Tuesday, 8 March 2016
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Room 243 in the main Library)
"Rationalism, Sympathy, and Covert Solipsists: Why It Is Irrational to Be Amoral"
Moral rationalism is an attractive way to combine objectivism about moral truth with a naturalistic metaphysics and epistemology. But on the face of it, people can be immoral yet perfectly rational, which undermines the rationalist's claim that moral judgements flow from reason. In particular, Sean Nichols accuses rationalism of having no workable account of psychopaths, who are systematically blind to moral considerations due to what seems to be an affective, rather than cognitive, defect. I outline a novel solution to this problem, based on stealing a move from sentimentalist theories and grounding morality in properly-systematised sympathy. Although sympathy is usually thought of as a purely affective add-on to social cognition, recent theories which ground social cognition in 'simulation' open up the possibility of giving sympathy an essential cognitive role. More precisely, apparently unsympathetic social cognition can be analysed as an exercise of sympathetic imagination with complete or near-complete inhibition of affective and motivational aspects, and this inhibition is something we can rationally evaluate. It follows that unsympathetic subjects are to some extent misperceiving the facts about other minds, and egoistic agents are literally acting as though other people's feelings were not real. The surprising result is that any consistently egoistic agent is a solipsist in denial, and thus irrational for failing to accept a factual belief - the reality of other minds - for which they have ample evidence.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Marchant Hall)
"Collective moral action problems and 'we-reasoning"
Collective action problems occur where actions that are individually rational lead to suboptimal outcomes for all. Moral philosophy has its own type of collective action problems, which I call collective moral action problems. These are problems where in order to determine what is morally wrong or right we need to focus on sets of actions by two or more agents, rather than isolated individual actions. This may concern the ascription of moral responsibility for outcomes that have been brought about collectively (backward-looking). Or it may concern the question of individual obligations to collaborate towards producing specific outcomes (forward-looking responsibility). In this talk, I will focus on the latter problem. I will discuss whether the notion of ‘we-reasoning’ developed in recent literature on game theory can help us distinguish between problems that give rise to individual obligations and those that give rise to obligations that are genuinely held collectively by agents.
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Marchant Hall)
University of Glasgow
"The virtue of suffering"
Common sense associates virtue with pleasure. Thus Aristotle writes:: “For that which is virtuous is pleasant or free from pain – least of all will it be painful.” Virtue, on this view, seems to be incompatible with pain and suffering. My aim in this paper is to argue for a rather radical conclusion. For I don’t just think that virtue is compatible with suffering, in the sense that an individual’s virtue can co-exist with or occur in the presence of their suffering. Instead, I want to argue that forms of suffering can themselves constitute virtuous motives. In short: suffering can be virtuous, in much the same way that compassion, benevolence, and courage can be virtuous. I will make my case by focusing on two different kinds of suffering: pain as an instance of physical suffering, and remorse an instance of emotional suffering. I will argue that each kind of suffering is essential for the proper functioning of the relevant system; in particular, I will argue that each kind of suffering constitutes the motivational component of virtue appropriate to that system.
Wednesday, 13 April 2016
University of Warwick
"Do we have a right to know about the criminality of others?"
Ongoing technological developments are making it easier for anyone who is interested to find out about the criminality of others. At the same time, many countries are relaxing legal restrictions on the formal disclosure by police to employers and others of criminal history information. As a result, someone criminalised today can expect information about their misdeeds to be more public --and more enduringly so-- than ever before. These trends are changing the stakes of long-standing moral and legal debates about whether states should make criminal records and other identifying criminal information public. As recent empirical work in labelling theory shows, the more publicity given to people's criminal histories, the higher the costs to those criminalised --and the fewer the opportunities for rehabilitation. This paper considers whether people have a right to know about the criminality of others and, if so, in what interests or freedoms such a right could be convincingly grounded. It argues that none, nor any combination, of the strongest grounds typically proposed can justify a general right of people to know about the criminality of others.
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
Victoria University of Wellington
To commit moral blackmail is to perform a wrongful act that forces someone to do something by placing her into a position under which it would be morally wrong for her not to do it. This paper offers an account of the structure of moral blackmail by comparing and contrasting it with ordinary forms of blackmail, and argues that moral blackmail is a common and significant form of exploitation. With an improved understanding of moral blackmail, we can gain insights into the dynamics at work within several social contexts, including the family, employment negotiations, allocations of professional and fiduciary responsibilities, and public policies that assign duties of care.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
University of Hong Kong
"When may soldiers participate in war?"
I shall argue that in some wars both sides are (as a collective) justified, that is, they can both satisfy valid jus ad bellum requirements. Moreover, in some wars - but not in all - the individual soldiers on the unjustified side (that is, on the side without jus ad bellum) may nevertheless kill soldiers (and also civilians as a side-effect) on the justified side, even if the enemy soldiers always abide by jus in bello constraints. The reason for this is that with regard to some forms of inflicting harm on others one may give special weight to oneÕs own interests and the interests of those to whom one has special responsibilities when assessing the proportionality of those acts. That is, the proportionality calculation may be agent-relative. This is in particular so in the case of foreseeably preventing innocent and non-threatening people from being saved (for instance, by shooting down a tactical bomber who would have saved them by destroying an ammunitions factory) but less so in the case of the intentional or foreseeable direct harming of innocent and non-threatening people (dropping bombs on people standing near an ammunitions factory). In the light of these considerations, I will then answer the question as to when soldiers may justifiably participate in war (and when not).
Wednesday, 4 May 2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison
"One's Own Reasoning"
Responding to Cappelen and Dever's claim that there is no distinctive role for perspectivality in epistemology, I will argue that facts about the outcomes of one's own reasoning processes may have a different evidential significance than facts about the outcomes of others'.
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
University of Sydney
"Individual Time Bias and Social Discounting"
Consider two questions about appropriate attitudes to time: Within a single life, is it permissible to weight the well-being of one's near future selves more heavily than one's farther future selves? And as a society, is it permissible to weight the well-being of near-future people more heavily than farther future people? While many economics and philosophers have suggested that these two questions are independent, so that our answer to one does not tightly constraint our answer to the other, I argue that they should be treated in parallel, so that individual time-bias is permissible if and only if social discounting is permissible.
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
University of Tasmania
"Two Epistemic Errors in the Climate Change Debate"
In this paper I identify two epistemic errors made by many prominent climate change sceptics. I argue that these errors are widespread in our intellectual culture, and that it is not only climate change sceptics who make them; they are made by a lot of scientists and philosophers (including many philosophers of science) as well.
Tuesday, 9 August 2016, 4-6pm
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Marchant Hall)
National University of Singapore
"A Reliable Route from Is to Ought"
I present a strategy by which moral knowledge can be derived from nonmoral knowledge, using insights from reliabilist epistemology. The strategy begins with the use of empirical evidence to determine which moral beliefs issue from which cognitive processes. We can then assess the reliability of these cognitive processes by considering to what extent they produce true belief on nonmoral issues, and by checking whether they produce contradictory moral beliefs in different people. By retaining reliably caused beliefs and abandoning unreliably caused ones, we can move closer to moral truth. No normative ethical assumptions are required.
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
Delft University of Technology
"Implementing resilience in flood risk management: A normative analysis"
In the last decade, resilience has become a leading paradigm for thinking about risks and safety threats, ranging from climate change and natural hazards to threats related to economic crises, migration, and globalization. Resilience roughly refers to the capacity of a system to respond to and recover from threats and it is often thought to contribute to a better -- that is, a safer and more just -- society. However, this claim is not uncontroversial. Some people also argue that the resilience paradigm primarily benefits the people who are already quite well-off at the expense of disadvantaged groups. In this seminar, I will discuss how resilience has been implemented in flood risk management. By comparing current developments in flood risk management in the UK and in the Netherlands, I discuss some normative implications of the resilience paradigm.
Wednesday, 31 August 2016
University of Oxford
Deaf parents or members of the Deaf community may sometimes refuse cochlear implants for their deaf child. A number of arguments are offered: 1. Deafness is a difference, not a disability. Sign language is an effective and functional form of communication; 2. Deaf culture is a unique culture that needs preservation; 3. Deafness brings with it unique goods; 4. Cochlear implants are an experimental treatment with risks; 5. Being deaf does not reduce a child's wellbeing or happiness; 7. Choosing a cochlear implant expresses a negative view of deaf culture and deaf people; 8. Refusal of a cochlear implant falls within the zone of parental discretion. I will evaluate these arguments and offer two arguments against refusing cochlear implants based on respect for autonomy and objective elements of well-being, autonomy/objective goods. I will distinguish between selection of deaf embryos vs treatment of deafness. If time permits, I will consider several objections: 1. Tyranny of normal/ reduction in diversity; 2. Extinction of culture. I will extend these arguments to other cases of choosing disability and relate them to debates about liberal neutrality and cultural relativism.
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
La Trobe University
"Feathered Neighbours: to feed or not to feed."
This paper discusses social attitudes towards feeding neighbourhood wild birds. It connects different and often opposing attitudes on the issue to three schools of philosophy regarding animals and nature. These include animal liberation ethics, wilderness preservation ethics, and anthropocentrism.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Wednesday, 26 October 2016