Friday, December 19, 2014

Reason and Moral Progress

Rebecca Newberger GoldsteinSteven PinkerReason is the tool of the Philosopher. It is also what makes most of society happen. To ignore it is to still be subject to it. 

 In the following animated TED video, watch as psychologist Steven Pinker is gradually, brilliantly persuaded by philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that reason is actually the key driver of human moral progress, even if its effect sometimes takes generations to unfold.

Curiously, the arguments that Goldstein uses are reminiscent of Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and Plantinga (All theists, by the way.  You'll see what I mean...).

The dialog was recorded live at TED, and animated, in incredible, often hilarious, detail by Cognitive.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Restorative Justice and Psychopaths

In our Philosophy classes, we often discuss the difference between retributive and distributive justice.  Yet in those concepts is implied another aspect of justice that is often overlooked: restorative justice.

"There is a long tradition of associating justice with punishment and, of course, punishment with violence. When there is an offender and a victim, traditional justice ignores the needs created by the crime for the victim and the victim's community. Instead, all of the attention is paid to how punishing the offender might restore justice in the abstract--removed from the actual wounds that need healing--as though the state were the victim. But when we shift our thinking and look at the actual needs that result from the crime (restoring trust, security, truth-telling, and more), we can focus on what we should: on restoring victims, communities, and even offenders." --Dr. Craig Hovey

In the following Ted Talk, Daniel Reisel takes up this issue and studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). He asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn't we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury ... could we help the brain re-grow morality?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AU's Ethics Minor!

Did you know that AU offers a unique Minor in Ethics?

Shared between the Philosophy and Religion departments, the Ethics Minor trains students to be more ethically diverse and aware of their global responsibilities.  Consisting of only 15 hours, if planned correctly, almost EVERY MAJOR can benefit from this opportunity and add the Ethics minor with as little as ONE additional course beyond their core requirements.  It's a value-added, low to no cost minor!

Minor Information for All Students: BASIC INFO

Minor Information especially for Nursing Students: NURSING INFO 

Be Extraordinary . . . Be an Ethics Minor!

For the complete program, as well as a list of approved electives, please visit:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Colloquium Talk on Business Ethics: UPDATE

The Philosophy Department, in conjunction with the AU Philosophy Club and Phi Sigma Tau
proudly sponsor the following presentation:

“Business Ethics: Can Aristotle Help Us?”

Dr. James Stover
Wheeling Jesuit University,WV
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
4 pm
Schar Ronk Lecture Hall

This talk is an attempt at a sort of fusion of horizons with regards to ethics.  It asks two questions: First, is Aristotle’s ethics a viable system for a person living in the 21st century?  Second, is Aristotle relevant for today’s business ethics?  This second question became especially poignant at the beginning of this millennium with such debacles as Enron, Arthur Anderson, and WorldCom.  Moreover, these debacles were trumped by the recent financial scandals of Lehman brothers, Countrywide Financial, AIG, and others, associated with the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009.  Are there ancient answers to these modern questions?  More specifically, what can Aristotle who lived over twenty-three hundred years ago, contribute to how we live our lives and operate our businesses today?

Dr. Stover is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wheeling Jesuit University.  He specializes in the areas of philosophical ethics, ancient philosophy, and business ethics.

Mediasite Presentation:


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Faculty Update: Dr. William Vaughan Gives Workshops on Phenomenology

Dr. William Vaughan, core director, AU
Dr. William Vaughan
Dr. Vaughan recently delivered two invited workshops on Phenomenology at the College of Wooster, August 28th and September 4th, 2014.

The first workshop addressed the arguments of Husserl’s Fifth Cartesian Meditation, the distinctions between ‘static’ and ‘genetic’ phenomenology, and the historical reception of Husserl’s efforts. The second workshop detailed the phenomenology of intersubjectivity in reaction to Husserl through select works of major German and French thinkers Scheler, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Levinas.

In the first workshop, Dr. Vaughan zeroed in on the unfortunate historical circumstances of Husserl’s career and publications that had led to misunderstandings of his views. An entire generation of both German and French thinkers had reacted to Husserl’s work Cartesian Meditations, wherein Husserl had seemingly argued that understanding and relating to others (known as intersubjectivity in this literature) could be taken only as sense-correlates of one’s own conscious processes. On this view, actual other human beings never condition the processes of this monadic ego; they are always only quasi-reproductions of oneself. However, subsequent scholarship and release of Husserl’s Gesammelte Werke (complete works) has shown that he had in fact developed a much more nuanced conception of intersubjectivity in his unpublished manuscripts.

“Husserl was not well served by historical circumstances,” said Vaughan. “We have 20 volumes of unpublished work that is probably superior to his published work. His publications were always out of joint with where his actual thinking was leading. He could have used a better book-agent.”

In the second workshop, Dr. Vaughan explicated both how famous thinkers reacted to and criticized Husserl, and also how they misunderstood Husserl. Rather than merely a ‘static’ phenomenology with a rigid structure that focuses on constitution by an already-constituted ego, Husserl had already developed a genetic phenomenology that addresses temporal phenomena, historical accumulation and community, features which he came to conclude were the actual features of human intersubjectivity.  Later thinkers unfortunately came to identify Husserl with static phenomenology only, reinforcing the Cartesian framework that the subject or ego is absolute.

“Contemporary scholarship is correcting the historical record, but the existentialist bus had already left the station. These later classical phenomenologists thought they were articulating general features of the human condition, but in many respects we can now see some of their work as extensions of the debilitating cultural aspects of the world wars.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

What makes something 'good'?

 What makes good things and good peopleYoung people discuss this issue with philosopher Michael Lacewing from Heythrop College, using a curious thought experiment called the "Goodness Detector". Click on the link below to listen to a short discussion:

The Goodness Detector

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What is Philosophy?

Philosophers often get this question, and it's usually difficult to answer in a short, efficient manner.  Jack Russell Weinstein, Director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life, takes on this challenge.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Do Questions Matter? Philosophy for Children!

Numbers?  Ring of Gyges?  Ship of Theseus?  Bravery?  Kids worry about these kinds of things, and everyone else should too...

Dr. Sara Goering discusses how to talk philosophy with kids (and everyone else) and why it really matters.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Desire and Human Nature

What are desires, and how do they influence our behaviors?  A panelist of thinkers discuss desire and its role in reality.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Repugnant Conclusion

AU Alumnus Jonathan Spelman has contributed another short article to 1000-Word Philosophy.  Check it out here:

The Repugnant Conclusion

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Great Tool on Linkedin

Interested in finding out how Philosophy graduates are doing on the job market?  Use a new tool in Linkedin called the Field of Study explorer:

"IBM employs an impressive 600 graduates of philosophy, and Microsoft and Google each employ over 450. Clearly you can get a fantastic job with a philosophy degree, especially if you’re interested in computers and technology."

For Article CLICK HERE!