Lectures start promptly at 7:30PM and are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month September through May

1-14-2020  Guns and the Second Amendment: Data, History, and Ethics

Blinn Combs

Gun violence is a persistent problem of current life in America. Gun rights advocates nonetheless often claim that the Second Amendment protects the an unfettered right of individuals to carry and keep guns for everything from self-defense to protection against tyranny. This talk explores the development of the Second Amendment at the time of the founding and how interpretations have shifted up to the Supreme Court's controversial 2008 Heller decision. With that in view, we consider what ethical principles should inform our beliefs about the Second Amendment going forward.

Audio of talk: Guns and the Second Amendment
PowerPoint: Guns and the Second Amendment

1-28-2020  The Life of Ivan Ilyich

David Patterson, Ph.D., UTD

This lecture examines Leo Tolstoy’s great story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” (1886) in an effort to arrive at some insight into what constitutes the meaning and value of a human life.  As Tolstoy’s title character undergoes the ordeal of dying, he is confronted with the issue of what his life has been about and where the true value of life might lie.  We will explore Tolstoy’s thoughts on these questions.

Audio of talk: The Life of Ivan Ilyich

2-11-2020  Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism

Steve Sverdlik, Ph.D., SMU

Jeremy Bentham is considered to be the founding father of utilitarianism, and his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) is regarded as his masterpiece. In researching this book, the speaker has discovered some interesting facts about Bentham’s goals in writing the book. These discoveries will help us understand some of the puzzling features of this masterpiece. 

Audio of talk: Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism

2-25-2020  Critics of Democracy: Ancient and Modern

Gianna Englert, Ph.D., SMU

Is democracy actually the best we can do? Do the benefits of democracy outweigh its costs? This lecture will explore these questions by discussing critiques of democracy from the history of political thought, from times and places as varied as classical Athens and nineteenth-century America. We will consider whether these critiques have any merit, and ask whether they remain relevant for thinking about contemporary politics.

Audio of talk: Critics of Democracy: Ancient and Modern
Presentation:  Critics of Democracy: Ancient and Modern

3-10-2020  Ethics, Happiness, and the Good Life: From the Ancient Greeks to Modern Times

Robin Olson, MLA, CPCU, ARM, UTD

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with questions about how we should live and the nature of right and wrong.  Socrates was one of the first Greek philosophers to encourage the common citizen to address this complex issue.  Ethics, of course, not only deals with making the correct moral and honest decision in the business world but in our personal lives as well.  Ethics also examines what it means to lead a “good” life, what concepts such as justice and happiness actually mean, and how we can achieve them with a focus on behaving for the common good.  The session will close with a brief discussion of some real life ethical and moral dilemmas.  

Audio of talk: Ethics, Happiness, and the Good Life: From the Ancient Greeks to Modern Times
Presentation: Ethics, Happiness, and the Good Life: From the Ancient Greeks to Modern Times

3-24-2020  Discovery in the Everyday Practice of Science: The Logic of Unintended Experiments

Fred Grinnell, Ph.D., UT Southwestern (Canceled due to COVID)

Generating new ideas is central to what scientists hope to accomplish. What they aim for is learning new things about the world and how it works. The American philosopher Charles Pierce gave the name “abduction” to what he described as the logic of discovery. Dr. Grinnell will focus on understanding abduction when a surprising observation becomes an unintended experiment involving a new research problem that has not been previously studied or possibly even known. Abduction means taking advantage of opportunities that serendipity creates. For science, the consequences can be the beginning of a new field of investigation. For the researcher, the consequences can be life-changing.

4-14-2020  Confederate Monuments, Problematic Politicians, and Sexist Art: When is Endorsement Morally Permissible?

Alida Liberman, SMU (Canceled due to COVID)

It is widely assumed that you can meaningfully separate the good and bad characteristics of a symbol, person, activity, or work of art, and can permissibly choose to support the good features while denouncing the bad features. I argue that this is only sometimes true: when certain conditions are met - namely, proportionality, separability, and constrained choice - it is morally permissible to directly endorse some object in virtue of its positive  properties while standing against its morally negative properties, even though it would be morally impermissible to directly endorse those negative properties by themselves. 

4-28-2020  A Local Response for Emerging Threats to Democracy

Clint Eubanks (Canceled due to COVID)

Technology affects our lives more and more every day. What is the future of American democracy in a system that trusts computer networks with the voting data that is so fundamental to our American liberties?  Come explore the modern challenges facing our free society in the 21st century and add to the discussion about how to preserve our national heritage of individual freedom and civic duty during an age of technological and cultural upheaval.

5-12-2020  The Conflict Paradox

Randall McKellar (Canceled due to COVID)

There is an alignment error at the core of Human Society. Small and inconsequential when first introduced with the emergence of consciousness, the gap has widened over the millennia of Human existence, a gap that is responsible for our current and historic social ills—everything form wars, terrorism, conflict small and large, to poverty, economic dysfunction and political gridlock, to depression, mental illness, suicide, domestic violence, random shootings and crime on an individual level.  It is not only the cause; it serves as a block on our ability to make significant progress toward eliminating these ills from our lives. This talk will examine our Human behavioral matrix and the tension between our sense of Community and our need for Conflict as both the prime motivator for our success and the secret cause of our destruction.