What we're about
Upcoming events (5)
"Philosophers have justified wars - so why not justify the much lower level violence of a riot? If people have a just cause, why should they not retaliate against public property? Perhaps a racial minority has suffered violent discrimination - a riot might be the most viable way to draw attention to their plight. Avia Pasternak argues that a riot can be 'proportional' and that we should judge riotors in the light of their cause." Philosophy247 podcast (http://www.philosophy247.org/podcasts/riots/). We'll use the occasion of this podcast to raise questions about the justification of war---which some philosophers have found justification for since medieval times. And if some think war is ok, why not a riot? Useful background for the discussion: Just War Theory: http://www.iep.utm.edu/justwar/ Are violent protests morally acceptable? Alva Pasternak says, "under certain circumstances": http://www.philosophy247.org/podcasts/riots/ A "no" answer: http://www.dbknews.com/2017/02/08/violent-protests-trump-administration-just-war-theory/ Jonathan Havercroft: "yes, if just war is": https://www.academia.edu/29154567/Why_is_there_no_just_riot_theory Philosophical justifications for and against violence: https://www.thoughtco.com/can-violence-be-just-2670681 This writeup is a stub. More development and material to follow...
There is a deep split in environmental ethics about what our ultimate goal should be as a species. One view, perhaps the more popular, is anthropocentric. Our treatment of animals, plants, and the entire biosphere is in the end determined by what we, human beings, want now or can imagine ourselves wanting in the future. Animals, plants and the environment matter but they matter because they matter to us. Climate change, for instance, only matters because of what it means to us or our interests, present or future. Take us out of the picture and it becomes a matter of indifference. But there is another more holistic perspective on our relation to everything around us that does not see us and our interest at all as the center of the moral universe. Building on the work of earlier thinkers like Richard Routley and Aldo Leopold, J. Baird Callicott has developed an ethic that challenges pretty much all the major moral theories we are familiar with: utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, etc. They are all anthropocentric. What’s wrong with anthropocentrism? Well what’s wrong with egocentrism? It’s self-serving, that’s what. If selfishness is not acceptable for individuals, why should it be ok for groups or entire species? These two views do not see eye to eye to say the least? But if one side is wrong? Why? We’ll survey the argument landscape and you can decide. [This topic is to be developed. It’s posted to gauge interest.]
We’ll explore what happens when art stops thinking of itself as pure entertainment, something to do for fun, to pass the time or to ornament the dull corners of your life--- when art takes on moral, political questions or when it threatens to undermine the normal way of doing things or being in the world, or challenges closely guarded boundaries---even the normal ways of thinking things, disses the limits of reason itself. When it challenges what you took it to be yesterday? When it starts to become troublesome, upsets apple carts, when it offends, insists on being the knick-knack from hell. What is the warrant for this kind of behavior? Does art have any internal restrictions on what it is allowed to imagine? Is it bounded by any set of principles that say you can play but here is something you cannot touch? Something too serious for play? Does it fail to be art if it violates our sensibilities whatever these might be? Does it then cease to be art?... Or is art precisely that... a type of normative activity that knows no bounds? None whatsoever. Not moral bounds, not political, legal or even those it has always toyed with, aesthetic ones. Might it be that which, when it is being what it most essentially is, demands your full attention with no guarantees that you or your values will escape the encounter intact? Is in fact art the highest or the most fundamental form that normativity takes? Is it, in the end where all value comes from? Is it no less than “the mother” of logic and ethics? We’ll peek at this radical idea... [This topic is to be developed. It’s posted to gauge interest.]
Ethicists, always on the lookout for trouble in technological progress, have been pondering this one for some time. The philosophical literature on this topic is vast but mostly armchair. Until recently, it has seemed a bit of science fiction. But the possibility that we can edit human and animal genetic material to suit our wishes, to prevent disease or disability, or to select or enhance desirable features and abilities is fast becoming an urgent ethical concern. “Last week, an international team of scientists reported that they had successfully edited the DNA of human embryos to repair a serious mutation.” -NPR (http://www.npr.org/2017/08/06/541877804/the-call-in-genetic-engineering) We’ll explore the moral questions surrounding the possibilities… [This topic is to be developed. It’s posted to gauge interest.]