The Vice of Procrastination
By Sergio Tenenbaum

Since it might take a while till I have a version of my contribution to the Moral Philosophy Seminar that is in reasonable shape, I am posting meanwhile a link to a “companion piece” to it. The piece is called “The Vice of Procrastination” and is forthcoming in a volume on procrastination (the contributors tried really hard to refrain from making the obvious jokes) entitled The Thief of Time edited by Chrisoula Andreou and Mark White.

Dr. Fiona Woollard from University of Sheffield gave a talk entitled “Doing, Allowing and Imposing” this past Monday at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar. Here is an abstract of her talk:

The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing states that doing harm is harder to justify than merely allowing harm. I offer a defence of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing using the idea of imposition. The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing should be understood as a principle protecting us from harmful imposition. Protection from harmful imposition is necessary to respect persons’ authority over what belongs to them. Thus if persons do have authority over what belongs to them, the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing must hold. I end by considering how we could establish that persons have authority over what belongs to them.

Sayre-McCord on Moral Dilemmas
By S. Matthew Liao

Professor Geoffrey Sayre-McCord from UNC gave a talk entitled “A Moral Argument Against Moral Dilemmas” sometime ago at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar. Geoff considers whether there are any genuine moral dilemmas and offers a moral argument against them. Here is a paper version of his talk, and he welcomes any comments/suggestions.

Hare on Obligation and Regret
By S. Matthew Liao

Professor Caspar Hare from MIT will be giving a talk this Monday at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “Obligation and Regret When There is No Fact of the Matter About What Would have Happened If You Had Not Done What You Did.” Here is an abstract of his talk:

This paper is about conditional under-specification and the objective ought. Moral: sometimes there is a difference between what there is most reason for you to do and what a fully informed, benevolent observer would want you to do.

A copy of Caspar’s talk can be found here, and he would welcome any comments/suggestions.

Professor Steven P. Lee, Donald R. Harter ‘39 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, gave a talk recently at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “Is the Principle of Discrimination a Mere Convention?” Here is an abstract of his talk:

Professor David Wiggins, the Wykeham Professor of Logic, Emeritus, at Oxford University gave a fantastic talk yesterday at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “The Solidarity at the Root of the Ethical.”

With his permission, a podcast of his talk can be found here:

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UPDATE: Here is a handout to go along with the talk.

Ben Saunders at Oxford University gave a talk yesterday at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “Fairness, Democracy, and Lotteries.” Here is an abstract of his talk:

This paper challenges the common assumption that democracy requires majority rule. I assume that we can adopt a contractualist approach to uncover the demands of political equality and argue that contractors would not necessarily accept majority rule to make decisions in their society. I first reject broadly consequentialist arguments, arguing that firstly no procedure guarantees ideally best outcomes, secondly that in cases of pluralism there is no need to suppose there is a uniquely best outcome, and thirdly that we need to be fair between different individuals. I develop this need for fairness into a case for weighted lotteries, drawing on the Taurek-Scanlon ‘saving the greater number’ debate. This leads to my conclusion that democratic ideals can be realized by selecting a random vote to determine the outcomes of decisions.

Daniel Elstein from University of Leeds gave a talk recently at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “Is there a normative question and if so, how can it be answered?” Here is an abstract of his talk:

A neglected debate in metaethics is between Kantian and Humean expressivists. Kantian expressivists like Korsgaard hold that there is a single normative question which metaethics must deal with, whereas Humeans like Blackburn hold that there are simply a slew of diverse normative questions, which are a matter for normative ethics rather than metaethics. I argue that that the counter-intuitive Kantian position can be defended by considering Copp’s normative regress argument, and I try to show how to understand Kant’s argument for the categorical imperative as a plausible response to this threat of normative regress.

Brown on A Life Worth Living
By S. Matthew Liao

Dr. Campbell Brown from University of Edinburgh gave a talk recently at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar on “How to Live a Life Worth Living.” An abstract of his talk is as follows:

Although ubiquitous in population ethics, the notion of a “life worth living” resists easy analysis. Intuitively, one wants to say that a life is worth living just in case living it is better than living no life at all. On reflection, though, this seems mysterious. To live no life at all is simply not to exist, to be nothing. But then it seems we have an instance of the “better than” relation in which one of the relata is absent; we’re trying to compare something, a life, with nothing. This paper proposes an analysis of lives worth living that avoids such mysterious comparisons.

Professor Richard Holton (MIT) will be giving a talk on “Determinism, self-efficacy, and the phenomenology of free will,” this coming Monday, 11th February 2008, at the Oxford Moral Philosophy Seminar, and he has kindly offered to circulate his paper before the seminar.

Abstract:

Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or to go in for vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible.

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