Texas Tech University

Philosophy Talks 2020-21

Fall 2020 Speaker Series

Thi Nguyen, (University of Utah)

Department Colloquium: Transparency is Surveillance
Friday, September 25th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Please contact Amy Flowerree (amy.flowerree@ttu.edu) for zoom login information to attend this talk.

Abstract: During her BBC Reith Lectures on Trust, Onora O'Neill offered the following argument: People think that trust and transparency go together, but in reality, they are deeply opposed. Transparency forces people to conceal their actual reasons for action, and invent new ones for public consumption. Transparency forces deception. Her argument has been strangely neglected. Here, I defend the argument, and worsen its conclusion. In many cases, the drive to accountability forces experts to explain their reasoning to non-experts. But expert reasons are, by their nature, often inaccessible to non-experts. O'Neill argues that this will lead to deception. I argue that it can also lead to something worse. Experts will often confine their actions to those for which they can offer public justification, and be incentivized to prefer those actions which can be easily justified in inexpert terms. Transparency prevents experts from deploys their full expertise. It is a form of surveillance — a bureaucratic surveillance, which surveilles justifications for actions. Such surveillance is intended to banish non-explicit, non-public reasoning. This is sometimes good, since bias and corruption thrive in the realm of the non-explicit and the hidden. But the non-explicit is also where expert skill, sensitivity, and community intimacy reside. Transparency undercuts all these things. We do need to root out bias and corruption, but we also need to trust, to let expertise and intimacy bloom. Surveillance shatters trust. Transparency is sometimes necessary, but it is not an unalloyed good. It is rough medicine, to be taken sparingly.


Sandy Goldberg (Northwestern University)

Department Colloquium: On the Epistemic Significance of Practical Reasons to Inquire
Friday, October 30th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Please contact Amy Flowerree (amy.flowerree@ttu.edu) for zoom login information to attend this talk

Abstract: We have all sorts of practical reasons to do such things as collect (additional) evidence, consult with various sources, employ certain methods or techniques, double-check one's answer to a question, etc. After expanding the diet of examples in which subjects have such reasons, I appeal to features of these sorts of reason in order to question the motivation for pragmatic encroachment in epistemology. Once we reject pragmatic encroachment, it can seem that we are forced to treat practical reasons to inquire as having no distinctly epistemic significance. This is not so; I conclude by sketching an alternative account of what the epistemic significance of such reasons might be.


Sean Valles (Michigan State University)

Department Colloquium:The need for humble collaboration while rebuilding the US health system after the pandemic

Friday, November 13th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Please contact Amy Flowerree (amy.flowerree@ttu.edu) for zoom login information to attend this talk

Abstract: This presentation will offer some recommendations for how to effectively engage in the upcoming post-pandemic conversations about what went wrong in the US health system during the pandemic, and how to rebuild it to be better. COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses built into many US institutions, both those in the healthcare system (e.g. long-term eldercare facilities underprepared for infection control) and those in the wider health system of social institutions that shape health (e.g. inequitable mass incarceration practices in the criminal justice system that contribute to racial disparities in poverty, housing safety, etc.). The pandemic has brought about renewed and intensifying scrutiny of those institutions; the widespread protests against racist policing practices are a powerful example. I propose that practicing three different kinds of humility can help us to have better conversations about rebuilding more resilient and equitable health institutions: 1) epistemic humility—there are many types of health knowledge and no type or perspective is inherently superior, 2) intersectoral humility—effective health promotion requires collaboration between healthcare, government, community activist groups, faith groups, etc., and 3) interdisciplinary humility—creating healthier societies requires synthesizing many types of expertise.


Spring 2021 Speaker Series

Regina Rini (York University)

Department Colloquium: Epistemology and Tragedy
Friday, February 19th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Please contact Amy Flowerree (amy.flowerree@ttu.edu) for zoom login information to attend this talk

Abstract: There's an increasingly popular argument form in socially-engaged epistemology. It goes like this: take a standard epistemic theory (e.g. internalism about justification) and apply it to marginalized people in contemporary society. Doing so produces unpalatable implications (e.g. denying that marginalized people could have justified belief in their own oppression). The unpalatable implication then counts as a problem for the standard epistemic theory. In this paper I will challenge the value of that argument form - but not for the reason you'd expect. I agree with its proponents that social implications matter to evaluating epistemic theories. But I will argue that epistemology needs to learn a lesson from ethics and politics: the lesson of tragedy. In non-ideal social circumstances, especially conditions of oppression, even the best normative theories are forced to generate unpalatable implications regarding marginalized people. This means that unpalatable social implications should not necessarily count as objections to epistemic theories. I illustrate this lesson by applying it to two recent instances of the argument form: Srinivasan on internalism and Gerken on pragmatic encroachment. If I am right, then the goal of socially-engaged epistemology cannot be only to provide ideal normative theory, but instead to aid the growing movement in ethics and politics toward non-ideal theory construction.


Abby Jaques (Stanford University)

Department Colloquium: The underspecification problem and AI
Friday, April 23rd, 4:00-6:00 pm

Please contact Amy Flowerree (amy.flowerree@ttu.edu) for zoom login information to attend this talk

Abstract: For the love of god, don't send a robot out for coffee.

Department of Philosophy