Digest Week 1 Trinity Term 2024

TT24, Week 1 (21st-27th April)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Notices - other Philosophy events, including those taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond

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Oxford Forum Lecture

Crises of Expression: Scepticism and Modernism, Melodrama and Modernity

Speaker: Professor Stephen Mulhall (Professor of Philosophy and Russell H. Carpenter Fellow in Philosophy, New College, the University of Oxford)

Date/time: Monday, 22 April 2024, 4:30pm – 6:00pm

Abstract: In this talk, I will try to show that Western European modernity exhibits a distinctively melodramatic dimension, one that displays itself in philosophy and the arts (including opera, film, painting and literature), and that indicates a heightened anxiety about our intelligibility to others, and to ourselves. We might then be in a position to consider what generates this anxiety, and whether it should be (and if so how it might be) overcome.

Chair: Dr Roxana Baiasu (Assistant Professor, the University of Birmingham; Fellow in Philosophy, Stanford University Centre in Oxford; Associate Member of the Philosophy Faculty, the University of Oxford)

Venue: Seminar Room, Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 555, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG

For more information contact theforumatoxford@gmail.com


So you want to study liminal philosophies: Q&A with graduate students

Date/Time: Monday, 22 April 2024, 6:15pm-8:15pm

Location: Radcliffe Humanities Building, Seminar Room

Please join us for a casual event to make space for philosophies less studied, where a panel of graduate students already pursuing these topics at a higher level will share their experiences and advice, with plenty of time for questions. 

All welcome: whether you are eager to pursue further studies in these yourself or just interested to learn more about how to broaden your philosophical horizons; whether undergrad, grad, or teacher; whatever discipline.

Featuring Buddhist philosophies, Chinese philosophies, Indian philosophies, philosophy of psychiatry, environmental philosophies, Indigenous philosophies, gender studies, and more!

This event is co-hosted by Philiminality and opp (oxford public philosophy).

Internal Uehiro Seminar

Is it morally permissible to shoot down, in the last resort, a hijacked civilian airplane to save a greater number of lives? 

Speaker: Professor Filimon Peonidis

Date: Wednesday 24 April 2024, 13:30 – 14:30

Abstract: In the well-known theatrical play Terror (2015) written by the German literary author and defense barrister Ferdinand von Schirach, an air force officer is put into trial for shooting down, against the orders of his superiors, a passenger airplane, which had been hijacked by terrorists with the intention to crush it into Arena Allianz in Munich, thus killing scores of people.

Inspired by this play I would like to examine the following imaginary but not unlikely to occur case:

  • A passenger airplane that is hijacked and controlled by terrorists is planned to crash into a stadium full with thousands of people. There is no doubt about the terrorists’ determination to accomplish their mission. If they are successful, they will bring about a disaster of immense proportions.
  • It is too late or impossible for the passengers or the crew to prevent this catastrophic event.
  • There is no time to evacuate safely the stadium.
  • All efforts to steer the plane off course and/or convince its captors to proceed to a forced landing have failed.
  • The air force has the means (surface-to air-missiles, air-to-air missiles etc.), if it is ordered by the government, to shoot down the plane just before reaching its target, thus killing all those on board 5 minutes before they are killed in the crash.

The question is what should be done. I will argue that:

  1. A small group of innocent people x is going to be killed at t by villains. Their death is inevitable.
  2. According to the villains’ plan, if group x is killed at t, another equally innocent albeit much larger group of people y will inevitably be killed by them.
  3. The air force of a sovereign state, which is under obligation to protect and defend the people in general from deadly attacks, can kill the villains at t-5 to save the members of group y from an imminent death. However, by killing the villains it will inevitably kill all members of group x.
  4. The death of the members of group x at t-5 will not be more painful than their death at t.
  5. It is morally required for the air force to kill the villains at t-5 on grounds of self-defense. It is also morally permissible to kill group x, since the extra harm its members will suffer, that is the shortening of their doomed lives for five minutes, is outweighed by the benefit of saving a much greater amount of lives.

Filimon Peonidis is professor of moral and political philosophy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and director of the Philosophy Lab “Texts and Interpretations”. His research interests are in moral philosophy with emphasis on Mill and applied ethics, democratic theory, the history of democratic traditions, liberalism, and the philosophical foundations of free expression. His work in English includes the following books: Autonomy and Sympathy: A Post-Kantian Moral Image (2005), Democracy as Popular Sovereignty (2013) and Philosophical Perspectives on Freedom of Expression (forthcoming 2024).

Venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Suite 1 Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1). Hybrid.

Booking: not required.

Zoom: Joining link available from the Centre's Internal Google Calendar, or on request from axelle.duquesnoy@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

Work-in-Progress Roundtable

Public Health Virtue Ethics (with Dr Kathryn MacKay)

Date: Thursday 25 April 2024, 13:30 – 15:30

Description: Academics and students interested in public health and/or virtue ethics are welcome to attend this roundtable, where we will be discussing a few chapters of a work-in-progress book manuscript on a virtue ethics approach to public health by Kathryn MacKay (University of Sydney, currently Academic Visitor at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics).

There will be opening comments by Professors Roger Crisp (Uehiro Centre) and James Wilson (UCL) on pre-circulated draft chapters, followed by open discussion.

Speaker: Dr Kathryn MacKay (University of Sydney; OUC Academic Visitor). Kathryn MacKay is a Senior Lecturer at Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney. Kathryn’s background is in philosophy and bioethics, and her research involves examining issues of human flourishing at the intersection of ethics, feminist theory, and political philosophy. Kathryn’s research is currently focussed on developing a theory of virtue for public health ethics. Her time at the Uehiro Centre will be spent developing the final two chapters of her book on this topic.

Venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Suite 1 Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1). In-person only.

Booking: Please email alberto.giubilini@philosophy.ox.ac.uk if you’re interested in attending (pre-reading of the chapters not required).


2024 Annual Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics

Love and Abortion

Lecture 1: Love as the Reason We Need Abortion

Speaker: Professor Elizabeth Harman

Date/time: Thursday 25 April 2024, 16:15 - 18:00 (followed by drinks for all attendees)

What does love teach us about abortion? How does love challenge our ideas about abortion? How can love explain the importance of abortion?


Practical Ethics and Law Lecture

'Mental Capacity: Why it doesn't and shouldn't matter much in medical law and ethics’

Speaker: Professor Jonathan Herring (University of Oxford)

Date/Time: Friday 26 April 2024, 15:00 – 16:30

Abstract: Medical law and ethics students are normally taught that mental capacity is a key concept.  Simply put, if the patient has capacity then their autonomous decisions are respected, while if they lack capacity then decisions are made on their behalf based on what is in their best interests.  This paper will challenge that supposition and claim that only in rare cases does it matter in terms of the outcome whether a patient has capacity or not.  The paper will then turn to the ethical issues.  While the importance of capacity is commonly said to rest in respect for autonomy it will argue that autonomy offers little help in complex legal cases.  None of this is to say we should not be respecting the views of patients, but that autonomy and capacity are an insecure basis for doing so.

Respondent: Dr Jonathan Pugh (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford)

In-person attendance: Booking not required and attendance is open to all members of the University and wider academic community.

Venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre, Suite 1 Seminar Area, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1)

Enquiries: Dr Binesh Hass <binesh.hass@philosophy.ox.ac.uk> (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford)