Hale Ethics Series, 2006-07

Fall

Thursday, September 21st, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Integrity in Politics: Is This an Oxymoron?

William A. Johnson, Jr. (RIT)

It has been suggested to me that I should give serious reflection to the events that transpired during my mayoral tenure, whilethey are still fresh in my memory. Therefore I plan to write a series of essays that take a retrospective look at this period of my life, and this lecture affords me the opportunity (and motivation) to begin this process.

Ironically, events of the past eight months, since leaving office, have forced me to re-consider some of my basic precepts about the way political affairs are conducted. The tempestuous discussions around the demise of the Fast Ferry are one obvious cause of this personal introspection. And the discussions around the way the Bush administration is prosecuting the "war against terror", and the on-going debates about the way our state government conducts business has led me to ask whether there is any intergrity remaining in American politics.

Thursday, October 26th, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Butler’s Moral Theory

David White (St. John Fisher)

Fifteen Questions on Bishop Butler's Morals. Philosophers agree on Butler's importance for moral philosophy, but they find no consensus on what he said, why he said it, how true his teachings are or how they apply to us. Butler himself is less than helpful, but then his chief doctrine was that we are lost in ignorance and can only live with a sense of the mystery that surrounds us.

Winter

Thursday, December 14th, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Technology and Religion: From Christianity to Buddhism

Carl Mitcham (Colorado School of Mines)

Arguing that Christianity exercised a major influence, the sociologist Max Weber and the historian Lynn White Jr. stimulated on-going debates about the ways European religious attitudes contributed to the rise of modern technology. These debates invite us to consider relations between technology and other religious traditions, especially in an age of techno-globalizations. In an effort to contribute to such an expanded reflection, this presentation will compare and constrast Christian and Buddhist perspectives relevant to technology.

Thursday, January 18th, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

The Question of Violence in the Epoch of Globalization

Maurizio Pagano (University of Trieste, Italy)

Beginning with a discussion of how the topics of public violence and war become timely again in the epoch of globalization (as attested by the recent work by Michael Walzer, Amartya Sen, and Roberto Toscano, the Italian ambassador in Iran), the theme of war and how it runs across the entire Western experience and reflection, from the Iliad to Plato, Herodotus, and Thucydides, up to the pacifism of the Enlightenment (Kant) and the more bellicose thought of the Romantic period (Hegel), is taken up. This leads to a brief analysis of the contemporary situation. After 1991, the threat of a nuclear war between the two superpowers disappears, only to be replaced by a new situation: that of war and diffuse violence, of which the most pronounced manifestations are genocide, terrorism, and torture, which do not submit to any rule, and the principal root of which seems to be the fear of losing one’s identity as a people. Our identity is always plural and mobile, however; it refers to the relationship with the other, and this forces one to overcome individualism. The lecture concludes by framing the theme of violence in a broader, ethical, and anthropological perspective, posing several questions regarding the ambivalent character of violence, which seems an unavoidable feature of the human condition.

Thursday, February 8th, 4-5:30, Xerox Auditorium

Technology Transfer and Empowerment

Evan Selinger (Philosophy, RIT)

By awarding the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, Norway’s Nobel Institute resolutely broke with tradition. As the Financial Times notes: “The prize money normally goes to statesmen and humanitarian agencies and has never been awarded to a financial institution or a banker before.”

In my talk I will critically examine a debate concerning one of Yunus’s initiatives, the Village Phone program (VP). Because this program provides Bangladeshi women with an opportunity to increase their assets and earn respect by becoming mobile phone vendors, advocates claim that VP uses technology transfer to successfully “empower” the “poorest of the poor” to challenge Muslim customs of purdah—customs that allegedly violate human rights. Contrarily, critics claim that VP “disempowers” women by co-opting their struggles and reducing them to welfare objects of reform. My main contention is that both critics and advocates alike err in assessing VP by appealing to modernist conceptions of “empowerment” that fail to clarify how the program simultaneously promotes relations of independence and dependence. Until this thought concerning the ambiguity of technological experience is fully understood, I believe that inadequate standards for assessing the successes and failures of VP will continue to be applied.

Spring

Thursday, March 15th, 4-6, A205 Liberal Arts

Panel on Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism, Authority and the Limits of Toleration

Dr. Katie Terezakis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at RIT and will discuss the relationship between philosophy and anti-Semitism, making the case that the widespread dissemination of opinions about anti-Semitism characteristic of our contemporary age requires proactive philosophical engagement.

Practical Responses to Anti-Semitism

Ms. Yael Mazar is Assistant Director of the New York Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League and will discuss recent anti-Semitic incidents in New York State, how the ADL learns of these incidents & how the ADL – or anyone – can effectively fight against acts of hate.

Technology and Hate: How Computers Can Be Misused
(by Extremists and Haters of All Kinds) to Spread Anti-Semitism

Mr. Brian Marcus is Director of Internet Monitoring of the Anti-Defamation League and will examine online hate activity, extremist-created video games, & cyber-bullying, as well as what can be done to fight online anti-Semitism.

Moderator: Wade L. Robison
Ezra A. Hale Professor in Applied Ethics

Co-sponsored by the Office of the President, Student Services, The Academic Senate,
The College of Liberal Arts, The Department of Philosophy, and RIT Hillel

Wednesday, March 21st, 12-1:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Technologists, who, by looking back, do not always see what is before them

John R. Dakers (University of Glasgow)

Many of today’s undergraduate technologists will become involved in activities that will “create systems that will have major impacts upon people, organizations, and socially in general. If those systems are to be successful economically and socially, graduates will need to know the lessons from the [technology] story so far, the ethical and social issues involved, and the range of choices available to [technology] professionals” (Forester and Morrison, 2000: 273). Activity theory offers us a methodological construct that helps to reveal, or bring to light, some of the many hidden interpretative complexities in a given technological system that can serve to influence our decisions.

Activity Theory might be considered to be one of the shadows cast by phenomenology. There are some strong correlations: it rejects Cartesian dualism; it considers an object-orientated, artefact-mediated, collective activity system as its unit of analysis; it proposes that the subject and the object of an activity have a reciprocal relationship, one in which each transforms the other whilst simultaneously being constituted in the other.

For my presentation I will discuss activity theory and use it to demonstrate how those in technology domains tend to orientate towards allowing their technological activities to be mediated by forms of interpretation that rely upon using substantialist answers. This presupposes that the nature, or essence, or reality of a solution is “prior to,” thus rejecting, or at least restricting, an opening of possibilities. This restricted a priori interpretation then serves to subjugate the technologist to its terms, much like Pascal’s argument against the notion of “esprit de geometrie” in favour of “esprit de finesse”. In order to start the debate ahead of time, so to speak, my opening question at my presentation will be this: Why do you have a cell phone?

Thursday, March 22nd, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Extreme Makeovers and the End(s) of Humanity

Dennis M. Weiss (Philosophy, York College of Pennsylvania)

What will human beings be and become in the 21st century? What ends are we pursuing as we make ourselves over using the latest cosmetic and surgical techniques? What are the implications for the future of humanity of the Human Genome Project and the growing significance of genetic engineering? The emergence and development of new technologies, including biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology, has led to a resurgent interest in questions about the ends and limits of our humanity. While some hail the coming age of the posthuman as a time of progress and promise, others are more critical of what they see as the dehumanization of the human being and the dangers of technology run amok.Where does the truth lie?

In this multimedia presentation, York College Philosophy Professor Dr. Dennis M. Weiss considers these issues as he examines recent developments in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, cybernetics, genetic engineering, and cloning, addressing the different ways we human beings have pursued our extreme makeovers and the implications for the future of humanity. Dr. Weiss is Chair of the English and Humanities Department at York College and is the editor of Interpreting Man and author of a number of essays exploring digital technologies, the posthuman, and biotechnology. For those interested in reading something ahead-of-time, check out any or all of the following articles online:

http://goose.ycp.edu/~dweiss/extreme_makeovers.htm
http://goose.ycp.edu/~dweiss/makeover_narratives.htm
http://goose.ycp.edu/~dweiss/reading_extreme_makeovers.htm
http://goose.ycp.edu/~dweiss/natural_look.htm

Thursday, March 29, 2007, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

Integrity and Advocacy in Expertise

Heather Douglas (Philosophy, University of Tennessee)

Experts have taken on an increasingly prominent role in American life. Their expertise is relied upon for making policy decisions at all levels of government and, less formally, their public statements guide decision-making across society. In our reliance upon experts, we generally expects experts’ statements to be informed by their training and experiential knowledge, the attributes that make people an expert. The public needs experts to present what they think, based on their knowledge, with honesty and integrity. Experts, however, are also human beings who often care deeply about aspects of what they study or experience.

As such, they sometimes take up an advocate’s position to defend something, or lobby for something, that pertains directly to their area of expertise. This advocacy can be very valuable, bringing attention to issues that would otherwise languish from neglect. Yet problems can arise in some cases, particularly when experts omit details of their knowledge, or emphasize certain results, in order to sway opinion to their cause, thus undermining the integrity of the expertise. This talk will address the tensions between maintaining the integrity of expertise and allowing experts to be advocates. I will argue that experts can do both, but it is a fine line to walk.

Thursday, May 10th, 4-5:30, Carlson Auditorium (76-1125)

The Faces of Auschwitz: On Language, Memory and Witnessing

Silvia Benso (Philosophy, Siena College)

The history of western anti-semitism finds its climax at Auschwitz. Through a phenomenological account conducted with the aid of visual images, I examine how Auschwitz represents both the appeal to and the impossibility of naming, representation and memory. As Theodor Adorno, Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel attest, what Auschwitz testifies is a series of questions—of philosophy of history, ethics with anthropological implications, philosophy of language, logic and metaphysics, and of faith and theology. Auschwitz points ultimately to an interruption and a break in traditional categories of relation to reality. The questions raised by Auschwitz point to political witnessing as the most appropriate theoretical and practical response to this event and to anti-semitism in general. The duty to hospitality emerges now as the imperative, and all acts of anti-semitism can be construed as crimes against hospitality, that is, as crimes against humanity.

 

These presentations are free
and open to all.

If you need interpreting services, contact Cassandra Shellman as early as you can at 585.475.2057 or via e-mail.

Presentations for previous years

2005-06