ABSTRACTS

 

 

Talk 1 Why answers to the question "Why should people be moral?" are not answers to the question "Why should I be moral?" by James Hulgan

 

Consider the following argument: 

1) People should be moral

2) I am a person

3) Therefore, I should be moral

It would seem, given the logical rules of universal instantiation and modus ponens, that (3) would follow validly from (1) and (2).  Convincing an egoist that all people should behave morally, in conjunction with that egoist recognizing that she is a person, would prima facie suffice to convince the egoist of adopting the moral point of view.  However, as many authors have pointed out, this is hardly the case, but few seem to be able to spell out exactly why I intend to approach and evaluate different interpretations of the question, "Why should I be moral?" as opposed to "Why should people be moral?"

      Regardless of what sense of "should" is being used when the egoist asks, "Why should I be moral?" providing an answer to the question "Why should people be moral?" in addition to the assertion, "you are a person" will not and (logically) ought not suffice as an answer.  Answers to the two questions differ because contexts which employ the predicate or intensions of the form "n should p" are referentially opaque—contexts in which co-referring terms, may not be substituted. I argue that the opacity holds for practically every sense of the word "should" or "ought"—including the "should" of reason. 

 

 

Talk 2 Social Epistemology and the Ethics of Belief by Zachary Silver

 

In this paper I dispute the claim that social epistemology requires the rejection of epistemological individualism, and argue that this is a good thing in that motivation for such a rejection is entirely lacking.  The social epistemology of  Lynn Hankinson Nelson, along with the case she makes against epistemological individualism, are evaluated.  According to Nelson, communities, rather than individuals, ought to be taken as the primary epistemic agents; individuals, according to Nelson, can only be said to have knowledge in a derivative sense.  Two of Nelson’s arguments in favor of this rejection of epistemological individualism are considered, and ultimately found to be wanting.  I then show how a conception of social epistemology that recognizes individuals as the primary epistemic agents can be extracted from the ethics of belief of W.C. Clifford.

 

 

Talk 3 The Presumption Against Killing and the Problem of the Temporary Dip by Russell DiSilvestro

Is there a strong moral presumption against killing you when you do not have the immediate capacity to think?  One approach for arguing the answer to this question is “yes” begins by focusing on times of your life when you go through what can be called temporary dips: for example, when you are temporarily unconscious due to being asleep, anesthetized, or comatose.  This paper seeks to formulate the problem of the temporary dip more precisely and to argue that three of the most plausible strategies for replying to it are unsatisfactory.

 

Talk 4 Pornography and Paradigms by Matthew Rukgaber

In this essay I discuss the pathways of influence between what Merleau-Ponty calls the lived-body and pornography.  A brief discussion of paradigms in epistemology is connected to practical knowledge, habits of the body, perceptual schemata, and paradigms of behavior. I argue, following Merleau-Ponty, that other bodies act as living paradigms for us.  This leads me to conclude that the critical and educational vacuum surrounding pornography, sexuality, and ethics and the glamorization and softening of pornography into mass media have resulted in almost unlimited influence between pornography and male heterosexuality.  In conjunction with feminist arguments concerning the violence and domination of women in pornography, this leads to dire consequences. I then take the framework that enables this analysis of the influence between pornography and the lived-body and apply it to three standard attempts to sever these connections of influence and, ultimately, responsibility.  Those defensive maneuvers are 1) the attempt to “read” pornography as non-degrading towards women, 2) the isolation of pornography from reality by labeling it “not real”, and 3) the attempt to protect pornography as art.  My basic conclusion is simply a call to widespread critical thought and education in sexuality and ethics, for the forces of violence, sexual inequality, and objectification can only be resisted through seeing it for what it is and creating alternative paradigms and habits.

 

Talk 5 A Critical Comment on Michael Smith’s Internalism by Vladimir Pintro

In the third chapter of The Moral Problem, Michael Smith argues, inter alia, that motivational externalism is false.  Externalists, Smith says, claim that moral agents are motivated to do the right thing, where the clause “to do the right thing” is read de dicto and not de re.  To this, Smith objects that “common sense” tells us that “good and strong-willed people” are (of course) motivated to do the right thing, but only if this is read de re and not de dicto.  In this essay, I should like to argue that although Smith’s objection is well-taken, we should think twice before accepting his internalism.  The reason for this is that it seems to commit us to an unacceptable conception of the moral agent.  Let me warn you, however, that my argument is less an attempt to refute internalism as it is an effort to denounce the prevalence of that unacceptable view of the moral agent in the literature.

 

 

Talk 6 The Wayward and The Lazy by Robin Weiss

 

The Lockean social contract relies on circularity: It makes the separate values of contract-making and property ownership indissoluble, since neither has worth without the other.  The result is that Americans must affirm both values simultaneously.  On the one hand, this produces a cognitive dissonance when values conflict.  More importantly, it excludes those who do not have both terms.  Unless one has, from the outset, both property and a contract to protect it—unless one already possesses the values of the self-made man and the values of a contractual citizen, one is excluded from the contract.

 

 

Talk 7 The Transference of the Obligations to Pay Reparations by Sam Williams

 

I have two main arguments in this paper.  In the first, I will argue that Boxill’s use of Locke to argue for reparations does not fulfill his conclusion that the U. S. government owes reparations to African Americans for slavery.  He argues, following Locke, that those who consent and participate in a transgression that lead to unjust property relations owe reparations in the form of property.  He claims that the majority of citizens during the era of slavery consented to the institution of slavery.  The problem I have with this line of argument is that the fact that the representatives voted for the institution does not mean that the citizens actually consented to the institution.  The consent of the representative does not equate to the consent of the citizen.  Thus, Boxill can implicate the all of the citizens of consenting to the institution of slavery. 

            My second argument in this paper is my defense of why the U. S. government owes reparations to African Americans due to slavery. I argue first that the government now owes reparations because it benefited then from the institution of slavery.  Part of this benefit is actually owed to African Americans as reparations.  The second point I will argue for in this vein is that the government owes reparations because citizens of the slave era participated in the institution of slavery by participating in the economic system that thrived on the institution.  Following Boxill, I will assume that a just government is a government of its citizens.  So, the government owed reparations for the injustice because the citizens owed reparations.  The property that should have been given to African Americans by the government was passed on to subsequent generations of citizens.  This property actually belongs to the subsequent generations of African Americans as reparations.  Thus, the present U. S. government owes reparations to the present generation of African Americans.