Every semester, our department invites several guest speakers to lecture on various topics. All lectures are free, and are open to all members of the community and to the general public.
Here is the tentative schedule for this academic year. All talks will be delivered via Zoom.
Abstract: A prominent strand of contemporary work on virtue ethics focuses on whether virtue ethics can provide an adequate account of the rightness of actions. In particular, critics argue that virtue ethics cannot provide a plausible explanation for why right actions are right. In turn, without such an explanation, Frans Svensson argues that prominent forms of virtue ethics cannot provide adequate action guidance for virtuous agents themselves. In this paper I attempt to address these worries, drawing on empirical work on empathy (and related phenomena) in other social animals, and emphasizing the importance of the attitudes and dispositions of virtuous agents themselves in explaining rightness and other normative statuses.
Nov. 10th, 3:10-5:00pm: Dr. Daniel Conway (Texas A & M) Title: "When Philosophy Learns to Sing:The Case of Nietzsche’s Nachgesang"
Abstract: My aim in this presentation is to account for the place of Nietzsche’s “Aftersong” [Nachgesang] in the larger context of his efforts to educate and train the readers of Beyond Good and Evil (1886). Having urged his readers to foreswear the moral and religious “prejudices” that have stalled their progress, and having dangled before them his extra-moral hypothesis of the will to power, he urges them to take up the daunting “task” of “translating humanity back into nature” (BGE 230), which will involve them in discrediting the morality of good and evil. In their performance of this task, he promises, they may expect to revel in the experience—but not the reality—of having emigrated cleanly beyond good and evil. If they are successful in their efforts, or so Nietzsche believes, they may hasten the arrival of those “new” philosophers who will undertake a grand project of renewal that will return European culture to its accustomed position of global preponderance. In order to safeguard their experience of having emigrated beyond good and evil, Nietzsche treats his best readers to a lyrical valediction. That he now sings to them is meant to remind them of their ongoing access to the affective-somatic discipline in which he has enrolled them. The apparent point of this “Aftersong” is to prepare them to refuse the twin temptations—disgust and pity—they are likely to face, even as they take up the lonely, nomadic, iconoclastic existence that is their lot.
Nov. 24th, 3:10-5:00pm: Dr. Michael Brady (Glasgow) "Suffering and Meaning in Life."
Abstract: It seems clear that suffering threatens to undermine or even destroy the meaning in a person’s life: think of the effects of chronic pain, poverty, violence, political oppression. These and similar things can rule out the presence of those elements that are constitutive of a meaningful life – as Thaddeus Metz puts it, these include “intellectual reflection, moral achievement, and artistic creation”. (Meaning in Life, p. 60) In this talk I want to consider a number of ways in which suffering can have a positive relation to meaning, even for those who suffer greatly. One of the central ways in which this can happen is through the development of empathy, moral emotions, and moral achievement. To make this argument, I’ll first look at historical approaches, focusing on the thoughts of Nietzsche, alongside St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and Aristotle. I’ll then consider religious approaches, and their secular counterparts. My conclusion will be that far from undermining meaning, in many cases suffering is vital to it.
Mar. 2nd, 3:10-5:00pm: Dr. Keith Ansell-Pearson (Warwick) Title: TBA