Great Lakes Philosophy Conference — Ethics in Action

Sienna Heights University is calling on students with a passion for ethics in the world today! The Great Lakes Philosophy Conference will be held in Adrian, Michigan on April 3rd through April 5th, 2020.

To be considered in joining this conference, students are asked to write papers related to the theme of “Ethics in Action.” Possible paper topics include trends in ethics, interpersonal ethics, social ethics, ethics within and across disciplines and specialties, the intersection of ethics and politics, applied and professional ethics, metaethics, and ethical theory, but alternative prompts are welcome as well. The official submission requirement page is here.

A special stream will be featured for presentations relating to the topic of “The Crisis of American Democracy.” The goal for these presentations will be to compile them into a publication as conference proceedings.

All undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to submit a paper. Final papers should be appropriate for a 20-30 minute presentation and contribute to an inclusive, collaborative environment. To submit a paper, you will need to submit an abstract of up to 500 words here. The deadline for submissions is on January 1st, 2020 and the deadline for acceptance notifications is on January 8th, 2020. There are $100 respective prizes for the best undergraduate and graduate student papers.

If your paper is accepted to be presented at the Great Lakes Conference, you can apply for a travel award here!

This is a wonderful opportunity to get involved with people from all sorts of different fields and professions! If you have any questions, email lharper3@sienaheights.edu for more information.

Philosophy Party: October 25th!

Happy midterms everyone! Hopefully, things aren’t too stressful, but luckily the Philosophy Department has the perfect way to unwind!

On Friday, October 25th, the Philosophy Department will be hosting an event for all philosophy majors, minors, or any students interested in philosophy — come by for an afternoon of games and free food! It will be hosted from 3:30p.m. to 5:00p.m. in the University Club on 1302 N. Alder Street.

Hope to see you there!

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Opening the Tower Gates: Philosophy’s New Relationship with Technology

guest post by Peter O’Meara ’19

A new age could be dawning for philosophy beyond the Ivory Tower. From A.I. to design to data, tech leaders express a desire to see philosophy incorporated into the developmental process for products and services (see for example articles like this, this, and this). Given the human connections many innovations seek to simulate, knowledge of ethics, for just one example, is coming to be appreciated by different types of companies. There are few roadmaps on how to translate the skills of digital native philosophy undergraduates into careers in technology that are in need of the skills developed by philosophy majors in their undergraduate education.

SXSW 2019, the annual ideas festival in Austin, saw a congregation of tech titans and start-ups, each vying to reinvent the relationship between humans and innovation. For example, the Google Home Mini was likened to a pebble, while some social networks were compared to a hearth, aiming to bring communities together. Such designs, chameleon in imitation, raise questions about impact on behavior and what it means to be human. “We should ask philosophically ‘what makes us human?’ ‘Can technology try to be human in that way?’ ‘What is this good experience we are trying to design?’” says Yihyun Lim, MIT Design Lab director and one of SXSW’s many speakers. “As we are developing tech, if we remember what the core value is, that can direct where tech will go in the future.” Philosophy grads can be shepherds on that journey.

A.I. is not exempt from similar considerations: in discussions from totalitarian code to autonomous vehicles to musical instruments, the need for ethics is embraced. Already government leaders are seeing the wielding of A.I. for deplorable ends, and it becomes clear that new voices are needed alongside programmers. Josh Marcuse, executive director of the Defense Innovation Board, warns SXSW, “not all nations share our values, and the world authoritarian regimes compel engineers to create AI for repression.” On an ethical note, he adds “If you have a consequentialist, you care more about what you are emphasizing than what you are explaining. In autonomous cars, you are asking how many thousands of people will die? Why should explainability be the standard?” Ultimately, he calls for integration, declaring “We need to think of diversity in a broader context. Philosophers and engineers working together, working in teams.”

Data repeatedly demonstrates its capacity to harm as much as it helps with its unintended consequences. Facial recognition systems have been known to discriminate based on race, while surveillance data frequently ignores inferences. Josh Klein, CEO of H4X Industries LCC and SXSW speaker, argues that data can be used for good, but often isn’t due to human laziness. This is a bad excuse, he argues, and while change is difficult, “we ought to endeavor to improve data on people such that ethics are met, and business still thrive.” Klein further remarks “treating people like robots does not equal profit. If you get data on toothpaste wrong, toothpaste doesn’t have a bad day. If we don’t face biases, we don’t create large scale positive social change.”

While there is a desire by science and technology to incorporate philosophical rigor, a meaningful roadmap for integration doesn’t yet exist. While some, like Klein, have given isolated, concrete suggestions, there are few real, tangible initiatives. Jake Silberg and James Manyika of McKinsey & Company reiterate this priority for collaboration between tech and philosophy. In their piece “Tackling Bias in Artificial Intelligence (and in humans)”, bias in A.I. is described as an issue only addressable with a multidisciplinary approach. “Business leaders can also help support progress by making more data available to researchers and practitioners across organizations working on these issues, while being sensitive to privacy concerns and potential risks” they argue. “More progress will require interdisciplinary engagement, including ethicists, social scientists, and experts who best understand the nuances of each application area in the process.” Several potential routes undergraduates could take can promote this participation include: Universities could offer bachelor’s degrees with emphasis in certain areas of tech or philosophy of science. Internships with organizations and think tanks facilitating discussions across disciplines could be created as well. Philosophers working alongside programmers, insofar as both parties are involved in decision-making or influencing capacities, could also be a great way to implementation more integration. Panels focusing on empathy and bias, areas which philosophy is adept at reflecting on, could be held on a regular basis to evaluate the current codes and products.

Philosophy’s role in tech appears unquestionable, and the attitudes presented by the latter’s leaders are a welcome sign for those feeling trapped in the Ivory Tower or believing their degree has limited use.

Peter O’Meara holds a philosophy degree from the University of Puget Sound outside Seattle and has studied multiple coding languages. He can be reached via LinkedIn and at pcomeara@comcast.net.

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Philosopher Kate Manne to Deliver 2019 Brown and Haley Lectures

Originated in 1953, Brown and Haley became the first fully endowed lectureship in the history of the University of Puget Sound in 1981. The lectures are intended to make significant contributions to the understanding of urgent problems confronting society, emphasizing perspectives in the social sciences or humanities. During their two-day residency, the invited speaker not only delivers two public lectures, but also visits two classes and interacts with faculty and students outside of the classroom. In recent years, the committee has especially focused on bringing in emerging scholars whose work transcends disciplinary boundaries.

For 2019, we are very pleased to have philosopher Kate Manne, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University, as the Brown and Haley lecturer. Manne will give two free public talks on September 18 and 19, at 7pm, in the Tahoma Room in Thomas Hall. Her first talk is titled “What is Misogyny? Concepts, Targets, and Triggers”, and her second talk is titled “Unassuming: On Epistemic Entitlement, Mansplaining, and Gaslighting”.

Manne’s work on misogyny has received international recognition. Her first book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, was chosen as one of the “books of the year” by Times Higher Education, Washington Post, and The Big Issue; and it recently won the 2019 PROSE Award for Excellence in Humanities. In addition to her academic work, she has published political and cultural commentary in The New York Times, Newsweek, Times Literary Supplement, and more. For her scholarship and influence, Dr. Manne has been recently recognized as one of Prospect Magazine’s Top 50 World Thinkers.

Congratulations 2019 Philosophy Graduates!

We will miss the impressive group of philosophy majors who graduated yesterday!  We got a chance to celebrate with some of them on Saturday.

We wish each of you all the very best as you move on to the next stage of your lives and are so very proud of your accomplishments during your time at Puget Sound.  Keep in touch and come visit us! 

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2019 Philosophy Graduates Bennett Barnes, Colleen Hanson, Sam Lilly, Sammy Jones.

Grads and Profs

Philosophy faculty and graduating seniors at the Philosophy reception on Saturday, from left: Prof. Tiehen, Colleen Hanson, Sam Lilly, Prof. Protasi, Bennett Barnes, Sammy Jones, Prof. Beardsley, Prof. Tubert, Prof. Garrison.

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2019 graduates Colleen Hanson, Sam Lilly, Bennett Barnes, Sammy Jones.

 

Join the GQS & Philosophy Summer Book Club

This summer, the Gender & Queer Studies and Philosophy Book Club will be meeting to discuss Prof. Kate Manne’s work Down Girl. These meetings are open to all and lunch will be provided at every meeting. Contact nkranzdorf@pugetsound.edu for more information.

Kate Manne is an assistant professor of the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University. She will be guest lecturing from September 18-19, 2019 as part of the Brown and Haley lecture series.

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CFA: 2019 Ethics and Broader Considerations of Technology Conference (University of Nebraska–Lincoln)

University of Nebraska–Lincoln have sent out a call for abstracts for their 2019 Ethics and Broader Considerations of Technology Conference. Submissions should be on topics of ethics and technology. This conference is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Prof. Tubert will be a featured speaker at this conference.

Submission Deadline: June 15, 2019
Conference Dates: October 31–November 2, 2019

Students are also invited to create a game about ethics and technology for the The Ethics and Technology Game Jam.

For more information about submission requirements, featured speakers, or other conference inquiries, visit the conference website.

2019 Fall Ethics and Technology conference