Wagga Philosophy
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2017 seminars

Wednesday, 8 March 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Astrid Paulsson
Work in Progress Discussion
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Building 29, Room 217)
Hallie Liberto
University of Connecticut
"Coercion, Consent, and the Moral Debilitation"
In this paper I examine the most prevalent explanation for why coercion ever undermines consent, an explanation that I call: moral debilitation. Moral debilitation is the view that a manipulative strategy can actually disempower an agent or her speech act from changing the existing moral circumstances -- from having the power to grant permission, or dissolve an obligation. Moral debilitation is thought to occur with respect to utterances that would otherwise constitute morally valid promises or consent -- though I will here focus primarily on consent. First, I distinguish two questions that philosophers try to answer when determining how coercion undermines consent. (A) What kind of coercive threat undermines consent? (B) By what mechanism does a threat undermine consent? I will explain that the answer to (A) relies heavily on the answer to (B) -- the popular and plausible versions of which involve some form of moral debilitation. Second, I will argue that the mechanism of moral debilitation cannot operate alongside a plausible answer to (A). Third, I will propose an alternate account of the relationship between coercion and consent -- one that investigates the implicit content of speech acts.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Duncan Martin
"Collectivizing Environmental Virtue" (PhD Research Proposal)
Wednesday, 3 May 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga (Building 29, Room 127)
Julian Savulescu
Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
"The Role of Professional Conscience in Controversial Practice: Designer Babies, Abortion, and Euthanasia"
People are increasingly choosing practices which are illegal, proscribed by professional or social norms, or otherwise contrary to social expectations. Examples include genetic selection of embryos for advantageous traits, sex selective abortion or embryo selection, and euthanasia. I will outline what constitutes a good reason to support a controversial choice by reference to the concepts of autonomy, wellbeing and justice. I will discuss the role of professional conscience or personal values in supporting or declining to support controversial choices.
Tuesday, 9 May 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Piero Moraro
"Problems of Fairness"
Some political theorists argue that a citizen’s obligation to obey the law stems from the notion of fairness. Since the individual citizen receives significant benefits from his/her political community (e.g. personal safety), and since these benefits are the product of others’ obedience, the individual owes it to his/her fellows to equally submit to the law. Illegal conduct, from this standpoint, is like free-riding. I contend that this argument fails to show that citizens must obey the law. First, unlawful conduct does not entail unfair advantage: in some cases, one may offer a fair contribution to the cooperative scheme of the state despite disobeying the law. Second, the principle of fairness implies that those who simply obey the law “because it is the law” may be the ones who are guilty of free-riding.
Wednesday, 17 May 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Katie Steele
Australian National University
"The Logic of Permissible Action"
Some consequentialists have attempted to respond to the ‘demandingness objection’ by introducing a notion of permissible action that is more inclusive than merely ‘those acts that maximise the good’. Shelly Kagan (1984) argues that such an inclusive category of right action is puzzling and calls for explanation. In short, how can a number of acts be morally ‘on a par’ so to speak, and yet some more exemplary than others (allowing for supererogatory action)? Here I offer a model of permissibility that I claim best resolve Kagan's puzzle – a model that appeals to sets of value functions. As per analogous models (e.g., of vague predicates, or imprecise belief), however, the model permits a number of subtly different interpretations, each having differing advantages and disadvantages in terms of accounting for commonly held ideas about permissible action.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Yuri Cath
Latrobe University
"Knowing What It Is Like and Testimony"
It is often said that 'what it is like'-knowledge cannot be acquired by consulting testimony or reading books [Lewis 1998; Paul 2014; 2015]. However, people also routinely consult books like What It Is Like to Go to War [Marlantes 2014], and countless 'what it is like' articles, blogs, and youtube videos, in the apparent hope of gaining knowledge about what it is like to have experiences they have not had themselves. This article examines this puzzle and tries to solve it by appealing to recent work in epistemology and the philosophy of mind on knowing-wh ascriptions. In closing I indicate the wider significance of these ideas by showing how they can help us to better evaluate prominent arguments by Paul [2014; 2015a] concerning transformative experiences.
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Steve Clarke
"Huckleberry Finn’s Conscience Strikes Back"
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Richard Rowland
Australian Catholic University
"Skepticism about Blameworthiness: Normative not Metaphysical"
This paper argues that although there are non-instrumental reasons to have pro-attitudes and certain con-attitudes there are no non-instrumental reasons to blame; call this view No Reason. If No Reason is correct, then although some people are admirable and praiseworthy and some things are desirable and others undesirable, no one is blameworthy. This paper’s argument for No Reason provides a normative case for skepticism about blameworthiness rather than providing what we might call a metaphysical case for skepticism about blameworthiness deriving from skepticism about free will. Accordingly this normative case for skepticism about blameworthiness avoids the problems faced by skepticism about blameworthiness that derives from skepticism about free will. The idea that a non-metaphysically based, normative or evaluative, case for skepticism about blameworthiness might be made is in the air in the recent literature on blame. But such a non-metaphysically-based case for skepticism about blameworthiness has not been made. This paper makes such a case. This paper argues that there is a non-instrumental reason to have a token of attitude type T only if it is sometimes non-instrumentally better to have a token attitude of type T. But it is never non-instrumentally better to blame others than to not blame others. So, there are no non-instrumental reasons to blame.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
CSU, Wagga Wagga
Gerard Vong
Emory University
"A Unified Solution to Philosophical Puzzles about Harm, Death & Risk"
The counterfactual account of harm is arguably the best known and most commonsense account of harm, where an act  harms X if X is worse off than she would have been if  hadn’t occurred. However this account is purportedly subject to persistent and compelling counterexample-based objections (e.g. preemption cases). These counterexamples are so compelling to some philosophers, such as Ben Bradley, that they suggest we ought to “avoid appealing to the notion of harm at all in our moral theorizing”. Similarly, the deprivationist account of the potential disvalue of death is arguably the best known account of death’s potential disvalue, but it is also subject to persistent and compelling objections. According to the deprivationist account, a death D is bad for X if and only if, and because and to the extent that, the life that X would have had if D had not occurred would have been better for X than the life that ended with D. Again, these objections are so compelling that some philosophers reject the deprivationist account of death’s potential disvalue, and some go further still in also rejecting the view that death can be bad for its victim simpliciter. In this paper I defend a new view about wellbeing that responds to the aforementioned objections in a unified way, while also offering a resolution to unsolved puzzles from both moral philosophy and tort law.