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2012-2013 Schedule

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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, 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)