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PPE Speaker Series

The PPE Speaker Series is designed specifically for undergraduate students. Our events are sponsored by the Philosophy and Religion Department, the PPE Program, and the Ethics Institute

For a list of upcoming speakers, check out our Events page.

Past Speakers

PPE Speaker, Tommie Shelby

Time: Starts at 4:30pm

Location: Churchill Hall 103

Title: “How Racial Stereotypes Wrong: A Political Ethics of Belief”

Abstract: As racial stereotypes are beliefs about contingent matters of fact (namely, the traits and tendencies of different “racial” groups), it is puzzling how they could be proper objects of moral condemnation, resentment, and blame. Beliefs are not actions. They cannot be formed at will. And their assessment is usually taken to be a matter of their truth or falsity, not their moral permissibility or wrongfulness. This lecture attempts to specify where the moral problems with racial stereotypes lie. It does so, in part, by arguing that there is an underappreciated political ethics that should guide belief formation and intergroup relations in societies that have been deeply shaped by racial injustice. Along the way, stereotypes are distinguished from similar and related phenomena, including group prejudice and implicit bias. Epistemic errors are distinguished from moral wrongs and vices, and it is explained how both types of faults are related and combined in stereotypes.

About the Speaker: Tommie Shelby, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University

PPE Speaker, Chris Zurn

Time: Starts at 4:45pm

Location: Hurtig 224

Title: “Splitsville USA”


Christopher will be talking about his most recent book Splitsville USA. The book argues that, in order to save representative democracy, we need to split up the United States into several new nations, through a mutually negotiated peaceful dissolution. Christopher claims that the roots of the dangers to basic electoral democracy in the current United States are structural, based in our basic political and constitutional institutions. And he argues that the only realistic and effective way to fix those is to dissolve the current US into several new nation states.

PPE Speaker, Kenan Malik

Time: 10:30am-12pm

Location: Renaissance Park 909 Conference Room

Title: “Not so Black and White: A History of Race from White Supremacy to Identity Politics”


Kenan Malik (London-based writer, lecturer, broadcaster) will be discussing his new book “Not so Black and White: A History of Race from White Supremacy to Identity Politics.”

PPE Speaker, Sigal Ben-Porath

Time: Starts at 11:45am

Location: Renaissance Park 909 Conference Room

Title: “Should colleges permit hateful speech?”


Should colleges permit hateful speech? In this talk Sigal Ben-Porath will draw some boundaries for campus speech and argue that they are distinct from the boundaries we draw in democracy more broadly. Sigal will consider the commitment to values such as safety, equality, true knowledge, and dignity as limiting factors for protected campus speech. Sigal Will consider some counter arguments and hope to hear additional counterarguments during the discussion.

PPE Speaker, Manon Garcia

Time: 10:30am-12pm

Location: Renaissance Park 909 Conference Room

Title: “The Joy of consent: A Philosophy of Good Sex”


On Friday, September 29th, Manon Garcia will be coming to discuss her book “the Joy of Consent: A Philosophy of Good Sex.”

PPE Speaker, Margaret Burnham

Time: 10:00am-11:30am, September 20, 2022

Location: Curry Student Center, Senate Chambers

Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA

PPE Speaker, Alex Gourevitch

Time: 10:00am-11:30am

Location: 909 Renaissance Park

Title: On Necessary Labor: Why a UBI can’t be a path to a post-work future
Abstract: It was once standard to understand socialism as a regime of freedom because it was based on shared labor. The contemporary Left is captured by an alternative ‘post-work’ vision, in which emancipation is equated with being freed not just from work but from a work-based society itself. Policies like a ‘Universal Basic Income’ are now supposed to ground a emancipatory vision of a society in which nobody is forced to work. Promoting a UBI is supposed to re-ignite left-wing politics by guiding the political imagination towards the attractions of a post-work utopia. Unfortunately, this vision is grounded in a series of deceptions about why some labor is necessary. These deceptions are both an intellectual and political liability. Intellectually, the deceptions leave the Left without the ability to properly describe, let alone theorize, the problems that any serious socialist project has to face. The core question is about how to define, organize and distribute necessary labor in a way consistent with human freedom. Politically, Left proponents of a UBI are left unable to see what is utterly reasonable, even valuable, about popular attachments to work. They end up representing socialist views about work and freedom as far more marginal and at odds with widespread views than they need or ought to be. In many ways, the public tacitly understands, better than UBI proponents, the need for some formal organization of necessary labor.
Speaker Bio: Alex Gourevitch is an associate professor of political science in the Department of Political Science. He received his Ph.D in political science from Columbia University in 2010. Gourevitch’s research interests include the history of political and economic thought; theories of freedom; work and leisure; Marxism; rights theory; republicanism; and democratic theory.

PPE Speaker, Regine Jean-Charles

Time: 11:45am-1:25pm

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

Title: Do Something Transformative: Black Feminisms and Social Justice
Abstract: This talk explores how Black feminist authors, activists, and artists have use their work to intervene in social justice issues. Using the example of the Combahee River Collective’s statement of their politics as a guide, we will trace how attention to race, gender, and justice animates and inspires the work of Black feminists over time.

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Dr. Larry Blum

Time: 12:00-1:30pm

Location: In-person (240 Dockser Hall) 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.

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Dr. Robert Talisse

Time: 12:00-1:30pm

Location: Renaissance Park 909 and on Zoom

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, Sabelo Mhlambi

Title:  Can AI Ethics actually fix AI?


Big Tech and Universities have initiated several efforts to mitigate AI bias and the unintended harmful effects of AI in healthcare, social networks, and the criminal justice system through AI Ethics boards, Ethics AI research, Diversity & Inclusion efforts – however do these efforts address the disparities in the distribution of power, agency, and resources within society and between societies, and are they sufficient to produce tangible results especially for the communities who are most likely to be negatively impacted by ever increasing widespread use of AI? This talk will examine the driving forces behind AI, Ethics AI, and the question of power through a racial and Decolonial lens.

Mhlambi is the founder of Bhala, an AI startup that democratizes the advances of AI to millions of Africans through Natural Language Processing of African languages and African visual languages. This event is the first in our fall PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker Series. Mhlambi is also the founder of Bantucracy a public interest organization that focuses on ubuntu ethics and technology.  Mr Mhlambi currently a fellow at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society, a Fellow at Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, and a 2019-2020 Technology & Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Michele Moody-Adams

Title: Does Democracy Have A Future?


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.


Register here:

PPE/Ethics Institute Speaker, Olufemi Taiwo

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


*This event was recorded

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