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2021-2022 Schedule

Tuesday, October 12: The Causes of the First World War: New Thoughts on the "Seminal Crisis of the 20th Century"

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Mark Karau (History & Humanities, UWGB)

This discussion will look at the causes of the First World War. We will discuss the traditional views of why the war started and who was to blame for it, as well as how those views evolved over the course of the 20th century. The heart of our discussion will examine some newer works that have called those earlier views into question. In the process we will discuss how historians work, using this event as a case study, and how we "revise" what we know about the past.

Wednesday, November 10: Does the Concept of "Nature" Help Us Make Sense of Sexuality and Gender Identity?

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Craig Ford (Theology and Religious Studies, St. Norbert)

The concept of 'nature' as well as its cognate concepts—most notably, if not most notoriously, the natural law—have been used by philosophers and theologians alike to ground the conclusion that non-straight sexual identities as well as transgender and gender nonbinary identities are morally problematic. Contrary to this widely shared judgment, I believe that a concept of 'nature' and of the 'natural law' can actually provide substantial epistemic assistance in affirming new understandings of human sexual and gender diversity, both in theological and philosophical registers. 

Wednesday, December 8: What is the Meaning of Life in Prison?

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Nolan Bennett (Democracy & Justice Studies, UWGB)

Although Americans today are increasingly familiar with the controversy over capital punishment, little attention is paid to what some call “the other death penalty”: life sentences without the possibility of parole. Despite growing calls for prison reform from the right, left, and center, “there has been virtually no public discussion of life imprisonment,” Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project write. This modern form of punishment presents a number of challenging ethical and political questions: what does it mean to spend a life in prison? What does it mean to be a member of society that condemns others to die in prison? Adding to the challenge of these questions is the complex legal and political status of life sentences in America, where the specific nature of punishment varies greatly from state to state. In this Philosophers’ Café we’ll wrestle with these enduring issues and others that face the United States and those serving so-called “death-in-prison sentences.”

Wednesday, February 9: Into the Metaverse

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Bryan Carr (Communication & Information Sciences, UWGB)

Facebook, Epic Games, and other massive Internet and gaming companies are enamored with the concept of the “metaverse”, an always-on virtual and augmented reality environment that marks a change in how we interact with and use the Internet. Rather than having a layer of separation provided by our computer and phone screens, the metaverse acts as what Mark Zuckerberg calls “an embodied Internet” where we communicate using virtual avatars in navigable space. While this poses a significant benefit for brands, media properties, and tech companies that can extend consumer relationships with their products into a new space, how far is too far? Is this another means through which the individual self and creativity is subsumed into a monoculture of advertising and blockbuster media releases? Is the future of creativity just a recycling of existing corporate intellectual property to which we tie our identity? And in a pandemic-altered social and professional world where our workplace can now be anywhere and our work/life balances are forever changed, does meeting and working in a virtual space just offer another means through which our personal agency can be taken away? Does virtual reality and augmented reality provide for greater human contact, or is a meeting in virtual reality just a solution in search of a problem? What happens to our individual identity when we live and work in a virtual world owned by private companies? These questions have significant ramifications for how we work, socialize, and act as humans, and this installment of Philosopher’s Café seeks to start asking those questions.

Wednesday, March 9: Climate Change: To Act or Not to Act?

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Nicholas Mauro (Physics, St. Norbert)

Climate change. Is it a hoax? Is it the most pressing problem we face as a society? It has to be one of the two, right? There can't be a middle ground. It would certainly appear that way listening to all the sources that we typically get our news from. Ironically, some of the most compelling voices on the debate are the ones that never speak the loudest. These are marginalized communities; these are farmers; these are those in the educated white middle class; these are island nations; these are scientists. The voices we hear politicise and trivialize the experiences of others and reduce the debate to talking points that don't allow the kind of dialog that helps move that debate further. We're stuck in the mud. We can't hear the questions we need to and the important answers. "Will dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions hurt the economy?" "How can we be responsible for rising temperatures if the Earth has been warmer (and colder) in the recent history of the universe?" "Why would we tax carbon - I already pay enough taxes?" "Wait, I'd get income from a carbon tax?" We'll discuss what is to be gained by ignoring the news and paying attention to others.

Wednesday, April 13: Stigma in Context and Culture

  • Location: 7:00p at St. Brendan's Inn
  • Moderator: Dr. Elif Ikizer (Psychology, UWGB)

Stigmatization deteriorates individuals' health and well-being. Stigmatization is widespread in society and can affect many groups. In this Philosophers' Cafe, we will discuss questions such as: How does stigma operate in relation to the context? Is stigma universal? Does it operate the same way across cultures?