Each year, the Philosophy Department brings a variety of speakers to the UM-Flint campus as part of their Philosophy Visiting Lecture Series. These speakers present on a variety of topics all centered around various philosophical principles and theories. These lectures are open to all members of campus and community, and topics complement many additional fields of study. Below you will find information on past speakers and upcoming events.
Nicholas Stang Lecture
Dr. Nicholas Stang, (PhD Princeton, 2008) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Canada Research Chair in Metaphysics and its History at the University of Toronto. His work focuses on the continuing relevance of German Idealism to contemporary analytic philosophy. His first book, Kant's Modal Metaphysics, was published by Oxford University Press in Spring 2016. He will be presenting:
Idealism as the Truth of Analytic Philosophy: A Tory History
on Friday, April 21, 2017
According to the standard narrative, analytic philosophy was born when its founders rejected idealism and embraced a thoroughgoing realism about logic, semantics, and mathematics. This narrative is usually told in a triumphalist tone: the move from idealism to realism was a philosophical victory of (Anglo-Saxon) clarity and insight over (Germanic) obscurity and confusion. I dissent from this narrative, on both historical and philosophical grounds. Historically, the narrative has two major flaws in the case of at least one of the founders of analytic philosophy, Gottlob Frege. First of all, it conflates idealism with psychologism; the German Idealists (e.g. Kant, Hegel) were just as anti-psychologistic as Frege but they were idealists about the subject-matter of logic. Secondly, this narrative underplays the remaining idealist elements in Frege’s own philosophy, especially in his late essay “Thought” (Der Gedanke). Insofar as Frege remained an idealist about logic, I argue, he was right to do so: the dominant realism about logic and semantics in analytic philosophy leads to insuperable difficulties. I conclude by sketching a Transcendental Idealist view of logic and semantics and arguing that the path forward for analytic philosophy is the path backwards: to think anew the fundamental insights of Kant and Hegel using the analytic tools developed by Frege and his successors.
Past Philosophy Lecture Series Speakers
David Groenfeldt Lecture
Dr. David Groenfeldt, Founder and Director Water-Culture Institute and Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque presented:
on Friday, November 11, 2016
The tragedy of Flint’s water supply that came to light last year is rightly framed as a failure of water ethics at many levels, but what precisely are those levels? What ethical standards could be proposed to avert similar tragedies in the future? I will suggest that the egregious ethical lapses that resulted in persistent lead contamination constitute only the visible, legally enforceable tip of a much larger ethical iceberg. The “frozen” ethical principles that we may give lip service to but rarely think about very deeply, e.g., the moral right to a healthy environment, the moral responsibility to engage meaningfully with stakeholders, etc. -- constitute a potential resource that ethics analysis can unlock. How can this be done? I will present three stages of ethics “work” for addressing the inherently ethical domains of water policies and decisions: (1) Stage 1 - Adopt a basic set of widely used standards for defining ethical governance of water (e.g., recognizing access to safe water as a human right); Stage 2 - Apply ethical imagination to set new goals and expectations about how water governance might improve life happiness (e.g., by restoring polluted rivers streams); and Stage 3 - Follow the “values chain” implicit in water use (e.g., for water used in agriculture, what values are, or could be advanced through the agricultural practices which water is making possible?). By laying out these stages of water ethics, it will be easier to develop practical plans and strategies that will lead us closer to the vision of sustainable and just water governance.
Tyler Fagan Lecture
Dr. Tyler Fagan, Visiting Assistant Professor, Elmhurst College presented:
Legal Insanity and Executive Function
on Friday, April 1, 2016
Any philosophical discussion of legal insanity should begin by reflecting upon the distinctive purposes we want the criminal law to serve, in relative isolation from the aims of medical science. Among other things, those purposes demand an accurate picture of what makes someone fit for criminal responsibility. One widely influential view holds that criminal responsibility requires a level of “normative competence” comprising both cognitive and volitional capacities. Drawing on work begun by my colleagues, Katrina Sifferd and Bill Hirstein, I argue that executive functions—a suite of cognitive processes traditionally associated with the brain’s frontal lobes—constitute the ground of legal agency by underwriting those very cognitive and volitional capacities. When we appreciate the role of executive functions in grounding criminal responsibility, we can see clear reasons for preferring the Model Penal Code test of legal insanity over its chief rival, the M’Naghten test. Executive functions also provide a bridge between the legal concepts of insanity and the medical concepts of mental illness, avoiding a dilemma posed by Michael Moore and offering a more accurate and nuanced picture of how mental illness can erode the normative competence required for a fair opportunity to avoid criminal wrongdoing.
Sandra Harding Lecture
Dr. Sandra Harding, Distinguished Research Professor of Education and Gender Studies at UCLA, presented:
After Mr. Nowhere: New Proper Scientific Subjects
on Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The conventional proper scientific self has a powerful ethical obligation to strive to see everywhere in the universe from no particular location in that universe: he is to produce the “view from nowhere.” What are the different conceptions of the proper scientific self called forth by the assumptions and research practices of social justice movements, such as feminism and postcolonialism? Three such ideals produced in recent social justice research are examined here: the multiple and conflicted knowing self, the strategic researcher, and the community that knows. Have more such ideals emerged from the realities of pro-democratic knowledge production in today’s world?
Marya Schechtman Lecture
Dr. Marya Schechtman from University of Illinois-Chicago presented:
Making it Through: What Does it Mean to Survive?
on Thursday, March 19, 2015
We often hear people say things like “My husband went off to war and a different person came back.” Such claims are usually taken to be figurative. What they mean is that the person who comes back is so altered by his experience that it is as if he were a totally different person. But there is also a literal sense such statements can have. In the story The Return of Martin Guerre, for instance, the person who returns claiming to be Martin Guerre is actually an imposter; he is literally a different person from the Martin Guerre who left. There is a great deal of philosophical work on what is called “the problem of personal identity” that is aimed at answering the question of when we have the same person in this second, more literal sense (which turns out to be a more complicated question than it may seem). Often those who work in this area see their question as distinct from, and even unrelated to, more figurative identity questions. I will argue that although these questions are different they are more closely connected than they are usually taken to be.
David Shoemaker Lecture
Dr. David Shoemaker from Tulane University presented:
Psychopathic Responsibility: From Anger to Disdain
on Thursday, November 20, 2014
Psychopaths care nothing for others. They enjoy causing pain. They resort to violence or thievery whenever it suits their interests. Yet they also have well-documented psychological and physiological deficits, deficits in pain sensitivity, emotional responses, and empathy. So are they or are they not morally responsible for what they do to us? And to what extent would it be appropriate for us to respond to them with our typical range of responsibility responses, which include anger, moral disapproval, contempt, and disdain? In this talk, I will draw from a pluralistic account of responsibility to show that there is no straightforward answer to these questions. Psychopaths are responsible in some senses but not others, so only some of our responses to them are appropriate.
Hilde Lindemann Lecture
Dr. Hilde Lindemann of Michigan State University presented:
Struggling to Catch Up: Families, Identities, and Narrative Care
on Thursday, October 16, 2014
Families perform many morally valuable functions for their own members, not the least of which is providing care when they are ill or injured. I argue that a second family function—that of sustaining their members’ personal identities—is deeply implicated in that care. After explaining the narrative nature of identity maintenance, I discuss three cases where family caregivers must find the right stories to repair the identity of one of their own: where the identity has been repudiated, where the identity lies at the limits of responsibility, and where the patient has lost her second nature. As I examine these cases, I argue that if health care professionals recognize and respect this familial caring labor, they can do a better job of providing the patient with their own form of care.
Dan Moller Lecture
Dr. Dan Moller of the University of Maryland presented:
Rejecting Libertarianism: Harder Than You Think
on Wedneday, February 12, 2014
It is often assumed that political libertarianism rests on an exaggerated view of individual rights. Get rid of absolute rights and libertarianism disappears along with them. In this paper I argue that the core of libertarianism survives a more modest conception of individual rights. Among other things, I examine the role that restitution and compensation should play in infringing the rights of some in order to benefit others in morality and in the law of torts.
Elizabeth Schechter Lecture
Dr. Elizabeth Schechter of Washington University, St. Louis presented:
Self and Other in the Split-Brain Subject
on Wednesday, Novemeber 14, 2013
This talk will concern self-consciousness in split-brain subjects. A number of philosophers have argued that the left and right hemisphere of a split-brain subject are associated with distinct thinkers and subjects of experience. Few have explicitly addressed how, then, self-conscious thought works in such subjects: who or what are the two hemisphere systems thinking about, when each tries to think self-consciously? I will argue that even if the two hemispheres are associated with distinct minds, agents, and streams of consciousness, there is something about the operation of self-conscious thought in split-brain subjects that makes each such subject like any one of us, in an interesting psychological sense.