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College of Liberal Arts
Rochester Institute of
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Rochester NY 14623-5604


Copyright ©2008–2011
Department of Philosophy,
Rochester Institute of Technology

Department of Philosophy

Last updated 25 February 2015

Coming Events

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.

Need a campus map?

Call for Papers

6th RIT Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

to be held at RIT

Friday 8 May 2015

  • Deadline for submission: 1 April 2015.
  • Papers (no longer than 3000 words) may be on any topic in philosophy.
  • Submit papers in MS Word format to Prof. Ryan Johnson,
  • Details on program, location and accommodations: TBA.
  • Questions? Contact Prof. Ryan Johnson,

Sponsored by
the Undergraduate Philosophy Club at RIT,
the Department of Philosophy,
the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics, and
the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

Philosophy Club

Meets 4 PM Fridays
in the lounge area across from the RIT ID office
on the first floor of Eastman.

Topic for 27 Feb: Kant’s first Critique

Everyone welcome.

Contact Club President, Nathan Saint Ours:

Wednesday 25 February
3:30 pm
Liberal Arts A205

Kathleen Harbin
(SUNY Brockport)

“How Practical Wisdom Unifies Aristotle's Ethical Theory”

Aristotle proposed that a good human life involves three things: happiness, virtue, and practical wisdom. At first glance, it does not seem clear how these notions fit together or why Aristotle insists that they are mutually dependent. The first is an overarching goal, the second is a set of character traits, and the third is a reasoning capacity that allows us to determine what to do in specific circumstances. I shall explain why it is plausible for Aristotle to make this claim: we only care about the goal because we have good states of character, and we can only experience that goal if we have the capacity to reason out how to achieve it.

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

Thursday 5 March
6:30–9:00 pm
Golisano 3435

Gregg Lambert
(Syracuse University)

“The Idea of the Image of Thought”

As Raymond Bellour recently wrote: “There would be a history to write, spanning the twenty-six books written by Deleuze alone and in collaboration [with Guattari]: a precise, tangled history of this term and idea of the Image of Thought.” In fact, this theme can be traced throughout Deleuze’s entire oeuvre, beginning from the period of his works on Nietzsche and Proust (circa 1963) and providing a central context for defining the activity of philosophy as the creation of new concepts in the final work conceived (if not actually written) together, What Is Philosophy? (1991). Deleuze describes the idea of the “image of thought” in the 1994 preface to the English translation of Difference and Repetition as “the most necessary and concrete [problematic]” that serves as an introduction to subsequent works written after 1968. The fact that Deleuze chooses to highlight this aspect of his work for an English-speaking audience, and in light of the reception history of his translated works to date, makes this statement an important cue for reorienting the understanding of his entire philosophical project both before and afterward. In my talk, therefore, I will concentrate on the third chapter of Difference and Repetition, “The Image of Thought”, in order to underline its significance for understanding Deleuze’s philosophical project.

Sponsored by
the Department of Philosophy and
the William A. Kern Speaker Series

Thursday 12 March
3:30 pm
Bamboo Room, Alumni-Student Union

Theodore Everett
(SUNY Geneseo)

“A Model for Theories of Distributive Justice”

This paper presents a simple mathematical model for theories of distributive justice. It reduces many complex considerations to a single question: imagining a distribution system that imposes a flat-rate income tax on earnings solely in order to provide a guaranteed minimum income to every citizen, which available pair of tax rate and guaranteed income is most just? Model versions of the four main current theories of distributive justice: libertarianism, egalitarianism, utilitarianism, and Rawlsian, can be represented as distribugrams, and these four graphically define the range of possbility for stable systems of distribution. Intermediate model systems can be seen as balancing the moral forces of liberty, equality, utility, and compassion for the least well-off which separately motivate the four main theories. Viewing the range of theories of distributive justice in this simple framework sheds light on political arguments over Western welfare systems, and may suggest reforms.

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

Wednesday 18 March
1:00 – 2:00 PM
MAGIC Center (Student Innovation Hall)

Shannon Vallor
(Santa Clara University)

“The Ethics of App Development”

From wearable technology to self-driving cars, from social and military robotics to mobile gaming and communication apps, traditional ethical visions of human flourishing or the ‘good life’ are increasingly challenged to adapt to a rising tide of transformative technologies associated with software engineering innovation. These innovations challenge cultures, nations, institutions, and individuals to redefine how we understand and foster enduring human values such as privacy, autonomy, justice, trust, civility and compassion. Dr. Vallor will discuss the many areas in which ethical life is being reshaped by software innovations and in particular, app developers, whose products alter human habits, choices and values, affect how we perceive and relate to others and our world, and in general transform the ways in which our brains access and respond to ethically relevant information. Dr. Vallor will pose the question of whether ‘ethical innovation’ in app development is a contradiction in terms, an idealistic dream, or the defining mark of a thriving software industry.

Thursday 26 March
3:30 pm
Eastman 2000

Jon Tresan
(University of Rochester)

“Sketch and Defense of a Divergentist Moral Realism”

In this paper I sketch a novel version and defense of objective moral realism. Objective moral realists posit an independent moral reality. In principle they could say that they alone, or some sect or cultural tradition (like Western Civilization), are aware of that reality. But in practice they assume that moralizing — thinking, talking, and caring about morality — is panhuman (robustly cross-cultural). This has a significant implication, especially for those realists who (like me) are naturalists. For it commits them to properties (e.g., moral wrongness) which are (i) natural, (ii) instantiated, (iii) extensionally thus-and-so (e.g., had by brutality, betrayal, neglect, hogging, shirking, etc.), and (iv) the object of panhuman moralizing (e.g., of non-ulterior con-attitudes like indignation and shame, and of judgments used to display, guide, and mobilize those attitudes). Call the posit of such properties “convergentism”. Convergentism is wholly empirical, and problematically so. This paper describes and defends a version of “divergentist” realism: descriptive relativist, convergence-maker-avoiding, and thus non-convergentist. The core idea is that moral judgments and properties are in important ways like those involving units of length (e.g., inches, feet, meters, and judgments about them). The properties (e.g., being an inch) are objectively real natural properties and the judgments ascribe (just) those properties (saying “it’s an inch” is just saying that it’s an inch).

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

Thursday 9 April
3:30 pm
Eastman 1300

Golfo Maggini
(University of Ioannina/Greece)

“Phenomenological Aristotles: Heidegger Patocka”

Numerous are the studies which strive to investigate into the considerable impact of Aristotle’s ontology, practical philosophy, and rhetorics upon the formation of Heidegger’s phenomenological project. Given the number and quality of brilliant scholarly works on this issue, our aim in the lecture will not be to trace the multiple facets of Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle, but to question the necessity of such a reading for phenomenological thought. For that reason, Heidegger’s multi-faceted confrontation with Aristotelian philosophy will be viewed in the light of another great representative of the phenomenological tradition, who had also a vivid exchange with the history of philosophy through his interpretation of Plato and Aristotle, Jan Patocka. In his recently translated into French collection of essays entitled Aristote, ses devanciers, ses successeurs Patocka offers us an original, phenomenologically rigorous account of the way in which Aristotelian philosophy shaped modern Europe through the leading idea of the mathematization of movement. Thus, Patocka would agree with Heidegger’s much debated claim that Aristotle’s metaphysics is just as much physics as physics is metaphysics. Notwithstanding, while both Heidegger and Patocka acknowledge the significance of kinesis and the need for its adequate treatment with the aid of phenomenological method, their reception of Aristotle witnesses a number of significant differences. On the one hand, the early Heidegger is much closer to the late Patocka on how kinesis and energeia should be viewed in Aristotle; on the other hand, Aristotle’s alleged belonging to the history of metaphysics due to his productionist metaphysics is strictly opposed to Patocka’s interpretation of Aristotelian kinesis. The latter is made explicit in Patocka’s powerful reading of Aristotle’s confrontation with the Platonic heritage, especially with the theme of the movement of the soul in late Plato, and also in his use of Aristotelian kinesis for the phenomenological elucidation of the three movements of human existence.

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

Tuesday 28 April
3:30 pm
Campus Center Reading Room

Anne Schwan
(Edinburgh Napier University)

“Convict Voices: Women, Class, and
Writing About Prison in Nineteenth-Century England”

Co-sponsored by the Department of English and
the Department of Criminal Justice

Thursday 30 April
3:30 pm
Eastman 2000

Michael Brown

“Public History and the Public Interest:
Teaching the Ethics of Telling the Past”

To whom or what are public historians responsible when they interpret the past for audiences outside the academy? In its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the National Council on Public History states that “ethical practice” among public historians “implies a responsibility to serve the public interest”. As teaching controversial cases in American public history brings home, however, both publics and their interests are plural and contested. Rather than settling debates about how we ought to tell the past, the invocation of the public interest is itself an occasion for debate about which publics historians are responsible to and under what circumstances. By entering such debates themselves, students present diverse ethical approaches to public history that, in a culture often characterized as galloping toward the future, point to the ongoing moral significance of the past.

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

Friday 8 May
Titles, times, and rooms: TBA

6th RIT Undergraduate Conference in Philosophy

Please consult the Call for Papers above.

Here is a PDF of the conference poster.

Friday 8 May
3:30 pm
Louise Slaughter, Rooms 2230 and 2240

RIT Undergraduate Conference in Philosophy Keynote Speaker


Karen Frost-Arnold
(Hobart & William Smith Colleges)

“Trust, Accountability, and Online Anonymity”

Wikipedia vandalism, Twitter pranks, and hoax blogs are now familiar features of our online lives. A common response to these perceived abuses maintains that mechanisms of accountability are necessary to ensure the epistemic value of internet communities. Some advocate for removing anonymity from online communication. Others demand more investigations into the real-world identities behind online personas. In this talk, I discuss some of the commonly overlooked pitfalls of such online accountability. I show that accountability mechanisms can damage communities’ ability to both disseminate true beliefs and weed out errors.

Sponsored in part by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics

For further information on upcoming events, contact

Professor Tim Engström, Chair
Department of Philosophy
Office: Liberal Arts 3106
Phone: (585) 475-2457