Hale Ethics Series, 2016-17

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics


Thursday, September 8th, 4-5:30, Bamboo Room

Evelyn Brister (Philosophy, RIT)

"Doing Good and Being Wrong: Ethics and Ignorance"

How should we think about ethics education if, rather than training people to be good, the point of ethics education is to address ignorance? That is, what follows if we take seriously Plato's view of morality—that unethical actions are often the result of sloppy, careless thinking, and not evil intentions? I argue that if we think of ethical action as depending on knowledge, then the curriculum for practical ethics should emphasize moral psychology, ethical reasoning skills, the status of moral facts, and examples of avoidable moral mistakes.

Thursday, September 29th, 4-5:30, Bamboo Room

James Walker (Philosophy, DePaul)

"Decolonizing Conflict Narratives: Towards a Phenomenology of Peace"

For centuries, those interested in the moral analysis of the use of military force - in particular the question of jus ad bellum - have relied upon a conceptual framework known as "just war theory." It is the contention of this paper that this framework ultimately presupposes a manner of narrating conflict that dehumanizes those subjects living within the boundaries of those situations the ethicist aims to analyze from that theoretical perspective. Just war theory forces us to view the situations we are attempting to analyze in a manner that smuggles in problematic colonial presuppositions about subjects and the essential power relations that are fundamental to conflict and the struggle for peace in the lived world. After teasing out the problematic colonial presuppositions of just war theorizing, this paper will begin sketching an alternative manner of engaging in the moral conceptualization of war that relies on a phenomenological analysis of peace that emphasizes the strategizing and maneuvering of subjects "on the ground" as they live within the complex web of power relations that is fundamental to those subjects' notions of self and place in the world. In developing these points, cases from the web of conflicts that has continued to engulf the Great Lakes Region of Africa will be utilized.

Friday, October 28th, 3-5, Liberal Arts - A205

Simon Blackburn (Philosophy, University of North Carolina)

"Feelings and Judgments"

A number of authors (Parfit, Nussbaum) have downplayed the place of feelings in moral philosophy, or indeed extringuished their importance altogether. By assimilating feelings to sensations they exclude them from the field of reasons. However, not only the Scottish sentimentalists but writers such as Brentano and Ryle have taken a very different tack. In this paper I argue that Brentano and Ryle are right and diagnose the mistakes that Parfit and Nussbaum make. Feelings both give us reasons for actions, and themselves respond to reasons.



Thursday, February 23rd, 4-5:30, Room 01-2000

Benjamin Banta (Political Science, RIT)

"‘The Sort of War They Deserve’?: Interwar Air Power Ethics and the Debate over Lethal Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles"

Grounded in a desire for the ethics of war to have some practical effect, ethicists are beset by a dual anxiety: too restrictive and no one with power will listen; too permissive and the powerful gain destructive moral cover. One of the primary challenges of this ethic-building-to-practical effect is the way new military technologies change the character of war by empowering agents in new ways. Indeed, there is at present an ever-growing literature that seeks to apply, defend and / or update the ethics of war in light of what is often argued to be an unprecedented period of rapid advance in military technology. To add to our confidence in whether our ethical approach to one particularly important new military technology, lethal Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), will find success in effectively and appropriately constraining war, this article examines the somewhat analogous historical case of the ethical debate over the rise of air power during the interwar period. That historical case presents a real failure to ethically constrain war in the face of a potentially revolutionary new weapon. By highlighting the interrelated processes of technological change, ethical debate, and the eventual reconciliation of war practice and war ethics, key elements of this failure are leveraged to offer theoretical advice that might help ethicists maintain their “critical edge” as lethal UAVs continue to mature and proliferate.

Thursday, March 23rd, 4-5:30,Room 01-2000

Richard Dees (Philosophy & Director of Program in Bioethics, University of Rochester)

Primum Non Nocere Mortuis: Bioethics and the Interests of the Dead"

Despite the apparently paradoxical nature of the claim, I will defend the idea that we can harm the dead. Positing that the dead have interests both makes sense of our practices, and it accords with the ways that we create value in our lives. Moreover, I argue that the reasons we can harm the dead shed light on many issues in bioethics, including organ donation, posthumous reproduction, end-of-life decisions, and advance directives for dementia.

Thursday, April 20th, 4-5:30, Room 01-2000

David Suits (Philosophy, RIT)

“Miguel’s Choice: Killing Innocent Persons for the Greater Good”

If one must take reasonable precautions to not harm people, and if the intentional use of violence against a person requires justification, and if self-defense can be such a justification, then even in one’s act of self-defense, one must take reasonable precautions to not harm innocent persons. Even unintentionally and mistakenly harming innocent persons can sometimes be grounds for moral criticism. But what of unintentionally and knowingly harming innocent persons in one’s pursuit of a significant “higher good” (such as freeing one’s society from the yoke of an oppressive tyranny)? Can the goal of a “higher good” relax the reasonable precautions rule?


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