Fall 2013 Speaker Series

Events for Monday, September 23

Adam Sennet, University of California Davis


‘What Kind of Mistake Is It To Use a Slur?’ (handout)
11:00 AM-noon, Redwood Room (University Union)

Abstract: Pejorative terms like ‘jerk’—as well as familiar slurs for racial and ethnic groups—use language to convey attitudes.  Some have suggested that slurs work as a model for how moral terms—like ‘wrong’ or ‘wicked’—are also used to convey attitudes.  This talk will explore the semantics of pejorative terms and their relevance to moral terms.

video icon Click to view/stream (MP4; 59 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)


‘Focal Stress and Knowledge’ (handout)
3:00-4:00 PM, Redwood Room (University Union)

Abstract: Sometimes the answer you get to a philosophical question, in ethics or in any other area, may depend on how you ask the question to begin with.  The idea of focal stress illustrates one way that the same question can be asked in different ways.  For example, skepticism is the view that someone does not really have knowledge in some area.  It is easy to get skeptical results when you say ‘do you KNOW that you have a hand?’ but hard to get skeptical results when you ask ‘do you know that you have a HAND?’  This talk will discuss the importance of focal stress in asking, and answering, various philosophical questions.

video icon Click to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 1 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

Events for Monday, October 14

Chong Choe-Smith, University of Massachusetts-Lowell



“Animal Rights and Animal Experimentation”
9:00-10:50 AM, Redwood Room (University Union)

Abstract: Animal rights activists speak in terms of “rights,” but one fundamental question is, should animals have rights? Human beings have rights. What about animals? Maybe a more fundamental question is, what is the basis for having rights? This is essentially the question of what criterion qualifies us for being a member of the moral community and having the rights and obligations that come with membership. If animals have rights and we owe corresponding duties to them, what are these duties? Can we still use them for certain human purposes—for farming, hunting, entertainment, research and education? In this talk, we will consider the subject of animal rights generally and then focus on the ethical issues implicated by the use of animals in scientific or medical research or experimentation. We will specifically consider the recent Institute of Medicine report on the use of chimpanzees in research and ask some of the other important ethical questions that were avoided there.

video icon Click to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 45 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)


“Global Justice: Defending an International Human Right to Due Process”
noon to 1:15 PM for talk, 1:30-2:45 PM for discussion, Redwood Room (University Union)

Abstract: ‘Due process’ is a familiar concept in the Anglo-American legal tradition, but it is underexplored in the international context as a separate and distinct human right. Maybe most notably, in The Law of Peoples, John Rawls includes the standard minimum substantive rights of life, liberty, and property, and the minimum procedural right to equality, but neglects to mention the procedural right to due process. It is also worth noting that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while there are allusions to due process in a number of its provisions, the document nowhere identifies due process as a separate human right as it does the formal right to equality in Article 7. In this paper I attempt to go some distance in compensating for this deficiency by offering a historical and conceptual analysis of ‘due process’ and explaining how the concept was essential to the development of domestic political communities and provided the basis of certain procedural mechanisms that were necessary to protect individuals from the arbitrary abuses of state authority. I then apply this to the international context, in which there are now various potential sources of authority, including state and nonstate actors, and argue that any international political community also needs due process to protect individuals, developing states, or other international actors from similar abuses of authority. It is not enough to have all the right substantive norms; we also need an international right to due process to generate the rules and mechanisms to make those norms a reality.

video icon Click to view/stream (MP4; 2 hours 13 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

Events for Friday, November 8

Zanja Yudell, California State University-Chico


“Kuhn’s Legacy”  
9:00 AM in the Forest Suite (University Union).

Abstract: Kuhn’s groundbreaking work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is the most cited book of the twentieth century, and considered by many to be among the most influential books of all time. Kuhn presented a provocative picture of science, in which science is not the slow accumulation of knowledge but a process punctuated by tumultuous revolutions in which previous knowledge is lost. Moreover, Kuhn suggested that this process is irrational, and that subjective, idiosyncratic features of scientific communities could determine the course of science. The far-reaching influence of these ideas directly contributed to the “Science Wars” of the 1980s. But what is Kuhn’s legacy now? In this talk I will discuss Kuhn’s famous book and how its main ideas are received now in philosophy of science.

video icon Click to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 36 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)


“The Need for Explanation” 
2:00 PM in the Mendocino Hall 3000.

Abstract: It is common in both science and everyday life to point to assert that some phenomena need explanation. The perception that explanation is needed may simply reflect a subjective feeling, and some philosophers have tried to analyze it as such. But others have attempted to give a normative account according to which some assertions of a need for explanation are mistaken. There are various reasons to search for such an account, including the role that the need for explanation may play in explanatory inference. In this talk I will explore some proposals for such an account and some of the difficulties they face. Note that much of this work was done jointly with my colleague Wai-hung Wong. 

video icon [this event was not videorecorded.]