Alexandre Erler – ‘Sleep and Opportunity for Well-Being’ – Talk Podcast

Many of us are guilty of sleeping more than we really need to. Moreover, some people just need more sleep than others. In this talk, (which you can listen to here) Alexandre Erler argues that this means that many of us (who sleep excessively) are severely restricting our opportunities for well-being, and that the unfortunate people who need long sleep are significantly restricted in their opportunities for well-being by their need for sleep; in view of this, he argues that more research ought to be carried out into ways in which people might safely be able to restrict their sleep. Continue reading

Anthony Skelton: ‘Two Conceptions of Children’s Welfare’ – Talk Podcast

In the latest St. Cross Ethics Seminar (which you can listen to here) Anthony Skelton investigates how we should construct an adequate theory of welfare for children. Continue reading

Tony Coady on Religion in the Political Sphere: Part 3 – Religious Positives for Liberal Democracies

In debates about the virtues of religion, it is often difficult for scholars to agree on which interpretation of a particular religion’s mandates and precepts is an accurate one.  Do the world’s major religions promote civil discourse, tolerance, and mutual respect, or are do the truth claims embedded in their ideologies promote argument, vitriol, and in the worst cases, untold violence?

The former, argues Professor Tony Coady in his final Leverhulme lecture on November 29th, entitled “Religious Positives for Liberal Democracies.” (Full podcast)  In his lecture, Coady briefly recaps the arguments from his first two lectures, harshly criticizing the notion that “public” or “secular” reasoning is somehow neutral, and vociferously rebutting the notion that religion and religious people are inherently prone to violence.   While in his first two lectures, Coady focused his attention on the theoretical and philosophical questions which undergird debates about the role of religious reasoning in the public square, in his final lecture, he examines the ways in which religion (using Christianity as an example) upholds liberal virtues that are fundamental to flourishing democratic debate and deliberative democracy.

Continue reading

Brian Earp on Anti-Love Drugs

In the final Uehiro Seminar of 2012, Brian Earp provides an absorbing analysis of the science and ethics of anti-love biotechnology. You can listen to the seminar here.

While some personal distress as a result of love may be an important means of self-development, certain forms of love may be particularly perilous. Examples given by Earp include an older person’s sexual love for a child, incestuous love, and the love that prevents an abused spouse from leaving their partner. In these cases love can become like an ‘interpersonal heroin’ – an individual may recognise the harm their love is causing them, but be unable to stop feeling it. Continue reading

Janet Radcliffe Richards on the past, present and future of sex: Part 3

On Wednesday last week, Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards gave the last of her three Uehiro lectures on ‘Sex in a Shifting Landscape’. (Here you can find recordings of all three lectures: 1st audio, 1st video, 2nd audio, 2nd video, 3rd audio, 3rd video.)

She emphasised the goal she pursued with these lectures, namely, to demonstrate methods of philosophical reasoning in practice and to show how they can help in coming to useful conclusions. Recapitulating aspects of her first and second lecture, Radcliffe Richards illustrated the methodological approach John Steward Mill used in the dispute about women’s rights in the 19th century to show the weakness of his opponents’ arguments by proving their incoherence.

Continue reading

Tony Coady on Religion in the Political Sphere: Part 2, Deliberative Restraint

In his second Leverhulme Lecture on November 22nd, Professor Tony Coady focused on the issues underlying the common assertion that we ought to exclude religious arguments from deliberations in the political sphere of liberal democratic societies. Coady traces this idea to arguments by Audi and Rawls on ‘secular reasons’ and ‘public reasons’ respectively, which suggest that the sorts of reasons and arguments made in public policy decision-making ought to be secular or neutral, in the sense of being accessible to all reasonable citizens, on the basis of mutual respect.

However, Coady raises a number of questions that demonstrate the problematic nature of this concept of ‘deliberative restraint.’ Perhaps most fundamentally, how can we in practice distinguish between religious reasons and non-religious reasons? Must an argument cite God in order to be considered a ‘religious argument’ or merely appear to be influenced by religious concepts? The later would probably exclude arguments from the natural law tradition or those based on human dignity, which in fact look quite similar to non-religious arguments. Furthermore, how can we know whether an individual accepts a given reason because it comes from a religious source or because it appeals to him independently? Finally, why do we think that mutual respect requires the articulation of only non-religious reasons in the public sphere? It seems religious individuals can demonstrate mutual respect for fellow citizens in many other ways, through respect for procedural and constitutional practices for instance, without excluding religious arguments. Continue reading

Tony Coady on Religion in the Political Sphere: Part 1

In the last twenty years, there has been great interest in the dangers religion presents to liberal democracies, in particular as a result of terrorist attacks, and the political success of the religious right in the United States. Religion is difficult to define and its appropriate role in the public domain is frequently disputed. Violence is frequently attributed to religious absolutism however, in the first of the annual 2012 Leverhulme Lecture Series entitled ‘Religion and Politics’, Professor Tony Coady discusses why this sweeping claim can ultimately be rejected. The first lecture occurred on November 15 (you can listen to the podcast here), with two further lectures on November 22 and 29.

Continue reading

Janet Radcliffe Richards on the past, present and future of sex: Part 2

In the second of her Uehiro lectures on the topic of feminism in the 21st century (which you can listen to here), Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards addresses the question of how the sexes may be said to differ in the light of a shift in our metaphysical understanding of the world. Continue reading

Janet Radcliffe Richards on the past, present and future of sex

            In the last two centuries, there has been a massive shift in the legal, social and institutional norms surrounding sex – both in terms of women’s rights and regulation of sexual activity.  And, undoubtedly, there will be more such shifts in the future – the sexual norms that emerge in the future may well make even the most strident liberals of today blush.  What to make of this complex and sometimes confusing landscape?  This is the subject of the 2012 Annual Uehiro Lecture Series, entitled ‘Sex in a Shifting Landscape’ and delivered over the next three weeks by Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards.  The first lecture occurred on November 14 (you can listen to the podcast here and here), with two more to follow on November 21 and 28.  Continue reading

The Bad Seed: Facts and Values in the Study of Childhood Antisocial Behaviour

Podcast of Uehiro Seminar given by Gwen Adshead

‘The Bad Seed’ was a popular 1954 novel in which a well brought up young girl begins to manifest behaviour characteristic of a criminal psychopath. As the plot develops, the girl’s mother discovers that her own mother was a serial killer who was executed when she was herself a girl.

In this Uehiro Seminar, Gwen Adshead Forensic Psychotherapist at Bluebird House & Broadmoor Hospital explores this idea of the ‘bad seed’ using research into those who exhibit ‘callous and unemotional’ traits when children. In contrast to the theme of the novel, Dr Adshead points out that the causes of behaviour even for individuals who exhibit violent behaviour consistently both as children and adults are mediated by factors other than genetic predisposition. For example, there is a relationship between childhood physical abuse and neglect and delinquency and violence in later life. Dr Adshead argues that a more constructive approach to addressing violence in society might be to explore causes such as parenting rather than focusing disproportionate attention on the children. The lecture and discussion that follows raise fundamental issues to do with our attitude to genetic and other predictors of subsequent violence in adult life, the question of how resources should be allocated to address such problems, and how blame fits within this research framework.

You can listen to the podcast of the seminar here

Paul Troop and Sabrina Stewart