Colloquium Series: 2020-2021

Talks will be on Zoom on Fridays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., unless otherwise noted. Events are updated throughout the semester. Please check back often.

Fall 2020

November 6, 2020

Professor Amijee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, will be speaking on:

Why Inquiry Commits Us To The Principle of Sufficient Reason

According to the Principle of Sufficient Reason (‘PSR’), every fact has an explanation for why it obtains. I argue that we ought to be committed to this principle because it is indispensable to what I call ‘structural inquiry’, a species of inquiry whose participants seek explanations for facts. I first show that participating in structural inquiry commits one to the PSR. I then show that we ought to participate in structural inquiry, and so ought to be committed to the PSR. My argument parallels explanatory indispensability arguments in the philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science: just as these other arguments support an ontological commitment to mathematical or scientific entities, I show that a practical indispensability argument applied to inquiry supports a commitment to the PSR.  

November 20, 2020

Professor Gartner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College, will be speaking on,

Seneca on Anger, Revenge, and Punishment

I first reconstruct Seneca’s cognitivist account of anger, explaining why, according to the
stoics, anger is never rational. Once we understand why the stoic sage will not be subject to anger, I
present a worry for Seneca’s view: given that the sage cannot be harmed, what justifies the sage in
punishing wrongdoers, or those who sought to cause her harm? I then explicate Seneca’s stance on
punishment, which he analogizes to medical treatment. Permissible punishment is always forwardlooking, aimed at correction and rehabilitation of the soul, though he allows a role for deterrence.

Finally, I consider two objections from the perspective of Seneca’s Aristotelian opponents—
objections which we are likely to share. We might worry that, while it can be taken to excess, anger
can serve as a useful tool, motivationally, as well as in rectification and remediation, and that,
consequences aside, anger is sometimes an appropriate response to injustice. However, Seneca
argues in reply, given the ubiquity and severity of injustice one encounters in the world, once we
accept that the virtuous agent will rightly experience anger at injustice, we end up with a chronically
irate moral exemplar (On Anger 1.14.1). Even if we concede this rather unpalatable consequence, and
allow that the virtuous agent might have an angry and miserable life, Aristotle cannot, since he
conceives of virtue as a component of well-being. In sketching Seneca’s theory of anger and treating
these objections, I hope to suggest that this prima facie counterintuitive view has more to recommend
it than it might initially seem.

Spring 2021

January 29, 2021

Professor Ritchie is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Her current research lies at the intersection of inquiry on language and the social world. She is particularly interested in the nature of social groups (teams, committees, races, genders), the semantics of terms that pick out social groups (plurals, collective nouns, slurs, generics), and the interface between semantics and ontology. One central thread in her research is to show how metaphysics and insights about our mental and linguistic representational devices can help inform viable social-political projects. 

March 5, 2021

Professor Morton is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her areas of research are philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education, and political philosophy.

April 23, 2021

Professor Dreier is the Judy C. Lewent and Mark L. Shapiro Professor of Philosophy at Brown University. His research lies in the areas of metaethics, moral theories, and decision theory.  Some of his recent graduate seminars have been about moral realism, expressivism, and measuring value.