Hale Ethics Series, 2017-18

Sponsored by the Hale Chair in Applied Ethics



Thursday, September 21st, 4-5:30, 1-2000

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.And more.

Thursday, October 19th, 4-5:30, Bamboo Room, Student Alumni Union

Irina Mikhalevich (Philosophy, RIT)

"Minds Without Spines: Towards a More Comprehensive Animal Ethics"

Invertebrate animals comprise roughly 95% of all animal species and over 99.99% of all extant animals, yet they have been largely ignored within philosophical accounts of animal rights and animal welfare. To the extent that ‘invertebrates’ are discussed in the animal ethics literature, they are typically lumped into a single undifferentiated category despite their remarkable diversity, and subsequently excluded from subject-centered moral consideration and experimental welfare protections (with a recent exception for octopuses). Recent developments in comparative cognition research, however, suggest the presence of sophisticated cognitive abilities in many invertebrates, and comparative neurobiology is beginning to reveal how the ‘alien’ brains of these animals can give rise to cognition and, perhaps, consciousness. At the same time, conceptual and methodological problems in animal cognition science result in significant uncertainties about the presence of complex cognition in animals generally and invertebrates in particular, and it is unclear how these scientific uncertainties should affect our ethical analyses. The present talk lays the foundation for a more comprehensive, inclusive and scientifically engaged animal ethics – one that responds both to the novel scientific evidence and to the philosophical challenges that confront the study of the animal mind. 

Thursday, November 16th, 4-5:30, 1-2000

Thomas Beauchamp (Philosophy, Georgetown)

"Moral Problems in the Quest for Human-nonhuman Chimeras with Human Organs"

This paper is on the ethics of uses of human stem cells to create human-nonhuman chimeras with human organs. It may smack of science fiction, but it isn't. It's happening and is a real problem in both Japan (which has banned it) and the NIH (which is trying to decide whether to lift its ban).  My analysis is oriented to some questions NIH is probing (probably not very well) about the ethics of the research and about animal welfare. I deal with some interesting questions in ethical theory about moral status, person theory, and the like. 

Co-sponsored by the College of Science.


Thursday, February 22nd, 12:30-1:50, Liberal Arts, A205

John Capps (Philosophy, RIT)

“Truth in the Time of Trump"

Donald Trump's candidacy and presidency introduced many of us to the idea of "alternate facts" and a "post-truth" nation. But what's so wrong with that? For decades academics and others have argued that facts and truth are not as solid as we think, that many facts are "constructed" not discovered, that truth is relative, and that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Instead I'll argue that it is pretty bad, but to see why requires thinking more clearly about what truth is, the purpose it serves, and how eactly democratic institutions rely on the concept of truth.

Thursday, March 8th, 4-5:30, Bamboo Room, Campus Center

Russell Powell (Philosophy, Boston University)

“Rehabilitating ‘Disease’: Function, Value, and Objectivity in Medicine”

Despite several decades of discussion and debate, the concept of disease remains hotly contested. There is no consensus among medical theorists, ethicists or practitioners as to which of the three dominant accounts of disease in the literature is preferable and why. Due to a number of widely discussed problems associated with each account, some theorists argue that the concept of disease is beyond repair and thus recommend eliminating it entirely. Given the severity of this proposal, it is incumbent upon disease theorists to answer the eliminativist challenge. In this paper, I examine some widely cited criticisms of naturalist, normative, and hybrid accounts of ‘disease,’ and argue that although standard accounts are in need of refinement, they do not suffer from the particular problems that many critics have identified. Furthermore, I contend that the problems these accounts do suffer from do not warrant purging the disease concept from our medical vocabulary, given the significant epistemic and ethical costs of doing so. I positively reframe and defend a thickly normative hybrid account of disease in the context of healthcare institutions that I believe places the hybrid theory, and objectivist approaches to disease more broadly, on stronger theoretical footing.

Thursday, April 26th, 4-5:30, Liberal Arts, A205

Josephine Wolff (Public Policy & Computing Security, RIT)

“A Brief History of Ethical Hacking"

For decades, laws in the United States and elsewhere have narrowly circumscribed the types of computer-based activities considered legal, drawing sharp and sometimes surprising distinctions between legitimate computer use and cybercrime. In this talk, I will briefly discuss two of the most significant pieces of legislation in the U.S. that have defined these distinctions between legal and illegal hacking--the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--how these distinctions were drawn, and how they have continued to be applied as our devices and networks have changed, often in controversial cases that stray far from their initial intent. The second part of the talk will focus on how our understanding of what might constitute "ethical" (or legal) hacking has shifted over the past five years and the different mechanisms by which companies, courts, and Congress have explored in recent years for trying to create viable avenues for individuals and researchers to engage in hacking activities that have previously been viewed as criminal. The talk will conclude with some discussion of why distinguishing between legal, or ethical, hacking activities and illegal cyber crimes continues to be a challenge and possible paths forward.



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