The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

Looking for my research? You probably need the Weebly website.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moral Philosophy paper topics

Option A:  According to Aristotle’s virtue ethic, should I wish for my friend Byron that he win the lottery?  If you think the answer to this question is easy, then you have not looked at all of Books I, II, III, IV, and VII in the EN. Papers that rely only on evidence from books VIII and IX are C papers at best.     

Option B:  Albert Schweitzer is virtuous.  Therefore, Kate Norlock is not virtuous.  If she was virtuous, she would decide to pursue, and actually pursue, a life much like Albert Schweitzer’s.  Instead, she, like you and most people, is settling for not trying very hard, and for a so-so life requiring no bravery or distinction.  Aver or refute this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First anniversary Kenneth Mark Drain Lecture

Students can now RSVP here to the upcoming talk by Dr. Roger Gottlieb, "The spirit of sustainability: why environmentalism and spirituality need each other," which starts at 6 pm on Wed., Oct. 12, in Bata Library Film Theater.  A dessert reception and cash bar follows the talk, over at the Champlain College Living Learning Commons.  See you there!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Central APA papers I will comment on

Hooray, a chance to laud and criticize excellent philosophy will also permit seeing old friends in Chicago and taking my parents out to dinner! I shall be attending the Central Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in February and commenting on two rather different papers:

Luke P. Phillips (University of Indiana), "Contempt and the Capacity for Evil," main program symposium (Thursday 12-2 PM). 

Ben Almassi (College of Lake County), “Feminist Reclamations of Masculinity,” group session of the Society for Analytical Feminism (time tba).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remember September 11, 2001


As the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. approaches, many of us are drawn to recognizing the losses and sufferings of that day.  Yet moral horrors and losses happen to people around the world, and they are not accorded international recognition.  The appreciation of ubiquitous suffering can be paralyzing, can it not?  Is there a virtue of mourning, and a vice of excess in contexts in which my losses receive more generous attention than others’?
As it happens, I am also currently labouring over a paper honouring the work of philosopher Sara Ruddick, whose loss to this community in the past year is also being recognized at several philosophical conferences.  My work on Ruddick is currently preoccupied with her 2003 essay, “The Moral Horror of the September Attacks.”  As always, reading her helps me consider possible answers as to the appropriateness of ongoing sadness.  She reminds her readers that all losses merit appreciation:
 [A possible] argument finds the September attacks insignificant when compared to other evils: deaths in the thousands rather than the millions, an assault of only half a day, quick death by force and fire rather than by extended torture and humiliation. The attacks seem almost trivial compared to evils of the holocaust, slavery, and apartheid; to many massacres and much extended suffering under brutal tyrannical rule. ...
Evils differ in degree and kind. A sense of perspective is important. But in comparing evils we may trivialize or excuse the “lesser,” thereby inuring ourselves to great suffering.  What matters is the specificity of moral horrors, of evil, of anyone's pain and loss.
Drawing on the correspondence of Arendt and Jaspers regarding the Holocaust, Ruddick adds:
This correspondence contains a double warning both against mythologizing “the horrible” and against denying the distinct horrors of what is done or suffered. Since September 11 the danger of mythologizing, even clinging to, the horrible has been evident. It has been harder to grasp the distinct moral horror of the attacks or even to appreciate the difficulty of that task.
Ruddick concludes on a note of lament, which affords a sort of sympathetic comfort even as she reminds us that victims’ stories and our own memories of that day are not consoling.  If we continue to remember the day with pain, perhaps it is because violence does not end.  It may ask too much to greet this anniversary, and her last sentence below, without sadness.
The values of “home” can be destroyed on factory floors, in prisons and mind-numbing schools, through “terrorist” violence and terrifying war. They can be destroyed at home. But they were not destroyed in the September attacks.
Nor did these values in any sense triumph. The September attacks are about damage and loss; intimate, emotional, social, and political loss. The victim stories are stories, true enough tales of what some people did. They express certain values, but they do not console. Instead they offer one way of beginning to grasp the moral horror we have witnessed and to feel the bitter loss of what violence has killed, now kills and will kill again.