The 2015 Burman Lectures in Philosophy
PRAGMATISM IN ETHICS: WHY AND HOW
Elizabeth Anderson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan.
1-3 June at Umeå University
Venue: Humanisthuset (Humanities Building), Hörsal F
Abstract: Pragmatism is often loosely characterized as the view that people should adopt "whatever works." This seems like empty and useless advice, since it omits any substantive criterion of what works. This lecture series will explain what this advice really means, why we ought to follow it, and how we can follow it--even though pragmatists do not supply any substantive criterion of what works. The key to pragmatism lies in its method, which deeply integrates moral with empirical inquiry. I shall explain how it works by undertaking an extended case study of how it did work--in the long process whereby humanity learned that slavery is morally wrong.
Lecture 1: Why Pragmatism?
June 1st at 13.15-15, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F
Pragmatism replaces the quest for an ultimate criterion or principle of morally right action with a method for intelligently updating our moral beliefs. In this lecture, I shall explain why the quest for an ultimate principle of morality is misguided, and why the a priori methods philosophers use to discover such principles are unreliable. These methods were tried in the attempt to persuade people that slavery is wrong, and they largely failed to work. Intelligent moral revision requires empirical inquiry, not only the deployment of ever-more-sophisticated a priori methods. Pragmatism explains how and why the methods that actually changed people's minds about slavery were successful.
Lecture 2: How to Be a Pragmatist 1: Correcting Moral Biases
June 2nd at 13.15-15, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F
Suppose people have a belief, but they know that this belief was formed under the influence of certain moral biases. They are likely to improve their beliefs by reconsidering them under conditions in which the operations of such biases are blocked, counteracted, or overcome. Pragmatism offers methods whereby we can assess belief-formation processes for bias, and construct better practices of inquiry that block, counteract, or overcome those biases. I shall illustrate these methods by considering the moral biases that supported beliefs in the moral justification of slavery, and how those biases were undermined in the long struggle to abolish slavery.
Lecture 3: How to Be a Pragmatist 2: Experiments in Living
June 3rd at 13.15-15, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F
Pragmatists are famous for claiming that moral inquiry is a kind of empirical inquiry, not different in principle from science. The key to understanding how this can be so is to see how moral claims can be tested in experiments in living. Pragmatists argue that we can test our moral beliefs by putting them into practice and seeing whether they solve the problems we need them to solve, without creating worse problems in the process. I shall illustrate how abolitionists regarded slave emancipation as an experiment in living, and what lessons they did, and we ought, to draw from the actions the slaves took upon winning their freedom.
Arranged by: The Department of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Umeå University.
Previous Burman Lectures
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Lecture Two: "A Constitutivist Theory of Reasons"
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Lecture 2: Three puzzles about spatial experience
Lecture 3: The structuralist response to skepticism
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Lecture 2: The Semantics of ”Ought”
Lecture 3: The Pragmatics of Normative Disagreement
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Lecture 1: Existence, Being and Being-so
Lecture 2: Existence and Quantification Reconsidered
Lecture 3: The Singularity of Singular Thought
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Lecture 2: The problem about `selection-for`
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Lecture 1: The varieties of perceptual intentionality
Lecture 2: The contents of visual experience
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Lecture 1: Transparency and Self-Knowledge
Lecture 2: Knowing that I am thinking
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Lecture 2: Practical Reasoning and Inference
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Lecture 1: The Epistemological Problem of the Neuroscience of Consciousness
Lecture 2: How Empirical Evidence can be Relevant to the Mind-Body Problem
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Lecture 2: Foolishness and Cognitive Values
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Lecture 2: The primacy of the phenomenological over logical analysis: A Merleau-Pontian Critique of Searle's Account of Action and Social Reality
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Lecture 1: A Simple Refutation of Mindless Materialism
Lecture 2: Universals, Particulars and the Logic of Predication
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Lecture 1: Social Science as Semiotic.
Lecture 2: Sociology of Science: The Sensible Program.
Howard Sobel, University of Toronto
Lecture 1: First causes: St. Thomas Aquinas's 'Second way'.
Lecture 2: Ultimate reasons if not first causes: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz on 'the Ultimate Origination of Things'.
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