Understanding and Coming to Understand (Michael Lynch, University of CT)
Many philosophers take understanding to be a distinctive kind of knowledge that involves grasping dependency relations; moreover, they hold it to be particularly valuable. In this talk, I aim to investigate and address two well-known puzzles that arise from this conception: (1) the nature of understanding itself—in particular, the nature of “grasping”; (2) the source of understanding’s distinctive value. I’ll argue that we can shed light on both puzzles by recognizing first, the importance of the distinction between the act of coming to understand and the state of understanding; and second, that coming to understand is a creative act.
Thursday, April 14, 2016, 4:30 – 6pm
Axinn Center 229
Anger and Revolutionary Justice: Ideas for Liberal Learning (Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago)
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago
Anger is not just ubiquitous, it is also popular. Many people think it is impossible to care sufficiently for justice without anger at injustice. Many also believe that it is impossible for individuals to vindicate their own self-respect adequately without anger. This lecture will argue that anger is conceptually confused and normatively pernicious. After discussing the emotion in general, Martha will focus on revolutionary justice, giving reasons to support the philosophies of non-anger advanced by Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. She will also reflect on the importance of liberal arts education for thinking critically about our society and our social and political interactions.
Sponsored by the Eve Adler Department of Classics and the Program in Classical Studies; the Department of Philosophy and the Middlebury Institute's Deans' Seminars.
Thursday, March 17, 2016, 7 – 9pm
Wilson Hall, McCullough Student Center
Why the Epistemic Status of Our Beliefs Ought to Weigh With Us (Kate Nolfi, UVM)
Reflection on certain sorts of cases suggests that although not decisive in determining what we ought, all things considered, to believe, the epistemic status of our beliefs should, nevertheless, weigh with us. Put differently, it seems that one has pro tanto reason(s) to believe in ways that conform with and to avoid believing in ways that violate epistemic norms. In this paper, I develop and defend a vindicating explanation of why this is. I propose that the key to exposing that in virtue of which we have pro tanto reason(s) to believe in ways that do (and avoid believing in ways that do not) conform with epistemic norms lies in appreciating that being a believer of the particular sort that we are involves being the kind of creature whose mental economy is structured in a particular way: having the kind of capacity for belief that we have constitutively involves being psychologically constituted such that, at least paradigmatically, our beliefs play a distinctive role in guiding action.
Mar 2 at 4:30 in AXT 302
Critical Distance: Science, Art and Understanding (Catherine Z. Elgin, Harvard)
I will argue that art, like science, embodies, conveys, and often constitutes understanding. Both devise and deploy devices that distance us from the phenomena they concern in order to enable us to better understand those phenomena. Models, drawings, thought experiments, and fictions are representations that bracket irrelevancies and focus attention on factors that are otherwise hard to discern.
Thursday, April 2nd
Twilight 201 4:30 PM
Co-sponsored by: Education Studies Program, Department of Physics, Department of History of Art & Architecture and Department of Studio Art
Grounding Knowledge through the Mothers Committee of Bayview Hunters Point (Nancy McHugh, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH)
It is hard to imagine a group whose members are more outside of science—they are female, African American and living in one of the poorest, most toxic, and most violent communities in the U.S.
The lives of the people of Bayview Hunters Point and the work of the Mothers Committee are a critical example of environmental, health, and racial injustice and a powerful example of how communities resist injustice.
Tuesday, October 21 at 4:30 PM
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 219
Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, Academic Enrichment Fund,
the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, Brainerd Commons and the First-Year Seminar Fund
Perception: Origins of Mind (Tyler Burge, UCLA)
I sketch two notions of representation. One applies to states of plants and bacteria as well as to psychological states. The other applies exclusively to distinctively psychological states. I hold that the latter type of representation marks one of the two primary marks of the mental. (The other mark is consciousness.) I argue that representation in a distinctively psychological sense emerges first in perception. I sketch some primary features of perception, with special reference to findings of the science of perceptual psychology. I maintain that empirical work indicates that perception, hence representational mind, first emerges in relatively simple animals–arthropods.
Tuesday April 1, 2014 | 4:30-6:00
Identity Politics and International Criminal Justice (Aaron Fichtelberg, U of Delaware)
International criminal courts frequently wade into conflicts drenched in ethnic chauvinism and deeply felt inter-group hate. Fichtelberg analyzes the ways in which identity politics frame debates about these courts and how some of the unique experiments with hybrid courts — that is, courts that combine international and domestic actors —have sought to inoculate themselves from the discourses of identity politics that frequently aim to delegitimize international courts.
Monday, February 17th
4:30 PM in Axinn 219
The Franco-Algerian War and the Dispute between Camus and Sartre (Alek Baylee Toumi, University of Wisconsin at Stephens Point)
He has published a series of articles and book reviews on French and Francophone issues, as well as nine books, among them Maghreb Divers, on the problem of French language in post colonial North Africa, Albert Camus: Aujourd 'hui, and Albert Camus Precurseur: Mediterranee d’hier et d’aujourd’hui. A poet and playwright, he is the author of the Sartre-Beauvoir trilogy "Madah-Sartre", "Taxieur" and “De Beauvoir à beau voile” (on the question of veil, school and secularism), as well as "Albert Camus: entre la mere et l’injustice". The English version of Madah-Sartre was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2007 while the French version has been reedited by Editions du Marais in Canada in 2009.
Sponsored by Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, Department of French, Department of Philosophy, and African Studies Program
Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 4:30 – 6pm @ the RAJ
Values in Climate Change Research: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Kristen Intemann, Montana State University)
Social and political values can be important in climate change research. Such research aims to generate predictions that will help us to protect the well being of humans and our environment, or those things that we take to be valuable. Thus, scientists may need to rely on value judgments in deciding what to measure and how to measure it. On the other hand, there is concern about how values may also lead to bias in climate change research. Powerful interests (such as chemical companies and think tanks) have funded some research with the aim of casting doubt on the scientific consensus and stalling regulatory policies. On the other side, climate skeptics have charged that many climate scientists are trying to advance a radical environmentalist agenda. Thus, there is a question of when social and political values are appropriate in climate research, as well as whose values ought to be endorsed.
A lecture by Kristen Intemann, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Montana State University
Monday, October 28, 2013
Hillcrest, the Orchard
Sponsored by the Philosophy Department, Program in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Environmental Studies Program, Academic Enrichment Fund, and Ross Commons
What is Wisdom? (Stephen Grimm, Fordham University)
What is it that makes someone wise, or one person wiser than another? I try to explain what it is that the wise person knows in a way that sheds light on these questions. I also try to explain why contemporary philosophers have had so little to say about wisdom, in contrast to their ancient and medieval predecessors.
A lecture by Stephen Grimm, Philosophy Department, Fordham University
September 25, 2013
Symposium on the Newton Papers and the "Glorious Revolution" of Locke and Newton
Dr. Sarah Crawford Dry, historian of science and author of an award winning book on Madam Curie, has a contract with Oxford UP to write work entitled "The Newton Papers: The Secret History of Newton?s Private Manuscripts."
Professor Robert Iliffe, Department of History, University of Sussex
author of The Very Short Introduction to Newton (Oxford 2007) and editorial director of the online Newton Project, is completing a book entitled "High Priest of Nature: the Heretical life of Isaac Newton."
Sponsors: Political Science, Philosophy, Physics, History, and Pre/Law Club.
March 21, 2013
Spinoza in Germany: The Jewish Question (Robert Schine, Religion Dept.)
Carol Rifelj Faculty Lecture Series
Robert Schine, Department of Religion
Spinoza is variously celebrated as a precursor of the Enlightenment, a founder of the theory of the secular liberal state, and as a Biblical critic who demonstrated the impossibility of Mosaic authorship of the Five Books of Moses (the Pentateuch), and coupled his investigation of the Bible with his political theory in a caustic critique of Judaism as a theocratic system that is inimical to freedom. His place as a cultural icon for Jews has therefore always been "conflicted": although expelled from the Amsterdam Jewish community for his philosophical misdeeds, he is nonetheless a prominent Jew. Some, like David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, argued for Spinoza's rehabilitation. Others, like the philosopher Hermann Cohen, denounced him as a "traitor" to his inherited religion. Professor Schine's lecture will seek to show how the positions of these two thinkers on Spinoza are paradigmatic discussions of an issue that is foundational to understanding the place of Judaism in modernity.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 4:30 – 6pm
Franklin Environmental Center, The Orchard-Hillcrest 103
Natural Kinds in the 19th Century (PD Magnus, SUNY Albany)
P.D. Magnus, Philosophy Department, State University of New York at Albany
Scientists classify the particular objects that they study into categories or kinds, and then theorize about them. Some of these categories are merely convenient divisions to organize data, but others are really features of the world; the ones which are features of the world are called natural kinds. The standard account traces this distinction back to John Stuart Mill, who, in addition to his more celebrated work in political philosophy, was also an accomplished philosopher of science. In this talk, Magnus author of the recent book Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds: From Planets to Mallards argues that the connection to Mill is both more complicated and more interesting than the usual account.
Sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Albert D. Mead Professorship of Biology
Friday, March 8, 2013, 4:30 – 6pm
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 104
The Commonwealth of Breath: on Climate and Consciousness (David Abram)
A public lecture by Environmental Philosopher David Abram.
How has human interaction with the atmosphere been affected by slowly shifting understandings of the relation between the body and the mind? Are there unnoticed linkages between the torsions in the planetary climate and current investigations into the science and philosophy of consciousness? This lecture will address the human perception of earth?s atmosphere through the lens of indigenous cosmologies and the intellectual history of the west.
Sponsored by Environmental Studies and Environmental Affairs, the Academic Enrichment Fund, Breadloaf Schools of English, Environmental Journalism, Philosophy Department, English and American Literature Department and the Religion Department.
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 4:30 – 6pm
Franklin Environmental Center, The Orchard-Hillcrest 103
Birthing Responsibility: On the Moral Significance of Natality in 20th Century French Thought (Gail Weiss, George Washington Univ.)
Emmanuel Levinas, who emphasizes our absolute responsibility to the Other as revealed through the visceral face-to-face encounter, Simone de Beauvoir who argues that to be responsible for oneself one must also be responsible for others, and Luce Irigaray, who focuses on the tactile intensity and exclusivity of the maternal-fetal intra-uterine connection, together offer excellent resources for understanding how responsibility is intersubjectively embodied. Building on their respective accounts and the points of tension between them, I argue that the maternal activity of childbirth produces not only a newborn infant, but also generates a new responsibility to and for the other. Though this new responsibility to the newborn infant (as a separately existing entity) is produced through the laboring body of the birth mother, I argue that the obligations it entails necessarily extend beyond the birth mother to encompass others who must help to secure the well-being of this vulnerable new being-in-the-world.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Hume: a New Approach to his Intellectual Biography (James Harris, University of St Andrews)
Was Hume a philosopher first and foremost, who turned to writing essays and history out of disappointment with the reception of his Treatise of Human Nature? Did his reputation for atheism mean that he was unable to the life he wanted to live -- the life of a philosophy professor?
I'll argue that the answer to both questions is No. From the beginning of his career Hume was as committed to the study of politics and history as he was to philosophy. His goal was always to be an independent man of letters, and that was what he succeeded in becoming.
Monday, October 8th 2012 4:30 PM
Kinesthetic Empathy as a Creative Practice in Film, Fiction, Music, and Dance (Dr. W. P. Seeley, Bates College)
Sept 29 2012
Presentation by Dr. W. P. Seeley, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Bates College, and professional sculptor. Kinesthetic empathy—the capacity to use our own bodies to model, interpret, and understand the emotions and behaviors of others in social contexts—is a form of social cognition that has been appealed to in explanations of musical expressiveness, kinetic transfer in dance, narrative understanding, and our emotional engagement with characters in movies and novels. In each of these cases, the same embodied neurophysiological proceses through which we orient ourselves to the actions, emotions, and intentions of others in social contexts are harnessed as expressive devices to communicate the content of an artwork. Artistic communication can thereby be thought of as a collaborative exchange, a collective project in which spectators and audience members reconstruct the rich expressive content of artworks from sparse formal and compositional cues. Perhaps more importantly, creative activity in the arts can be thought of as a dynamic exchange between artists and spectators. Dr. Seeley discusses the role kinesthetic empathy plays in the creative process and our engagement with artworks in a range of media. Introduced by John Spackman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, with comments by Ariele Faber '13.
Mindfulness & Morality (Jay Garfield, Smith College)
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition the cultivation of virtue depends on the practice of introspective vigilance, eventually conferring a kind of spontaneous freedom, the ability to be genuinely responsive as opposed to merely reactive.
Prof. Garfield is Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Smith College, where he teaches Buddhism, philosophy and ethics.
Wednesday, February 1st
12:15 PM MBH 216
Race in the Amazon (Sebastian Gil-Riano, University of Toronto)
Race in the Amazon: the role of the human sciences in UNESCO’s International Institute of the Hylean Amazon (IIHA), 1945-1950
PhD Candidate, Institute for the History and
Philosophy of Science and Technology
University of Toronto
Many scholars see the mid-twentieth century as a watershed moment when scientists denounced scientific racism. In doing so, they embraced the view that biological differences between human groups are minimal, and that human diversity can mostly be attributed to cultural differences. But is it possible that this post-war anti-racist stance bore significant continuities with the racist projects it claimed to resist? By focusing on the role of anthropologists in UNESCO's (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) initiatives in the Amazon basin from 1945 to 1950, Gil-Riańo examines some of the epistemic complexities that informed the rise of post-war anti-racism.
Thursday, January 26th
Sponsored by: Philosophy Department; Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; Department of Sociology/Anthropology; Department of History & Department of Political Science
Contingent Pacifism and Selective Refusal (Larry May, Vanderbilt)
Larry May is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy, Professor of Law, and Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee; Professorial Fellow, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Charles Sturt and Australian National Universities, Canberra; and Chair, Committee for the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers American Philosophical Association, July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2014. He is a highly respected, well-known international legal scholar and political philosophy professor, and one of the best contemporary Just War theorists. He has given invited international lectures at numerous important international academic and legal institutions like Oxford and The Hague. Professor May’s specialty is writing on international criminal and legal issues from a moral perspective. Since 2008, he has written/published the following six books with Cambridge University Press: Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Just War, Aggression and Crimes Against Peace, Genocide, Global Justice and Due Process, and After War Ends (forthcoming). Professor May's work is international, contemporary, moral and interdisciplinary. He understands and can convey how international lawyers and philosophers think about the issues he addresses, as well as how persons coming to the issue for the first time or with limited knowledge are likely to approach these issues.
12:15 p.m., Friday, 11/4
Robert A. Jones ’59 House conference room
Sponsored by the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, Department of Philosophy, Department of Political Science, Department of Religion,
Brainerd Commons, and the Philosophy Club
Can Philosophy Integrate the Social Sciences? (Mark Risjord, Emory)
October 28, 2011
Christian A. Johnson Economics Lecture
Robert A. Jones Conference Room
If It Wasn’t a Revolution, What Was It? (Daniel Garber, Princeton University)
Stuart Professor of Philosophy
The period from the publication of Copernicus's De revolutionibus (1543) and Newton's Principia (1687) is often referred to as the Scientific Revolution. This conception of scientific change has been formalized and generalized in Thomas Kuhn's influential Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I would like to explore alternative ways of thinking about radical intellectual change. In connection with this, I would like to explore what it might have been like to live through such a period of intellectual instability, and the consequences that this may have for thinking about our own age.
April 28, 2011
Mill on Happiness & Higher Pleasures: A Perfectionist Reading (David O. Brink, UC San Diego)
David O. Brink
Professor of Philosophy
University of California, San Diego
Many different interpretations have been offered of Mill's higher pleasures doctrine and its role in his conception of happiness. Focusing on the text of Chapter II of Utilitarianism, but supplementing it with attention to On Liberty and other texts, I defend the heterodox interpretation that Mill should be read as endorsing the perfectionist claim that the chief ingredients of happiness are forms of excellence that exercise our rational capacities. I defend this perfectionist reading against hedonistic and preference-satisfaction rivals and conclude by addressing some natural doubts about perfectionism as a conception of happiness.
April 11, 2011
Stanley Cavell, Modernism, and Elizabeth Bishop (Richard Eldridge, Swarthmore College)
Richard Eldridge '75
Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell
Professor of Philosophy
This talk elaborates the bases--personal, cultural, and ontological--of Stanley Cavell's senses of what it is to be a modern subject and to practice philosophical modernism. A comparison of Cavell's sense of the subject with Elizabeth Bishop's suggests that Cavell and Bishop together register distinct senses of rootlessness and of possible satisfaction in modern life that might be more broadly shared.
March 10, 2011
Gendering the Genome: The Emerging Concept of Sex Differences in Human Genome Research (Sarah Richardson, Harvard University)
Assistant Professor of the History of Science,
and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
While historians, philosophers, and social scientists have attended closely to the ways in which biological conceptions of racial differences are being reshaped in the genomic age, the emerging conception of sex differences in genomics has gone largely unnoticed. This talk, part of a research project on the history of genetic and genomic conceptions of sex from 1900 to the present, profiles the recent dramatic rise in genomic sex difference research. Features of this emerging research landscape include institutional support for genomic sex difference research from leaders in the Women's Health Movement, the proliferation of high-profile biomedical research platforms in which sex is a constitutive though not always explicit category of research, including autism research and epigenetics, and the imperatives of technologies for analyzing the human genome, which drive genomic research toward the production of quantitative differences between human groups, including the sexes. Placing these developments in historical and social context, this talk seeks to frame meaningful questions and to locate points of exchange, intervention, and transformative conversation for feminist and science studies engagements with emerging genomic research on sex difference.
October 21, 2010
What is in it for me? Selfish reasons for hiring women scientists and treating them well (Carla Fehr, Iowa State University)
Dr. Carla Fehr
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Iowa State University
Since the 1970's the number of women earning doctorates has tripled and the number of women professors has only increased 1.5 times. I argue that the loss of these women hurts the practice of science and engineering research. Those women who persist in science and engineering faculty positions can face a chilly climate in the universities where they work. I argue that this is not only a problem in terms of being unfair, but that this too has a negative impact on the quality of science and engineering research being produced by our institutions of higher learning. Addressing issues of the underrepresentation of women in the academy and improving their work climate is not simply an ethical matter. It is in the self interest of individuals and institutions because it can improve the quality of their research.
April 23, 2010
Consciousness, Computation, and Animal Minds (Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf’s College)
Department of Philosophy
St. Olaf’s College, Northfield, Minnesota
Dr. Taliaferro’s talk will explore how studying animal minds can teach us something important about consciousness and computers. He will present critical objections to current materialist accounts of consciousness, and defend the merits of integrative dualism.
Dr. Taliaferro has had the honor of being invited by five St. Olaf’s graduating classes to deliver the “Last Lecture” on Commencement Weekend. Some of his recent books include: Consciousness and the Mind of God, Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, and Evidence and Faith: Philosophy and Religion Since the Seventeenth Century.
He loves contributing to books that combine philosophy and popular culture, most recently writing on the Olympics, Harry Potter, and superheroes.
April 14, 2010
Facing Images: After Levinas (Hagi Kenaan, Tel Aviv University & Clark Art Institute at Williams College)
Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University
& Clark Art Institute at Williams College
A lecture on the ethical meaning of images following the original and
influential French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and, in particular,
his articulation of Otherness and the significance of the human face.
Sponsored by Philosophy, French, History of Art & Architecture, Winter Term Enrichment Funds and Ross Commons.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Proportionality and Self-Defense in War (Jeff A. McMahan, Rutgers University)
Professor McMahan is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University and a leading contributor to the growing field of international ethics. His work on morality, killing, and warfare has yielded seminal books and dozens of articles, including The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life (Oxford University Press, 2002). His forthcoming manuscript, The Morality and Law of War, has already won a prize for the “best unpublished essay or monograph on the philosophy of war and peace” from the American Philosophical Association.
Sponsored by the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs,
the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Political Science
April 21, 2009
Philosophy, Religion, and Early Modern Women's Letters: Anne Conway and Damaris Masham (Sarah Hutton, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
University of Aberystwyth, Wales
Sarah Hutton is a distinguished scholar who has written or edited many books and articles on early modern philosophers, especially women, as well as the history of science and the influences of Platonism.
Anne Conway (1631-1679) and Damaris Masham (1658/9-1708) are fascinating and rare as women from the history of philosophy. Both were influenced by the Cambridge Platonists; both women engaged with the philosophy of majors figures such as Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Locke.
Sponsored by Philosophy, History, Religion, Women’s and Gender Studies & Ross Commons
Monday, October 19, 2009