PPE Speaker Series: Jonathan Anomaly

Jonathan Anomaly from UNC-Chapel Hill will give a PPE Talk on the topic “What’s Wrong with Factory Farming?” at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, November 16, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Factory farming continues to grow around the world as a low-cost way of producing animal products for human consumption. However, many of the practices associated with intensive animal farming have been criticized by public health professionals and animal welfare advocates. The aim of this essay is to raise three independent moral concerns with factory farming, and to explain why the practices associated with factory farming flourish despite the cruelty inflicted on animals and the public health risks imposed on people. I conclude that the costs of factory farming as it is currently practiced far outweigh the benefits, and offer a few suggestions for how to improve the situation for animals and people.

PPE Speaker Series: Cedric De Leon

Cedric de Leon from Providence College will give a PPE Talk on the topic “The Origins of Right to Work: Race, Class, Party and the Freedom of Contract” at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, October 26, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: “Right to work” states weaken collective bargaining rights and limit the ability of unions to effectively advocate on behalf of workers. As more and more states consider enacting right-to-work laws, observers trace the contemporary attack on organized labor to the 1980s and the Reagan era or the early 1950s and the immediate aftermath of the Taft-Hartley Act. In contrast, I argue that this antagonism began a century earlier with the Northern victory in the U.S. Civil War, when the political establishment revised the English common-law doctrine of conspiracy to equate collective bargaining with the enslavement of free white men.

PPE Speaker Series: Gwen Bradford

Gwen Bradford from Rice University will give a PPE Talk on the topic “The Badness of Pain” at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, September 28, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Why is pain bad? The literature abounds with discussion of well-being, but there is so little about what is bad for us that you would think we’re in denial about it. Ideally, an account of pain’s badness will fulfill these desiderata: (1) capture the badness of pain broadly construed, i.e., both physical and psychological, (2) give a univocal explanation for human and animal pain, and (3) entail that only pain that is indeed intrinsically bad is bad. There are two central puzzles, namely pain that is enjoyed and pain that is not painful (as experienced by people with asymbolia for pain). A new view is proposed, reverse conditionalism, and it is argued that this view does best in fulfilling the desiderata and capturing enjoyable pain and asymbolia cases.

PPE Speaker Series: Bas van der Vossen

Bas van der Vossen from UNC Greensboro will give a talk on the topic “When Enough and As Good Isn’t Good Enough” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on April 06, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: The Lockean project in political philosophy aims to justify individual rights of private property. In such a society, people have rights of ownership that enable them to accumulate and exchange possessions, that protect their freedom to use these possessions more or less as they please, and that allow them to exclude others. I will call such a society a propertied society. One of the aims of Lockean theory is to defend the justice of propertied societies. Traditionally, Locke’s enough and as good proviso forms, in one way or another, an important part of this defense. In this paper, I argue that our standard conceptions of the proviso are mistaken and need to be replaced with one that focuses on a particularly Lockean idea of freedom. This idea of freedom requires the non-subjection to the wills of others. The point of the proviso, then, is to ensure this non-subjection in propertied society. I close by exploring the ways in which robustly competitive labor markets may help societies approach this Lockean ideal.

PPE Speaker Series: Kevin Vallier

Kevin Vallier from Bowling Green State University will give a talk on the topic “Three Concepts of Political Stability” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on March 02, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: The dominant approach to state legitimacy in political philosophy, public reason liberalism, includes an ideal of political stability where justified institutions reach a kind of self-enforcing equilibrium. Citizens of a stable society generally recognize that all, or nearly all, people have sufficient reason to comply with directives issued by publicly justified institutions, such that unilateral deviations from those directives leads to a worse outcome from the defector’s point of view. In this talk, I contend that a more sophisticated model of social stability, specifically an agent-based model, yields a richer and more accurate ideal of political stability than what has appeared in the literature thus far. In particular, an agent-based model helps us to distinguish between three concepts of political stability: durability, balance, and immunity. A well-ordered society is one that possesses a high degree of social trust and cooperative behavior among its citizens (durability) with low short-run variability (balance). A well-ordered society also resists destabilization caused by non-compliant agents in or entering the system (immunity). Previous work on political stability within public reason liberalism has depended upon a single, coherent notion of stability. My tripartite distinction weakens attempts to elaborate, defend, and refute public reason views that employ a single, coherent notion of stability.

PPE Speaker Series: Christopher Freiman

Christopher Freiman from the College of William & Mary will give a talk on the topic “Should States Allow Markets in Citizenship?” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on February 10, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Recent work in economics and philosophy defends the state’s sale of citizenship. This paper defends the private sale of citizenship or a citizenship market. I argue that people ought to be permitted to privately exchange their citizenship with citizens of another country for their citizenship plus financial remuneration. Citizenship markets would enable Pareto improvements and create new opportunities to raise the income of the global poor. I then address a variety of objections and conclude that whatever vices citizenship markets have are outweighed by their virtues.

PPE Speaker Series: Barry Maguire

Barry Maguire from UNC-Chapel Hill will give a talk on the topic “Rational Choice in Deontic Contexts” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on November 11, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: A number of puzzles focus pressure on a deep structural assumption shared by Act Consequentialism and Orthodox Rational Choice theory. These include Warren Quinn’s classic “self-torturer” puzzle along with other sorites cases, infinite goods cases, imprecise goods cases, sunk costs, and time-stamped options. In all these cases the agent knows that her action is one in a series the whole of which has an evaluative significance not identical to the evaluative significance of the aggregate of the parts. The deep structural assumption is that the deontic status of an action is explained just by facts about that action and its consequences and never by facts about the deontic status of sets of actions of which it is a possible part. By rejecting this assumption and replacing it with something better we can develop solutions to these puzzles while fully vindicating the core motivations for value-first ethical theory.

PPE Speaker Series: David Lefkowitz

David Lefkowitz from the University of Richmond will give a talk on the topic “Institutional Moral Reasoning and Secession” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on October 14, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Outside the colonial context, international law does not include a right to unilateral secession. Does that make it unjust? Should we reform international law so that it includes a right to unilateral secession, say for groups subject to widespread and systematic violations of their members’ basic human rights, or for any nation that wishes to have its own state regardless of how its members are currently treated? My position, which I briefly defend near the end of this talk, is that we should not, but my primary interest here is with two methodological questions. First, how should we argue for or against a right to secession? I contend that secession is an inherently institutional concept — there is no pre-institutional moral right to secession — from which it follows that we can only argue for or against a right to secession by using institutional moral reasoning. The need to theorize secession institutionally leaves any specific argument regarding the morality of secession vulnerable to the criticism that we lack the empirical evidence necessary to sustain its conclusion. This presents a second methodological question: how should we proceed when our identification of the just institutional rule depends on data of which we have little, and/or in which we (should) have little confidence? With respect to secession, I argue that we ought to adopt a precautionary approach, and that under such an approach we should not give any weight to promoting political self-determination per se when deliberating about whether to reform international law governing secession. I conclude with several reasons to think that even a remedial right to unilateral secession, one limited to groups suffering grave violations of their basic human rights, will not enhance the international legal order’s ability to promote the minimal moral aims of peace and the secure enjoyment of basic human rights.

PPE Speaker Series: Chad Van Schoelandt

Chad Van Schoelandt from Tulane University will give a talk on the topic “Constructing Distributive Justice” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on September 23, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend!

Here is the abstract of the talk: This talk highlights two features of Rawls’s approach to distributive justice and shows how these features support an ongoing research agenda. The first feature is that for Rawls a conception of justice is meant to serve a social function and thus proposed conceptions can be assessed at least in part on their ability to so function. We highlight how this differs from more orthodox moral questions. Going forward, we suggest that the understanding of justice as a tool to serve a function brings a wide array of tool into philosophy. We illustrate this by discussing the relevance to assessing conceptions of justice of both psychological work on the emotions and social scientific work on constitutional political economy. Philosophic work need not be mired in conflicting intuitions about obscure counterfactual cases, for we may gain traction on questions of justice by drawing on many other disciplines. The second feature we highlight from Rawls is the fact that the conception is meant to be “political” and to constitute a “political point of view.” We can thus say, for instance, that one state of affairs is to be preferred “from the political point of view” even if not from the point of view of my self-interest, religion, or deep moral beliefs. The political point of view must be one we can share at least to give us common answers to certain questions and should be expected to differ from the way we might assess things if we did not have to coordinate with others. The possibility of such a political point of view and the way an individual can integrate it into her comprehensive point of view raise important questions for ongoing research. As a suggestion for future research, however, we specifically point to the options opened up by seeing the political perspective as artificial and we argue that contrary to Rawls it need not be supported by any shared values, though each individual member will have to be able to relate the political conception to whatever values she does hold.