Events Archive


When: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 from 1:00-2:30p.m.

Who: Ben Roth (Harvard)
Bio: Ben Roth studied philosophy and English at Williams College and received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. He has also held fellowships at the University of Cambridge and the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna. His research focuses on the role that narrative plays in self-understanding and self-constitution, with a particular emphasis on Heidegger.

What: "Fate and Freedom in Forking-Path Films"
Abstract: Over the last few decades, some philosophers (often called “narrativists”) have argued that we understand our lives as stories and become full selves or persons only by doing so. A fundamental challenge to this view is that characters in stories are ultimately unfree puppets controlled by authorial designs, and so narrative a bad model for real life. Formally experimental films like Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, and Mr. Nobody appear to be exceptions: rather than presenting a single linear narrative, they instead fork into a series of parallel paths, each offering a different possible life the main character might have. Such films would seem to be an ideal venue for exploring human freedom and the consequences of our choices. Remarkably, however, they are not about freedom, but instead fate and chance. Why is this? Does such a form hold untapped possibilities? Do forking-path films offer insights into how we experience both our lives and more traditional stories?

Where: SSM 117, Wawona Room


When: Friday, November 18th, 2016 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Who: Tina Rulli (UC Davis)

What: "The Mitochondrial 'Therapy' Myth"
Abstract: “Three-Parent Baby” technology, also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, was recently permitted for clinical use in the U.K. and a baby was born just last month. The U.S. is expected to start clinical trials soon. The therapy allows for women with mitochondrial diseases, which are serious diseases that are maternally transmitted to their children, to have genetically-related children free of the disease by use of a second woman’s mitochondrial DNA. The resulting children have the genetic contribution of 3 parents. I will discuss recent philosophical discussions of the technology’s purported therapeutic value. I think philosophers and bioethicists are mistaken when they claim that this is a life-saving technology and recent attempts to apply the Non-Identity Problem to variations of the technology are deeply flawed.ame amount of consideration to determining whether there are any ethical limits on how a political community enforces its immigration policy. This talk, therefore, offers a different approach to immigration justice. It presents a case against legitimate states having discretionary control over immigration by showing both how ethical limits on enforcement circumscribe the options legitimate states have in determining their immigration policy and how all immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) are entitled to certain basic protections against a state’s enforcement apparatus.

Where: SSM 317, "Half Dome"


When: Friday, October 7th, 2016 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Who: José Jorge Mendoza (UMass Lowell)

What: "Enforcement Matters: Reframing the Philosophical Debate over Immigration"
Abstract: In debating the ethics of immigration, philosophers have focused much of their attention on determining whether a political community ought to have the discretionary right to control immigration. They have not, however, given the same amount of consideration to determining whether there are any ethical limits on how a political community enforces its immigration policy. This talk, therefore, offers a different approach to immigration justice. It presents a case against legitimate states having discretionary control over immigration by showing both how ethical limits on enforcement circumscribe the options legitimate states have in determining their immigration policy and how all immigrants (including undocumented immigrants) are entitled to certain basic protections against a state’s enforcement apparatus.

Where: SSM 317, "Half Dome"


When: Friday, December 4th, 2015 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Who: Andrew Fiala (Fresno State)

What: "Nonviolence and Philosophy"
Abstract: In "Nonviolence and Philosophy" Andrew Fiala will discuss connections between philosophy and nonviolence including: how philosophical methodology is related to nonviolence; historical examples of philosophers who have advocated nonviolence; the problem of absolute pacifism; and how philosophy is connected to hope for a more peaceful world. Fiala is past President of Concerned Philosophers for Peace. His published work focuses on just war theory, pacifism, ethics, and social and political philosophy. Two of his recent Fresno Bee articles might be of interest and are connected to the talk. Last weekend was one focused on the value of philosophy and liberal arts education. You can find it here. Two weekends ago, he focused on nonviolence and discussed the recent violent events on the UC Merced campus. You can find it here.

Where: SSM 117, "Wawona"


When: Friday, November 7th, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Who: Lara Buchak (University of California, Berkeley)

What: "What is Faith?"

Where: SSM 317, "Half Dome"


When: Friday, April 4th, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Who: Manuel Vargas (San Francisco University)

What: "From Latin American to Latin@ Philosophy"
Abstract: "It is unclear how to think about the nature of Latin American philosophy and its relationship to recently emerging work that is sometimes described as “Latina/o philosophy.” First, there is the matter of what Latin American and Latina/o philosophy are, and what sorts of things count as instances of each. Second, there is the matter of why any of this matters. Partly because Latin American and Latina/o philosophy are virtually invisible to the English-speaking world, one might reasonably wonder whether there is any reason to care about the contents and developments of this body of philosophical work. The aims of this talk are to (1) present an account of how to understand Latin American and Latina/o philosophy and (2) to argue that there are substantial costs to philosophy departments without an expertise in these areas."

Where: SSM 117, "Wawona"


When: Friday, February 21st, 2014 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Who: Camisha Russell (UC Irvine)

What: "Race: How it matters in reproductive technologies"
Abstract: "In this talk, I will show why it is important to think about the role of race in assisted reproductive technology (ART) practices. To do this, I will draw upon insights from the philosophy of technology, to explore the racialized construction of ‘infertility,’ the ways in which ART practices can participate in and further systems of global inequality, and the role of race in the construction and maintenance of the ‘natural’ in and through ART use. I will conclude with a discussion of how race itself might be considered as a technology operating alongside other technologies in the fertility clinic and other reproductive contexts."

Where: SSM 317, "Half Dome"


When: Friday, November 8th, 2013 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Who: Sharon Lloyd (USC)

What: "The Modern State Through a Hobbesian Lense"
Abstract: "The problems of the modern state are different in at least two major ways from the problem of the state Hobbes addressed. First, Hobbes did not foresee the possibility of states exercising totalitarian control over their subjects, or control anything close to the degree seen in the 20th C in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, or present day North Korea. Second, Hobbes did not foresee the possibility that international conflicts could have any serious, let alone catastrophic, impact on the quality of life of civilians within the warring states, as WWII did in much of Europe and Asia. However, I’ll argue, Hobbes’s theory has the resources to address these modern problems, as well as a promising strategy for confronting emerging challenges to states, such as suicide terrorism."

Where: SSM 217, "El Capitan"

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When: Friday, October 11th, 2013 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Who: Roberta Millstein (UC Davis)
Biography: Roberta L. Millstein is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at UC Davis, where she is also affiliated with the Science and Technology Studies Program and the John Muir Institute of the Environment. Her research is in the philosophy of science and the history & philosophy of biology as well as environmental ethics. She is particularly interested in intersections between evolutionary biology, ecology, and environmental issues. She has published in numerous journals, including Philosophy of Science, Biology and Philosophy, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Bio-medical Sciences, Journal of the History of Biology, and Biological Theory. She is also a co-editor of the recently published Mechanism and Causality in Biology and Economics.

What: "Re-examining the Darwinian Basis for Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic”
Abstract: "Aldo Leopold has been referred to as a "prophet" within the field of conservation biology and his land ethic has become the basis for a prominent environmental ethic known as "ecocentrism." Many philosophers have become familiar with Leopold's work through the writings of J. Baird Callicott, who has sought to explicate, defend, and extend Leopold's land ethic. According to Callicott, Leopold bases his land ethic on a "protosociobiological" argument that Charles Darwin gives in the Descent of Man, drawing on the ethical views of David Hume and Adam Smith. On this view, which has become the canonical interpretation, Leopold's land ethic is based on extending our moral sentiments to ecosystems, feelings that are "automatically triggered" once we understand that we (humans) are members of a biotic community with other animals as well as plants, soils, and waters. I argue that the evidence weighs in favor of an alternative interpretation of Leopold; his reference to Darwin does not refer to the Descent of Man, but rather to the Origin of Species, where Darwin discusses the interdependencies between organisms in the struggle for existence. Not only does this reinterpretation avoid the difficulties with the Humean/Smithian basis for the land ethic, but it also opens up important discussions about communities as morally considerable, about the importance of interdependence, and about the nature of ecosystem stability."

Where: SSM 217, "El Capitan"

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