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Symposium 2018 - 2019


Carens_Joseph.jpg"Immigration and Morality: Invitation to a Dialogue" 

Joseph Carens - Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Abstract: In this talk, I want to invite those in the audience to set aside partisan political concerns and even their own immediate interests for a short time and to reflect upon the ways in which immigration raises questions about our most fundamental moral values, about what we think is right and wrong, just and unjust. I will provide a brief overview of the range of moral questions that are raised by immigration, but I’ll focus mainly on three particularly controversial ones: What should we do about irregular migrants (i.e., immigrants who have settled without official authorization)? What are our responsibilities towards refugees? 

Finally, are we really entitled to control immigration at all or should borders be generally open? I will offer some challenging views on these questions, but my hope is that whether those who attend agree with me or not, they will experience what I say as an invitation to think more deeply about this important topic and perhaps to talk with people with whom they disagree.


Picture_Buchanan_Allen.jpg"Condemned to Tribalism? Us Versus Them in Contemporary America"

Allen Buchanan - Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and also professor of the Philosophy of International Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College, London

Abstract: Many people are aware that in the U.S. at present there is an increase in “tribalism” but there is much unclarity about what “tribalism” is. In this presentation, I contrast tribalistic or exclusive moralities with inclusive ones. I first argue that the standard evolutionary story about how human morality originated among our remote ancestors between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago suggests to many people that we are condemned to tribalism, that humans are “hard-wired” by evolution to have exclusive moralities, moralities that relegate “outgroup” people to an inferior status. I then argue for a revisionist account of the evolutionary origins of morality according to which humans have an adaptively plastic moral capacity: in certain environments, tribalistic or exclusive moral responses will dominate, but in different environments a more inclusive moral orientation is possible.

I explain how morality, for many people, has become more inclusive during the last 300 years, in some parts of the world, but argue that there is a new form of tribalism: intrasocietal tribalism, where the inferior, dangerous other is not thought of as a member of another society, but rather is a group within our society. I next show that this new form of tribalism threatens to undue the recent progress that some humans have made in developing a more inclusive moral orientation. I then explain how ideology, properly understood, creates this new kind of tribalism and who that ideology is an adaptation for cooperation in modern, complex societies in which there is a plurality of groups competing for economic, political, and cultural dominance.


Harman_Elizabeth.jpg"#metoo and the Failure to Warn Others"

Professor Elizabeth Harman - Princeton University

Abstract: Many people are aware that in the U.S. at present there is an increase in “tribalism” but there is much unclarity about what “tribalism” is. In this presentation, I contrast tribalistic or exclusive moralities with inclusive ones. I first argue that the standard evolutionary story about how human morality originated among our remote ancestors between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago suggests to many people that we are condemned to tribalism, that humans are “hard-wired” by evolution to have exclusive moralities, moralities that relegate “outgroup” people to an inferior status. I then argue for a revisionist account of the evolutionary origins of morality according to which humans have an adaptively plastic moral capacity: in certain environments, tribalistic or exclusive moral responses will dominate, but in different environments a more inclusive moral orientation is possible.

I explain how morality, for many people, has become more inclusive during the last 300 years, in some parts of the world, but argue that there is a new form of tribalism: intrasocietal tribalism, where the inferior, dangerous other is not thought of as a member of another society, but rather is a group within our society. I next show that this new form of tribalism threatens to undue the recent progress that some humans have made in developing a more inclusive moral orientation. I then explain how ideology, properly understood, creates this new kind of tribalism and who that ideology is an adaptation for cooperation in modern, complex societies in which there is a plurality of groups competing for economic, political, and cultural dominance.

Symposium 2017 - 2018


light.jpg"The Roads To and From the Paris Climate Agreement"

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Professor Andrew Light - University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences at George Mason University, and Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, in Washington, D.C.

Abstract: In December 2015 over 190 countries met in Paris for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they succeeded in creating a new international climate agreement. Many have heralded the outcome as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action. Others have argued that the climate commitments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements’ lofty aspirations. Whichever is true, the agreement is now undergoing an early and serious stress test with the announcement of the intended withdraw of the United States from the agreement. To better understand the significance of the Paris Agreement, and why it is worth fighting for its preservation, we will review the recent history of the UN climate negotiations, and how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts in this process, finally overcoming the immense hurdle of assigning responsibility for hitting global mitigation targets. From there we will look at what the future holds for global climate cooperation, including new opportunities for enhanced climate action.

Symposium 2016 - 2017


Waldron.jpg“Death Squads and Death Lists: Targeted Killing and the Character of the State”

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Professor Jeremy Waldron - University Professor and Professor of Law, New York University and formerly Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford

Abstract: The intention of this lecture is to urge critical reflection upon current US practices of targeted killing by considering not just whether acts of targeted killing can be legally justified but also what sort of state we are turning into when we organize the use of lethal force in this way – maintaining a list of named enemies of the state who are to be eliminated in this way. I make use of the unpleasant terminology of "death lists" and "death squads" to jolt us into this reflection. Of course, there are differences between the activities of death squads in (say) El Salvador in the early 1980s and the processes by which US special forces, intelligence personnel, and drone operators, kill the individuals named on a list of state enemies, one by one. They are not morally equivalent. But the two sets of phenomena are much closer to one another than we ought to be comfortable with. And we certainly should not be comfortable with a world in which death lists and death squads -- even of the respectable American kind -- become a standard practice and standard operating procedure for all states.

Pettit.jpg"The Shape of the State"

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Philip Pettit - L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University

Abstract: Political philosophy is an account of what the polity or state ought to be and ought to do. But what it ought to be and do depends on the shape it can assume. And that is the topic of this lecture. The questions to be raised include the relation of the polity to the legal system, its role as a corporate agency, the locus of sovereignty within that agency, and the different democratic modes in which it may be organized.

Symposium 2014 - 2015


Weijer.jpg"Consciousness Unbound: The Ethics of Neuroimaging After Severe Brain Injury”

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Charles Weijer, M.D., Ph.D. - Professor of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario

Abstract: Severe brain injury is a major cause of disability and death. In the hours and days after brain injury, families may be faced with the decision of whether to continue life-sustaining therapy. Patients who survive may emerge into a vegetative or minimally conscious state in which they are incapable of meaningful communication. Recent advances in neuroimaging cast a new light on behaviorally non-responsive patients after brain injury. Functional MRI is now being used in the research setting to map residual cognitive function in brain-injured patients, including the ability to process speech, comprehend language, and follow commands. In a few cases, neuroimaging has allowed for communication with otherwise unresponsive patients. This research raises difficult ethical issues. Should research results be shared with families in the ICU setting when life and death decisions are at stake? What does neuroimaging data tell us about our moral obligations to brain-injured patients? And how can neuroimaging communication be used responsibly to benefit patients?

Symposium 2013 - 2014


“Peter Singer on Effective Altruism”

Peter Singer - Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University


"Can We Sustain Democracy, and the Planet Too?"

Philip Kitcher - Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

Symposium 2012 - 2013


War_Ethics_Poster.jpg "War Ethics” -  Symposium at the UCSD Faculty Club 

Introduction by Donald Rutherford & Sam Rickless

Participants (Click participant names to view their presentation)

  • Seth Lazar   - "War's Endings and the Structure of Just War Theory"
    • Saba Bazargan - Commenting on Seth Lazar's presentation.
    • Seth Lazar - Response and Q&A for "War's Endings and the Structure of Just War Theory"
  • Jeff McMahan - "The Relevance to Proportionality of the Number of Aggressors"
    • Richard Arneson - Commenting on Jeff McMahan's presentation.
    • Jeff McMahan - Response and Q&A for "The Relevance to Proportionality of the Number of Aggressors"
  • Larry May - "Human Rights, Proportionality, and the Rights of Soldiers"
    • Larry May - Response and Q&A for "Human Rights, Proportionality, and the Rights of Soldiers"
  • David Rodin - "Rethinking Responsibility to Protect"
    • Mattias Iser - Commenting on David Rodin's presentation.
    • David Rodin - Response and Q&A for "Rethinking Responsibility to Protect"
  • Nancy Sherman - "Recovering Lost Goodness: Shame, Guilt, and Self-Empathy"
    • Bradley Strawser - Commenting on Nancy Sherman's presentation.
    • Nancy Sherman - Response and Q&A for "Recovering Lost Goodness: Shame, Guilt, and Self-Empathy"

"Aims of Education” -  Symposium at the UCSD Faculty Club

Peter Singer. Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University.

Introduction by Donald Rutherford and Michael Tiboris

Participants (Click participant names to view their presentation)

  • Dan Lang - "Making Meaning Out of the School Day"
    • Dan Lang - Q&A for "Making Meaning Out of the School Day"
  • Michael Tiboris - "What's Wrong with Undermatching? Personal Autonomy in Post-Secondary Matching"
    • Michael Tiboris - Q&A for "What's Wrong with Undermatching? Personal Autonomy in Post-Secondary Matching"

“OUR DUTIES TO DISTANT NEEDY PERSONS” -  Symposium at the UCSD Faculty Club  

  • “Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life" - Aaron James , Professor of Philosophy, UC Irvine. Commentator: Richard Arneson, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego.
  • “Reconsidering Singer’s Drowning Child Example” - Douglas Portmore, Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University. Commentator: K. Violet McKeon, UC Irvine.