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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

Please join us on June 20th for What Money Can Buy: Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Human Flourishing presented by Peter Boettke, George Mason University's BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center University Professor of Economics and Philosophy.  The lecture will be held from 5:30PM to 6:30PM and a reception will follow immediately afterwards in the Martinos Auditorium lobby.

Event Co-Sponsored by the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and the Brown/IE Executive MBA program.

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Recent Events

Join us for an Ethical Inquiry lecture "The Good of Friendship" by Alexander Nehamas, the Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, of Philosophy and of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.  The lecture will held on February 24th, from 4PM to 6PM and a reception will immediately follow the lecture.

Alexander Nehamas joined Princeton in 1971 with Philosophical interests in Greek philosophy, philosophy of art, European philosophy and literary theory.  As described by his website: Influenced by the place of philosophy in the life of Ancient Greece and Rome as well as by Nietzsche, he questions the transformation of philosophy from a way of living into a purely academic discipline.  Similarly, he holds the view that the arts constitute an indispensable part of human life and not a separate domain, of interest only to a few.

He has translated Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus into English, as well as published several books including Nietzsche: Life as Literature, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault, Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates, and Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art .



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please join the Philosophy Department for "Free Speech and Civil Disobedience" presented by Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago, from 4PM to 6PM in Room 130 of the Building for Environmental Research and Technology (BERT), 85 Waterman Street.

Free speech and civil disobedience both generate intense controversy on university campuses.  But the two are often confused, and it is important not to confuse them. This lecture will distinguish them and make some recommendations for how campuses should handle a variety of types of civil disobedience.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. She has taught at Harvard and Oxford Universities, and from 1984 to 1995 at Brown.

 

Join us for the Ethical Inquiry lecture Happiness is Not for Sale, But You Are: How the Market Economy Structures the Pursuit of Happiness by Benjamin Radcliff, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame on October 28th from 4PM to 6PM in Smith Buonanno Hall, Room 106. 

Abstract:  Our understanding of happiness must be grounded in our understanding of the market economy. A central aspect of capitalism is
the "commodification" of labor and thus the commodification of persons themselves. The material and psychological burden of being "reduced to commodities" compels citizens to attempt to introduce countervailing forces in society that limit the extent of commodification. Across countries, and across the American States, data suggest that the single most important determinant of well-being is indeed the level of decommodification (as expressed through the social safety net, labor unions, and pro-worker labor market protections, such as the minimum wage). The magnitude of the relationship between decommodification and happiness dwarfs conventional individual-level factors, such as marital status or unemployment.

Reception to follow in the lobby of Smith-Buonanno Hall

His work analyzes political outcomes and quality of life for citizens of democracies, primarily in the United States.  This research is particularly focused on  electoral politics, public policy, labor unions, and democratic theory.

His most recent book is entitled The Political Economy of Human Happiness.

 

Join us for the Ethical Inquiry lecture The Cultural Relativity of Happiness presented by Shigehiro Oishi, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia on October 7th from 4PM to 6PM in the Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.

Abstract: Once believed to be universal, a growing body of research shows that both the conception and predictors of happiness vary cross-culturally. First, the meaning and importance of happiness varies both across time and between nations. Americans, for instance, tend to define happiness in terms of pleasure or enjoyment and view happiness as universally positive, whereas East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures may highlight the transient and socially disruptive nature of happiness and be ambivalent about whether it is good. Second, predictors of happiness vary between cultures. Recent work highlights new mediators (e.g., relational mobility), individual predictors (e.g., person-culture fit), societal factors (e.g., good governance and wealth), within-culture variations (e.g., at the state or city level), and interventions (e.g., practicing gratitude) that differ cross-culturally or help explain cultural differences in happiness. Though many questions remain, this review highlights how these recent advances broaden and revise our understanding of culture and happiness.

Shigehiro Oishi's work centers on culture, social ecology, personality, and well-being. His research goals are to uncover the causes and consequences of subjective well-being, and to delineate how social ecology and human psyche make each other up. Specific research topics include residential mobility, life satisfaction, feeling understood and misunderstood, relationship satisfaction, self-concepts, pro-community behaviors, goals and values, and emotion.

He has published dozens of articles and two books, The Psychological Wealth of Nations: Do Happy People Make a Happy Society and Doing the Science of Happiness: What we learned from Psychology (in Japanese).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Co-sponsored by Ethical Inquiry, the Moral Psychology of Contempt Workshop will take place on April 29th and 30th from 9:15AM to 5:15PM in room 106 of Corliss-Brackett, 45 Prospect Street.

The workshop will bring together both philosophers and psychologists from Brown's faculty, as well as prominent philosophers and psychologists from other institutions to discuss research on the topic of the moral psychology of contempt. The status and function of contempt as a moral emotion has emerged as a pressing question in both contemporary ethics and descriptive moral psychology.  This workshop features presentations and commentaries from Kate Abramson, Indiana University; Felicia Nimue Ackerman, Brown University; Nomy Arpaly, Brown University; Macalester Bell, Bryn Mawr College; Zac Cogley, Northern Michigan University; Bertram Malle, Brown University; Michelle Mason, University of Minnesota and Brown University; Ira Roseman, Rutgers University and David Sussman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Click here for a schedule of the Workshop

Join us for the Ethical Inquiry Program lecture "Rationality and the Past: How Life Stories Matter to Well Being", presented by Antti Kauppinen of the Academy of Finland on April 22nd, 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, April 23rd, Antti Kauppinen will be conducting a seminar on "Rationality as Government by Reason" from 10AM to 12PM in the Crystal Room, Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street.  A light breakfast will be served at 9:30AM.

Listen to the lecture here.

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School, will present “Disgust or Equality?  The Struggle over Sexual Orientation Law Outside the US” on March 7th from 4-6PM in the Salomon Center, Room 001.  In her lecture, Nussbaum will explore international sexual orientation law, focusing on the influence of disgust and stigma of lawmaking in India.  This event is open to the public.

Join us for the Ethical Inquiry Program lecture "The Best Things in Life", presented by Thomas Hurka of the University of Toronto, Canada on March 4, 2016 from 4PM to 6PM in the the Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Roberts '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.  A reception will be held after the lecture from 6PM to 7PM.

The following day, Thomas Hurka will be conducting a seminar on entitled "More Seriously Wrong" from 10AM to 12PM in the Petteruti Lounge, Stephen Roberts '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.  A light breakfast will be served at 9:30AM.

Saturday's Seminar Paper - More Seriously Wrong.pdf.

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.

 


 

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. 

Abstract


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.