Skip to content
Contact Us

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

PPE Speaker Series

Fall 2022 series is TBA.

Ethics Institute Speaker Series

Fall 2022 series is TBA.

Past Speakers

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.

Speaker: Justin Bruner 

Time: 3:30pm-5:00pm

Location: Renaissance Park 426 (Department Common Room)

Title: Risk, rules and agreement

Abstract: What does it mean to divide fairly? One approach popular in computer science and economics begins with a fairness rule, a procedure or algorithm that determines how to allocate various goods. Normative criteria are then invoked to compare different rules.  Yet no rule satisfies all normative criteria.  We outline an alternative approach that draws inspiration from the social contract tradition.  Briefly, contractarians take the ideal rules to be those rules rational individuals would agree to in certain circumstances.  With the help of a computer simulation, we explore the fragility of agreement and consider whether consensus still exists when individuals have different attitudes toward risk and, alternatively, have drastically different beliefs about the extent to which their interests overlap.

Speaker: Espen Stabell

Time: 3:30pm-5:00pm

Location: Renaissance Park 426 (Department Common Room)

Title: Moral uncertainty: the two-level view

Abstract: It has been argued that under uncertainty about which first-order moral theory or view is correct, decision-makers should employ a distinct, ‘second-level’ theory for decision-making under moral uncertainty. I call this the two-level view of decision-making under moral uncertainty. In the paper, I discuss a version of the two-level view which says that decision theory should be employed on the second level: if you are uncertain between two (or more) theories, you should ‘hedge your bets’: you should decide based on your preferences and beliefs (credences) with regard to the theories in question. I point out a worry regarding this view: that it can lead to a kind of ‘moral laziness’, where decision-makers avoid work on the first-level and move too quickly to the second level. I connect this worry to a more general issue: how the work on the first level might affect the legitimacy and strength of the ‘second-level oughts’ of moral uncertainty. This, I argue, must be clarified in order to put something like the two-level view to work in our actual decision making.

Speaker: Daniela Gandorfer

Time: 3:30pm-5:00pm

Location: 426 Renaissance Park

Title: “Down and Dirty in the Field of Play: Startup Societies, Cryptostatecraft, and Critical Complicity”
Abstract: Phenomena such as human-induced climate change, global rise of authoritarian regimes, mistrust in democratic structures, and the potential of new digital technologies for producing novel modes of governance are  inducing fundamental shifts in the conditions of existence on earth. Furthermore, they are also constituting normative indeterminacies which are providing a fertile ground for political experiments in organizing, governing, and imagining societies differently. This talk focuses on a particular mode of governance, namely competitive crypto-governance, outlines the implications of its underlying imaginaries, and suggests collaborative approaches towards an alternative understanding of law and governance in the 21st century.
Speaker Bio: Daniela is trained in legal theory, science and technology studies, media studies, as well as process philosophy. Her research focuses on scientific and technological frontier spaces — such as quantum physics, digital and crypto-technologies, and psychadelics — and their implications for emerging forms of normativity and governance. Special interest lies on the possibilities for an ethics of sensing and sense-making (synaesethics) attentive to these phenomena.
She is the recipient of the 2021 ASciNA Young Scientist Award, and has co-edited the Research Handbook in Law and Literature (Edward Elgar Publishing, with Peter Goodrich and Cecilia Gebruers) as well as the Theory & Event special issue “Matterphorical” (Johns Hopkins Press, with Zulaikha Ayub). Her book Matterphorics: On the Laws of Theory is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

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/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, 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

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: