Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 Speaker Series

We are pleased to host a series of speakers during the Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 acaemic year. Unless otherwise noted, these are free and open to the public, and each takes place at the Sacramento State Campus. Directions // Campus Map.

Event for November 29, 2018

Visiting Scholar Lok Chan will be giving a public lecture, “Probability is probably not the very guide of life.”

3 PM to 4:30 PM, 3009 Mendocino Hall


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. 

Bio: 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.

Event for October 10, 2018

Visiting Scholar Madeline Ahmed Cronin will be giving a public lecture, “The Ethics of Taste: What Mary Wollstonecraft Can Teach Us about Class, Classism, and the Politics of Taste.”

11 AM to 12:30 PM, Hinde Auditorium (University Union) Link to YouTube video


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.

Bio: 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.

Event for September 13, 2018

Visiting Scholar Keith Hankins will be giving a public lecture, “Modeling the Costs of Perspectival Diversity (to Capture Its Benefits)”.

10:30 AM to 12 PM, Terrace Suite (The WELL) Link to YouTube video


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.

Bio: 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.


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