Fall 2018 Colloquium Series







Abstract: This paper advances a view of moral obligation and how it moves us that runs counter to mainstream thought in ethics. Many assume, with Kant, that to count as an instance of genuine moral obligation, one must be subject to some truly unconditional constraint. Following in Hume’s footsteps, I suggest viewing our paradigmatic moral obligations as instead deriving from the rules of important social practices, which we follow out of a sense of devotion or regard. A familiar objection to this idea involves the charge of “rule-worship.” When the values that underwrite a practice would be better served by violating its rules rather than following them, observance may seem irrational. I attempt to disarm this objection, through exploring three issues. The first concerns how the rationale for a practice relates to the justification of action within it. The second concerns deliberation, and whether it should be understood in terms of determining what one’s “real” moral obligation is. The third concerns the possibility of irresolvable conflict between a person’s obligations and her other values or concerns. I argue that, once these issues are worked through, the image of ourselves as people who “worship” certain rules is an ethically attractive one.







Friday, November 2 :: Julia Staffel (UC Boulder)

Bio: In May 2013, Dr. Staffel received her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She specializes in formal epistemology and traditional epistemology, and her work also relates to issues in philosophical logic, philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Dr. Staffel's other philosophical interests include philosophy of language and linguistics and metaethics. In the fall of 2013, she visited the ANU as a postdoctoral fellow, and since January 2014, worked at the philosophy department at Washington University in St. Louis as an assistant professor. Beginning in the fall of 2018, she became an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Dr. Staffel's main research project right now is writing a book "Unsettled Thoughts", which develops an account of Bayesian rationality for non-ideal thinkers.

Abstract: Theories of epistemic rationality typically formulate norms of what it takes to have ideally rational beliefs or credences. Humans thinkers tend to be unable to fully comply with these ideal norms due to their cognitive limitations. Still, it is often claimed, ideal norms are relevant to human thinkers, because they are aims we are supposed to approximate, even if full compliance is out of reach. I argue that in order to defend the relevance of ideal norms for limited thinkers, we need to answer two questions: 1) What does it mean to be closer to or farther away from being ideally rational? 2) Why is it better to be closer to ideal rationality? I explain why these questions are difficult to answer, and propose strategies for overcoming these difficulties.