Philosophy Colloquium Series

Winter 2024

MEETING TIME: 3:00PM-4:30pm


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Winter 2024

Date: Winter, 2024 (Full Schedule Below)

For more information about events contact Professor Alycia LaGuardia-LoBianco [email protected]

February 16, 2024

Khora and Media Philosophy

Peter Zhang (Grand Valley State University Communication Studies)

Talk Description

McLuhan’s extensionism is based on the root metaphor of media as extensions of humans, like artificial limbs. This article puts forward and elaborates on an alternative root metaphor. It offers an understanding of media using Plato’s maternal, imagistic, polysemic, genealogical concept of khora as a metaphor, seeing media as receptacles, uteri, and sieves, and speculating on the ethical significance of the three understandings. After introducing and developing the metaphor of “medium as khora,” the article focuses on the vexations of the digital age, and the serviceability and limitations of Maxwell’s demon as a technical solution. Eventually, the article comes to the issues of composite khora, mental symbiosis, and spiritual nourishment. It draws on the thoughts of Deleuze and Flusser, and invokes the wisdom of Daoism, Zen, and Nietzsche’s spiritual hygienics.

February 23, 2024

Untethered Pain

Alycia La-Guardia-LoBianco (Grand Valley State University Philosophy)

Talk Description

The Strawsonian story of responding to wrongdoers posits clear categories: either we hold someone responsible through the reactive attitudes like anger and resentment, we realize that on that occasion, the agent can be released from these reactive attitudes because they are excused, or the agent is not even the proper object of the participant attitude and instead is exempted and only fit to receive the objective attitude from others. I argue that this story is incomplete. There is another category of response to wrongdoers that does not fit cleanly into either holding participant attitudes or releasing wrongdoers from them. Consider cases of traumatic wrongdoing like abuse. Lingering pain and psychological damage from the abuse, as well as a sense of ambiguity at being seriously wronged by an excused wrongdoer, may remain even when blame and anger dissolve. I propose a supplement to the Strawsonian categories to capture such cases in which a victim must make sense of a wrong committed against them by an excused or exempted wrongdoer. I call these cases untethered pain, which describes serious or long-term harms caused by agents who are excused or exempted. It is untethered because the pain cannot be explained or ‘tethered’ to a morally responsible agent or impersonal force of nature, yet it still exists, unsettled and unresolved. I first describe the traditional Strawsonian categories of moral response to wrongdoing. Then, I present real-life cases to motivate the ambiguous response of ‘untethered pain.’ From there, I will analyze the moral features of these responses, arguing that they rest ambiguously between participant and objective attitudes. Finally, I posit a category of response to wrongdoing analogous to Williams’ agent-regret, which is inextricably connected to the fact that an agent caused that wrong.

March 15, 2024

GVSU Philosophy Alum Talk

On Duty to Not-Vote: Three Perspectives

Patrick Anderson (Central State University)

Talk Description

Voting ethics is a quickly growing area within the field of social ethics, but philosophers have not seriously considered arguments in defense of a duty to not-vote, meaning that citizens may have, in some cases, a duty to refrain from voting at all. Not only does the notion of a duty to not-vote contradict a prevailing popular assumption that citizens to in fact have a duty to vote, it also represents a challenge to predominant philosophical positions on the matter. In this talk, I present three perspectives on the potential duty to not-vote, examining positions inspired by the works of Simone Weil (mysticism), W.E.B. Du Bois (anticolonialism), and George Carlin (cynicism). First, I provide a brief summary of prevailing scholarly positions on the duty to vote—represented by Jason Brennan’s The Ethics of Voting and Julia Maskivker’s The Duty to Vote. Second, I introduce the distinction between natural duties and special duties to contextualize the duty to not-vote. Third, I examine the ways in which the critical positions of Weil, Du Bois, and Carlin suggest that under certain conditions, citizens of a democracy may have a moral duty to abstain from voting at all. 

March 29, 2024

Interdisciplinary Panel: Philosophical Perspectives on Mental Illness and Mental Health

Gwenden Dueker (Grand Valley State University Psychology), Larry Burns (Grand Valley State University Psychology), William Parkhurst (Grand Valley State University Philosophy),

and Alycia LaGuardia-LoBianco (Grand Valley State University Philosophy)


Panel Description

Mental illness is receiving more popular and professional attention than ever. Yet beyond an intuitive grasp of what it means to be ‘mentally ill’ or ‘mentally healthy,’ these concepts and their roles in our lives remain vague. This panel will explore the philosophical implications of mental illness and mental health: what does it mean to have a mental illness? How do we distinguish behavior that is merely abnormal from that which is unhealthy? How do these definitions differ across cultures and time? What does mental health look like? Is mental illness a disability or a difference? Should we understand mental illness as an individual problem or is it a symptom of a systemic issue, some evidence of a sickness of our societies?


Join us for an interdisciplinary panel on these and other philosophical questions!

April 12, 2024

Confucian Humility in the Analects

Wenhui Xie (Grand Valley State University Philosophy)

Talk Description

 The growing literature on humility in general has sparked interests regarding humility in Confucianism. Scholars such as Jin Li, Sara Rushing, Alexus McLeod and Shun have offered related but distinct accounts of Confucian humility. Building upon their accounts and adding the new element of li 禮, I argue that in the Analects, there are two strands of Confucian humility. Focusing on the agent herself, the first strand can be characterized as vigilance rooted in loving learning. Focusing on others and responsibilities in general, the second strand can be characterized as devotion to responsibility. When they are effectively communicated through li, both strands are recognized as Confucian humility proper.

Page last modified February 9, 2024