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Jenna Mazzella, “On the Merging of Care Ethics and Virtue Ethics”

The ancient notion of virtue has gotten a lot of attention among ethicists in recent decades. Meanwhile, a number of ethicists have developed moral theories in which care plays a central role. Can these different strands of moral philosophy—”virtue ethics” and “care ethics”—be reconciled? In today’s session, Jenna Mazzella argues that they can. Jonathan Lang comments.

Read Jenna’s paper, “On the Merging of Care Ethics and Virtue Ethics: Benefits, Difficulties, and the Proper Balance.

Zachary Taylor, “Turkey’s Collective Responsibility for the Armenian Genocide”

From 1915-1923, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in a genocide committed by the Ottoman government. Today there is a debate about whether and to what extent Turkey (the Ottoman successor state) is responsible for these killings. In today’s session, Zachary Taylor, drawing from David Miller’s work on collective responsibility, argues against Turkey’s responsibility for the Armenian genocide. David Killoren comments.

Read Zachary’s paper, “Turkey’s Collective Responsibility for the Armenian Genocide.”

Alec Thompson, “The Nurture Assumption”

An individual’s personality is influenced by “nurture” (the individual’s environment) as well as “nature” (the individual’s genes). But which of these factors is more important? In today’s session, Alec Thompson argues that nurture is the more influential factor. David Killoren comments.

Read Alec’s paper, “The Nurture Assumption: The Environment’s Power Over the Role of Genes.”

Breanna Williams, “No Moral Justification for Capital Punishment”

Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule have argued that if capital punishment has a significant deterrent effect, then capital punishment for murder may be justifiable and even required. Some opponents of capital punishment appeal to a distinction between acts and omissions. These opponents argue that it is worse for the government to kill (through capital punishment) than for the government to allow killings to occur (by not exploiting the deterrent effect of capital punishment). However, Sunstein and Vermeule contend that this objection fails, even if the act/omission distinction is morally relevant at the individual level, because the government is a “special kind of agent.” In today’s session, Breanna Williams offers a critique of Sunstein and Vermeule. Jonathan Trerise comments.

Read Breanna’s paper, “No Moral Justification for Capital Punishment.”

Ben Rossi, “Life Over Death or Death Over Life”

Some opponents of the death penalty have argued that the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment, should lead us to favor life in prison, rather than the death penalty, as the punishment for especially serious crimes. In today’s session, Ben Rossi contends that the Eighth Amendment is indeed compatible with a punishment of life in prison. Nevertheless, Ben argues by appeal to a moral education theory of punishment that life in prison ought to be abolished.

Read Ben’s paper, “Life Over Death or Death Over Life: Moral Assessment of the Eighth Amendment.”

Read the handout for Emily’s commentary.

Chad Marxen, “Empiricism and the Argument from Queerness.”

J.L. Mackie famously argues that objective moral values would be strange—”utterly different from anything else in the universe”—and imperceptible by ordinary means. Therefore, anyone who claims to know about objective moral values must also claim to possess a special faculty for detecting such values. Yet it is not plausible to suppose that such a faculty exists; thus, we should be skeptical about the existence of objective moral values.

In today’s session, Chad Marxen responds to Mackie. Chad maintains that Mackie’s argument requires a certain kind of empiricism—and that this empiricism has hard-to-accept implications with regard to our knowledge of facts about metaphysics, mathematics and logic. Matt Destefano comments.

Read Chad’s paper, “Empiricism and the Argument from Queerness.”

Bradley Beall, “Crime and Funishment: Is Hard Incompatibilism Impractical?”

According to hard incompatibilism, no human actions are truly free. Hard incompatibilists typically deny that we are ever morally responsible for our actions. Punishment presents a problem for hard incompatibilism. (If we are never morally responsible for our actions, then how can we ever be justly punished for them?) Some hard incompatibilists have suggested that criminal justice be oriented toward quarantine: criminals ought to be removed from society, not because criminals are responsible for their crimes, but simply in order to prevent criminals from doing further harm. In today’s session, Bradley Beall attempts to defend a version of the quarantine model of criminal justice. Emily Crookston comments.

Read Bradley’s paper, “Crime and Funishment: Is Hard Incompatibilism Impractical?”

Read the handout for Emily’s comments.

Bradley produced his presentation with Prezi. The Prezi presentation is embedded below; it is also viewable here.

Aaron Segal, “Dynamic Nominalism, Ethics, and Subjectivity”

Most people identify as black or white, woman or man, gay or straight etc. How is it that individuals decide which categories to use in describing themselves? In today’s session, Aaron Segal argues that Ian Hacking’s “dynamic nominalism” suggests a deterministic answer to this difficult question. Further, Aaron maintains that this answer may not be as incompatible with Foucault’s ethics as many philosophers think. Matthew Clark comments.

Read Aaron’s paper, “Dynamic Nominalism, Ethics, and Subjectivity.”

Kevin Thurston, “Money, Market, and State: Dichotomizing Forums for Private and Political Speech”

When you buy a bottle of ketchup in a store, you send a message about your willingness to buy that brand of ketchup in that particular store. Thus, spending money seems often to be a form of speech—like burning a flag or writing a newspaper article. But what’s the difference, if any, between speech in the marketplace and other types of speech? For example, do our choices about where to spend our money deserve the same First Amendment protections as political speech?

In today’s session, Kevin Thurston tackles these issues. Marcus Arvan comments.

Read Kevin Thurston’s paper, “Money, Market, and State: Dichotomizing Forums for Private and Political Speech.”

Reyes Espinoza, “Railton’s Moral Properties and Sinclair’s Critique of Them”

In a famous paper, Peter Railton argues for “stark, raving moral realism.” As a realist, Railton believes that moral properties are objective (i.e., independent of our states of mind). Further, Railton argues for a naturalist kind of realism, according to which moral properties supervene on and may be reducible to natural properties. Railton says that “moral inquiry is of a piece of empirical inquiry.” In today’s session, Reyes Espinoza, in conversation with Richard Brown, summarizes Railton’s view and a criticism of Railton suggested by Neil Sinclair, and then attempts to answer that criticism on Railton’s behalf.

Download Reyes’s paper.

Download Reyes’s conference handout.