Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Colloquium (11/4): Stephen Grimm, "How Understanding Human Beings Differs from Understanding the Natural World"

Stephen Grimm, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University

Professor Grimm

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 4:30pm  » Willard Smith Library, Vaughan Literature Building

Abstract: When we try to understand the natural world, we often appeal to things like causes or mechanisms or laws. But what happens when we try to understand other people? Do we need to appeal to something different—perhaps to notions like values or goods? I will consider a few ways in which philosophers have claimed that there is something distinctive when it comes to understanding human beings, and argue that these attempts have fallen short in various respects. I will then offer my own view about how understanding human beings differs from understanding the natural world.

Professor Grimm specializes in epistemology, the philosophy of science, and value theory. Since July of 2013 he has led a three-year $4.5 million dollar project on the nature of understanding, supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the Henry Luce Foundation.  The project examines the various ways in which human beings understand the world, how these ways of understanding might be improved, and how they might be combined to produce an integrated understanding of the world.  More details can be found at the website for The Varieties of Understanding project:

This event is co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Production of Public Understanding of Science project, which is itself funded by Professor Grimm's Varieties of Understanding project!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Colloquium and Lunch Chat (10/23): Gary Francione on the Ethics of Veganism and Animal Rights

Professor Francione

Gary Francione, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law & Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy

Lunch Chat: Wednesday, Oct. 23rd @ 12 PM   » Traditional Reading Room, Bertrand Library

Talk: Wednesday, Oct. 23rd @ 7:30 PM   » Forum, Elaine Langone Center

We're very pleased to welcome Professor Francione, the leading animal rights legal theorist worldwide, to campus for two events. The first is a Lunch Chat that asks "Why Don't Philosophers Take Animal Rights Seriously?" The second is a talk entitled "The Ethics of Veganism." Both events are co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department, the Environmental Studies Program, the Center for Sustainability and the Environment, and Managing for Sustainability.

For more information about Professor Francione, check out his website and blog, Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach. Also, Professor Francione has been in the news recently discussing the outrage that followed the posting of a video in which a man kicks a cat. For his contribution to a NYTimes "Room for Debate" discussion, see here. For his CNN interview, see here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lunch Chat (10/9): Is Race Real?

Thursday (10/9) at noon in the Traditional Reading Room, 2nd floor, Bertrand Library 

We talk a lot about race and racism today, but do we have a good idea of what we're talking about? Is race a genuine feature of the world? Is it biologically real? Or is it merely a social construct — a fiction of our thought and practice? Does it have an important political reality?

Professor Michael James
To help guide us through these and other questions, we will be joined by Professor Michael James from the Political Science Department. Professor James has written extensively on race from historical, political, and philosophical angles. He is the author of the entry on Race in the prestigious and indispensable Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

James opens his recent article "The Political Ontology of Race" this way:
On November 4, 2008, America elected Barack Obama to be its first black president. Or did it? Not according to Marie Arana, whose headline in the Washington Post screamed, “He’s not Black.” Arana argues that because his mother was white, “Barack Obama is not our first black president. He is our first biracial, bicultural president.”
Is she right? Is this a useful way of thinking about race? Join us on Thursday at noon to chat about this and other fascinating and important issues in this vicinity. As usual, there will be pizza, salad, and relaxed and open conversation. Note the unusual location in the Traditional Reading Room rather than our usual Willard–Smith Library setting.

Jahi Omari (class of 2017)

Hey! My name is Jahi, and I’m double majoring in Biology/Philosophy and minoring in Japanese. On campus, I am chair of recruitment for my co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and historian for Black Student Union. My research focus is on sperm competition within newt populations, and I’m interested in the physiological effects of long term exposure to environmental cues like chemicals, high population density, diseases and etc. I hope to pursue my interest by attending graduate school for clinical research.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Colloquium (10/2): Catherine Elgin, "Making an Example of It"

Catherine ElginProfessor of the Philosophy of Education, Graduate School of Education at Harvard University

Thursday, Oct. 2nd @ 4:30 PM   » Academic West 108 

Abstract: Thinking with things often involves taking them to exemplify some of their features. Rather than being mere things, as exemplars, they function as symbols that highlight features and afford epistemic access to them.

Professor Elgin is one of the leading figures working on philosophical problems about the nature of understanding, its relationship to knowledge, and its role in science and art. She has developed the notion of "exemplification" to characterize how scientific experiments as well as works of art provide understanding, and so, cognitive access to the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lunch Chat (9/25): Understanding Understanding

Join us at noon on September 25 in the Willard-Smith Library in Vaughan Lit for a lunch chat with Philosophy Professors Matthew Slater and Jason Leddington to discuss understanding, how it differs from knowledge, and why this might matter for science communication.

This lunch chat is the first of a series of events connected to the Production of Public Understanding of Science Project for which Professors Slater and Leddington have secured a grant from the Varieties of Understanding Project at Fordham University. (For further understanding-related events in Fall 2014, see this post.)
For some background on understanding, its nature, and why we care about it, check out this post by NYU philosopher of science Michael Strevens on the NYT philosophy blog, The Stone. Also have a look at this interesting interview with Fordham philosopher Stephen Grimm at 3AM.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall 2014 Philosophical Events

We have a great series of events schedule for the Fall 2014 Semester, several of them connected with the Production of Public Understanding of Science grant project.


"Making an Example of It"

Catherine Elgin, Professor of the Philosophy of Education, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
October 2nd at 4:30PM
   » Academic West 108

"The Ethics of Veganism"

Gary Francione, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law & Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, at the Rutgers School of Law
October 23rd at 7:30PM
   » Bucknell Forum, Langone Center

"How Understanding Human Beings Differs from Understanding the Natural World"

Stephen Grimm, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University
November 4th at 4:30PM
   » Willard–Smith Library, 125 Vaughan Literature Building

"(Really) Recovering Understanding"

Gary Hardcastle, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University
November 20th at 4:30PM
   » Academic West 108

Philosophy Lunch Chats

On select Thursdays at noon, interested faculty, staff, students, and community members gather to chat about some philosophical topic in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Lunch (pizza and salad) is provided.

"Understanding Understanding"

with Professors Matthew Slater and Jason Leddington, Philosophy
September 25th in the Willard–Smith Library

"Is Race Real?"

with guest Professor Michael James, Political Science
October 9th in the Traditional Reading Room, Bertrand Library

"Why Don't Philosophers Take Animal Rights Seriously?"

with guest Professor Gary Francione, Rutgers School of Law
October 23rd in the Traditional Reading Room, Bertrand Library

"Engineering and Philosophy"

with guest Professor Alan Cheville, Electrical & Computer Engineering
November 13th in the Willard–Smith Library

Philosophical Film Night

Finally, we'll be showing one "philosophical film" this term: Woody Allen's classic (1989) dark comedic exploration of morality, "Crimes and Misdemeanors", showing at the Campus Theatre on November 11th at 7:30PM; with a post-screening discussion.