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Our events are sponsored by the Philosophy and Religion Department, PPE Program, and CSSH

Upcoming Events

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Dr. Robert Talisse

Time: 12:00-1:15pm

Location: Renaissance Park 909 and on Zoom (Register for the Zoom portion here)

Title: Why We Need Political Enemies

Abstract: When engaged in democratic politics, it often strikes us that our opponents are not only wrong, but in the wrong.  We tend to see them as not merely mistaken, but ignorant, corrupt, and on the side of injustice.  Most accounts of responsible citizenship contend that we must nonetheless uphold civil relations with them.  But why?  When the stakes are high, why not just dismiss our opponents? Why bother trying to maintain civil relations with them?  In this talk, Robert Talisse draws on empirical work concerning belief polarization to argue that we must uphold civil relations with our political enemies, not because we are required to regard them as reasonable, but because in the absence of those relations our political alliances crumble.

Speaker Bio: Robert B. Talisse is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He specializes in democratic theory, with an emphasis on justice, citizenship, public deliberation, and political disagreement. His most recent research is focused on polarization and partisan animosity. His new book is titled Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe to the Other Side.  It explores the challenges of treating one’s political opponents as nonetheless one’s equals.

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Dr. Larry Blum

Time: 12:00-1:30pm

Location: In-person (location TBA) and Zoom (register here)

Title: Can School Integration Bring About Equal Education?

Abstract: Racial integration has been oversold to the American public as a low-cost route to equality of education. Educational equality can be created only by reducing inequality—of both a class and a race nature—in the wider society. Serious reduction of poverty, and challenging the wealthy’s “opportunity hoarding” are necessary. Integration by itself is a diversion from the need to challenge white supremacy, requiring a reparative justice response, and the extreme class-based inequities of our current social order. However, integration is a vital component of the moral, civic, and social aspects of education that have been sidelined in our current neoliberal era. Bringing diverse populations into the same schools and classrooms, as a school like CRLS does, is a necessary foundation for preparing future citizens of our multiracial democracy.

Speaker Bio: Lawrence Blum is (Emeritus) Professor of Liberal Arts and Education and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He works in the areas of philosophy of race, philosophy of education, moral philosophy and social and political philosophy. He is the author of 6 books, including “I’m Not a Racist, But…”: The Moral Quandary of Race, and High Schools, Race, and America’s Future: What Students Can Teach Us About Morality, Diversity, and Community.

Past Events

Information Ethics Roundtable Speaker, Prof. Catriona McKinnon, University of Exeter, UK

Date: TBA

Title: ‘Should we tolerate climate denial?’ – Revisited?

Abstract: What is ‘climate denial’? And should it be tolerated in liberal societies? This paper identifies the proper site for debates about these questions, and the conditions under which intolerance of climate denial would be justified. What I would like to explore in revisiting this debate is whether restrictions on corporate speech can be justified by a better understanding of corporate personhood. This would lift questions about corporate climate denial into a different domain, i.e. they would no longer be questions to be answered from the perspective of freedom of speech.

This will be a pre-read meeting, with the paper to be circulated to registrants attached.

Please register here:

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

Title: The Case for Climate Reparations

Abstract: A partnered investigation between ProPublica and the New York Times has revealed the writing on the wall. We are at the beginnings of a “Great Climate Migration” that will transform the world. There are two ways forward: climate colonialism and apartheid or climate reparations. Climate apartheid describes the fact that we can expect a new kind of social division to arise within countries and communities: between those who can pay to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and those who cannot. Climate colonialism simply considers this same phenomenon on an international scale.

Reparations is a way forward through the climate crisis that doesn’t double down on these dismal precedents. A reparatory approach to climate migration would involve an overhaul of climate policy in both nation-states and multinational institutions. It would be broadly redistributive of wealth and power, both within and across countries. That redistribution would be historically informed: we would reject both the ‘rescue’ framing of state elites’ naked pursuit of self interest in refugee policy and the “voluntary repatriation” centered model that allows them to act on it with international authorization. Ultimately, we endorse the argument, developed and defended by legal scholar E. Tendayi Achiume, that corrective, distributive justice demands recognition of the entitlement of “Third World persons” to “a form of First World citizenship”.

However extreme this renegotiation of state sovereignty and citizenship may strike some readers, it’s nowhere near as extreme as the logical conclusion of the status quo’s violent alternative: mass famine, region-scale armed conflict. Compared to the horrors of climate apartheid and colonialism, having more neighbors is a small price to pay.

We suggest to read an article he wrote in Foreign Policy on this topic, The Case for Climate Reparations

Register here:

*This event was recorded

Information Ethics Roundtable Speaker Prof. Josh Simons, Harvard University

Title“Regulating Informational Infrastructure: Are Facebook and Google utilities for democracy?”

Abstract: Now that the nation and the world have woken up to the manifold threats internet platforms pose to the public sphere and to democracy, we need a framework for understanding why internet platforms matter for democracy and how they should be regulated. This paper and talk aim to sketch out that framework.

Facebook and Google use algorithms to rank and order vast quantities of content and information, shaping how we consume news and access information, communicate with and feel about one another, debate fundamental questions of the common good, and make collective decisions. Facebook and Google are private companies whose algorithms have become part of the infrastructure of our public sphere.  This infrastructure is a critical tool for communication and organization, political expression, and collective decision making. By controlling how this infrastructure is designed and operated, Facebook and Google shape the content and character of our digital public sphere, concentrating not just economic power, but social and political power too. Private powers who exercise unilateral control over vital information infrastructure should be held accountable to the public good.

I argue we should regulate Facebook and Google as a new kind of public utility – utilities for democracy. The public utility concept offers a dynamic and flexible set of regulatory tools to impose public oversight where corporations are affected by a public interest. Regulating Facebook and Google as public utilities would offer opportunities for regulatory innovation, experimenting with new mechanisms of decision making that draw on the collective judgement of citizens, reforming sclerotic institutions of representation, and constructing new regulatory authorities to inform the governance of algorithms. Regulating Facebook and Google as public utilities would be a decisive assertion of public power that would strengthen and energize democracy.

*This event is being held in collaboration with Bentley University and has been sponsored by The State Street Foundation.

*This will also be a pre-read talk, with the paper attached to registrants. 

If you are interested please register here:

Title: Does Democracy Have A Future?

Abstract: Echoing Plato’s argument in Book VIII of The Republic, some thinkers contend that democracies have an unavoidable tendency to destroy themselves from within. Familiar Platonic concerns have been strengthened by the demise of print-journalism, the emergence of the “post-truth” era, the economic challenges of globalization and the digital economy, and the dangers of racist and xenophobic fear and resentment. But this talk will argue that even if democracy is on life support, the means of saving it from destruction are still within our grasp. We must be to reinvigorate democratic civic virtues such as collective compromise, civic sacrifice, horizontal trust, and allow mutual respect and compassionate concern to reshape our interactions in the “public square.”

Speaker Bio: Michele Moody-Adams is currently Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University, where she served as Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education from 2009-2011. Before Columbia, she taught at Cornell University, where she was Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Director of the Program on Ethics and Public Life. She has also taught at Wellesley College, the University of Rochester, and Indiana University, where she served as an Associate Dean.

Moody-Adams has published on equality and social justice, moral psychology and the virtues, and the philosophical implications of gender and race. She is also the author of a widely cited book on moral relativism, Fieldwork in Familiar Places: Morality, Culture and Philosophy (Harvard Press 1997). Her current work includes articles on academic freedom, equal educational opportunity, and democratic disagreement. Her next book, coming out in late 2021, is entitled Making Space for Justice: Social Movements, Collective Imagination and Political Hope (under contract with Columbia University Press). . She is also working on a project entitled Renewing Democracy and a book on the thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. Moody-Adams has a B.A. from Wellesley College, a second B.A. from Oxford University, and earned the M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University. She has been a British Marshall Scholar, an NEH Fellow, and is a lifetime Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

**This event was recorded

Register here:


Information Ethics Roundtable Speaker, Jeff Hancock

Title: Can AI Mediate Communication? Understanding AI in Human-to-Human Interaction

Abstract: Computer-mediated-communication, in which machines transmit messages between humans at our behest, is evolving into AI-mediated communication, in which machines now optimize those messages to achieve human goals. Many questions emerge when AI operates between humans in communication. How can we trust one another when it is not clear whether a machine or a human wrote a message? How do we judge others when AI is used to communicate on their behalf? Does the involvement of AI in human communication change the way that humans speak? Finally, what are the ethical and moral implications of using AI to communicate on our behalf? In this talk I’ll address each of these questions, reporting on several studies with my collaborators and lay out some theoretical roadmaps to guide our future thinking on understanding AI-mediate communication.

*This will have an optional pre-read talk, with the paper attached to registrants. 

Please register here:

Please join us virtually via Zoom on Friday, April 9th from 10:45am–4:30pm for the fourth annual NULab Spring Conference, “Data and Social Justice,” showcasing the work of faculty, graduate students, and research collaborators.

Registration is required; please RSVP here.

This conference will feature a keynote address by Patricia Williams, University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities at Northeastern University, whose work explores critical race theory and movements in American legal theory.

We will also hold three panels of talks by Northeastern faculty and graduate students featuring:

Nicole Aljoe: English and Africana Studies; Director of Africana Studies Program
Rahul Bhargava: Art + Design and Journalism
Avery Blankenship: English

Angeles Martinez Cuba: MIT, Urban Studies and Planning, Data + Feminism Lab

Tieanna Graphenreed: English
Meg Heckman: Journalism
Jessica Linker: History
Jim McGrath: History
Ángel David Nieves: Africana Studies, History, and Digital Humanities; Director of Public Humanities
K.J. Rawson: English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Cailin Roles: English
Eamon Schlotterback: English
Matthew Simonson: Network Science
David Smith: Computer Science

Please see the attached flyer and event page for more details and the conference program:

To make space for informal discussions and community building, this conference will not be recorded.

Information Ethics Roundtable Speaker, Silvia Milano

Title: Epistemic fragmentation and the challenge to civic governance of AI services

Abstract: Online targeting isolates individual consumers, causing what we call epistemic fragmentation. This phenomenon amplifies the harms of advertising and inflicts structural damage to the public forum. Under epistemic fragmentation, even sophisticated individual consumers are vulnerable, the contextual knowledge needed for regulating advertising remains largely inaccessible, and the social costs of monitoring compliance are unacceptably high. This needs to be addressed urgently, to enable civic governance of online advertising.

Please register here: