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2010-2011 Schedule

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.