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Events Archive

The Center was pleased to host a series of speakers on the Sacramento State campus during the Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 academic year. Unless otherwise noted, these events (and those like it in the future) are free and open to the public.

Justice as Convention?

Peter Vanderschraaf, April 12, 2019

Abstract: What is justice? Why should we follow the requirements of justice? The Classical Greek philosophers launched political philosophy when they raised and tried to answer these questions. One proposal for answering both questions is that justice is best understood in terms of distinguished social conventions. This proposal had currency even in Plato’s and Aristotle’s time, but it has traditionally been a minority view among political philosophers. In our own time, justice conventionalism is enjoying a tremendous revival. I believe this revival is sparked in large part because with the tools and empirical finding of contemporary social science, philosophers are able to give a far more satisfactory analysis of convention than was possible in pre-modern times. In this seminar I will discuss how philosophers’ understandings of convention have advanced over the centuries, and in particular how the mathematical theory of games created by John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern and John Nash provide an analytic vocabulary for analyzing convention. I argue that with a properly precise and general account of convention, one can mount a persuasive case for the ancient claim that justice is indeed a set of special social conventions.

Peter Vanderschraaf is a Professor in the department of Political Economy and Moral Science at the University of Arizona. His research focuses on the analysis of social conventions and investigating their proper role in moral and political philosophy.

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Experience & gender in workplace misconduct

Pooria Assadi, March 26, 2019

Full Title: How experience mitigates for gender in punishment for workplace misconduct

Abstract: This talk empirically examines the career consequences of one form of Wall Street misconduct where stockbrokers cheat their customers by generating higher fees through conducting unnecessary, unsuitable, or unauthorized transactions. It specifically examines when the U.S. securities industry punishes misconduct and explains variation in who gets punished for it. I approach these questions by separately estimating a stockbroker’s likelihood of exiting the profession and changing employers in the aftermath of misconduct that primarily harms the customers versus regulators. I further examine whether these effects are different for more versus less experienced brokers, and for male versus female brokers. In doing so, my talk offers theory and evidence as to what experience means for men versus women pertaining to punishment for misconduct.

Pooria Assadi is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business Administration at CSUS.

Probability is probably not the very guide of life

Lok Chan, November 29, 2018

Abstract: Is probability, as Joseph Butler suggested, the very guide of life? Probably not, I shall argue, at least when it comes to our epistemic practice. Consider two fundamental questions we face during inquiry, one pertaining to its beginning and one to its end:

  1. When should we begin gathering more evidence?
  2. What should we believe after collecting the evidence?

A Bayesian, who conceives a rational agent as someone who diligently updates her prior opinions by applying Bayes’ theorem, thinks that the entire import of evidence can be captured by probability. I suggest, however, that we run into perplexing problems if we treat probability as “the very guide” in dealing with these questions. I'll show that making decisions solely based on expected values could mean that you never know when to stop collecting evidence. And, deciding on what to believe based solely on posterior probability can lead you to accept that extra-sensory perception (ESP) is real. The issue is not just an academic one. In medical decision making, relying solely on probability could mean a patient might receive invasive treatments that are unnecessary. In this talk, I will present these problems intuitively using data visualization, rather than technical demonstrations.

Lok Chan is a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Duke University Social Science Research Institute. He earned his PhD in Philosophy from Duke in 2018, an MA in Philosophy from San Francisco State in 2011, and BAs in Philosophy and Classical Guitar from Sac State in 2008. At SSRI, he works on the communication and epistemology of risk.

The Ethics of Taste

Madeline Ahmed Cronin, October 10, 2018

Full Title: The Ethics of Taste: What Mary Wollstonecraft Can Teach Us about Class, Classism, and the Politics of Taste.

Abstract: Does it matter what Americans find beautiful or what character attributes they find appealing? It might seem that these are mere preferences or purely aesthetic judgments independent of our moral or political commitments and conduct. Given the evidence that our tastes impact out votes however, it seems hard to say that American tastes are not politically or even morally relevant. Yet, it would be wrong to deem certain tastes more moral or politically correct if (as Pierre Bourdieu has argued) our tastes are merely the product of our acculturation into a particular class background. In this context, to deem the tastes of a working-class person inferior presents a threat to the ethical principle of equal moral standing. In order to untangle these questions therefore, I propose turning to Mary Wollstonecraft—an 18th-century moral philosopher who assumed that taste was morally and politically relevant, but who challenged the class- and gender-based assumptions of existing ideals of taste cultivation. Perhaps Wollstonecraft can help us make sense of our own American polity and the moral relevance of our tastes.

Madeline Ahmed Cronin is Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Santa Clara University. She earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame. Her primary teaching and research interests are in Social and Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Feminist Theory. Recent publications include “Mary Wollstonecraft’s Conception of ‘True Taste’ and its Role in Egalitarian Education and Citizenship” in the European Journal of Political Theory. This article underscores a key finding from her dissertation entitled, “The Politics of Taste: Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen on the Cultivation of Democratic Judgment,” in which she demonstrates that Jane Austen’s novels elaborate and even develop Mary Wollstonecraft’s vision for a more thoroughly democratic, but also more tasteful society. She argues that together Wollstonecraft and Austen offer unique perspective on contemporary debates about the future of higher education, just access to healthy food, and the nature of truly civil discourse and public speech.

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Modeling the Costs of Perspectival Diversity

Keith Hankins, September 13, 2018

Full Title: Modeling the Costs of Perspectival Diversity (to Capture Its Benefits)

Abstract: The idea that perspectival diversity is a resource that groups can benefit from has recently received a lot of attention. Formal work illustrating these benefits has been taken to have implications for politics, management, and science. Unfortunately, existing work on diversity has tended to do a poor job of modeling the costs associated with it, and this has led philosophers, social scientists, management consultants, and others to frequently draw conclusions that are too sweeping on the basis of this work. This paper tries to advance our understanding of how to capture the benefits of perspectival diversity by considering two challenges associated with it: 1) translation and 2) skepticism.

Keith Hankins (Ph.D. University of Arizona, M.A. Rutgers University) is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the R. C. Hoiles Endowed Scholar in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise. He is also a faculty member in the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy. His research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy, economics, and social psychology. He is especially interested in the ethics of economic growth, the costs and benefits diversity, and the norms that mediate collective decision making and our responsibility practices. His recent articles include, "Searching for the Ideal: The Fundamental Diversity Dilemma" (w/ Jerry Gaus in Political Utopias 2017), "Adam Smith's Intriguing Solution to the Problem of Moral Luck" (Ethics 2016), and "When Justice Demands Inequality" (w/ John Thrasher in Journal of Moral Philosophy 2015). Dr. Hankins teaches courses in political philosophy, business ethics, and decision theory (including game theory and social choice theory), as well as courses in the Humanomics program.

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Charles Koch Foundation; Institute for Humane Studies; Academic Technology and Creative Services; Event Services Office (University Union); Visiting Scholars Program (Center for Teaching and Learning) Sacramento State.