Monday, October 29, 2012

Lunch Chat (11/1): Religion in Politics

undefinedWith one more Philosophy Lunch Chat before the election, I wanted to do a special edition on the role of religion in politics and governing with a guest expert, Professor Brantley Gasaway from the Religion Department.

Among other things, we'll talk about whether (and how) a candidate's religion should bear on our voting, whether their beliefs matter as far as their capabilities for effective governance go, and how we should understand the difference between "the separation of church and state" and the separation of religion and politics.

So stop by the Philosophy Lounge (Coleman 62) at noon on Thursday to enjoy some pizza and informal but insightful conversation about question that matter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lunch Chat (10/25): Debating Debate

In keeping with our political theme, I thought that in the next lunch chat we could talk about the role that the presidential (and vice-presidential) debates play — or ought to play — in our deciding who we should vote on. There's been a lot of talk about "who won" certain debates; boxing analogies are common (was it a "victory on points" or a "knock-out"?). Does this talk make sense? What is the relationship between debate and other forms of intellectual discourse? What makes a discussion a debate? And how does any of this matter when it comes to the voting booth?

If you're interesting in debates or politics (or both), stop by the Philosophy Lounge on Thursday at noon for some pizza and (polite) discussion. I swear I'll reign in my use of "zingers". . . .

Monday, October 22, 2012

Philosophical Film Tuesdays: "The Prestige"

October 23rd @ 7:30PM | Campus Theatre | $2 admission

In this thought-provoking and suspenseful film by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan (of Batman and Inception fame), two rival magicians compete to develop the ultimate magic trick. Stay after the film to participate in a discussion with yours truly about some of the philosophical themes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lunch Chat (10/18): A Vote for Reason

As the political wrangling heats up heading into the presidential election, I thought we might talk about some of the pathologies familiar in political discourse. For background, you might read this column in "The Stone" by Michael Lynch on the role that reason might well play in our thinking about how to cast our vote. Lynch writes:
Suppose I offer, at no charge, to drop a drug in the water supply that would cause almost everyone in the country to vote like you this November. You would probably feel at least a little bit tempted to take the deal. Presidential politics is a matter of grave import, after all. Still — many of us would hesitate, and rightly so. There seems to be something really wrong with manipulating people to believe things even when the stakes are high. We want to convince our opponents, yes, but we want them to be convinced by our reasons.
And yet, many seem content to attempt to influence our vote by non-rational means. Is this simply the ever-present debate between ends and means? What should we care more about in this arena: product or process?

I propose that we inject a little philosophical rigor into presidential politics leading up to Election Day — stay tuned to the blog for topics. So if you're a "politics-wonk" (of either or neither political party), stop on by the Philosophy Lounge on Thursdays at noon for some pizza and reasoned discussion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No Lunch Chat this Week

However, I noted this lunchtime talk sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology that sounds fascinating. I would encourage you to attend:

Michael Yarbrough, Yale University

"I Now Pronounce You: Law and the Making of Marriage in Two South African Communities"

Thursday, October 11th
12pm, Willard Smith Library (VL 125), Lunch will be provided

South Africa is one of the growing number of places around the world where same-sex marriages are now recognized by the state. Among these, it is the only place that has also recently expanded its marriage-recognition laws to a second social group: those living under indigenous or "customary" law. In this talk, Yarbrough will draw on two years of fieldwork among LGBT and indigenous South African communities to compare the different ways people understand what state marital recognition means to them. By doing so, he will propose new ways of conceptualizing how law can influence the meanings of marriage, in South Africa and beyond.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lunch Chat (10/4): Thinking Meat!

That's us! H/T to my colleague Jason Leddington put me on to this little short, "They're Made Out of Meat", based on the short short story with the same title. After teaching topics in the philosophy of mind for the last couple of weeks, I've really been getting caught up the issues (and feeling torn about them). One issue I've never felt very torn about, however, is the possibility of artificial intelligence. It seems, though, that lots of people presume that there's something special about our neurology that allows us to enjoy mentality.

The fun conceit of this short is that there's something a little unbelievable about this too.

And here's where I do start feeling torn: It's difficult to conceive of how "meat" can think — or, what's more, have subjective experiences. For this lunch chat, I'd like to talk about the prospects for artificial intelligence and its relevance to our conception of ourselves. See you on Thursday at noon as usual: 62 Coleman Hall.