Too Much or too Little Science? Between the Extremes of Scientism and Pseudoscience

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November 21, 2016

We live in an increasingly polarized society, not just in terms of political and social issues, but also when it comes to our very understanding of the world. An increasing number of people question the authority of science, rejecting well established notions such as evolution, climate change, and the safety of vaccines. They prefer to engage in pseudoscientific thinking, according to which the universe bends to our will (the “law of attraction”) or God personally created every species on earth. On the opposite side of the barricade there are those who display a smug overconfidence about the powers of science — known as scientism. They ridicule other disciplines as well as religious belief, and argue that if a question cannot be approached scientifically than it amounts to nonsense. What is to be done about such ideological excesses? Can we develop a more reasonable model of human understanding? And how do we chart a course between scientism and pseudoscience? Join us as Massimo Pigliucci leads us in this very important discussion.

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Prof. Pigliucci has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He currently is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, the relationship between science and philosophy, the nature of pseudoscience, and the practical philosophy of Stoicism. He is a prolific author and editor, including the recently published Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (University of Chicago Press), co-edited with Maarten Boudry.

What Lies Beneath the Ink? Tattoos and Personal Identity

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October 13, 2016

Beneath tattoos are the meanings they have for the people wearing them. A philosophy of tattoos must recognize the personal and particular identities, values and ideals of those who wear them. Although meaning lies invisibly on the other side of the skin, it is crucial to understanding tattoos as an art form. A “human canvas” is not a two-dimensional surface. What does it mean when art is intrinsically connected to living persons? The “art” in question is charged with evolving social and personal histories. In this talk, Maureen Eckert will discuss how this invisible side of the tattoo arts plays a role in its popularity and commercialization while it paradoxically resists full commercialization and challenges the traditional fine arts. There is something radical about tattoos, although it is not anything obvious.

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Maureen Eckert is a philosopher at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She works in the areas of Ancient Greek philosophy, metaphysics and logic. On the side, she is a tattoo photographer, running her website tattoomacro.com, a project focusing on the narratives of tattoo clients and the characters of their tattoos captured in macro photography.

The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility

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It is well-known that upward mobility in the United States is increasingly rare. But what are the costs for those who do make it? Philosopher Jennifer M. Morton argues that one cost that is often overlooked is ethical. Moving up can require that in order to gain educational and career opportunities that will propel one into the middle-class one has to make difficult sacrifices in many areas of one’s life that one finds valuable—one’s relationships with family and friends, one’s sense of cultural identity, and one’s place in one’s community. These costs are ‘ethical’ because they affect aspects of one’s life that give it value and meaning. How should we think about these trade-offs? Are they inevitable? And how can we help those on this path contend with these ethical challenges? Join us for this important discussion.

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Jennifer M. Morton is an assistant professor of philosophy at the City College of New York and a senior fellow at the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and her A.B. from Princeton University. Professor Morton has published numerous journal articles in philosophy of action, moral philosophy, philosophy of education, and political philosophy. She is currently working on a book on the ethics of upward mobility.

Religion in Democratic Politics

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What role should religious conviction play in democratic policy-making?  Features of modern democratic societies intersect to render this question both essential and problematic.  Government policy in a democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the citizens, and in those societies citizens are free to practice any religion that they choose. So why shouldn’t democratic laws be based on, say, the moral teachings of the Bible, if the majority of the citizens desire it?  Well, modern citizens often disagree about religion, both in terms of its truth and its relevance.  Does this fact of religious disagreement mean that each citizen should avoid voting on the basis of their own religious conviction, or would that make modern democracy objectionably secular, inconsistent with the religious freedom a democratic society  is supposed to secure?  In this talk, Robert Talisse explores these questions and defends the view that, indeed, religious citizens have a moral duty to avoid voting on the basis of their religious conviction, but that this constraint is not inconsistent with freedom of religion.

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Thursday, June 9 at 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

Robert B.Talisse is Jones Professor of Philosophy and Chairperson of the Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in political philosophy, democratic theory, and ethics.  He is the author of many scholarly essays and several books, including Democracy and Moral Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and, most recently, Engaging Political Philosophy (Routledge, 2016).  Talisse earned his PhD in Philosophy in 2001 from the City University of New York.

Looking for Love (In All the Wrong Places)

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“All you need is love.” So sayeth the gospel of John (Lennon). But what is love? What sorts of things can be the object of our love? Do we love what we love in virtue of their qualities, in virtue of something else, or “just because.” How important is love? In recent years philosophers have addressed (or dodged) these questions. I’ll tell you something about what they’ve been saying and writing, but mostly I’ll be trying to get you to help me answer these questions.

Join philosopher Dale Jamieson in this collaborative investigation into the nature of love, that most essential and yet most intellectually elusive of human emotions.

Tuesday, May 17, at 6pm.  This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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Dale Jamieson is Chair of the Environmental Studies Department; Professor of Environmental Studies and of Philosophy; and the Founding Director of Environmental Studies and Animal Studies at New York University. He has written extensively on the environment, climate change, and our relationship to animals. He is the author of several works, including Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed–and What It Means For Our Future and, most recently, Love in the Anthropocene (with Bonnie Nazdam).

Infinite Hope as a Personal and Political Virtue

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One insight unites the political thought of Martin Luther King, the personal and political courage of such figures as Nelson Mandela and Viktor Frankl, and the global humanitarianism of Paul Farmer. It is the realization that hope—and in particular infinite hope—is essential to resilience in the face of adversity, effective resistance to injustice, and our capacity to promote “moral repair” of the world. Infinite hope is unshakeable confidence that even the worst malevolence and evil cannot extinguish all that is good in the world, or destroy the human capacity to do good. Join the philosopher Michele Moody-Adams as she helps us consider the moral and political implications of accepting that such hope is both a personal and a political virtue.

Tuesday, April 5 at 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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Michele Moody-Adams is Joseph Straus Professor of Political Philosophy and Legal Theory at Columbia University, where she served as Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education from 2009-2011. Moody-Adams has published on such topics as equality and social justice, moral psychology and the virtues, and the philosophical implications of gender and race. Her current work includes articles on academic freedom, equal educational opportunity, and democratic disagreement.

The Art in Living

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Will close attention to the beauty and ugliness of life make us better people? The philosopher David Kaspar believes it does, and that the unaesthetic life, like the unexamined one, is not worth living. Join us as Kaspar discusses how a good life includes not only acting rightly and choosing wisely, but living with style.

Wednesday, March 23, 6pm. This event is part of the Philosophy Series at The Cornelia Street Café, located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319)

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David Kaspar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University. He works primarily in ethics and in social and political philosophy. His book Intuitionism was published in 2012.

Strange Bedfellows: Buddhism, Marxism, and the Critique of Contemporary Capitalist Culture

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image by eonupdate

 

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Please join us on Tuesday, October 20th at 6pm, at The Cornelia Street Caféas we welcome world-renowned philosopher and logician Graham Priest, as he discusses the surprising connections among Buddhist and Marxist critiques of the very conditions that both support our capitalist society and contribute significantly to the sort of suffering with which we have become all too familiar.

Priest, perhaps most well-known for his robust defense of the view that there are true contradictions, has long found fruitful ways of bringing his knowledge of Asian thought and practice to bear on questions that have defined philosophy’s European tradition.  His welcome cross-cultural understanding continues in this talk.

The Cornelia Street Café is located at 29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014 (near Sixth Avenue and West 4th St.). Admission is $9, which includes the price of one drink. Reservations are recommended (212. 989.9319).