindles and Building a Healthy Economy
Abstract: In the aftermath of well publicized accounting scandals, business ethics was on the front pages of business publications around the world. I will argue for the place of trust and virtue as necessary components in building a healthy business and economy, underscoring the place for ethics as opposed to mere compliance.

Fall 2005

23 September, 2005
12:00-1:30pm, Delta Suite, University Union
Prof. Sara Goering, Department of Philosophy and Program on Values in Society at the University of Washington

Abstract: Reasonable people should recognize that justice for people with disabilities requires much more than genetic interventions to “fix” their impairments, but what does it require? In this paper, I compare the key claims regarding just genetic interventions in the book From Chance to Choice with critiques from several disability scholars, in an effort to find common ground and to clarify what genetic justice might mean for people with disabilities.

3 November, 2005
12:00-1:15pm, Douglass Hall 208

Mr. Rey Leon, Senior Policy Analyst, Latino Issues Forum

Abstract: Mr. Leon will be speaking about the challenges facing California as we try to address major environmental conservation, use, and energy issues, especially as these overlap, intersect and conflict with major social issues, such as poverty, access to health care, and racial and ethnic equity. The special focus of Mr. Leon 's talk will be on the matter of environmental justice as it arises in California's San Joaquin Valley.

2 December, 2005
12:00-1:30pm, Hinde Auditorium, University Union

Prof Mark Woods, Department of Philosophy at San Diego University

Abstract: The world's militaries are estimated to be the largest single polluter on Earth, accounting for as much as 20% of all global environmental degradation. No international treaty drafted to protect the environment has ever been invoked before, during, or after a war. The environmental scarcity of natural resources contributes to civil violence and armed conflicts in many parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and the global distribution of resources––especially oil and freshwater––will play an increasingly important role in shaping the military policies of nation-states and other political actors in the twenty-first century. Surprisingly, there is virtually no discussion of any of this in terms of environmental ethics. A re-examination of armed conflicts and military affairs creates an opportunity to bring together just war proponents and anti-war pacifists to articulate an environmental ethics of war and peace that might help direct us toward a more peaceful, just, and green world.

Spring 2006

Thursday, February 23rd
Location: Forest/Oak Suite, University Union

Mr. Russell DiSilvestro, Bowling Green State University

Abstract: In this lecture, I argue for the claim that there is a strong moral presumption against killing normal human infants. Since this claim will appear utterly uncontroversial to many people, it may appear somewhat strange that a philosopher is spending time defending it. However, not everyone shares the intuition that there is a strong moral presumption against killing normal human infants, and that even those who share the intuition often disagree amongst themselves over precisely what reasons, if any, can be offered for accepting it. The reason given for accepting the common intuition can be put very succinctly: normal human infants possess a certain set of capacities, and the fact that something possesses this set of capacities is sufficient to generate a strong moral presumption against killing it. Another motivation for giving an account of why there is a strong moral presumption against killing normal human infants is that possessing such an account may be useful when approaching several more disputed questions about the morality of killing, such as whether there is a strong moral presumption against killing abnormal human infants, severely brain-damaged human adults, normal and abnormal human fetuses, and normal and abnormal non-human animals.

Thursday, March 2nd
Orchard Suite 1, University Union

Dr. Nathan Nobis, Department of Philosophy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Abstract: Philosophers have increasingly turned their attention to moral questions about the treatment of animals. Arguments from a wide range of moral-theoretical perspectives have been given for the conclusion that routine uses of animals in agriculture, the fashion industry, and experimentation are morally wrong. Defenses of these practices, however, have been far fewer, and generally less developed, than the cases in favor of animals. My aim in this presentation is to encourage development of more and stronger arguments against animal use and provide methodological guidance on how to do so.

Monday, March 6th
Location: Foothills/Auburn Suite, University Union

Dr. Eric Schmidt, Seattle University School of Law and Commissioner, Washington State Court of Appeals

If Parents Engage in Genetic Trait Selections, What Obligations Do They Have to Their Child's Future?
Abstract: As parents become increasingly able to make genetic trait selections on behalf of their children, they will need ethical guidance in deciding what genetic traits to select. Dena Davis has argued that parents act unethically if they make selections that constrain their child's range of futures. But some selections may expand the child's range of futures. And other selections may shift the child's range of futures, without either constraining or expanding that range. I contend that not only would parents act unethically if they make selections that constrain the range of their child's futures, they would act unethically if they make selections that shift the range of their child's futures, because selections that shift the range of the child's futures would allow parents to over-determine their child's futures. Thus, I contend that parents would act ethically only if they make selections that expand their child's range of futures.

Tuesday, March 7th
Location: Hinde Auditorium, University Union

Ms. Sonya Charles, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University

The Limits of ‘Autonomy' for Feminist Theory
Abstract: In the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of personal or individual autonomy. In this presentation, I consider the feminist debate over the concept of autonomy. After a very brief summary of current trends in autonomy theory and the feminist debate, I argue that autonomy theory and feminist theory are not as compatible as they may at first seem.

Monday, April 3
Summit Suite, University Union

Prof. Carol Cleland, Department of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and NASA Astrobiology Institute

Abstract: In recent work, I argue (with Christopher Chyba) that a scientifically compelling answer to the question ‘what is life?' requires a general theory of living systems, as opposed to a definition of “life”. In the absence of a general theory of life, 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 reveal that water is H 2 O. Yet we now know that this is the correct answer to the question “what is water?” In other words, scientists could not discover that water is H 2 O until they had an adequately general theory of material substance. The example of water provides a salient illustration of how scientists answer questions of the form “what is X?,” where X designates a natural kind such as water, temperature, lightning, or quartz. Assuming that the term “life” designates a natural kind, a scientifically satisfying answer to the question “what is life?” awaits the development of an adequately general theory of living systems.

Unfortunately, contemporary biologists are in a poor position to formulate such a theory. Despite its amazing morphological diversity, life on Earth is astonishingly similar in its biochemistry and molecular building blocks (proteins and nucleic acids). Indeed, it is so similar that most biologists believe that all life on Earth today descends from a common ancestor. In other words, terrestrial life may provide a misleading portrait of the possibilities for life in general. The upshot for astrobiology is that we are in an awkward position when it comes to searching for extraterrestrial life. We don't know what to look for when it comes to searching for really weird life forms. Drawing upon considerations from the history and philosophy of science, I sketch some possibilities for circumventing this problem.

Fall 2006
Thursday, Sept 21, 2006
Location: Orchard Suite, Union

Prof. Emeritus Robert Foreman, Dept of Philosophy, Sacramento State University

Capital Punishment Is Not Inherently Wrong

Abstract: Prof. Foreman argues that use of the death penalty for some crimes is not inherently a moral evil. Critics of the use of the death penalty have argued that it is inherently wrong to use it on grounds that both the utilitarian and the retributive defenses of the death penalty err. It is precisely this kind of objection to the death penalty that he disputes in this paper. He argues that once the roles of utilitarian and retributive considerations, as applied to punishment, are properly understood, and given an appropriate understanding of the matter of burden of proof, it can be seen that there is no morally relevant basis for objecting to capital punishment in principle . He shall also address, but shall not fully resolve, some moral problems about the death penalty as it is currently practiced in the United States. Read the Essay!

Friday, October 13th
Noon - 1:30pm
Location: Forest Suite, Union

Prof. Rosemarie Tong, Distinguished Professor of Health Care Ethics & Director of the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Striking a Moral Balance: What, If Anything, Is Wrong about Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

Professor Tong will explore the arguments for and against the wrongness of embryonic stem cell research, following a thorough review of the science, law, and public policy related to funding and regulating the activity. She will attempt to bring the two sides closer together and present grounds for hope that the moral issues may be resolved as the science and technology progress and as the public becomes more educated and engaged.