Sander Beckers is presenting Monday Feb. 19th at 4pm in Dickens 203 on "A Causal Analysis of Harm." Abstract: As autonomous systems rapidly become ubiquitous, there is a growing need for a legal and regulatory framework that addresses when and how such a system harms someone. There have been several attempts within the philosophy literature to define harm, but none of them has proven capable of dealing with the many examples that have been presented, leading some to suggest that the notion of harm should be abandoned and “replaced by more well-behaved notions”. As harm is generally something that is caused, most of these definitions have involved causality at some level. Yet surprisingly, none of them makes use of causal models and the definitions of actual causality that they can express. In this talk I formally define a qualitative notion of harm that uses causal models and is based on a well-known definition of actual causality. Given that we often need to quantify harm, I also offer a quantitative definition that builds on the qualitative one.
Stephanie Hoffman will present "Mechanisms of Moral Encroachment in Science: Sex as a Case Study" on Friday Feb. 16th at 3:30 pm in Dickens 203. Abstract: According to sex contextualism, what researchers mean by sex depends on the context. While scientists often assume a male-female binary, and thus operationalize sex accordingly, there are in fact multiple ways of understanding and operationalizing sex. Furthermore, the male-female binary concept of sex which relies on sex assigned at birth is often unhelpful and epistemically unjustified. Some authors have requested that researchers justify their choice of sex concept. I develop this request further, and explore what it means for a choice of sex concept to be justified. Using the moral encroachment framework in which moral considerations “encroach” on epistemic considerations, I outline possibilities for how moral considerations may change what counts as an acceptable justification. I conclude that threshold-raising (also known as inductive risk) and direct evidence alone cannot provide guidance as to how researchers may choose a concept and operationalization of sex. Instead, I propose that, in the case of sex, while moral considerations do raise the threshold of required evidence, moral considerations also call for a different type of evidence and may sometimes act as direct evidence themselves.
The Philosophy department will host a talk by Christian Tarsney on aspects of moral theory "Against Anti-Fanaticism" on Thursday Feb. 8th at 4 pm in Dickens 203. Abstract: Should you be willing to forego any good, no matter how great, for a tiny probability of some vastly greater good? Fanatics say you should, anti-fanatics say you should not. Anti-fanaticism has great intuitive appeal. But, I argue, these intuitions are untenable, because satisfying them in their full generality is incompatible with three very plausible principles: acyclicity, a minimal dominance principle, and the principle that any outcome can be made better or worse. This argument against anti-fanaticism can be turned into a positive argument for a weak form of fanaticism, but only from significantly more contentious premises. In combination, these facts suggest that those who find fanaticism counterintuitive should favor not anti-fanaticism, but an intermediate position that permits agents to have incomplete preferences that are neither fanatical nor anti-fanatical.
Logicians in the Beehive celebrate the new screen. Proofs can now be checked collaboratively—happy days. Underwritten by the Tilghman fund; thank you to all our supporters!
Professor Amelia Hicks has a new podcast NeuroDiving . Season 1 we're calling "Autism Mind-Myths." The first episode is about the current contentious state of autism research, featuring a delightful interview with Dr. Chloe Farahar. Then, the following four episodes focus on the myth that autism is a "theory of mind deficit." We investigate where the concept of "theory of mind" came from, how the "theory of mind deficit" view of autism has affected autistic people, what went wrong with the scientific research that was used to support this myth, and how we can improve autism research by reflecting on the values that drive scientific practice. Other Season 1 guests include Daniel Dennett, Tobi Abubakare, Travis LaCroix, Joe Gough, Heidi Maibom, and Ryan Althaus.
We'll release an episode per week for the next five weeks. Then we'll take a little break, and return in the New Year with a couple more episodes to finish up Season 1.
Nov. 3, 2023 Guest Lecture: Haaland v. Brackeen and the Logic of Federal Indian Law
|Dan Lewerenz of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas with quilt by Debby Ebke
|Dan Lewerenz Jim Hamilton with quilt by Debby Ebke
Oct. 16-18 Library AI symposium panel "AI and Data Ownership: Navigating the Ethical Labyrinth" with (left-right) Jack Himelright, Camila Hernandez-Flowerman, Roger McHaney and JT Laverty.
Congratulations to Austin Kruse on his Phi Kappa Phi fellowship! Austin will be employing his philosophical skills at beginning this fall. We'll miss his presence at Rationalitea—Northwestern doesn't know how lucky they are (yet)!
Professor Jon Mahoney wins Faculty Development Award
Professor Jon Mahoney has won an Faculty Development Award to support travel to North Macedonia. While there, Jon will deliver a keynote address on "Illiberalism and Religious Freedom" at the First World Conference for Religious Dialogue and Cooperation in October, 2023.
Two major contributions to the Tilghman fund
The Department is pleased to announce two contributions to the Tilghman Fund. The Tilghman fund was established in honor of Ben Tilghman, in 2016 by Patrick McFadden, an alumnus and student of Ben Tilghman’s, and Patrick’s wife, Elaine Frangedakis. The fund supports research by faculty and undergraduates, especially in aesthetics and Wittgensteinian philosophy of language, the fields in which Ben worked. We have just recently received a $10,000 gift from Patrick and Elaine, continuing their decades long support of Philosophy at Kansas State. Ben and his wife Marilyn have, since Ben’s retirement, also generously supported the department and it students. Continuing that tradition, Ben’s family has made a $10,000 gift to the Tilghman fund. Beyond the scholarships, talks and conference presentations underwritten by the Tilghman fund, we were able in 2019 to host an aesthetics conference—Aesthetics on the Prairie—in Ben’s honor. These two contributions will go a long way toward underwriting another such, providing our students a greater exposure to philosophers working at the forefront of those philosophic traditions closest to Ben’s heart. And they will underwrite our continued efforts to keep our financially struggling students enrolled to completion of their philosophy degrees. We are immensely grateful to Partick, Elaine and the Tilghman family for support and good wishes. Thank you one and all!
Ben Tilghman, In Memorium
The Department of Philosophy is deeply saddened to report the passing of Professor Emeritus and former Head, Ben Tilghman.
Benjamin Ross Tilghman was born in St. Louis, Mo. in 1927. He received his BA degree from Washington University in 1950 and his MA degree in 1954. His Ph.D. is from the University of Washington. He taught at Reed College, Western State College of Colorado, the University of Wyoming, and from 1967 to his retirement in 1994 at Kansas State University. He was department head there from 1967 to 1980, establishing and building the Department’s strong research reputation.
Ben is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marilyn, a son, Ross, a daughter, Carla, and three grandchildren.
Ben’s interest in the philosophy department and its students at Kansas State University was everlasting. He often contributed to a fund for scholarships for students, called the “Tilghman Excellence Fund,” set up in Ben’s name by several former students. And significantly, he was instrumental in helping faculty establish, explore, and excel in their philosophical interests.
While at the University of Washington he was introduced to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein whose conception of philosophy continued to be the primary influence on this work. His interests were largely in aesthetics and the philosophy of art although he has “dabbled” (his word) in philosophy of religion, humorous philosophical short stories, and translations of works in French literature. Those who knew Ben will miss his keen intellect, curiosity, and wit.
His major publications include But is it Art? (1984), Wittgenstein, Ethics and Aesthetics (1991), An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (1993), The Expression of Emotion in the Visual Arts (2012), and Reflections on Aesthetic Judgment (2017). He was also author of numerous essays exploring Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophy and its indirect influence in aesthetics.
Mahoney Offers Seminars at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University
Professor Jon Mahoney gave seminars on toleration and religious freedom to students and faculty in December 2022 at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. While there Jon met Ph.D. students who he will assist as a foreign faculty mentor. Jon also discussed teaching and research practices in the humanities with faculty and administrators.
CARNAP strikes again!
Graham Leach-Krouse's CARNAP framework for logic and formal language training is in the news again, having just been named one of the best 21 open-source Haskell projects by Serokell. You can read about their review here: https://serokell.io/blog/best-haskell-open-source-projects.
During the Fall and Spring semesters, we meet (almost) every Thursday at 3:30pm, in Dickens 201 for Rationali-tea. Drink tea, eat cookies, and chat with faculty, staff, and students from the philosophy department. All are welcome!
For the most recent department newsletter, Philosophy Dept Newsletter June 2022.