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Events Archive

December 1st, 2023 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Henry Bowles (University of Oxford)

"Nature vs. Nurture: Ancient Rhetoric and the Talent Debate"

Friday, November 3rd, 2023 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Julia Bursten (University of Kentucky)

"What Kind of Thing is a Potato? Agriculture and the Aims of Science"

Friday, October 27th, 2023 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Carlos Sanchez (San Jose State)

“Mexicano por fortuna”: Accidentality, from Mexican Philosophy to the Aztecs and Back Again

Friday, October 6th, 2023 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Paul Irikefe (UC Irvine)

"The vice of nepotism: The political, the moral, and the epistemic"

Nepotism forms a core part of our everyday moral and socio-political vocabulary, and yet we lack a coherent account of it. The aim of this paper is to supply that account. I argue that nepotism (i.e., nepotism proper) is a moral vice, which has a hitherto unnoticed epistemic counterpart, namely, “epistemic nepotism.” Further, I claim that both forms of nepotism arise from a vicious motive, morbid love of one’s “primordial private realm,” which makes individuals to assign undue weight to the side of the distributive equation they belong to, thus leading to injustice in the distribution of social and epistemic goods. The result of the analysis is then used to address the question as to how vice attribution or explanation is cogent in cases of individuals whose epistemic conduct proceeds from value or ideology.

Friday, September 29th, 2023 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Brenda Lara (UC Santa Cruz)

"Epistemic Haunting: Archiving Epistemologies, Chicana Ghosts, and Haunted Histories"

Drawing on Hauntology and Death Studies, this talk highlights epistemic haunting, a phenomenon I term to describe how knowledge denied to the ghost (as a dehumanized living individual) comes back to reveal itself as a collective construction that impacts scholars of color. Through Chicana English professor Lora Romero's life and suicide, I utilize epistemic hauntingto argue that queer Latinx knowledge's negation leads to gendered, sexed, and racialized violence in academia. Romero's legacy unveils institutional oppression at Stanford University, including tenure denial and disproportional policies for women of color faculty.  

Friday, May 5th, 2023 2 to 3 p.m.

Workshop on Applying to Graduate School and Non-Academic Jobs in COB2 392

Friday, April 21st, 2023 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Aleta Quinn (University of Idaho)

"Objectivity & Citizen Science" in COB2 392

Citizen science refers to efforts to promote participation of the general public in scientific research. Natural scientists broadly celebrate the potential of citizen science to generate data at previously undreamed of scale (and at little cost). However, natural scientists have worried about the quality of data produced by citizens who lack scientific training, and question the objectivity of contributors who may be driven by value-laden goals. In this talk I analyze these worries, linking to philosophical models of objectivity and the appropriate relationship between science and social values. 

Friday, March 17th, 2023 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Javiera Perez Gomez (Marquette)

"Social Utility in the Allocation of Scarce, Lifesaving Resources: On a Slippery Slope?" in GRAN 103

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been argued that when medical resources such as ventilators or vaccines are scarce and not everyone who needs one can be saved, priority should be given to first responders and other frontline workers. One central argument for this view appeals to the principle of social utility: the idea that when lifesaving resources are scarce and not all can be saved, priority should be given to individuals who are most valuable to society. But is this a morally permissible principle for making allocation decisions? Given that hospitals and other agencies continue to develop and modify allocation guidelines in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a key moment to revisit this question. In this talk, I argue that even if making allocation decisions on the basis of this principle is not in itself morally objectionable—as, for example, doing so on the basis of race or gender would be—saying ‘No’ to this action may, in light of the unintended by foreseen consequences that could follow for certain members of our society, be the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Robert Pippin (U Chicago)

"The Problem of Truth in Literature and Film"

Abstract: The problem of truth in literature and cinema (or painting or music) is whether there is any. Philosophers have been skeptical that there can be for two reasons. The first is that they think that only propositions asserted in judgments can be truth bearers, propositions we can understand before knowing whether they are true or false, and which are understood by knowing what it would be if they were true. The second reason is consequent upon the first: literature and movies do not assert anything. They are made up narratives about fictional beings. In this talk I want to introduce the claim by Martin Heidegger that there is a form of truth available in great literature and great cinema. The examples presented are one of his, a novel by Rainer Maria Rilke, and one of mine, Roman Polanski’s 1974 film, Chinatown.

Friday, October 28th, 2022 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, October 28th from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Hanna Gunn (UC Merced)

Hallowe'en Movie Night: "Fifteen Million Merits"

Friday, September 30th, 2022 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Elvira Basevich (Princeton)

"How to Start Where we are Now, Not Where we Wish to be: Making Room for Nonideal Circumstances in a Constructivist Normative Political Theory"

Abstract: This essay explains how a nonideal racial reality, structured by what the Africana philosopher W.E.B. Du Bois calls “the color line,” should impact the terms of a constructivist normative political theory. It argues that the circumstances of justice must provide empirical representations of persons and the world for a deliberative procedure to redress empirical reality effectively. Unfortunately, dominant theoretical models of persons and the world are defective because they neglect to track the practical effects of the color line on persons’ habits of moral judgment and on the social and institutional practices of a white-controlled public sphere. This essay presents granular models of actual persons and the world for any viable constructivist political theory to adopt.

Friday, April 8th, 2022, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Dan Hicks (UC Merced)

Graduate School Information Session

Friday, March 11th, 2022, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Jonathan Ellis (UC Santa Cruz)

"Epistemic Blame and Moral Indignation: The Case of Motivated Reasoning"

Abstract: Recent work in the social sciences has corroborated what we have always known: people have a strong tendency to allow what they want to believe to impact what they do believe. While research on motivated reasoning (rationalization, confirmation bias, etc.) has been growing rapidly, especially since the U.S. presidential election in 2016, little attention has been given to reasoning about motivated reasoning—and in particular, to practices whereby we ascribe motivated reasoning to other people. “Oh please, he just thinks that because it suits him.” Ascriptions of motivated reasoning are pervasive and impactful. Often, they generate other judgments in turn, e.g., concerning the person’s cognitive tendencies, their credibility, even their moral character. Drawing on recent work in epistemology and social psychology, I argue that attributions of motivated reasoning, and the moral judgments we make on their basis, are frequently problematic, unwarranted, and unfair. This is of material significance for our epistemic, social, and political lives.

Friday, February 11th, 2022, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Charles Pence (Université catholique de Louvain)

“The Rise of Chance in Evolutionary Theory”

Abstract: Over the century from Darwin’s first theoretical notebooks to the early works of the Modern Synthesis, evolutionary theory radically transformed. A theory about the appearance of adaptations in individual organisms, worked out without the aid of mathematics and an unclear view of the probabilistic nature of natural selection, became a statistical theory of natural selection’s action on populations, which in turn needed to be harmonized with Mendelian genetics. My recently published book, The Rise of Chance in Evolutionary Theory, tells the story of this remarkable transformation. Historians of biology have long recognized a number of key moments in this history, perhaps central among them the “rediscovery of Mendel” and the so-called “biometry-Mendelism controversy,” said to have locked the field of evolutionary theory in a fruitless battle that spanned some forty years. But, I argue, this classic history obscures more than it illuminates. On the one hand, the work of these biologists was much more complicated than “Mendelian vs. biometrician” would lead us to believe. The intellectual story of the developments in conceptual frameworks, methodological tools, and even underlying philosophical commitments proves to be one of the most complex and exciting periods of innovation in the history of evolutionary theory. And on the other hand, when we analyze that story in detail, we find that a tale of continuity is better supported than one of revolution. Efforts to develop a statistical, populational theory of natural selection were present for decades and remain relevant for philosophers and historians today.

Friday, November 12th, 2021, from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Emily Lee (California State University, Fullerton)

“The Phenomenological Structure of Experience: Regarding the Ambiguity of Intersectionality”
Abstract: This paper analyzes the epistemic value of experience by centering on the experiences of women of color in philosophy of race. The identity group remains one of the most elusive and difficult to understand both because it is too specific and too broad. There is an ethical and political urgency to center the experiences of women of color because the absence of such focus results in unpredictable and inadvertent manipulations and strategies that enforces one identifying feature to oppress the other identifying feature. Women of color rely upon references to experience particularly because of the complexity of the experience of their identities. Heeding the need to avoid foundational references to experience, I illuminate Patricia Hill Collins and Anna Carastathis concept of the possibility of “heterogeneous commonality,” which acknowledges internal heterogeneity and external commonality among women of color. To better understand the possibility of heterogenous commonality, this paper presents the phenomenological understanding of the structure of experience as constituted by three distances: 1. between the subject and the world in time; 2. between undergoing and reflecting upon the experience; and 3. between the experience and the language with which to understand and to convey the experience. This understanding of the ontological structure of experience helpfully illuminates how women of color, through their complex experiences, are well situated to recognize their heterogenous commonality.

Friday, October 1st, 2021, from 3:30-5:30p.m.

Philosophy Movie Night
We watched Bandersnatch together, using the Zoom poll feature to select options, and then discussed free will.

Friday, February 28th, 2020, from 3:00-6:00p.m.

Philosophy Movie Night
We will share pizza, watch the movie Her, and discuss the phenomenon of love.

December 6th, 2019, from 3:30-5:00p.m.

Nigel Hatton (UC Merced)

"Making the Self Visible to Others: Narrative Medicine in the Clinic and the Prison"
Abstract: Since 2000, the Narrative Medicine movement has developed strategies for improving care in the clinical setting and medical training: stories of illness are used to facilitate enhanced recognition, listening and dialogue among patients, physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, administrators, and others who inhabit the multiple plains of healthcare practice and medical training lifeworlds. Borrowing from Narrative Medicine training, theory and practice, I argue that its innovations in the clinic have value for another site of tension and vulnerability?the prison, jail or detention center, which both encompasses the clinic (prisoners in need of healthcare) and another fraught site: the often dehumanizing carceral encounter among prisoners, guards, lawyers, volunteers, visitors and society at large. U.S. prison officials are travelling the world?Norway, Germany?in search of answers on how to improve methods of incarceration and rehabilitation at home. An important part of the process, I suggest, involves human being-ness, rather than dehumanization, and one route to maintaining or encouraging human being-ness in even the most difficult space is practices of Narrative Medicine. Here, I turn to the ethical dimensions of the intersections between Narrative Medicine and Incarceration. The immediacy of these intersections has local relevance as the University of California, Merced, surrounded by prisons 50 miles in any direction is also the site of a future Medical School intended to address alarming Central Valley health disparities.

Friday, November 15h, 2019, from 3:30-5:00p.m.

Wendy Salkin (Stanford)

"The Conscription of Political Representatives"
Abstract: Informal representation, the phenomenon of speaking or acting on behalf of others though one has not been elected or selected to do so by means of a corporately organized election or selection procedure, plays a crucial role in advancing the interests of groups, particularly marginalized and oppressed groups. Sometimes, those who emerge as informal representatives do so willingly (voluntary representatives). But often, people end up being informal representatives, either in their private lives or in more public political fora, over their own protests (unwilling representatives) or even without their knowledge (unwitting representatives)?that is, they are conscripted. Few theories of informal representation have been advanced and those there are do not accommodate conscripted informal representatives. The account developed here introduces the phenomenon of conscripted informal representation and explains its place in a complete theory of informal representation. Conscripted informal representatives can, just like voluntary counterparts, come to have tremendous power to influence how those for whom they speak or act are regarded by various audiences. Upon attaining such power to influence, conscripted informal representatives, like voluntary counterparts, come to have duties to those they represent?duties that arise despite the representative?s unwittingness or unwillingness. Understanding the phenomenon of conscripted informal representation allows us to get at essential normative questions about informal representation that are otherwise occluded.

Friday, October 26th, 2019, from 3:30-5:30p.m.

Hallowe'en Movie Night
We will share pizza, watch an episode of Black Mirror (Playtest), and discuss the experience of horror.

Friday, October 27th, 2017, from 3:00-5:00p.m.

Anthony Reeves (Binghamton)
"Impunity and Hope"
Abstract: Why prosecute perpetrators of atrocity? Many consider it a significant moral failing when those most responsible for grave international crimes achieve impunity. Yet, standard rationales for punishment (like deterrence and retribution) do not well explain the importance of criminal accountability for atrocity. I argue that this import is better accounted for in terms of the idea of social hope. For members of a transitional society, criminal accountability for atrocity expresses a recognition of the human status that can warrant an agency-enabling, practical attitude of hope towards the social world. Impunity, on the other hand, undermines the warrant of this attitude.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 from 1:00-2:30p.m.

Ben Roth (Harvard)
"Fate and Freedom in Forking-Path Films"
Abstract: Over the last few decades, some philosophers (often called “narrativists”) have argued that we understand our lives as stories and become full selves or persons only by doing so. A fundamental challenge to this view is that characters in stories are ultimately unfree puppets controlled by authorial designs, and so narrative a bad model for real life. Formally experimental films like Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, and Mr. Nobody appear to be exceptions: rather than presenting a single linear narrative, they instead fork into a series of parallel paths, each offering a different possible life the main character might have. Such films would seem to be an ideal venue for exploring human freedom and the consequences of our choices. Remarkably, however, they are not about freedom, but instead fate and chance. Why is this? Does such a form hold untapped possibilities? Do forking-path films offer insights into how we experience both our lives and more traditional stories?

Friday, November 18th, 2016 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Tina Rulli (UC Davis)
"The Mitochondrial 'Therapy' Myth"
Abstract: “Three-Parent Baby” technology, also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, was recently permitted for clinical use in the U.K. and a baby was born just last month. The U.S. is expected to start clinical trials soon. The therapy allows for women with mitochondrial diseases, which are serious diseases that are maternally transmitted to their children, to have genetically-related children free of the disease by use of a second woman’s mitochondrial DNA. The resulting children have the genetic contribution of 3 parents. I will discuss recent philosophical discussions of the technology’s purported therapeutic value. I think philosophers and bioethicists are mistaken when they claim that this is a life-saving technology and recent attempts to apply the Non-Identity Problem to variations of the technology are deeply flawed.ame amount of consideration to determining whether there are any ethical limits on how a political community enforces its immigration policy. This talk, therefore, offers a different approach to immigration justice. It presents a case against legitimate states having discretionary control over immigration by showing both how ethical limits on enforcement circumscribe the options legitimate states have in determining their immigration policy and how all immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) are entitled to certain basic protections against a state’s enforcement apparatus.

Friday, October 7th, 2016 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

José Jorge Mendoza (UMass Lowell)

"Enforcement Matters: Reframing the Philosophical Debate over Immigration"
Abstract: In debating the ethics of immigration, philosophers have focused much of their attention on determining whether a political community ought to have the discretionary right to control immigration. They have not, however, given the same amount of consideration to determining whether there are any ethical limits on how a political community enforces its immigration policy. This talk, therefore, offers a different approach to immigration justice. It presents a case against legitimate states having discretionary control over immigration by showing both how ethical limits on enforcement circumscribe the options legitimate states have in determining their immigration policy and how all immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) are entitled to certain basic protections against a state’s enforcement apparatus.

Friday, December 4th, 2015 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Andrew Fiala (Fresno State)

"Nonviolence and Philosophy"
Abstract: In "Nonviolence and Philosophy" Andrew Fiala will discuss connections between philosophy and nonviolence including: how philosophical methodology is related to nonviolence; historical examples of philosophers who have advocated nonviolence; the problem of absolute pacifism; and how philosophy is connected to hope for a more peaceful world. Fiala is past President of Concerned Philosophers for Peace. His published work focuses on just war theory, pacifism, ethics, and social and political philosophy. Two of his recent Fresno Bee articles might be of interest and are connected to the talk. Last weekend was one focused on the value of philosophy and liberal arts education. You can find it here. Two weekends ago, he focused on nonviolence and discussed the recent violent events on the UC Merced campus. You can find it here.

Friday, November 7th, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Lara Buchak (University of California, Berkeley)

"What is Faith?"

Friday, April 4th, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Manuel Vargas (San Francisco University)

"From Latin American to Latin@ Philosophy"
Abstract: It is unclear how to think about the nature of Latin American philosophy and its relationship to recently emerging work that is sometimes described as “Latina/o philosophy.” First, there is the matter of what Latin American and Latina/o philosophy are, and what sorts of things count as instances of each. Second, there is the matter of why any of this matters. Partly because Latin American and Latina/o philosophy are virtually invisible to the English-speaking world, one might reasonably wonder whether there is any reason to care about the contents and developments of this body of philosophical work. The aims of this talk are to (1) present an account of how to understand Latin American and Latina/o philosophy and (2) to argue that there are substantial costs to philosophy departments without an expertise in these areas.

Friday, February 21st, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Camisha Russell (UC Irvine)

"Race: How it matters in reproductive technologies"
Abstract: In this talk, I will show why it is important to think about the role of race in assisted reproductive technology (ART) practices. To do this, I will draw upon insights from the philosophy of technology, to explore the racialized construction of ‘infertility,’ the ways in which ART practices can participate in and further systems of global inequality, and the role of race in the construction and maintenance of the ‘natural’ in and through ART use. I will conclude with a discussion of how race itself might be considered as a technology operating alongside other technologies in the fertility clinic and other reproductive contexts.

Friday, November 8th, 2013 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Sharon Lloyd (USC)

"The Modern State Through a Hobbesian Lense"
Abstract: The problems of the modern state are different in at least two major ways from the problem of the state Hobbes addressed. First, Hobbes did not foresee the possibility of states exercising totalitarian control over their subjects, or control anything close to the degree seen in the 20th C in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, or present day North Korea. Second, Hobbes did not foresee the possibility that international conflicts could have any serious, let alone catastrophic, impact on the quality of life of civilians within the warring states, as WWII did in much of Europe and Asia. However, I’ll argue, Hobbes’s theory has the resources to address these modern problems, as well as a promising strategy for confronting emerging challenges to states, such as suicide terrorism.  

Friday, October 11th, 2013 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Roberta Millstein (UC Davis)

"Re-examining the Darwinian Basis for Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic”
Abstract: Aldo Leopold has been referred to as a "prophet" within the field of conservation biology and his land ethic has become the basis for a prominent environmental ethic known as "ecocentrism." Many philosophers have become familiar with Leopold's work through the writings of J. Baird Callicott, who has sought to explicate, defend, and extend Leopold's land ethic. According to Callicott, Leopold bases his land ethic on a "protosociobiological" argument that Charles Darwin gives in the Descent of Man, drawing on the ethical views of David Hume and Adam Smith. On this view, which has become the canonical interpretation, Leopold's land ethic is based on extending our moral sentiments to ecosystems, feelings that are "automatically triggered" once we understand that we (humans) are members of a biotic community with other animals as well as plants, soils, and waters. I argue that the evidence weighs in favor of an alternative interpretation of Leopold; his reference to Darwin does not refer to the Descent of Man, but rather to the Origin of Species, where Darwin discusses the interdependencies between organisms in the struggle for existence. Not only does this reinterpretation avoid the difficulties with the Humean/Smithian basis for the land ethic, but it also opens up important discussions about communities as morally considerable, about the importance of interdependence, and about the nature of ecosystem stability.