Midwest Philosophy Colloquium

Every year the UMN Morris Philosophy Discipline hosts the Midwest Philosophy Colloquium, where distinguished speakers come to campus and give talks on topics of general interest. 

Previous colloquium speakers have included Donald Davidson, Saul Kripke, Fred Dretske, J.L. Mackie, Gilbert Harman, David Gauthier, Keith Donnellan, Kurt Baier, Alvin Goldman, David Kaplan, Paul Benacerraf, Keith Lehrer, Jonathan Bennett, John Searle, Robert Solomon, Phillipa Foot, Eleanor Stump, Fred Feldman, Nancy Cartwright, Stephen Stich, and many others.

47th Annual Midwest Philosophy Colloquium: "Toxic Moralizing"




Brandon Warmke (Bowling Green)

"Why You Shouldn't Be a Moralizer"

Thursday, April 13, 2023, 7 p.m.
Imholte Hall 109



Hrishikesh Joshi (Bowling Green)

"The Skeptical Upshot of Social Cognition"

Friday, April 14, 2023, 4 p.m.
Imholte Hall 109


Funding for this year's Colloquium was generously provided by the Institute for Humane Studies.   

Past Midwest Philosophy Colloquia

Expand all

"Structural Change: From Individuals to Institutions and Back" 2021–22

Michael Brownstein (John Jay College, CUNY Graduate Center)
"Part 1: Climate Change, Racism, and Misinformation"

April 28, 2022

Daniel Kelly (Purdue University)
"Part 2: Social Change, Cultural Minds, and Human Nature"

April 29, 2022

"Philosophy of Conspiracy Theory" 2020-21

Digital recordings of these lectures are available: visit our YouTube Channel.

State of the Art (Spring 2021)

Public Lecture by Brian Keeley (Pitzer College): "Conspiracy Theories and Public Trust"
Recorded Monday, February 22

Public Lecture by M.R.X Dentith (Beijing Normal University): "The Ethics of Conspiracy Theorising in the Age of the Novel Coronavirus"
Recorded Wednesday, March 17

Public Lecture by Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University/Oxford): "The New Conspiracism and the Old Conspiracism"
Recorded Wednesday, March 24

Public Lecture by David Coady (University of Tasmania): "Why I'm Not Talking About Conspiracy Theories"
Recorded Tuesday, April 6

Public Lecture by Charles Pigden (University of Otago): "'Conspiracy Theory' as a Tonkish Term: The Runabout Inference-Ticket from Truth to Falsehood"
Recorded Wednesday, April 7

Public Lecture by Karen Kovaka (Virginia Tech): "Just Leave it Alone? Interpreting Evidence about the Effectiveness of Conservation Interventions" [Earth Day Special Event]
Thursday, April 22

Classic Debate (Fall 2020)

  1. Conversation with Michael Levine (University of Western Australia) about Hume's "Of Miracles"
    • Tuesday, September 15th, 8 p.m. CST
  2. Conversation with Brian Keeley (Pitzer College) about his article "Of Conspiracy Theories"
    • Tuesday, September 29, 6 p.m. CST
  3. Conversation with Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University/Oxford) about his article "Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracy Theorizing"
    • Tuesday, October 13, 7 p.m. CST
  4. Conversation with David Coady (University of Tasmania) about his article "Conspiracy Theories and Official Stories"
    • October 27, 7 p.m. CST
  5. Conversation with Charles Pigden (University of Otago) about his article "Popper Revisited or What is Wrong with Conspiracy Theories?"
    • Tuesday, November 10, 7 p.m. CST
  6. Conversation with Karen Kovaka (Virginia Tech) about her article "Climate Change Denial and Beliefs about Science"
    • Tuesday, November 24, 7 p.m. CST

"Philosophy of Implicit Bias" 2019-20


  • Michael Brownstein (John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY)
  • Daniel Kelly (Purdue University)
  • Erin Beeghly (University of Utah)
  • Alex Madva (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)


  1. Campus-Wide Discussion Forum with Erin Beeghly: "Structural Explanations of Injustice" 
    • Monday, September 9, 4 p.m., Imholte 113
  2. Public Lecture: Alex Madva, "Combating Implicit Bias: How to Act Fairly in an Unfair World"
    • Panelists: Liz Thomson (Director, Equity, Diversity & Intercultural Programs) and Clement Loo (Environmental Studies)
    • Monday, September 9, 7 p.m., Imholte 109
  3. Campus-Wide Discussion Forum with Alex Madva: "Intersectionality as a Guide to Research and Activism"
    • Tuesday, September 10, 4 p.m., Imholte 114
  4. Public Lecture: Erin Beeghly, "Does Stereotyping Someone Constitute Discrimination?"
    • Panelists: Adrienne Conley (Coordinator for LGBRQIA2S+ Programs) and Angela Hume (English)
    • Tuesday, September 10, 7 p.m., Imholte 109
  5. Asking the Big Questions Event, "The Implicit Association Test: What Does it Teach Us?"
    • Tuesday, April 21, 7 p.m., Briggs Library McGinnis Room
    • Discussion Panelists
      • Jon Anderson (Statistics)
      • Indrajit Chaudhury (Biology)
      • Clement Loo (Environmental Studies)
      • Steve McFarlane (Philosophy)
  6. Campus-Wide Discussion Forum with Michael Brownstein: "Climate Change and Political Tribalism"
    • Wednesday, April 22, 4 p.m., Imholte 109
  7. Public Lecture: Dan Kelly, "Soft Structures and Soft Selves: Interactionist Approaches to Bias and the Fluid Connective Tissue of Social Norms"
    • Wednesday, April 22, 7 p.m., Imholte 109
  8. Campus-Wide Discussion Forum with Dan Kelly: "Disgust, Morality, and Identity"
    • Thursday, April 23, 4 p.m., Imholte 101
  9. Public Lecture: Michael Brownstein, "Understanding Implicit Bias: Putting the Criticism in Perspective"
    • Thursday, April 23, 7 p.m., Imholte 109

"Race and Gender" 2018-19


Jeanine Weekes Schroer (University of Minnesota Duluth)

Wednesday, February 27, 7:00 p.m.
Imholte 109
"Race, Grace and Intractable Moral Problems"

Luvell Anderson (Syracuse University)

Thursday, April 18, 7:00 p.m.
Imholte 109
"Racial Realities"

These public lectures are free and open to the public and are supported by the UMM Dean's Office, the UMM Division of Humanities, and the UMM Philosophy Discipline.

"Happiness" 2017-18


  • Owen Flanagan (Duke University)
  • Dan Haybron (St. Louis University)
  • Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
  • Michael Bishop (Florida State University)


  1. Kick-off Event. "Asking the Big Questions: Happiness"
    • March 27, 2018, 7:30 p.m., Briggs Library, McGinnis Room
    • Discussion Panelists
      • Bridgett Karels (Wellness Center)
      • Kerry Michael (Psychology)
      • Stephen Burks (Economics)
      • Steve McFarlane (Philosophy)
  2. Campus-Wide Discussion with Owen Flanagan: “Cross-Cultural Philosophy: On Being ‘Imprisoned by One’s Upbringing'”
    • Thursday, March 29, 2018, noon, Louie’s Lower Level.
  3. Public Lecture. Owen Flanagan (Duke University): “Anger: The Most Destructive Emotion”
    • Thursday, March 29, 2018, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  4. Public Lecture: Dan Haybron (St. Louis University): “"Happiness and the Capabilities Approach”
    • Thursday, April 5, 2018, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  5. Campus-Wide Campus Discussion with Dan Haybron and Valerie Tiberius: “Well-Being Policy”
    • Friday, April 6, 2018, 11 a.m., Imholte 114.
  6. Public Lecture: Valerie Tiberius (UMTC): “Fulfillment and Failure”
    • Friday, April 6, 2018, 3 p.m., Imholte 109.
  7. Campus-Wide Discussion with Michael Bishop: “Ethics: The Normative Challenge”
    • Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 6 p.m., Imholte 211.
  8. Campus-Wide Discussion with Michael Bishop: “Good Reasoning”
    • Thursday, April 12, 2018, 2 p.m., Louie’s Lower Level.
  9. Public Lecture: Michael Bishop (Florida State University): “How to Think About Happy Lives”
    • Thursday, April 12, 2018, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  10. Closing Event. Discussion Panel on Well-Being. “How to Think About Happy Lives: From Theory to Practice”
    • Friday, April 13, 2018, noon, Student Center, Moccasin Flower Room.
    • Discussion Panelists
      • Michael Bishop
      • Angie Berlinger (Well-Being)
      • Jeanne Williamson (Counseling)
      • Bridgett Karels (Wellness)
      • Mary Jo Forbord (Healthy Eating)

These public lectures are free and open to the public and are supported by the UMN Morris Dean's Office, the UMN Morris Philosophy Discipline, and the UMTC Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

"New Directions in Environmental Philosophy" 2016-17


  • Kyle Powys Whyte (Michigan State)
  • Dale Jamieson (New York University)
  • Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia)
  • Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis and Clark College)
  • Lori Gruen (Wesleyan College)


  1. Campus-Wide Discussion Forum with Kyle Powys Whyte: "The Dakota Access Pipeline, Environmental Justice, and U.S. Colonialism"
    • March 30, 2017, 11 a.m., Louie's Lower Level.
  2. Public Lecture. Kyle Powys Whyte (Michigan State): "Indigenous Peoples, Climate Justice and Decolonial Philosophy"
    • March 30, 2017, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  3. Public Lecture. Dale Jamieson (NYU): "Loving Nature"
    • April 12, 2017, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  4. Public Lecture. Chris Cuomo (Georgia): "Against the Anthropocene as a Geological Epoch: A Scientific, Ethical and Political Argument"
    • April 20, 2017, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  5. Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis and Clark): "On the Contrary: How to Think about Climate Skepticism"
    • April 24, 2017, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.
  6. Public Lecture. Lori Gruen (Wesleyan): "Empathy in Mind"
    • May 2, 2017, 7 p.m., Imholte 109.

"Philosophy of Biology" 2015-16


  • Alan Love (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), “Explaining the Origin of Evolutionary Novelty”
    • Thursday, February 18, 2016, 5 p.m., Imholte Hall 109.
  • UMM/UMTC Philosophy of Biology Symposium "Biology in the 21st Century: Complex Concepts, Amazing Opportunities"
    • February 19, 2016 (1 p.m.-6 p.m.)
  • Bruce Glymour (Kansas State University), “When is Science Bad? Perspectival Judgments and Value Relativism in and about Scientific Practice”
    • Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 7 p.m., Imholte Hall 109.
  • Patrick Forber (Tufts University) & Rory Smead (Northeastern University), “Evolution, Spite, and Morality”
    • Thursday, April 14, 2016, 5 p.m., Imholte Hall 109
  • Patrick Forber (Tufts University), “Nietzsche’s Evolutionary Conjectures in Retrospect”
    • Friday, April 15, 2016, noon, Imholte Hall 109.
  • Rory Smead (Northeastern University), “The Many Games of Climate Change”
    • Friday, April 15, 2016, 3 p.m., Imholte Hall 111
  • Philip Kitcher (Columbia University), “Experimenting on Animals”


All talks will be held at the University of Minnesota, Morris and are free and open to the public. Please direct any quesions to Mark Collier. The 40th Annual Midwest Philosophy Colloquium is supported by the UMM Dean’s Office and the Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science

"Free Will and Moral Responsibility" 2014-15


Ish Haji, “Obligation and Luck”

I argue that obligation is often subject to luck because obligation requires that we could have refrained from doing what we did, and frequently we could not have refrained from acting as we did—we could not have done otherwise—owing to luck. If obligation succumbs to luck in this way, we should be much more cautious about our judgments concerning right and wrong. Contrary to what we may initially believe, perhaps a person failed to do anything that it was right, or wrong, or obligatory for her to do since, due to luck, she could not have done otherwise.

About the Speaker

Ishtiyaque Haji, formerly professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota Morris, is now professor of philosophy at the University of Calgary. His areas of research include ethical theory, philosophical psychology, and the metaphysics of free will. He is the author of Moral Appraisability (1998), Deontic Morality and Control (2002), Moral Responsibility, Authenticity, and Education (2008) (with Stefaan Cuypers), Freedom and Value (2009), Incompatibilism's Allure (2009), and Reason's Debt to Freedom (2012). He is also co-editor (with Justin Caouette) of Free Will and Moral Responsibility (2013).

Michael McKenna, “How Free Are We? A Compatibilist's View”
  • Friday, September 26, 2013, 4 p.m., Imholte Hall 109

How should we understand human agency in the world in light of the prospect that human beings are simply part of the natural causal order? Is free will possible, or does it require that persons are in some way special or distinct from the natural processes situating the rest of our world? I argue for the thesis of compatibilism according to which free will is still possible even under the assumption of naturalism. Moreover, and as a result, persons can still be regarded as morally responsible for what they do, as beings with dignity or worth, and as creatures whose lives can have meaning.

About the Speaker

Michael McKenna is professor and Keith Lehrer Chair of philosophy at University of Arizona. He is the author the Conversation and Responsibility (2012), along with numerous articles on free will and moral responsibility.

"Atheism" 2013-14


D.J. Grothe, “Darwin Made Me Do It: Secular Versus Religious Ethics”
  • Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 7 p.m., Imholte Hall 109

D.J. Grothe is President of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He has lectured widely on topics at the intersection of education, science and belief at universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and dozens of others. Formerly a professional magician and mentalist, he has special interests in the psychology of belief and processes of deception and self-deception. He hosts the radio show and podcast For Good Reason , prior to which he hosted over 200 episodes of the popular interview program Point of Inquiry. D.J. has been profiled in a number of magazines, and has appeared on numerous TV and Radio shows, including on NBC, ABC, SyFy’s Joe Rogan Questions Everything, and Spike TV’s 1000 Ways To Die, and Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum.

Robert Audi, “The Problem of Evil: Can Theistic Commitment Be Rational Given the Magnitude of Moral and Natural Evil?”
  • Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 7 p.m., Imholte Hall 109

Robert Audi is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, where he also is professor of management for the Mendoza College of Business. He is author of 16 books, including “Moral Perception” (Princeton University Press, 2013), “Rationality and Religious Commitment” (Clarendon Press, 2011), “The Good in the Right: A Theory of Intuition and Intrinsic Value” (Princeton University Press, 2004) and “Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge” (Routledge, 1998). He also has written more than 200 papers appearing in journals and edited volumes and has served as general editor of the First Edition (1995) and Second Edition (1999) of “The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy”.

"Moral Realism" 2012-13


Michael Huemer, “Ethical Intuitionism”
  • Friday, October 5, 2012, 3:30 p.m., Imholte Hall 109
Russ Shafer-Landau, “Skepticism about Morality and Religion”
  • Topic: structural similarities between skeptical arguments for atheism and moral antirealism
  • Friday, November 9, 2012, 4:30 p.m., Imholte Hall 109.

"Honor and Ethics" 2011-12

Keynote Speakers

Laurie M. Johnson
  • Political Science, Kansas State University
  • Thomas Hobbes: Turning Point for Honor
Lad Sessions
  • Philosophy, Washington and Lee University
  • Honor For Us: A Philosophical Analysis, Interpretation and Defense


  • 9:15 a.m., Chancellor’s Welcome
  • 9:30 a.m., Ryan Rhodes (Oklahoma) “Honor and the Moral Value of Reputation”
  • 10:30 a.m., Stephen Mathis (Wheaton) “Justifying Academic Honor Codes”
  • 11:30 a.m., Shannon French (Case Western) “Honor Through the Ages: Differing Conceptions of a Key Concept at the Heart of the Warrior’s Code”
  • 2 p.m., Laurie Johnson (Kansas State) “Honor in Today’s America”
  • 3:15 p.m., Frank Stewart (Hebrew University) “An Anthropologist Looks at Honor”
  • 4:30 p.m., Lad Sessions (Washington and Lee)“Honor, Morality, Brotherhood”


  • Conference Date: Friday, April 6, 2012
  • Location: Recital Hall, Humanities and Fines Arts Building
  • Free admission, free parking
  • Open to public
  • Direct questions to Dan Demetriou
  • This conference is held under the auspices of the Midwest Philosophy Colloquium. For nearly four decades, the MPC has brought some of the foremost figures in Philosophy to the Minnesota prairie.

"Learning Chinese Philosophy" 2010-11

36th Annual Midwest Philosophy Colloquium


Roger T. Ames
  • University of Hawaii
  • “Confucian Role Ethics: Does Blind Justice Need Moral Imagination?”
  • Sept 29, 2010

Roger T. Ames is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii and Editor of Philosophy East and West. He is the author (w/David Hall) of Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China: Thinking Through the Narratives of Chinese and Western Culture (1995), Thinking From the Han: Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western Culture (1997), The Democracy of the Dead (1998), Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong (2001), and Daodejing: Making this Life Significant (2003). Professor Ames has also translated The Art of Warfare (1993), The Art of Rulership (1994), and (w/ Henry Rosemont, Jr.) theAnalects of Confucius (1998).

David Wong
  • Duke University
  • “What We Can Learn from Mencius on Human Nature and the Development of Ethical Virtue”
  • Oct 8, 2010

David Wong is the Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. He is the author of Moral Relativity (University of California, 1984) and Natural Moralities (Oxford, 2006). He is also the co-editor of Confucian Ethics: a Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy and Community (Cambridge, 2004). His current research project includes a book on the classical Chinese thinkers Mencius, Xunzi, and Zhuangzi.

“Justice and Higher Education” 2009-10


“Justice in Higher Education is Your Problem: Administrators, Faculty, and Students as Agents of Change”
  • Harry Brighouse, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • March 26, 2010, 3:30 p.m., 109 Imholte

The most selective 150 colleges and universities in the United States play a major role in allocating people to desireable positions in our society. Unfortunately, our society is characterised by unjust inequalities, and inhabitants of desireable positions are beneficiaries of those inequalities. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that success in access to and completion of college is highly influenced by background inequalities. So, should we abolish college? Harry Brighouse argues that we should not abolish college, but that we should rethink its purposes, and rethink the status order within colleges, so that we prepare students better to make vital contributions to our society, especially in serving those people who never, directly, benefit from going to college themselves. He argues that the right rethinking of college purposes will require faculty and administrators to pay more attention to teaching and learning, and that much of what we should do would actually benefit college students in deep ways.

Professor Brighouse will also lead a seminar from 10:30-12:00 (Imholte 101). We will discuss his paper (with Adam Swift, Univeristy of Oxford): “Putting Educational Equality in its Place” (Education Finance and Policy, 2008). All are welcome.

“Sustainability and Higher Eduction”
  • Randall Curren, University of Rochester
  • April 2, 2010, 3:30 p.m., 109 Imholte

International declarations, such as the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century (1998) and United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development(2005), have called upon universities to provide the research, teaching, and leadership needed to chart a sustainable trajectory for human existence and raise living standards for those most in need. The response from universities has been lackluster, and philosophical work on the ethics of higher education has only begun to acknowledge this is a matter of significant ethical concern. This lecture will address the nature of academic integrity and argue that it pertains not only to an institution's direct dealings with students and other primary stakeholders, but also to the import of the institution's work for the wider public – the public's interest in not only truth but justice, not only now but in the future. The responsibilities of university communities to rising and future generations commend some refocusing of resources toward sustainability and the cross-disciplinary research and teaching it will require.

Professor Curren will also lead a seminar on “What is Education For?” from 10:30-12:00 (Imholte 101). Attendees are encouraged to read his forthcoming paper on Aristotle's Philosophy of Education in the Oxford Review of Education. This article is available on e-reserve at Briggs Library. All are welcome.

"Frontiers of Environmental Ethics" 2008-09


  • J. Baird Callicott
  • Andrew Light
  • Clare Palmer
“Animal Ethics, Wild and Domestic”
  • Clare Palmer, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Environmental Studies
  • Washington University in St Louis
  • September, 26, 2008, Imholte 109

What are our duties with respect to wild animals? Do we have a moral obligation to treat their diseases, or to feed them through hard winters? Most people think not. Yet, at the same time, most people do accept that we have duties to care for, feed, and provide medical treatment to our pets and agricultural animals. But how could such different duties be justified? Generally, arguments about animal ethics center on animal capacities: do they feel pain? Can they reason? But it's very difficult to find a justification based on animal capacities for distinguishing between what's morally owed to wild and to domestic animals. So, this paper takes a different approach. While accepting that animals' capacities are important, especially with respect to causing harm, I argue that our obligations to assist an animal vary according to its context and its relation to humans. So, I'll maintain, we can consistently take a laissez-faire attitude to assisting wild animals, while at the same time thinking that we should assist domesticated animals. And, I'll suggest, this contextual argument also helps us think through any obligations we might have to feral animals and to other animals with whom we interact in the human/animal 'contact zone'.

“From the Land Ethic to the Earth Ethic: Aldo Leopold in a Time of Climate Change”
  • J. Baird Callicott, Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • University of North Texas
  • September 27, 2008, 5 p.m., Imholte 109

Aldo Leopold's “The Land Ethic,” published in 1949, is the seminal source for the subsequent development of environmental ethics as a subdiscipline of philosophy, beginning in the 1970s and growing exponentially ever since. The Leopold land ethic is also the environmental ethic of choice among natural resource managers, conservation biologists, and other applied environmental sciences. The land ethic, however, is scaled to local biotic communities and regional ecosystems: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”—wrote Leopold. The over-riding environmental concern of the present century, however, is global climate change. The land ethic cannot be coherently scaled up to a planetary scale—which is unfortunate, because of the enormous cache of the Leopold brand. Fortunately, however, Leopold sketched an "earth ethic" based on an anticipation of the Gaia Hypothesis in 1923, urging respect for the whole Earth as a living being. Like the land ethic, the earth ethic is holistic and nonanthropocentric, although Leopold also expresses concern for "unknown posterity" (future human generations). Its scientific foundation is biogeochemistry, not community ecology. Its philosophical foundation is more Kantian than Humean.

“Ethics and Climate Change”
  • Andrew Light, Director, Center for Global Ethics, GMU
  • Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
  • April 21, 2009, 7 p.m., Science Auditorium.

With the effective end of the debate in the U.S. over the basic science of climate change, and the dramatic shift in our political response to this issue, we are now witnessing an impressively aggressive push to establish a national price structure on carbon and move toward negotiation of a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol. Combining those two efforts with the current global economic crisis is producing a perfect storm of climate policy. It is a commonplace in discussions of climate change to call it one of, if not the most, important moral problems of our day. But will there actually be a role for ethicists in meeting the pressing demands of a global response to climate change? After reviewing the current state of work on the ethics of climate change I will argue that if ethicists want to be part of this process then it will require the creation of new methodologies for doing philosophy. Just as a "clinical" form of bioethics emerged when ethicists had the opportunity to work directly with medical patients we need a new form of climate ethics -- more nimble, inherently interdisciplinary, and empirically based -- if we want to be part of the resolution of this critical problem.

“Frontiers of Moral Psychology” 2007-08


  • Stephen Stich
  • John Doris
  • Shaun Nichols
“The Persistence of Moral Disagreement”
  • Stephen Stich, Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy
  • Winner of the 2007 Jean-Nicod Prize
  • Rutgers University
  • May 9, 2008, 5 p.m., Imholte 109.

Moral disagreement is widespread. But would that disagreement persist even under hypothetical idealized conditions in which all parties to a moral debate are rational, impartial and fully informed about the relevant non-moral facts? The answer is important for many moral theories. On some versions of theories in the "ideal observer" tradition, a positive answer entails either moral relativism or moral skepticism, and many contemporary moral realists hold that a negative answer would show that moral realism is false. In this talk I will review a number of recent empirical studies of moral judgments in different cultural groups which suggest that moral disagreement would indeed persist under idealized circumstances – though much turns on exactly how the idealized circumstances are characterized. The persistence of moral disagreement is also suggested by an empirically motivated account of the psychological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and implementation of moral norms that I have developed in collaboration with Chandra Sripada, and by theoretical work on how those mechanisms might have evolved. The model for the psychology of norms, which I'll discuss briefly, leaves abundant room for reasoning in moral deliberation, but does not support the idea that rational deliberation will lead to convergence.

Professor Stich will also be giving a workshop entitled “Experimental Philosophers are not Oxymorons” at 2:15 PM in Imholte 114. All are welcome.

“How to Build a Person”
  • John Doris, Associate Professor
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Author of Lack of Character(Cambridge 2002)
  • October 4, 2007, 7:30 p.m., Imholte 109.

In much moral philosophy, persons are characterized by reflective activity-- a conscious and concerted mentation effecting control of behavioral outcomes. In social and cognitive psychology, quantities of work on automatic processing suggest that this philosophical conception of persons is empirically inadequate; much human behavior is the outcome of processes that are not conscious, not controlled, and very often evaluatively incongruent with the putative deliverances of reflective deliberation. An empirically adequate conception of persons will therefore de-emphasize reflection; instead, the human ethical distinctiveness marked with the honorific "person" is to be found in the narrative transactions by which humans living in groups create and sustain social relationships.

“Sentimentalist Pluralism: Moral Psychology and Philosophical Ethics”
  • Shaun Nichols, Professor
  • University of Arizona
  • Author of Sentimental Rules: On the Natural
  • Foundations of Moral Judgment (Oxford 2004)
  • October 5, 2007, 5 p.m., Imholte 109.

Recent work in psychology provides support for two major claims about everyday morality. First, morality depends critically on the emotions – we would have nothing like everyday morality if it weren't for our emotional endowment. Second, moral judgment is guided by a plurality of independent rules which sometimes give conflicting answers about the proper course of action. If morality does depend on the emotions, this undermines the philosophically attractive idea that everyday morality arises from rationality or mind-independent moral truths. However, the fact that morality depends on the emotions does not have revolutionary implications for how we ought to live. In particular, the fact that the emotions give rise to a variety of independent moral rules is no reason to give up those rules.

Everyone is cordially invited to all sessions. Receptions to follow both lectures. In addition, Professors Doris and Nichols will present a joint paper, “Broad Minded,” on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., Imholte 112

These lectures are funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, UMM.

"Personal Identity" 2006-07


  • Eric Olson
“When Do We Begin and End?”
  • Eric Olson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Sheffield, UK
  • Monday, March 26, 7:30 p.m., Newman Center306 East 4th Street, Morris

The gradual nature of development from fertilization to birth and beyond leaves it uncertain when we come into being; advances in medical technology leave it increasingly uncertain when (leaving aside religious beliefs) we cease to exist. Many philosophers have tried to answer these questions. Professor Olson will argue that most of these answers are wrong, and that a simpler answer follows from the apparent fact that we are biological organisms.

Professor Olson will also present "Objects and Their Matter" at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, Student Center, UMM, Monday, March 26. All are cordially invited.

These lectures are funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, UMM.

"Just Be Yourself"
  • Marya Schechtman, Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Monday, October 23, 2006 7 p.m., First Lutheran Church, 200 East 5 th Street, Morris

It would seem that one couldn't help but be oneself; yet, popular wisdom has it that being oneself can be a very difficult task indeed. Professor Schechtman will explore the range of challenges to being oneself that have been discussed in philosophy, literature, and everyday life, asking related questions about authenticity, self-knowledge and a meaningful life.

Professor Schechtman will also present "Stories, Lives, and Basic Survival: A defense and refinement of the narrative view" at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, Student Center, UMM, Monday, October 23. All are cordially invited .

The second session of the 31 st Midwest Philosophy Colloquium is tentatively scheduled for Monday, March 26th, 2007. Professor Eric Olson of the University of Sheffield will present "When Do We Begin and End?" More information will follow.

These lectures are funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, UMM.

"Philosophy and Public Policies" 2005-06


  • Christine Koggel
  • Edward A. Langerak
  • Chris Eberle
“Empowering Women in a Globalized World”
  • Christine Koggel, Bryn Mawr College 
  • Monday, April 3rd, 7 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Many development thinkers have come to agree that development projects ought to be empowering for people meant to benefit from them. However, while some theorists are aware that gender norms, values, and practices in particular contexts need to be taken into account when devising policies for empowering women, they are less aware of the impact of the global on the local. In this paper, I argue that both local and global factors and the intersections of them in specific contexts need to be taken into account in a proper assessment of policies designed to empower women. Having a job, for example, is generally thought to enhance agency, but whether women are empowered depends on factors such as whether entrenched gender norms at the local level are used by global corporations to recruit women into jobs with low pay, no say about conditions of work, double work shifts, and inferior or no childcare options.

Dr. Koggel will also present a paper, “Globalization and Inequality: a Feminist Perspective”, at 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 3rd in the Prairie Lounge of the Student Center (UMM). All are cordially invited.

These lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, UMM.

“Politics and the Free Exercise of Religion”
  • Edward A. Langerak, St. Olaf College
  • November 1st 2005, 7 p.m. Newman Center, Morris

If my deeply held religious convictions are not merely private preferences but have definite implications for my political choices, then to discourage my appealing to them in my political advocacy and voting seems to rub against my first amendment right to free exercise of religion. But if I and my co-believers vote our religious convictions into coercive law, that seems to invite something like the establishment of religion, forbidden by the first amendment. Arguments supported by philosopher John Rawls are often claimed to grasp the first horn of this dilemma, while arguments by the religious right are often charged with grasping the second horn. Recent defenses and critiques of Rawls suggest a possible convergence in this debate.

“Religion, Pacifism and Political Restraint”
  • Chris Eberle, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis
  • Thursday, February 9th, 7 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

Many believe that citizens and legislators should not make political decisions solely on religious grounds. That 'doctrine of restraint' is normally construed as a general constraint on religious arguments: an exclusively religious rationale as such is an inappropriate basis for a political decision, particularly a coercive political decision. But none of the most common arguments for the doctrine of restraint are successful. This is particularly apparent when we apply those arguments to pacifists who rely solely on their religious beliefs as a basis for denying that the state may use lethal force. [Please, note that the title and topic of this lecture have been changed from previous announcements.

"Contemporary Debates on the U.S. Constitution" 2004-05


  • Louise Antony
  • Alisa Carse
  • Brian Bix
“What Do We Need to Know About Human Nature?”
  • Louise Antony (Ohio State University,Columbus)
  • October 11th, 2004, 7 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

It is commonly held that students of ethics, politics, and other broadly normative fields need to understand “human nature.” But how, exactly, is an appreciation of our natures supposed to be relevant to normative questions? Professor Antony will argue that while there is such a thing as “human nature,“ it neither limits nor mandates any particular ethical or social practices. In short, there's not much we need to know about human nature in order to figure out how we ought to behave, or how societies ought to be organized.

“Subordinative Speech and Expressive Liberty: Reflections on Pornography, Hate Speech, and the Moral Bounds of Freedom”
  • Alisa Carse (Georgetown University, Washington D.C.)
  • February 28, 2005, 7 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

What are the value and the price to equality of a robust commitment to First Amendment expressive liberty? Professor Carse will argue that, on the one hand, expressive liberty is crucial to social reform and change. On the other hand, she will explore whether there are institutional contexts in which it might be appropriate to constrain pornographic and hateful expression on grounds of their subordinative character.

“Natural Law and the Constitution”
  • Brian Bix (The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis)
  • April 18, 2005, 7 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

When Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court, supporters had to reassure the Senators that the nominee did not believe “scary things about natural law.7rd What is “natural law” and what connection is there between that theory about the nature of law and morality, and the proper approach to interpreting the Constitution? Should we refuse to appoint or elect judges who claim to believe in natural law? Alternatively, should we refuse to appoint or elect judges who do not believe in natural law?

Each speaker will also present an additional paper, on the day of that speaker's evening presentation, at 2:30 p.m., Alumni Room (Antony) and Prairie Lounge (Carse and Bix), UMM campus. The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"Philosophy of Religion: Body and Soul" 2003-04


  • Derk Pereboom
  • Tamar Rudavsky
  • David Hunt
“Free Will, Evil, and Divine Providence”
  • Derk Pereboom (The University of Vermont, Burlington)
  • September 15, 2003, 7 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

The doctrine of divine determinism--God is the sufficient cause of everything in creation-- seems to imply that, as God is the ultimate cause of all events, he is the ultimate cause of all evil. Professor Pereboom will discuss whether this doctrine can be retained consistently with evading this unacceptable consequence and attributing to human agents free will.

“The Soul Revisited: Immortality and Mortality in Medieval Jewish Philosophy”
  • Tamar Rudavsky (The Ohio State University, Columbus)
  • February 23, 2004, 7 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor Rudavsky will examine why, unlike much of Scholastic philosophy, which emphasizes immortality of the soul, Jewish philosophers are much more ambivalent about the continued existence of the soul after the death of the body. She will argue that, in part, this difference reflects differing attitudes toward matter and bodies in medieval Jewish and Scholastic thought.

“Is God a Fatalist?”

  • David Hunt (Whittier College, Whittier)
  • April 19, 2004, 7 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Professor Hunt will consider difficulties divine foreknowledge raises for divine freedom and agency: If God knows his own future actions, how can God confront his own foreknown actions as an active initiator rather than a passive actor, and how could he use any of this knowledge, for instance, to change the future?

Each speaker will also present an additional paper, on the day of that speaker's evening presentation, at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM campus. The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"Free Will And Moral Responsibility" 2002-03


  • Michael Zimmerman
  • Michael McKenna
  • Marina Oshana
“Taking Luck Seriously”
  • Michael Zimmerman (The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC)
  • September 23, 2002, 7 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

Professor Zimmerman will argue that the view that luck cannot affect the responsibility that we bear implies that two claims, prominent in discussions on free will, are false: there can be no responsibility if we lack freedom to do otherwise, and there can be no responsibility if our choices and actions are determined by facts of the past and the natural laws.

“Free Will, Agency Meaning and the Conditions of Morally Responsible Agency”
  • Michael McKenna (Ithaca College, NY)
  • October 21, 2002, 7:00 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor McKenna will develop an "expressive" account of free will and responsible agency according to which attitudes such as praise, blame, resentment, and indignation are incipient forms of communication.

“Autonomy and Free Will”
  • Marina Oshana (Bowling Green State University, OH)
  • April 7, 2003, 7 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Appealing to cases of addiction, wanton behavior, and weakness of will, Professor Oshana will argue that a person can act with the sort of freedom required for moral responsibility even if that person is not an autonomous agent.

Each speaker will also present an additional paper, on the day of that speaker's evening presentation, at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM campus. The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"The Wisdom of the Ancients" 2001-02


  • Stephen White
  • Angela Curran
  • Thomas Blackson
“Stoic Emotions”
  • Stephen White, The University of Texas, Austin, TX
  • February 11, 2002, 7 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor White will outline the Stoic theory of emotions and discuss its application to personal and interpersonal “psychoanalysis” in the light of some classic examples.

Professor White will first outline the Stoic theory of emotion. Like so-called cognitive psychology today, the Stoics hold that emotions have a rational structure. Our feelings depend on what types of situations we think about, what value we assign to these situations, and our beliefs about how we should act and react in response to these situations. As such, the Stoics claim, our emotions are under our rational control, and engaging in a proper analysis of the beliefs underpinning our emotions can help up to achieve a better life. Professor White will evaluate these claims, and argue that Stoic 'psychoanalysis' offers a method for developing mental fitness and sharpening our sensibilities.

He will also present a paper, “Socratic Piety: A Constructivist Reading of Plato's Euthyphro,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, student center of UMM, September 24. All are cordially invited to both talks.

“Catharsis as Cognition: Re-Examining the Legacy of Aristotle's Aesthetics of Tragedy”
  • Angela Curran (Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
  • April 15, 2002, 7 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Professor Curran will re-assess the prominent view that Aristotle's account of catharsis enables us to see how we can learn from tragedy, by reviving German playwright Bertolt Brecht's criticisms of Aristotle's aesthetics.

Angela Curran will focus on an ancient debate on the role of art and the emotions in moral and intellectual education. Does emotional engagement with the characters in drama help or hinder our intellectual reflections on the characters and situations represented by the work? Professor Curran will look at Aristotle's contribution to this debate. Curran reports that recent scholars have praised Aristotle's account of tragedy as an imitation that occasions a purging (or “catharsis”) of the emotions of pity and fear. These scholars argue that this account of ”catharsis,“ as a response to tragedy, enables us to see how both the emotions and the understanding play a role in enabling us to learn from art. In her talk, Curran will reassess this interpretation of Aristotle, reviving criticisms of Aristotelian “dramatic theater” offered by the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht. Brecht criticizes the Aristotelian aesthetic tradition for its preference for dramatic narratives that please but do not instruct us about the source of human suffering. Curran will suggest that Brecht's objections are correct: Critical thinking about the characters in drama, and an account of the role of the emotions in a critical approach to drama, are not adequately accounted for by Aristotle. Nevertheless, Curran will emphasize a key legacy in Aristotle's Poetics: the important role that the emotions play in our identifications with characters and situations depicted in art.

Doctor Curran will also present a paper, “Aristotelian Essentialism as Social Critique,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, February 11. All are cordially invited.

“Plato on Reason and the Best Life for Man”
  • Thomas Blackson (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ)

Professor Blackson will address the wisdom of Plato on the role of reason in living a good life.

Thomas Blackson's presentation concerns wisdom in Socrates and Plato. Blackson proposes that Socrates departed from the received, traditional conception of wisdom and his student, Plato, in turn, departed from the Socratic conception. These changes are interesting in their own right. According to Blackson they provide answers to certain questions about philosophy: They help to explain how philosophy received its name and how it came to be part of education.

Doctor Blackson will also present a paper, “In Defense of an Unpopular Interpretation of Pyrrhonean Skepticism,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, April 15. All are cordially invited.

The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"Irrational Human Conduct" 2000-01


  • Mike Martin
  • Alison McIntyre
  • Alfred Mele
“Responsibility in a Therapeutic Culture: Integrating Moral and Therapeutic Perspectives on Irrationality”
  • Mike Martin (Chapman University, Orange, CA)
  • September 25, 2000, 7 p.m.,First Lutheran Church, Morris

Professor Martin will propose integrating moral and therapeutic perspectives on a range of irrational conduct including alcoholism, pathological gambling, and violence.

It has become routine to call people sick when they engage in wrongdoing that is extensive, entrenched, and extreme. For example, alcoholics are now said to have a disease and gambling problems are labeled “pathological gambling.” Professor Martin proposes that this therapeutic trend--the trend of applying therapeutic perspectives to areas of human conduct--is both promising and confusing. It is promising because it offers powerful new avenues for dealing with irresponsible conduct. It is confusing because we tend to think in terms of morality versus therapy, such that to call someone sick seems to excuse or partially excuse their conduct. In his talk, Professor Martin moves toward integrating moral and therapeutic perspectives on a range of irrational conduct including alcoholism, pathological gambling, and violence. He argues that sickness (mental or physical) is not automatically a moral excuse, for we have moral responsibilities to take care of our health. He will end with the proposal that, in many contexts (especially therapeutic, helping ones), the focus can and should be on enabling people to accept responsibility, rather than engaging in “moralistic” forms of blaming.

Professor Martin will also present “Are Bigots Sick?“ at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, September 25. All are cordially invited.

“The Standpoint of Reflection and the Norms of Rationality”
  • Alison McIntyre (Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA)
  • October 30, 2000, 7 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor McIntyre will argue that certain forms of allegedly irrational behavior, such as denial (the disregarding of evidence that would undermine one's beliefs), and the adoption of inconsistent policies (for example, being “penny wise and pound foolish”), may play a benign or even useful role in an agent's life.

Two alleged examples of irrational behavior include denial and the adoption of inconsistent policies. Traditional accounts of irrationality would imply that we would be better agents than we actually are if we were incapable of denial and acute enough to identify and eliminate any inconsistencies in our policies or beliefs. Drawing on the work of the neurologist V.S. Ramachandran on denial as an epistemic strategy, and the work of the psychiatrist George Ainslie on personal policies as techniques of self-control, Professor Alison will argue that only some cases of denial and inconsistent policies deserve to be condemned. Further, she will propose that these cases are not to be condemned as straightforward cases of irrationality, but as cases in which the complex capacities that constitute our rational agency have failed to reach and maintain an equilibrium.

Professor McIntyre will also present a paper, “Private Policy Initiatives and the Self-Legislative Virtues: Weakness of Will As a Failure of Self-Management,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, October 30. All are cordially invited.

“Weakness of Will”
  • Professor Alfred Mele (Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL)
  • April 16, 2000, 7 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

In central cases, we exhibit weakness of will when we act contrary to what we judge it best to do (from the point of view of our own desires, beliefs, values, and the like) and are not compelled so to act. Some philosophers--most notably, Socrates--have argued that such exhibitions of weakness of will are impossible. Drawing partly on some empirical work, Professor Mele will argue that they are possible and he will explain how they are possible. He will also explain the possibility of a related phenomenon featuring a motivated change of mind about what it would be best to do.

Professor Mele will also present a paper, “Negative Actions,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, April 16. All are cordially invited.

The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"Concerns of Privacy" 1999-2000


  • Richard Nunan
  • Judith Wagner Decew
  • Jennifer Greene
“The Right of Privacy and Same-Sex Marriage”
  • Richard Nunan (College of Charleston, Charleston, SC)
  • September 27, 1999, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

Professor Nunan will begin by noting that a number of states in the U.S. have enacted legislation declaring same-sex marriages void. However, he will go on to argue that the constitutionally recognized right to privacy provides a fundamental justification for legal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages. He will indicate that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly asserted that the right to privacy encompasses decisions governing the creation and maintenance of a family. He will argue that if the courts refuse to recognize marriage rights for same sex couples, then ipso facto the courts refuse to recognize their privacy rights with respect to family matters. But refusal to recognize the validity of any person's privacy right with respect to family matters is, in the eyes of the law, wrong. If so, by appealing to the validity of these rights, one can insist on the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Professor Nunan will also present a paper, “Local Autonomy and the Right of Privacy: Legal Moralism and the European Court of Human Rights,” at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 27, Prairie Lounge, Student Center. All are cordially invited.

“Privacy and Medical Information”
  • Judith Wagner Decew (Clark University, Worcester, MA)
  • October 25, 1999, 8 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor Decew will examine the protection of medical records in an age of information technology. She will first explain her views on the value of privacy and what we lose without it. Then she will use multiple examples from European Union countries as well as the United States to examine the following alternative approaches to the protection of medical records, given advancements in technology in information accumulation, storage, and retrieval: reliance on governmental guidelines and centralized databases, on the one hand, versus the use of corporate self-regulation on the other. She will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each, and then describe her own third hybrid view on how to maintain a presumption in favor of privacy with respect to medical information. Her hybrid view aims to safeguard privacy without sacrificing the benefits of new information technology in medicine.

Professor Decew will also present a paper, “Moral Conflicts and the Role of Moral Theory” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, October 25. All are cordially invited.

“Rights to Privacy and the Public Good”
  • Professor Jennifer Greene (University of Texas, Austin, TX)
  • April 17, 2000, 8 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Professor Greene will argue that practices such as mandatory drug testing, certain notification processes followed in AIDS cases, and the response to the recent demand for genetic information by children who were conceived by new reproductive technology--practices often justified on the grounds that they foster or are in the interest of the public good--all point in the direction of a balancing between the public good and the right to privacy. Doctor Greene's discussion will focus on assessing whether this balancing act is possible or desirable.

Professor Greene will also present a paper, “On Self-Becoming: the Italian Marxists on Individuality” at 2:30 p.m., Humanities 12, UMM, April 17. All are cordially invited.

The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.

"The Mentally Ill Offender" 1998-99


  • Jennifer Radden
  • John Deigh
“Multiple Selves and Culpability”
  • Jennifer Radden (University of Massachusetts, Boston)
  • October 20, 1998, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

A distinguishing feature of multiple personality disorder is the occupation of the body of the afflicted person (the “multiple”) by two or more “selves.” Is this disorder an exculpating factor in the legal arena? Within the dispositive constraints, the discourse of responsibility, and the retributive presuppositions imposed by that arena, Professor Radden will argue that it is not, and that the multiple deserves punishment for past wrongs even when those wrongs were the deeds of only one self.

“Moral Agency and Mental Illness”
  • John Deigh (Northwestern University, Evanston)
  • April 13, 1999, 8 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Professor Deigh will address the following question: how does mental illness figure in determining whether someone, who is mentally ill and who has committed a criminal act, is morally responsible for that act? He will argue that the answer depends on what conception of “moral agency” one accepts. He will use the McNaghten rule and the landmark Durham case to explain the knowledge based and the causal based conception of moral agency. A conception of moral agency's consisting in the governance of feelings, emotions, or passion by reason (knowledge based) yields an answer, he proposes, like the McNaghten rule: to establish a defense on the grounds of insanity, it must be proven that at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason as not to know the nature or quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong. A conception consisting in cooperation between forces of reason and desire or emotion (causal based), he argues, yields an answer like the landmark decision in the Durham case: for an insanity plea to be successful, the criminal act must have been the product of the accused's mental abnormality. So whereas the McNaghten rule focuses on knowledge, Durham focuses on causal production. Deigh suggests that the two conceptions come out of two major traditions in moral philosophy, and he will discuss them in this context.

Professor Deigh will also present a paper (“Emotion and the Authority of Law”) at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, April 13. All are cordially invited.

“Compulsion, Insanity, and Criminal Responsibility”
  • Gary Watson (University of California, Irvine)
  • May 18, 1999, 8 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Professor Watson will explore the bearing of addiction upon criminal responsibility. Although addiction-based legal defenses are problematic in several respects, he will argue that the most plausible basis for a plea of this kind is to liken addiction to duress.

Doctor Watson will also present a paper (“Disordered Appetites“) at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, May 18. All are cordially invited.

The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.