Events (2019-2020)

In memory of our beloved graduate, Jesse L. Rowland ’16E, who passed away in September 2017, we share one of his many excellent papers. We will always remember Jesse's sweetness, generosity, and sparkling intellect.


> this year's events in photographs and audio

Events & Lectures Scheduled 2019-2020

Nandi Theunissen (Department of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh)

Thursday, September 12, 2019. 5:00 p.m., Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall 

Title: “The New Mooreans: On Personal and Impersonal Good.”

Abstract:   I address a basic question in value theory about the relationship between being good and being good for someone. Is something (A) good because it is good for someone, or (B) is it good for someone because it is good? A group of theorists whom I call the New Mooreans—Joseph Raz, Susan Wolf, Thomas Nagel, and Sarah Buss—defend B: goodness has explanatory priority over goodness for someone. I contend that their arguments are insufficient to secure B. It is false that when something is non-instrumentally good for someone it is so because it is good simpliciter. I conclude by locating a deep point of disagreement between the New Mooreans and their opponents. For the New Mooreans, value affects us as a mere symptom of being good, while for their opponents, value is crucially and essentially effective. Without settling the question of the better theory of value, I suggest that New Mooreans are under pressure to explain the claim of values on our cognitive and practical attention. If the suggestion stands, they must do more to make a real advance over G. E. Moore.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. -  CHI Seminar Room - Philosophy Alumni Panel

Title: "What can you do with a philosophy degree?

Panelists and speakers: Carlyn Robertson AC ’2014; Richard J. (Ricky) Altieri AC ’2015, and
Lolade (Lola) Fadula - AC ’2017.

Philosophy Seminar Series 2019-2020

The format of the workshop is pre-read. Interested participants should contact Dee Brace for the paper, which will be made available 7-10 days in advance of the seminar date.  It is expected that everyone in attendance will have read the paper.  Accordingly, the speaker will give only a brief overview of their essential arguments before discussion begins.

Please mark your calendars for these speakers!

Friday, October 4, 2019
201 Cooper House (Kennick Reading Room)
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Title: "Indecent Philosophy"

Abstract: Philosophy is in need of a reckoning. As it’s often conceived, philosophy is fundamentally a subversive discipline. We are in the business of asking upsetting and unsettling questions. There is no topic or line of inquiry beyond the philosophical pale. We absolve ourselves of responsibility when our arguments are taken up in the realm of decision and policy-making by claiming to just be in the business of asking questions. As I'll demonstrate in this paper, some questions have higher stakes than others, and when asking such questions we bear a greater burden of responsibility. I'll argue that philosophy can be indecent when we treat others as objects of our inquiry while neglecting our continued obligation to demonstrate the right kind of regard or respect for them. Just as there are moral constraints on scientific inquiry, so too there are moral constraints on philosophical inquiry.

Rima Basu
Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College.

Thursday, October 24, 2019
201 Cooper House (Kennick Reading Room)
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Title: "Suspect Notions and the Concept Police"

Abstract: The essay is concerned with questions about the legitimacy of the concepts we may want to use. My main focus is Guy Kahane’s criticism of Michael Sandel’s ideas about enhancement (in The Case Against Perfection, and some earlier work). I try to bring out what is at stake in the disagreement between Kahane and Sandel, and I sketch some of the connections with Jane Heal’s criticism of the idea that truth is of value.

Cora Diamond
Kenan Professor of Philosophy Emerita, University of Virginia

Thursday, November 7, 2019
201 Cooper House (Kennick Reading Room)
5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Title: "Knowing By Doing"

Abstract: Imagine this. I tell you that the spatula is in the left drawer of the kitchen cabinet. You ask me how I know. And I respond: ‘I put it there.’ On the face of it, I claim to know that p in virtue of bringing it about that p. The idea that action is to be counted among the sources of knowledge is central to the Aristotelian tradition. If all goes well, the artisan comes to know the relevant properties of her product by making it according to the rules of her art. Somewhat curiously, this idea seems to have gone missing in contemporary epistemology and action theory. I argue that this is a mistake. Maker’s knowledge is essential to rational agency. What I know by doing, I know as my work. Without that manner of knowing, I couldn’t understand myself as an agent.

Matthias Haase
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago


The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy

Daniel C. Dennett (Co-Director Center for Cognitive Studies and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University).

Thursday, October 17, 2019, 5:00 p.m., Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall 

The title of the Fourteenth Annual ALP Lecture is:

“Autonomy, Consciousness and Freedom”

Abstract:  Autonomy, in one sense, is self-control—as contrasted with remote control. Self-control is an achievement, not anything that we are born with. Human consciousness is the arena of self-control that we inculcate in those human beings we consider responsible agents. Political freedom is the freedom to move and act at will, and it is a freedom very much worth wanting.

 Reception will follow

For further information, please phone Dee Brace at (413) 542-5805 or send e-mail to


 2019-2020 Forry and Micken Lecture Series on “Just Human Health”

A lecture series funded by the Forry and Micken Fund in Philosophy and Science

First Lecturer of the 2019-2020 Forry and Micken Lecture series will be Douglas Paul MacKay (Associate Professor of Public Policy, Center for Bioethics, University of North Carolina).

The talk will take place on Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 5:15 p.m. in the Pruyne Lecture Hall.

Title: "What is an (Ethically) Optimal Soda Tax? "

Abstract: Policymakers are increasingly considering and implementing soda taxes with the aim of reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. While public debates largely focus on whether to implement such taxes or not, there are a number of challenging ethical questions regarding their design. For example, should policymakers take steps to address the disproportionate effects of soda taxes on low-income households? Should soda taxes only be designed to correct for the negative externalities of soda consumption – i.e. the costs that soda consumption imposes on third-parties? Or should soda taxes be designed, perhaps paternalistically, to promote soda drinkers’ health and wellbeing? I address these questions in my talk, providing policymakers with guidance regarding the ethical design of soda taxes. In doing so, I take issue with the utilitarian approach of those economists who answer these questions by appeal to optimal tax theory.

CANCELLED - Second Lecturer of the 2019-2020 Forry and Micken Lecture series will be Madison Powers (Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University).

Cancelled -talk will take place on Thursday, April 2, 2020, at 5:15 p.m. in the Pruyne Lecture Hall.

Title: “Health Disparities and Structural Injustice” 

Abstract: There is considerable empirical evidence showing that members of some social groups "live sicker and die younger" than members of other social groups. For example, substantial health disparities are found among members of minority groups compared to majority populations of many nations. Poor people almost everywhere fare worse than affluent people, and poor people tend to fare even worse in societies marked by extreme economic inequality. Citizens of some countries live healthier and longer lives than citizens of other countries. Poor women living in informal human settlements in the global South often have higher rates of morbidity and premature mortality than men in these communities, while American men live sicker and die younger than American women. What, if anything, makes group-based health disparities potential matters of justice? A familiar answer points to the existence of structural injustice, where lifetime health prospects are systematically and pervasively shaped by deeply disadvantaging institutional arrangements and hierarchical relations of power.  This talk explores a number of examples of population level health disparities and alternative ways of understanding the phenomenon of structural injustice.

CANCELLED - Third Lecturer of the 2019-2020 Forry and Micken Lecture series will be Marion Hourdequin (Professor of Philosophy, Colorado College)

The talk will take place on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 5:15 p.m. in Pruyne Lecture Hall.

Title: "Climate Ethics and The Right to be Cold"

Abstract:  This talk explores climate ethics through the lens of 2015 autobiography, The Right to be Cold, which traces Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s journey from early childhood in an Inuit town in northern Quebec to her later leadership and international advocacy on behalf of Inuit communities in Canada and throughout the world.  I argue that Watt-Cloutier’s account offers important lessons for understanding climate ethics and climate justice, by highlighting the deeply contextual and relational dimensions of climate impacts; implicitly challenging highly abstract and ideal conceptions of justice; and at the same time, strategically deploying the notion of human rights to convey what is at stake for Arctic peoples in a changing climate.