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Department of Philosophy


The Department is active in sponsoring and hosting events for our students, faculty, and the public.  All are invited to publicly advertised events.  Past events can be seen via the links in the menu.



Jay Garfield (Smith College)

Nature and Norms: A Humean Account of the Sources of Normativity
Feb 3rd, 3:30-5pm, Close-Hipp 202
email for details: Tyke Nunez
I am going to speak of normativity and its origins.  To speak of normativity is to speak of what it is to be human. This is because Homo sapiens sapiens is first and foremost not the intelligent ape our name might suggest, but the rule-constituting, rule-following ape.  Our intelligence, our happiness, our self-understanding, our success and our failure as a species are not only grounded in the fact that we are social organisms—though we are that—but also in the fact that our sociality transcends that of other social animals. That specifically human sociality, embodied by the constitution of norms that govern—and not merely describe—our behavior, has led us to language, to reflective thought, and thence to ethics, the law, and to self-understanding. To know ourselves and our origins is hence to know normativity and its origins. I will show that the Humean account of the origins and authority of norms—including moral as well as intellectual, linguistic, and legal norms—is superior to the Kantian account that has superseded it in the contemporary philosophical world.  That is, Humean skeptical naturalism—a commitment to a scientific understanding of humanity that dethrones reason and places custom at the center of the explanation of human institutions— provides a better explanation both of the source and of the authority of norms than can a Kantian transcendentalist alternative. I will ask both the genetic question about what brings norms into being and to ask the justificatory question about why those norms are binding on us and I will argue that Hume offers better answers than does Kant to both questions.

Mike Ridge  (Edinburgh)

Playfulness as a Moral Virtue
Feb 17th, 3:30-5pm, CLLCTT 201
On Thursday Feb 16th at 6:00pm Ridge will also be giving a talk through the Humanities Collaborative 
email for details: Justin Weinberg
In this presentation, I argue that playfulness is a moral virtue. This might seem surprising, since playfulness is seen as frivolous, while morality is seen as serious, even profound.  What is worse, some paradigmatic forms of playfulness can even seem morally vicious – think of the playfulness of a trickster like Loki, for example.  Nonetheless, the idea has a lot more going for it than it might at first seem, or so I shall argue. I'll start by drawing on some of my previous work with an account of what play is to explain what playfulness as a character trait is. I then defend what I consider a plausible sufficient condition for a character trait's being a moral virtue.  With all these pieces in place I offer several considerations in favour of the idea that playfulness as I have characterized it is indeed a moral virtue - or, more cautiously, that for most people with a very basic level of moral integrity moral competence, playfulness is a moral virtue. If there is time, I will discuss what I consider the most powerful objections to this view and some possible directions for future research.

Zoe Johnson King (Harvard)

March 3rd, 3:30-5pm, at Clemson 
(UofC/Clemson joint philosophy talk)
email for details: Kelly Smith at Clemson

The 9th Integrated HPS conference

March 16-18, 2023, UofSC’s University Conference Center (8th floor, Close-Hipp)


See the Program here

email for details: Agnes Bolinska 

Rachel Barney (University of Toronto)

The Ethics and Politics of Plato's "Noble Lie"
March 24th, 3:30-5pm, 
email for details:
The Noble Lie proposed by Plato for the Just City in Republic III has been much misunderstood. Its agenda is twofold: to get the citizens of the City to see their society as a natural entity, with themselves as all ‘family' and akin; and to get the Guardians in particular to make class mobility, on which the justice of the City depends, a top priority. Since the second is taken to depend on the first, the Lie passage amounts to an argument (1) that the survival of a just community depends on the existence of social solidarity between elite and mass, which allows for full class mobility and genuine meritocracy; (2) that this solidarity in turn depends on an ideology of natural unity; and (3) that such ideologies are always false. So the Lie really is a lie, but a necessary one; as such it poses an awkward ethical problem for Plato and, if he is right, for our own societies as well.

Nick Stang  (Toronto)

April 14th, 3:30-5pm, 
email for details: Tyke Nunez

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.