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

9-12-2017: Computational Models of  Ethics

Chris Davis, Ph.D.

From self-driving cars on our city streets to drones and robots in the battlefield, autonomous machines are becoming ubiquitous. As humans increasingly interact with them, the ethical considerations of their behavior become more significant. But how can machines act as moral agents? This talk examines computational models of ethical reasoning that are currently being explored in A.I. research.  Examples of programs using first-order logic will be demonstrated. A prior knowledge of programming is not required.

9-26-2017: Education in the U.S.: Historical Roots and competing Philosophies

Dr. Kathryn Shaeffer

Historical roots of free public education for all students.  How schools have responded to different minority, cultural, and political/philosophical influences .No Child Left Behind: the imposition of the business model on education and its consequences. Current challenges with changing demographics and globalization. The Democratic (Common Man) ideal vs. Self-Reliance – two American philosophies in conflict playing out in the classroom .

10-10-2017: Two Models of Meaningless Lives: Against the 'Failed Agent' Model of Meaninglessness

Dr. Kirsten Egerstrom

On most philosophical approaches to the topic of meaningfulness in life, a meaningful life is assumed to involve achievements of agency. If we adopt this approach, it may follow that meaningless lives are associated with failures of agency. In this paper, I argue against the ‘failed agent’ paradigm of the meaningless life because, in adopting it, we exaggerate the extent to which we have control over the meaningfulness of our lives.

10-24-2017: LIving on the Hinge of History

John Mears

Professor Mears has entitled his talk “Living on the Hinge of History.” He will explore the rapid and radical changes in virtually every facet of human existence that are unfolding throughout the planet at the onset of the twenty-first century, suggesting how those changes have come about and why they have not only generated tremendous innovations and breakthroughs, but also disrupted familiar patterns of behavior as well as deeply entrenched values and beliefs. Humanity, he will argue, has experienced nothing comparable since the shift from hunting-gathering to agriculture thousands of years ago. And he will conclude with an explanation of why he is a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist when considering the future of humankind.

11-14-2017: The Edge of Tomorrow: Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence

Rob Olson

This discussion will focus on the philosophical and ethical dimensions of artificial intelligence (AI).  The technology is racing at a breathtaking pace but the ethical, business, and legal issues and dilemmas are struggling to keep pace.  What are the up sides to AI?  And what are the dystopian possibilities down the road?  For example, what are the implications on the employment front when robotics and AI seize more and more jobs?  These and other provocative topics will be addressed in this futuristic session.

11-28-2017: Fake News vs. Real Reporting: The Role of Ethics in Journalism

Dr. JIm Mueller

Public opinion of journalism is at one of the lowest points since pollsters began measuring such data. Much of the dissatisfaction relates to “fake news,” a vague term that nevertheless reflects a general idea that the press is unfair at best and untruthful at worst. The issue is further complicated by the fact that anyone with access to a smartphone can be a publisher distributing false stories that look real. Professional journalists, however, are supposed to abide by a Code of Ethics and think critically about the stories that they produce. This talk will discuss how journalists are trained in ethics and apply it to their work using real examples from current and historical cases. The talk will conclude with a discussion of how to be media literate—evaluating the quality of media sources—in the social media age.

12-12-2017: The American Dream: In HIstory, Politics and Fiction

Dr. Cal Jillson

In the years since Pursuing the American Dream was published in 2004, the American Dream has fared poorly. The decline of social mobility and the rise of income inequality—to say nothing of the extraordinary social, political, and economic developments of the Bush and Obama presidencies—have convinced many that the American Dream is no more. This is the concern that Jillson addresses in his new book, The American Dream: In History, Politics, and Fiction, which juxtaposes the claims of political, social, and economic elite against the view of American life consistently offered in our national literature.