Welcome to the Ethical Inquiry site. For more information or to be added to our email list, please send a message to aimee_mcdermott@brown.edu.

Upcoming events, Fall 2014

Thursday, November 13, 1 p.m.
Workshop: "Desire-Cessation Theories of Happiness"
Featured speakers: Bernard Reginster, Brown University; Susan Sauve Meyer, University of Pennsylvania; David Webster, University of Gloucestershire
Corliss Brackett seminar room, 45 Prospect Street 

Friday, November 14, 4-6 p.m.
David Webster, University of Gloucestershire
Public Lecture, title TBD
Location TBD

Recent events

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, gave the lecture "Injustice and the Dubious Value of Anger" on Monday, March 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Salomon 001. Read the Brown Daily Herald article on Nussbaum's talk here.

You can download an audio recording of Nussbaum's lecture here.

William Irvine, Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, gave the lecture: "Old Wine in New Bottles: How to Practice Stoicism in the 21st Century" on Friday, February 28 in Alumnae Hall, Crystal Room, 194 Meeting Street. He led the seminar "The Case for 'Intellectual Tithing'" on Saturday, March 1 in the same location.

In his lecture, Irvine shared some of the insights he has gained trying to practice Stoicism in the 21st century. Among his recommendations: Stop doing pointless things. Make sure your bucket list is properly Stoical. Practice courage. Laugh off other people’s insults, and their praise, as well. Embrace the life you find yourself living, even as you try to change that life.

The purpose of Irvine's seminar was to discuss the (almost non-existent) role philosophers play in our culture, to contrast it with the role they played in the ancient world, and to explore the reasons for this change. How should we understand, and should we condone, the tendency of many modern philosophers to disparage “philosophies of life”? Should professional philosophers engage in “intellectual tithing" by devoting a portion of their intellectual effort to doing things that will have a positive impact on our culture?

Suggested reading for the seminar: Making Philosophy Matter -- Or Else (Lee McIntyre, Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 11, 2011)


Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, gave the lecture "Love and Revolution: Why Love Makes the World Go Round" on Friday, February 7 in Smith Buonanno 201, 95 Cushing Street. She led the seminar "Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life" on Saturday, February 8 in the Petteruti Lounge, Robert '62 Campus Center, 75 Waterman Street.

Ask anyone to name the most important things in life, and "love" will come up in almost every answer. But what is love, and what makes it so special? This lecture will take up these basic questions, and propose some answers.

Here is Wolf's paper for the seminar: Meaningfulness: A Third Dimension of the Good Life

Cassie Mogilner, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, gave the lecture "It's Time for Happiness" on Friday, November 1, in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 201, 95 Cushing Street. She led the seminar "Happiness, and the Role of Time" on Saturday, November 2 at the same location.

Lecture information:

To counter the obsession with money, Cassie Mogilner’s lecture shifts our attention to our other precious resource—time. What is the role of time in people’s happiness? How does merely thinking about time (vs. money) influence the extent to which people are driven to engage in happy behaviors? How could one expand the amount of time people feel they have in their hectic lives? How do considerations of time influence what individuals actually mean when they say “I feel happy”? Time is revealed to be a critical component to understanding the experience of happiness.

Here are two articles provided by Mogilner for seminar attendees to discuss:
The Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness from Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences

Jay Wallace, the Judy Chandler Webb Distinguished Chair for Innovative Teaching and Research in the Department of Philosophy, UC Berkeley, gave the lecture "A Secular Doctrine of Original Sin?" on Friday, October 4, at
Faunce House (Robert '62 Campus Center), in the Petteruti Lounge. He led the seminar "Affirmation, Attachment, and the Limits of Regret" on
Saturday, October 5 at the same location.

A reasonable secular aspiration for human beings is to succeed in living lives that are worthy of a kind of unconditional affirmation. This consists in affirming both the particular projects that make such lives worth living and the historical conditions necessary for them. But this goal is almost certainly out of reach for us. We have become implicated, in virtue of the attachments around which our lives are organized, in historical events and circumstances that we had no direct hand in, and that are objectively lamentable. Furthermore, no efforts that we might undertake can hope to sever this connection with the lamentable past, which thus ineluctably taints our most significant achievements.

For a full list of events, go to our Events page.