Upcoming Events

Jeff McMahan: "Individualist and Collectivist Approaches to the Morality of War"

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April 21, 2015 4:00 PM  – 6:00 PM
Visual Arts Center, Beam Classroom

Perhaps the most common way of thinking about war is that it is, as Rousseau says, "something that occurs not between man and man, but between States."  According to this view, states and certain other collectives have interests, desires, goals, and intentions that are not reducible to those of individual persons.  Collectives can also act in ways for which they are responsible and even blameworthy, again in ways that are not reducible to the responsibility or blameworthiness of individuals.  This way of thinking about states in war leads naturally to a conception of soldiers as instruments through which states achieve their purposes rather than as responsible moral agents whose acts of killing must meet a high standard of moral justification.  McMahan will oppose this way of thinking about war and defend an individualist understanding of both states and war, according to which political leaders, soldiers, and civilian citizens are neither absolved of responsibility for their individual contributions to war nor made responsible for the contributions of others simply by virtue of their membership in a collective such as the state or the military.

Jeff McMahan is White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford. He has written extensively on normative and applied ethics. His publications include The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life, Killing in War, which argues against foundational elements of the traditional theory of the just war, The Morality of Nationalism, and Ethics and Humanity.

The lecture will take place
Tuesday, April 21
4:05 pm
Visual Arts Center, Beam Classroom


Free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.

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Ryan Balot: "Thucydides on the Perils of Manliness"

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April 22, 2015 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM
Moulton Union, Lancaster Lounge

Thucydides was an Athenian historian, philosopher, author, and general. He has been dubbed the father of "scientific history" because of his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods. He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right. He showed an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in such crises as plague, massacres, and civil war.

Ryan Balot, professor of political science and classics at the University of Toronto, will examine the political philosophies of Thucydides through this presentation. Balot is author of Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001) and Courage in the Democratic Polis: Ideology and Critique in Classical Athens (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), among other books. He specializes in early modern and classical political thought, and he received his doctorate in Classics at Princeton University.

Before moving to Political Science at Toronto, Balot taught for nearly a decade in the Classics departments at Union College and Washington University in St. Louis, as both a Greek historian and a classical philologist. His research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Teagle Foundation of New York. His essays and reviews have appeared in such venues as Political Theory, Ancient Philosophy, Social Research, and The Journal of Hellenic Studies. His current projects include work on Machiavelli's republicanism, Aristotle and the mixed regime, and Plato's Laws.

Professor Balot's talk is co-sponsored by Bowdoin's departments of Classics and Government and Legal Studies with support from the John C. Donovan Lecture Fund. The fund was established at Bowdoin College in 1990 by family members, professional colleagues and friends of John C. Donovan, who served as Bowdoin's DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Professor of Government from 1965 until his death in 1984. Established through the leadership of Shepard Lee, Bowdoin Class of 1947, this fund is used to support lectures in the field of political science.

Free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

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"Torture: Rescue, Prevention, and Punishment" a lecture with Frances Kamm

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May 5, 2015 4:00 PM  – 6:00 PM
Visual Arts Center, Beam Classroom

In her lecture, "Torture: Rescue, Prevention, and Punishment", Frances Kamm will discuss questions concerning the moral permissibility and impermissibility of torture. Specifically, she will discuss different conceptions of what torture is and a particular way of deciding about the permissibility or impermissibility of torture of a known perpetrator in order to rescue his identified intended victim from the perpetrator's threat. Other types of cases involving proposed torture of a perpetrator will also be considered, including cases involving possible, but not identifiable, victims of the perpetrator and rescue of the victims of other perpetrators.

Frances M. Kamm is an American philosopher specializing in normative and applied ethics. Kamm is currently the Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Harvard.  She is the author of Creation and Abortion; Morality, Mortality, Vol. 1: Death and Whom to Save From It; Morality, Mortality, Vol. 2: Rights, Duties, and Status; and Intricate Ethics. Kamm also has published many articles on normative ethical theory and practical ethics. She has held ACLS, AAUW, NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships and has been a Fellow of the Program in Ethics and the Professions at the Kennedy School, the Center for Human Values at Princeton, and the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford. She is a member of the editorial boards of Philosophy & Public Affairs, Legal Theory, Bioethics, and Utilitas and was a consultant on ethics to the World Health Organization.

Please join us for this lecture
Tuesday, May 5
4:05 pm
Visual Arts Center, Beam Classroom

Free and open to the public.  Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.

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