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: TBA
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: TBA


Department of Philosophy