Welcome to the Ethical Inquiry site. For more information or to be added to our email list, please send a message to philosophy_dept@brown.edu.


Upcoming events

Join us for the Ethical Inquiry Program lecture "Achievement", presented by Gwen Bradford of Rice University on February 26, 2016 from 4PM to 6PM in the Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street.  A reception will be held after the lecture from 6PM to 7PM.

The following day, Gwen Bradford will be conducting a seminar on the same topic from 10AM to 12PM in the Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street.  A light breakfast will be served at 9:30AM.

Recent events

On April 1, 2015 from 4-6 p.m.,  Iris Mauss, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of California Berkeley, gave the lecture "Less Can Be More: Paradoxical Effects on the Pursuit of Happiness" in Metcalf (Friedman) auditorium, 190 Thayer Street.  An abstract follows:

Happiness is one of the most important human values. While this general statement seems to be universally true, there is also variation in the strength of this value; some people very strongly value happiness while others value it somewhat less. In this talk, Mauss will present recent findings on happiness values.

Surprisingly, in U.S. samples paradoxical effects emerge, such that in some circumstances valuing happiness more is associated with obtaining it less. Mauss considers potential explanations for these effects, including the particular meanings of happiness our culture suggests. She ends by 
discussing what this research implies about how paradoxical effects of valuing happiness could be avoided.


Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at University of California Riverside, gave the lecture "Happiness: Science, Practice, and Myths" on Wednesday, March 18 from noon to 2 p.m. in Salomon 001, 79 Waterman Street. 


Daniel Haybron, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, gave the lecture "Does Happiness Make for a Good Life?" on Friday, March 6 from 4-6 p.m. in Salomon 001, 79 Waterman Street. Haybron led the seminar "Measures of Well-Being for Policy: What Do We Want?" on Saturday, March 7 from 10 a.m.-noon in the Petteruti Lounge, Robert '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.

David Webster, Subject Group Leader for Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies at the University of Gloucestershire, gave the lecture "Fruits of the Pointless Life: Buddhist Thought in an Atheistic Future" in the Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street, on Friday, November 14, 2014, from 4-6 p.m.

Bernard Reginster, (Professor of Philosophy, Brown University); Susan Sauve-Meyer (Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania) and David Webster (Subject Group Leader for Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies, University of Gloucestershire) presented the workshop "Desire-Cessation Theories of Happiness" on Thursday, November 13, 2014, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Corliss Brackett seminar room, 45 Prospect Street.

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, gave the lecture "Injustice and the Dubious Value of Anger" on Monday, March 17, 2014 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Salomon 001. Read the Brown Daily Herald article on Nussbaum's talk here.

You can download an audio recording of Nussbaum's lecture here.

William Irvine, Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, gave the lecture: "Old Wine in New Bottles: How to Practice Stoicism in the 21st Century" on Friday, February 28, 2014 in Alumnae Hall, Crystal Room, 194 Meeting Street. He led the seminar "The Case for 'Intellectual Tithing'" on Saturday, March 1 in the same location.

In his lecture, Irvine shared some of the insights he has gained trying to practice Stoicism in the 21st century. Among his recommendations: Stop doing pointless things. Make sure your bucket list is properly Stoical. Practice courage. Laugh off other people’s insults, and their praise, as well. Embrace the life you find yourself living, even as you try to change that life.

The purpose of Irvine's seminar was to discuss the (almost non-existent) role philosophers play in our culture, to contrast it with the role they played in the ancient world, and to explore the reasons for this change. How should we understand, and should we condone, the tendency of many modern philosophers to disparage “philosophies of life”? Should professional philosophers engage in “intellectual tithing" by devoting a portion of their intellectual effort to doing things that will have a positive impact on our culture?

Suggested reading for the seminar: Making Philosophy Matter -- Or Else (Lee McIntyre, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 11, 2011)


Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, gave the lecture "Love and Revolution: Why Love Makes the World Go Round" on Friday, February 7, 2014, in Smith Buonanno 201, 95 Cushing Street. She led the seminar "Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life" on Saturday, February 8 in the Petteruti Lounge, Robert '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.

Ask anyone to name the most important things in life, and "love" will come up in almost every answer. But what is love, and what makes it so special? This lecture will take up these basic questions, and propose some answers.

Here is Wolf's paper for the seminar: Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life

For a full list of events, go to our Events page.