The Global Reach of Human Rights, Amartya Sen

Society for Applied Philosophy 2011 Annual Lecture

The Global Reach of Human Rights

Professor Amartya Sen

Tuesday 14 June 2011
5pm at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford
(Doors open from 4.30pm)

The lecture will be followed by a reception for Society for Applied Philosophy members. Further Information.

The Society for Applied Philosophy sponsors an Annual Lecture to be delivered by a philosopher who has made an important contribution to the field of applied philosophy broadly construed.

Listen to past lectures:

2010: Militant Modern Atheism, Professor Philip Kitcher

2009: Measuring Development, Poverty and Gender Equity, Professor Thomas Pogge

2008: Naturalism, Normativity, and Applied Ethics, Baroness Onora O’Neill (Inagural SAP Annual Lecture)

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Birther Beliefs

Photo by Michele Sandberg

Despite all evidence to the contrary, many Americans apparently believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is thus not a natural U.S. Citizen.  Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is one of them.  In recent interviews, Trump stated that he has doubts about whether Obama really is a U.S. citizen.  “All of a sudden,” he confesses, “a lot of facts are emerging and I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.”

Popular discussions of the merits of Birther beliefs raise a bunch of philosophical questions worth considering.  One epistemological question is particularly pressing: is anyone justified in believing that Obama was not born in the United States?
This is a normative question, since it is a question about what we ought to believe.  Epistemologists tend to fall into two camps when it comes to offering normative accounts of justification.

Focusing in on mental illness

459px-DepressionThe notion of a mental disorder, or illness, is an essentially normative notion. It is dependent on the availability of some metric of normalcy, or orderliness. Whether a given mental tendency is a disorder or not depends on whether or not, and in what ways, it deviates from what is considered normal, or orderly. But, what are the norms that determine this metric?

This question is highly controversial, and its importance transcends far beyond the walls of academia. Few such seemingly terminological issues have such a tremendous impact on the day to day lives of so many millions of individuals across the world. For example, until quite recently (1973!!), homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Its status as a disorder gave legitimacy to subject individuals ‘afflicted’ with this ‘disorder’ to psychiatric treatment, often leading to detrimental effects (not to mention the pervasive social and legal discrimination they faced). Characterizing a given tendency as a disorder has the potential to bring about terrible harms and injustices. However, there are also cases in which pursuing various corrective measures seems crucial. Certain tendencies, such as schizophrenia, can be so disruptive to an individual’s life that treatment seems necessary. Labeling such a tendency as a ‘disorder’ potentially brings with it various societal and legal commitments to provide support that can substantially alter the lives of suffering individuals for the better. It is clear, then, that much hangs on how we come to characterize a mental tendency as a disorder.

Continue reading “Focusing in on mental illness”

FREE Syllabus: Some Questions in Hume’s Aesthetics

FREE PDFTeaching & Learning Guide for: Some Questions in Hume’s Aesthetics
By Christopher Williams, University of Nevada, Reno (December 2008)

Keywords:

Sections: Aesthetics & Philosophy of Art, History of Philosophy
Subjects:
Philosophy, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
People: Hume, David
Key Topics: subjective, normativity, value

(See all Philosophy Compass Teaching & Learning Guides‘)

FREE Syllabus: Moral Realism and Moral Nonnaturalism

FREE PDFTeaching & Learning Guide for: Moral Realism and Moral Nonnaturalism
By Stephen Finlay and Terence Cuneo, University of Southern California Calvin College (April 2008)

Keywords:

Sections: Ethics
Subjects:
Theoretical Ethics, Philosophy, Ethics
Period:
2000 – present
Key Topics: normativity, naturalism, pragmatism, good, value, morality

(See all Philosophy Compass Teaching & Learning Guides‘)

FREE Syllabus: Moral Rationalism Vs. Moral Sentimentalism

FREE PDFTeaching & Learning Guide for: Moral Rationalism Vs. Moral Sentimentalism: Is Morality More Like Math or Beauty?
By Michael B. Gill, University of Arizona (January 2008)

Keywords:

Section: History of Philosophy
Subjects:
Philosophy, History of Philosophy
People: Hobbes, Thomas , Hume, David
Key Topics: normativity, rationalism, relativism, value, morality

(See all  Teaching & Learning Guides‘)