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Green Bay Area

Philosophers’ Café

2013-2014 Schedule

Thursday, September 12: What is it? The illusion of gender

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Dan Meinhardt

What is it? That was likely the first question ever asked about you, so it's no surprise that a person's gender plays a large role in their identity. However, despite the fact that we think of human sex (and thus gender) as a dimorphic feature (either male or female), the biological reality is much more complex. Human sexual anatomy takes many more forms than the two common ones with which we are all familiar. When we consider the highly plastic nature of anatomy, and even more variable traits associated with gender, the idea that humans come in two forms becomes rather absurd.

Thursday, October 10: In Progress

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: John Holder

In progress.

Thursday, November 14: Food Waste and Food Insecurity

Location: Kavarna (143 North Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Sarah Himmelheber

According the USDA, one out of every six people living in the United States currently experiences food insecurity. Consequently, food pantries continue to report increased overall demand, as well as a shift from emergency to regular use by clients. With so many community members struggling to meet their own food needs, the levels of tolerated food waste become even more shocking. The amount of waste inherent in the dominant, industrial food system has gained agenda status over the last decade. Could the answer—or part of the answer— be as simple as harnessing what would be wasted and directing it towards those in need? Or, as some anti-hunger advocates have argued, is this just a “band-aid” approach that masks issues of power and control in the food system? These issues will be explored at this month’s Philosophers Café.

Thursday, December 12: Men are gigolos, women are gold diggers

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Christine Smith

According to Sexual Strategies Theory of evolutionary psychology, women and men have developed divergent mating strategies because of reproductive differences. This has resulted in sex differences in commitment seeking, parental investment, desire for sexual variety, qualities preferred in short-term and long-term mates, and causes of sexual conflict between men and women. In this month’s Philosopher’s Café, we will address such issues as: Is anatomy destiny? Is rape an evolutionary adaptation? Are women and men fundamentally different in what they desire in romantic partners and in their sexual motivations?

Thursday, January 9: Social Capital and Civic Engagement in Brown County

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Lora Warner

In 2000, in his book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam famously described the decline in social capital in the U.S.. Social capital is defined as the networks of relationships we build by being out and involved in our communities. Communities that have high rates of social capital and civic engagement are able to solve problems together and improve quality of life; it is also important for our democratic form of government. Where does the Green Bay area stand with regard to social capital, as measured by rates of volunteerism, voting, philanthropy, and other forms of involvement? What are the implications? After describing the concept of social capital and its importance, we'll look over some recent data about our area (including the LIFE Study), talk about what you've observed, and what we might do about it.

Thursday, February 13: The Illusion of Free Will

Location: Kavarna (143 North Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Christopher Martin

Each of us are experientially convinced that we are the sole determinants of many of our actions, that we often choose our behavior ourselves. But we are also somewhat aware of the massive influence that our early-life environments, education and upbringing, physical and psychological states, character and social pressures have on our behaviors. Is there room amidst this massive set of controlling influences for the individual to sometimes choose for him/herself how they will act? Can we justify the deep feeling that we are sometimes genuinely free? If not, how might this impact our conception of morality, who we choose to love and to marry, etc… We’ll explore these and related issues at this month’s Philosophers Café.

Thursday, March 13: Political Relevance

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Caroline Boswell

Do your political ideals match your own behavior towards your fellow peers, co-workers, family members, students/professors? Do you think political and social values should be relative to given contexts and circumstances? Should, for example, university students be able to vote on major curricular and university reforms just as they can vote in major political elections? Should bosses be liable to votes of no confidence or recalls by her or his workers, or answerable to superiors alone? Are their situations in which elitism is the best of all possible options, and others where democracy or even autocracy should be guiding ideologies?

Thursday, April 10: The Ethics of Non-native species

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Mike Draney

Biologists often separate the species living in an area into two categories: Native species (those that arrived at the area without the intentional or unintentional assistance of humans and their technology) and non-native species (those that arrived at an area where they probably or certainly could not have arrived without human transportation). Most ecologists believe the distinction is critical in managing ecosystems, because the rate of new species arriving at many ecosystems is orders of magnitude higher than the pre-human “background” rate, and because species often have large ecological effects on their new homes, often even leading to the extinction of native forms. Others have stated that human transportation is “natural” and that there is no a priori reason why immigrant species are intrinsically less valuable than the natives. They ask why species can’t be considered to be “naturalized” after a period of time. So…do natives deserve special status, should non-native species ever be given higher status as naturalized members of ecosystems? Or should it “depend” on the situation?

Thursday, May 8: The ‘What if…?’ Question in History

Location: Kavarna (143 North Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Vince Lowery

Why do we think of history in such counterfactual terms? Taking the issue in a slightly different direction, why are we obsessed with the idea of time travel and, on the one hand, the possibilities it might hold to change the past and, on the other, the dangers such action might pose? We consume ourselves with the way we might correct past mistakes or learn from them to avoid repeating them. Yet the study of the past is so much more, compelling us to move beyond the facts to a study of cause and effect and the complex motivations and actions of historical actors. And while the events of the past may seem similar, we lose sight of context and difference by suggesting that the past repeats itself. At the core of this is the idea of history and our relationship to it, our dissatisfaction with events, and our desire to somehow seem in control and able to dictate the course of events. We’ll explore these issues at this month’s Cafe

Thursday, May 2: Personal Responsibility in an Age of Mental Illness

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Angela Bauer, PhD (UW Green Bay)

Thursday, April 4: The Extended Mind Thesis: How Large Am I Really?

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Eric Hagedorn, PhD (St. Norbert)

Traditionally, it's been thought that human minds would have to be either immaterial souls or material brains (or perhaps brains plus nervous systems). But it's been recently suggested by Andy Clark and David Chalmers that our minds might in fact be far larger material objects than we ever suspected: given a common understanding of what counts as a mental state, it's not unreasonable to think that our smartphones, our computers, and perhaps even other human beings can legitimately be parts of our own minds. We'll spend some time discussing the reasons Clark and Chalmers give for their thesis, and then turn our attention to some of the implications if they're right. Does having a smartphone as part of my mind make me a cyborg? Have we already greatly surpassed the biological limitations on mentality, thus making us somehow "transhumans"? Or are our increasingly diffuse minds making us somehow less than human?

Thursday, March 7: Science and the Big Questions

Location: Kavarna (143 North Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Kaija Mortensen, PhD (St. Norbert)

In this café we will consider what role the results of scientific studies should play in answering the "big questions" of human existence – questions about knowledge, consciousness, free will, and moral responsibility. Philosophers draw a distinction between descriptive and normative questions. Descriptive questions ask how things in reality are. Normative questions ask how things ought to be. Some philosophers warn us against drawing normative conclusions from descriptive facts. Yet, philosophers are incorporating scientific results (even running their own experiments in some cases) into their philosophical work at an ever increasing rate. In what ways does this trend help or hinder the ability of philosophers to illuminate our understanding of ourselves as humans?

Thursday, February 7: Have the Humanities Lost their Way?

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Christopher Martin, PhD (UW Green Bay)

Have the Humanities lost their way? It was the Humanities, you’ll recall, that brought us the notion of a liberal arts education. An education, the notion went, was directed specifically at the strengthening or betterment of our intellectual and emotional lives. This emphasis has over the years filtered into non-Humanities disciplines. Is this a good thing for our students, or have we lost something in the process? We’ll discuss the role of the Humanities in today’s institutions of higher learning, asking what if anything they alone have to offer, whether this is a Good or not, and how we might work to implement (or not) whatever alterations we might have in our course.

December 5, 2012: Happiness

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Leanne Kent, PhD (St. Norbert)

The Declaration of Independence recognizes our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Should government policy focus on the happiness and well-being of its populace? Should government measure its success not only in the familiar terms of GDP and GNP, but also in terms of a GHP - a ‘Gross Happiness Product’? We will look into some findings from psychology and happiness in hopes of identifying policies that might be incorporated into public policy. We will also look at ways governments around the world have done this and, most importantly, will consider whether such public policy initiatives are enlightened and progressive or seriously misguided.

November 7, 2012: Citizen Activism in a Digital Age

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Eric Morgan, PhD (UW Green Bay)

What role should citizen activism play in modern America? In an increasingly interconnected electronic world of blogs, social networking media, and seemingly universal instant gratification -- coupled with the astronomical financial cost of political campaigns -- the grassroots movements of old now seem rather quaint. But does it remain possible to develop prolonged and widespread movements like abolitionism or civil rights in our fragmented and hyperkinetic society? How has technology helped to change and shape modern activism? How should Americans become involved in the myriad issues of the day, particularly given the challenges of seemingly disinterested politicians and corporations? We will discuss these questions and more as we explore the role of the citizen within a modern democratic society.

October 3, 2012: The Politics of Food

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Dallas Blaney, PhD (UW Green Bay)

Following a disappointing growing season in the US and Russia, we are now facing a third major global food crisis in the last fifteen years. Given widespread expectations of increased climate volatility it seems likely that we may experience additional crises in the near future. We will discuss who suffers the most from such calamities and whether the United States, given its relative wealth and technology, ought to be doing more than other countries to stem this tide. Should we initiate a global strategic food reserve? We will discuss whether certain conceptions of justice make such a move a moral imperative.

September 5, 2012: Political Left and Right in Conversational (not Shouting) Distance

Location: A's (112 N Broadway, De Pere), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Paul Johnson, PhD (St. Norbert)

We will look at the political theories of both John Rawls and Robert Nozick and discuss how these theoretical foundations relate to the basic insights of the political left and right. The challenge is to find a way to respect these insights, and incorporate them into workable policy solutions to the problems that confront us today. The danger is that each side will fail to appreciate the importance and value of the opposed viewpoint, engage in vociferous one-sided defense of its own vision and thereby undercut the middle ground between them where effective solutions are to be found.

May 10, 2012: The Public Sphere, Popular Culture, and Political Discourse

Location: St. Brendan's Inn (234 South Washington Street Green Bay), by the fireplace, 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Timothy Dale, PhD. UWGB, Political Science

By definition, a democratic society requires active and engaged citizens. Despite the fact that America has notoriously low voter turnout, we have a dynamic and complex public sphere in which other kinds of political activities take place. In this session we will consider political participation from a philosophical perspective, with attention to the relationship between politics and popular culture. We will consider questions such as: What counts as political participation? What impact does popular culture have on political discourse? What kinds of messages are appearing in popular culture, and what impact do they have on the people who consume them? Can the production and consumption of popular culture count as political participation?

April 12, 2012: Harnessing the Adaptive Power of Anger

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), Green Room, 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Ryan Martin, PhD., UWGB, Human Development

We can probably all remember a time when we were so angry that we did something we regret. Maybe it was embarrassing, maybe it was cruel, or maybe it was damaging to ourselves or someone we care about. In this way, our rage can harm us and interfere with our success. At the same, anger is inevitable and it fuels our behavior in meaningful and important ways so trying to eliminate it from our lives is both misguided and impossible. The question then becomes how can we use our anger in positive and prosocial ways. How can we feel it, listen to it, learn from it, and use it to make our lives better.

March 8, 2012: Just War Theory: Ethical Perspectives and Issues

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: David Duquette, Ph.D. St. Norbert College, Philosophy

This café will focus on three central aspects of just war theory: 1. The distinction between jus ad bellum (having just cause to go to war) and jus in bello (waging war justly). I will lay out the basic considerations that fall under each and raise questions about whether these are necessary and/or sufficient conditions for a just war. 2. The rights or prerogatives of the military and individual soldiers in fighting justly. One salient question is whether, under what conditions, and to what extent military units and soldiers can forfeit their basic human rights in warfare. 3. The principle of non-combatant immunity. Is it a principle to be applied absolutely? If not, what is the extent of application, or under what conditions could it be overridden? Topical issues including terrorism, the use of torture, and indefinite detention may be considered in the context of Just War theory.

February 9, 2012: What's Good about Religious Beliefs?

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), Green Room, 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Mara Brecht, Ph.D., St. Norbert College, Religious Studies

Consider the following statements: "I believe God to be supremely good and loving." "I believe the fire hydrant to be around the block." People claim beliefs about God in the same way they claim beliefs about human nature, politics ordinary events, and even the weather. But are beliefs about God and ordinary beliefs about the world really alike? If they are, should religious beliefs be subject to the same kinds of assessments that we make about other, ordinary beliefs? If they are not like other types of belief, then should they be subject to other sets of tests and assessments? If so, what kinds? In short, what is the nature of religious belief? Can religious beliefs be considered to be 'real' beliefs in the same way our other beliefs are?

January 12, 2012: The Morality (or otherwise) of the Free Market: Bernard de Mandeville v. Adam Smith

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Paul Johnson, Ph.D., St. Norbert College, Philosophy

Adam Smith is frequently invoked as the uncritical and enthusiastic proponent of free market capitalism who might well espouse the doctrine "Greed is Good." This is a serious confusion. The uncritical and joyous embrace of even the most virulent forms of capitalist excess can, however, be imputed to Smith's early 18th century forebear, Bernard Mandeville. This Cafe session will discuss the moral orientation of these two authors for the purpose of raising for ourselves anew the problems and prospects for free market economics in our own troubled day.

December 8, 2011: Human Rights and Human Dignity

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Robert Pyne, Th.D. St. Norbert College, Senior Director for Community Engagement

On what basis can we articulate and defend universal human rights in intercultural and pluralistic contexts? How do such claims relate to national autonomy and religious freedom?

November 10, 2011: Ethics of Food

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Christopher Martin, PhD., UWGB, Philosophy

What is 'food'? What if any are the ethical dimensions of the way in which it is grown, harvested, transported and sold? In this cafe we will take a look at ways in which food and its production have been revolutionized in the last half century or so. We'll discuss the genetic modifications of 'food', how this affects their nutritional content, and what if anything might be worrisome about it. We will look at this issue from the perspective of food growers and companies, consumers and the environment.

October 13, 2011: Coupling: The Nature of Romantic Relationships in Human Life

Location: Harmony Café (1660 W Mason St., Green Bay), Green Room, 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Denise Bartell, Ph.D., UWGB, Human Development

Why do couple bonds exist? How do they influence our lives? Why do we choose who we choose for these relationships? What is a “successful” relationship? Couple relationships are a core feature of most humans’ lives, and a quick review of the content of our literature, music and video media effectively illustrates the amount of cognitive and emotional energy that we, as a culture, expend in the exploration of these relationships. This Café will examine central questions about the nature of love, sex and couple relationships, drawing upon information from both the sciences and humanities.

September 15, 2011: What's the Point? Death and a Meaningful Life

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Tanya Randle, PhD. St. Norbert College, Philosophy

The knowledge that you are going to die is part of being human. After all, as everyone knows, the death rate is 100%! That knowledge shapes how we understand ourselves in our world, but it is it possible for me really to understand my own death or to prepare myself for it? And what meaning could my life, my projects, my accomplishments have in the face of my own inevitable death? If I and everyone I know and care for will cease to exist, what's the point of all this struggle, stress, joy, boredom, beauty, happiness, and pain we call life? Since I know that I am going to die, must I believe in some afterlife in order for this life in the here and now to have meaning? Or is this knowledge of my own death the very thing that makes life meaningful?

May 12, 2011: Freedom as Self Determination

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: David Duquette, Ph.D., St. Norbert College - Philosophy

We will examine the basic meanings of freedom and how one-sided views about the nature of freedom result from an incomplete account of the concept. Freedom as self-determination provides the fullest understanding of freedom, which includes:

I will explain each of the dimensions of freedom and then invite the group to discuss the conceptualization, along with relevant examples and practical implications.

April 14, 2011: Knowing Me, Knowing You, and Knowing Us

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Adam Green, Ph.D., St. Norbert College - Philosophy

A topic of universal interest both personal and academic is that of what it means to know another person. Whether we are concerned with Aristotle's notion of the friend as a second self, the traditional problem of other minds, thinking about empathy and ethical motivation, trying to go about obeying Socrates' injunction to "know thyself", or coming to terms with the nature of systematic social prejudices, there is much at stake philosophically in coming to terms with what it means to be the social beings we are. If you are interested in discussing issues related to what it means to know oneself and others and in getting a brief introduction to the academic discussion of this familiar topic, then please mosey down to Kavarna's on April 14th at 7:00 for the Philosopher's Cafe.

March 10, 2011: Science and Religion

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Tanya Randle, Ph.D., St. Norbert College - Philosophy

From Copernicus' revolutionary claim that the earth revolves around the sun to the attempts of contemporary cognitive scientists and evolutionary biologists to explain (or explain away) religious belief, there has existed a tension between modern science and religion. How should we understand the complex relationship between science and religion? Can science "prove" religion, a particular religion or religion in general, wrong? Or if not, can science at least provide strong justification for skepticism toward religious claims to truth and knowledge? Can scientific studies of religious phenomena ever do justice to those phenomena, especially with respect to the perspective of the involved participants within a particular religious tradition or practice? To address these questions, we will need to consider several more basic questions: What is the difference between religion and science? What is the goal of scientific inquiry? What, if any, is the goal of religious practice and belief? What does it mean to be religious or scientific, in the first place?

February 10, 2011: What is Torture?

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay), 7:00-8:30
Moderator: Derek S.Jeffreys, Ph.D., UWGB – Philosophy

In the last decade, we have seen fierce public debates about torture. What exactly is torture? Why is it morally wrong? Should we ever torture? Has the United States tortured in the "war on terror?" In this session of the Philosophers' Café, we consider the definition of torture. After noting the dangers of definitions, we explore select issues in the philosophy of action. We then examine one philosophical definition of torture, critically examining its key elements. To test this definition's adequacy, we consider interrogation practices like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

January 13, 2011: Beliefs

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay)
Moderator: Chris Martin, Ph.D., UWGB - Philosophy

Beliefs. We all have them, but how do we get them? What grounds our political convictions? What explains our theistic or atheistic inclinations? In short, where do our beliefs come from? Are some simply innate? Might there be an evolutionary account? How much of an influence do our lived circumstances play? To what degree (if any) are our beliefs matters of genuine personal choice? Another important question about beliefs regards their content - what, exactly, is the content of our beliefs? Take perceptions: are the contents of perceptions just images or pictures of the world in our minds, or do our perceptions include the objects themselves? Might the actual contents of perceptions and thoughts extend beyond our own persons? Could there be a kind of public super-sphere where all our ideas converge? Beliefs, it might surprise you to hear, are complicated and controversial things. This month's Philosopher's Cafe will explore several different aspects of these indispensable though convoluted and controversial items of our everyday existence.

December 9, 2010: The History of Drink

Location: St. Brendan’s Inn (234 S. Washington St., Green Bay)
Moderator: Caroline Boswell, Ph.D., UWGB - History

How do we define political action in our history? Do we think merely of voting and representation? Or perhaps we think of rioting and violent resistance? In this session we will delve into the political significance of everyday activities - including drinking practices - noting how seemingly mundane activities contributed to the creation of a dynamic political culture in the West. We will also discuss whether we've seen a decline in political engagement or simply a transformation in culture.

November 11, 2010: Business Ethics

Location: Harmony Cafe (1660 W. Mason Street, Green Bay)
Moderator: Leanne Kent, Ph.D., St. Norbert College – Philosophy

The concept of the triple-bottom line - assessing the success of a business in terms of its impact on people, the planet, and profit - is gaining increased attention and acceptance amongst scholars and business persons alike. We will consider whether the well-being of people in local and global communities, the health of the environment, and the profitability of the company are all legitimate ends of business which ought to guide decisions, policy, and practices or whether the triple-bottom line is born out of misconceptualization of the nature and purpose of business. In addition to discussing the nature of business, topics of discussion may also include issues regarding the management of conflicts between these ends, the relative importance of these ends, and the scope of the responsibility of businesses to their various constituencies.

October 14, 2010: Of sound mind and healthy body: medicine and philosophy in the ancient world

Location: Kavarna (143 N Broadway, Green Bay)
Moderator: Joel Mann, Ph.D., St. Norbert College – Philosophy

Philosophy flourished for the first time in ancient Greece. Simultaneously, medicine came into its own both in theory and practice. Indeed, medicine and philosophy were often closely linked in the ancient world, and some may be surprised to find that philosophy, in its reflections on the good life, often drew on concepts current in contemporary medicine. How important is biological theory to medical practice? Analogously, how relevant is ethical theory to practical living? Does the healthy body serve as a useful model for achieving health in the soul? Is there even a relevant difference between these two kinds of health?

September 16, 2010: Environmental Ethics

Moderator: Christopher Martin, Ph.D., UWGB - Philosophy
Location: Nicky’s Lionhead Tavern (331 Main Avenue, De Pere, WI)

Aldo Leopold, a Wisconsin native, is recognized as the founder of an ecocentric ethic for the environment – something he called a 'land-ethic'. At the core of Leopold's theory lies the notion that the land is deserving of moral value, of moral consideration. The history of ethical thought shows that it has gradually expanded the realm of moral consideration to include more and different kinds of entities. The civil rights and suffrage movements attest to this, as does the animal rights movement that has been gaining ground of late. Leopold suggests that the next step in this progression will be an inclusion of the land itself as an entity worthy of moral consideration. His most direct and controversial phrasing of this holds that “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotoc community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” We'll spend some time discussing Leopold's view. What would it mean to extend moral value to the land? Isn't a capacity to feel a prerequisite of moral consideration? What reasons might be given for and against Leopold's view? How, if he is right, could we mitigate between competing conflicts of interest? Does ethical primacy reside within living individuals, or is it spread throughout the natural world in which they find themselves? Leopold's land-ethic will provide us an opportunity to probe the boundaries and underlying tenets of our alleged moral responsibility to the environment.

For more information, you may contact Christopher Martin at UW-Green Bay.