Fall 2014 - Spring 2015 Speaker Series

We are pleased to host a series of speakers during the Fall 2014 - Spring 2015 acaemic year. Please scroll down to find the earlier dates and talks, as well as speaker bios, titles, absracts, and videorecordings. These are free and open to the public. Each event takes place at the Sacramento State Campus. Directions // Campus Map.

Events on Thursday, May 7, 2015 and Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Events for Thursday, May 7, 2015:

Visiting Scholar David O. Brink will be giving two lectures open to the public.

Bio: Brink is Distinguished Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of California, San Diego, a Director of the Institute for Law and Philosophy at the University of San Diego School of Law, and an Editor of the journal Legal Theory. His research interests are Ethical theory, History of ethics, Moral psychology, and Jurisprudence; his work in ethics blends historical concern with the views of important figures and traditions in the history of ethics and systematic concern with the clearest and most plausible formulations of first principles. His books include Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), Perfectionism and the Common Good: Themes in the Philosophy of T.H. Green (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003) and Mill's Progressive Principles (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2013).

"A Closer Look at Mill’s Harm Principle." 9:00 AM to 10:15 AM, Meadow & Vineyard Rooms (The Well, second floor)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 48 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

J. S. Mill’s Harm Principle explains when the coercive power of the state or society is appropriately invoked (when an act harms third parties).  It differs from rival principles focusing on Paternalism (when an act harms the actor), Moralism (when an act is immoral), or Offense (when an act causes offense). This talk assumes that how to interpret the harm principle and whether to accept it have an important bearing on which conception of liberalism, if any, is defensible and that this issue is important for normative jurisprudence.

"Eudaimonism and Cosmopolitan Concern." 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM, Meadow & Vineyard Rooms (The Well, second floor)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 17 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

In The Methods of Ethics Henry Sidgwick draws more than one contrast between ancient and modern ethical conceptions. He contrasts attractive and imperatival ethical concepts, concluding that Greek ethics is fundamentally attractive whereas modern ethics is fundamentally imperatival. He glosses this contrast in terms of a contrast between the good and the right; whereas Greek ethics treats the good as the fundamental ethical concept, modern ethical conceptions take deontic or juridical concepts about duty and obligation to be fundamental. But Sidgwick also identifies Greek ethics as egocentric in a way that modern ethics is not. Ancient ethical conceptions tend to be oriented around the question “What sort of life should I live?” and assume that the answer to that question would be a life that promotes the agent’s own eudaimonia or happiness. Sidgwick does not explicitly identify the modern ethical assumption that contrasts with Greek egocentrism. But we might suppose that it is a kind of impartiality and cosmopolitanism that does not filter other-regarding concern through the lens of the agent’s own eudaimonia but recognizes the claims that common humanity imposes on agents. It is this contrast between ancient eudaimonism and modern cosmopolitanism on which I will focus.

Events for Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sacramento State scholars Kyle Swan and Dan Weijers will each be giving lectures open to the public.

Kyle Swan, "Legal Punishment of Immorality: Once more into the breach." 9:00 AM to 10:15 AM, Vineyard Room (The Well, second floor)

Guest Commentor: Gerald B. Dworkin, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, UC-Davis

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 28 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

Abstract: Gerald Dworkin’s overlooked defense of legal moralism attempts to undermine the traditional liberal defense of criminalizing some but not all immoral behavior. According to Dworkin, the argument “depends upon a plausible idea of what making moral judgments involves.” The idea Dworkin has in mind here is a metaethical principle that is sometimes referred to as morality/reasons internalism. I agree with Dworkin that this is a plausible idea, but I argue that some of the best reasons for accepting it actually work against Dworkin’s enforcement thesis. I propose a principled distinction between the immoral-and-criminal and the immoral-but-not-criminal, and argue that a principle at least very much like it must be correct if the internalism Dworkin avows is correct.

Bio: Kyle Swan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. He received his PhD from Bowling Green State University. His main teaching and research interests are Social, Moral and Political Philosophy. These interests sometimes lead him into other areas, like Economics and Religion.

Dan Weijers, "Happiness: It's Not for Everyone." 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM, Vineyard Room (The Well, second floor)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 14 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

Abstract: This talk is based off of two co-authored interdisciplinary papers studying happiness:

Joshanloo, Mohsen, Weijers, Dan, Jiang, Ding-Yu, et al.(forthcoming-online first). Fragility of Happiness Beliefs Across 15 National Groups. Journal of Happiness Studies. Online first link here.

Joshanloo, Mohsen & Weijers, Dan (2014). Aversion to happiness across cultures: A review of where and why people are averse to happiness, Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(3): 717-735. Official version link here.

Bio: Dan Weijers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. His main teaching and research interests revolve around how we should live, including: happiness, normative and applied ethics, science and human values, social and political philosophy, and even the meaning of life. He is also a founding co-editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing.

Events for Monday, November 3

Ninth Annual Fall Ethics Symposium on "Virtue in Politics." For details, link here.

Events for Monday, October 6

Visiting Scholar Jennifer Zamzow will be giving two lectures open to the public.

Jennifer Zamzow, Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethics and Cognition, Department of Philosophy and Center for Ethics and Politics, Carnegie Mellon University

Bio: Zamzow has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Arizona. Her primary interests are in moral psychology, ethical theory, and applied ethics. She is particularly interested in exploring questions such as: What kinds of factors influence our moral judgment and decision making?; How should this shape our normative and prescriptive ethical theories? and How can we engage in better moral decision making? In investigating these questions, she draws on research in ethical theory, experimental philosophy, cognitive science, and social psychology. Website:http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/jzamzow

"Judging others: The limits of perspective taking." 10:00am - 12 noon, Redwood Room (University Union)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 28 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

In theory, our judgments of others should not differ from our judgments of ourselves and what we should do, whether what we did was wrong, and whether we should be punished for it. In practice, however, we do not always judge others the same. We often evaluate others’ moral wrongdoings more harshly than our own. This tendency to judge others differently than ourselves is often attributed to self-bias or to an asymmetry in our knowledge of the agent’s mental states. I argue that the problem of self-other differences in moral judgments runs deeper than this. Even when we have information about others’ mental states, we do not always use it. Instead, we often use ourselves as a proxy when judging others by evaluating the moral merit of their actions according to what we think we would have done if we were in their situation. This method of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes faces two significant worries in practice (1) we are not very accurate at predicting our own behavior and (2) we are not very good at adjusting our egocentric default. This is problematic because if we judge others according to what we think we would have done if we were in their situation, inaccuracies in our predictions or inadequate adjustments of our egocentric default can lead us to hold others to different standards than we intend. Moreover, trying to avoid these problems by taking a neutral, objective perspective when judging others’ actions will likely lead us to make judgments that are even harsher and more unfair. This has important implications for our practices of holding ourselves and others morally responsible.

"Affective forecasting in medical decision making: What do physicians owe their patients" 1pm - 3pm, Lobby Suite (University Union)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 10 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

In order for patients to make good medical decisions, it is important that they are able to make accurate affective forecasts—predictions of how different outcomes will impact their experiential quality of life. This raises an important question for medical ethics: Do physicians have an obligation to help their patients make accurate affective forecasts? It might seem that judgments about how the patient will feel about different outcomes are the patient’s responsibility because she is supposed to be the expert on her own beliefs, values, feelings, and experiences. The problem is that research on affective forecasting shows that people are poor predictors of their own future feelings. I argue that assisting patients with their affective forecasting should be among the professional duties of physicians because, unlike auto mechanics, bankers, or sales representatives, physicians have a professional duty of beneficence. This gives them an obligation to try to help their patients engage in good deliberation and make good decisions when they are in a good position to do so qua physicians, and they are arguably in a good position qua physicians to assist their patients with their affective forecasting given the unique knowledge, perspective, skills, and potential resources physicians have. Their experience with other patients in similar situations gives them a better sense for what it is like for patients in such conditions, their third-person perspective may lead them to better appreciate different aspects of the decision, and they can better take advantage of decision aids and training in the psychological mechanisms that lead to affective forecasting errors to help them recognize and combat affective forecasting errors in their patients.

Events for Monday, September 22

Visting Scholar Joyce Havstad will be giving two public presentations and one private luncheon discussion.

Joyce C. Havstad, Philosopher-in-Residence, Integrated Research Center, the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois

Bio: Havstad has a BA in Philosophy of Life Science, an MA in Philosophy, and a PhD in Philosophy and Science Studies from UC San Diego.  Both a student and worker in science before becoming a philosopher, she is currently the philosopher-in-residence at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where her principal mandate is to initiate the museum's Conceptual Foundations of Science project by contributing to aspects of the philosophical and scientific work on species concepts. The topics she specializes in for research and teaching include philosophy of biology, philosophy of chemistry, philosophy of science, and other related aspects of science and technology studies.  She also works on issues in bioethics, medical ethics, environmental ethics, and research ethics. Website:http://www.joycehavstad.com

"Scientists During Disasters" 9am-11am, Redwood Room (University Union)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 41 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

This talk asks students of science, engineering, and the humanities to consider the role of science in society, alongside its role in shaping their own educational experience at a modern American research university.  Topics of discussion will include the history of the university as an institution in both Europe and the United States; the origins of modern science with its attendant norms and values; the formation, in the 1950s, of the “US innovation system” via interaction among America’s systems of government, industry, and higher education; and the succession, in recent decades, of political and environmental disasters that have altered the standing of science in American culture.  One current example—that of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill—will be discussed in particular detail, and students will be asked to consider how they would respond, as developers and/or consumers of certain technologies, to the threat and unfolding of just such a modern scientific disaster.

"Rethinking the Relation between Science and Policy" 12:15 pm – 1:45 pm: (note: this is a private luncheon presentation and discussion with limited seating; prior RSVP required);

(Co-sponsored with the Office of Research Affairs and the Department of Environmental Studies (SSIS) as part of an Occasional Series on Responsible Conduct of Research.)

Abstract: As the current impasse between climate science and climate policy starkly displays, we are in desperate need of new models of science-policy interaction—especially models for science-based policy. The most popular existing models are clear failures, including both the linear model of science advising and that of evidence-based policy. No other major alternatives have caught on, and each of these alternatives is at best a partial correction to the major approaches. In this talk, I develop a new model for science-based policy, building on resources from pragmatist epistemology, feminist philosophy of science, and studies of interdisciplinarity. The new model has several advantages.  First: treating policy as a form of feminist-pragmatist inquiry makes clearer the role of evidence, as well as the need to regard policy implementation as experimental and tentative. Second: drawing on feminist and pragmatist studies of science, the new model recognizes and responds to the contextual nature of science—avoiding doomed attempts to create scientific evidence that can "plug and play" in any policy.  Third, and finally: the alternative model treats science-based policy as a form of interdisciplinary research. This allows us to learn from the growing body of research on interdisciplinarity, drawing lessons for the development of a better model of science-based policy.

"The Classification of Complex Biochemical Kinds." 3pm-5pm, Redwood Room (University Union)

video iconClick to view/stream (MP4; 1 hour 54 min; works best using Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox)

Why are chemical kinds—think: elements and compounds—so paradigmatically natural, whereas biological kinds—think: species and genes—are so messy and complicated? In this talk I argue that chemical kinds are not nearly as neat and tidy as is often supposed; in other words, that chemical and biological kinds are not so different after all.  Both chemical and biological kinds are often complex, so this talk applies a study of biochemical complexity to traditional classificatory puzzles as they arise throughout parts of chemistry and biology. These are familiar puzzles, like: how should we classify X? Is there one right way and, if so, what is it? If not, how do the different possible classifications relate to one another? Finally: is classificatory diversity a problem for the study of X? Here I show that at least one kind of classificatory diversity—that of selective naturalism—is not necessarily a problem for scientific study, by presenting a case in which this kind of classificatory diversity gets used as a tool for discovery in the biochemical sciences.

Academic Technology and Creative Services; Event Services Office (University Union); Visiting Scholars Program (Center for Teaching and Learning) Sacramento State