Wednesday, April 13 Ethics Colloquium, Dr Rachael Wiseman (Durham)


photo_rachael16:45 – 18:00 Dante 005

‘The Intended Consequences of Intention


This paper develops a reading of Anscombe’s Intention which sees it as the product of the ethical debates in which Anscombe was engaged between 1956 and 1958, in particular, her opposition to Harry S. Truman’s honorary degree from Oxford University, and her public critique of ‘the spirit of the age’ in her BBC Radio talk ‘Does Oxford Moral Philosophy Corrupt the Youth?’). Through those debates Anscombe came to realise that moral philosophy had lost sight of the distinctive use of the question ‘What is she doing?’, to mark out the class of intentional actions (Intention, sss23, 37). This question, as she saw it, is essential to identifying the nature and quality of an act, a category without which moral philosophy cannot precede.
Once we re-frame Intention as a corrective to this oversight, two things become clear. First, that the widespread view of Intention as offering a novel account of action is mistaken; rather, the insight of Intention “isn’t a philosophical thesis at all” (Anscombe, ‘Under a Description’); second, that that the consequences of Intention for ethics are yet to be appreciated.

CANCELLED: Murray Shanahan ‘Conscious Exotica’, 23rd March 2016

Owing to the ongoing travel disruption in Brussels following the terrorist attacks on March 22 this event has been postponed. The meeting on the 23rd is cancelled and will be re-scheduled.

Title: ‘Conscious Exotica’

Venue: Dante Building Room 003

Professor Murray Shanahan is Professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College, London, the author of The Technological Singularity and was the scientific advisor to the film ‘Ex Machina’. In his talk he will discuss consciousness and AI:


In the film Ex Machina, Caleb comes to see the robot Ava as a conscious being by interacting with her. In Wittgensteinian terms, it is not so much that he forms the opinion that she is no mere automaton. Rather, he comes to adopt the same attitude towards her that he takes towards a fellow conscious creature. However, in one sense this is an easy step to take. Her behaviour is very human-like. But suppose we encountered an exotic complex dynamical system – an extraterrestrial intelligence, say, or a sophisticated AI that has undergone a great deal of evolution or self-modification – something utterly alien. Could we determine whether or not that system, or any part of it, was conscious? Could we establish whether or not it was morally acceptable to experiment on the system, to destroy it, or to turn it off? Do these questions even make sense?

Murray Shanahan discusses paths to human level A



Edward Harcourt, Ethics Colloquium; 17-2-16, 16:45–18:30


‘Mental Health’ and Human Excellence

Wednesday 17th February 

Dante Building Room 006


The paper concerns two familiar lines of inquiry: one, stemming from a neo-Aristotelian naturalism associated with Foot and others, asks whether we can derive a catalogue of human excellences from what humans need in order to be some way. The second asks whether (as Plato said) virtue is a kind of health, and vice a kind of illness. The first is often seen as a failure to the extent that it does not enable us to derive a list of moral virtues. But the concept of human excellence is many-layered, so the fact that Foot’s approach may not succeed for moral virtues does not show that it is no good for anything. The kinds of psychological characteristic derived from a more liberal application of Foot’s approach may also help to give non-trivial answers to the second, Platonic line of inquiry.

Rawls, Piketty and the ‘New Inequality’

Paper now available here:


Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, University of Milan September 15th


Tuesday September 15, Room ASCLEPIO (Dibit 1, Ground Floor)

9.15-9.30 Greetings and Introduction (Roberto Mordacci, Vanessa De Luca)

  • 30- 13.00 Session 1: Alan Thomas, Lorenzo Greco, Stefano Virgilio

9.30- 10.15 Alan Thomas (Tilburg University) “Williams on Virtue and Authenticity”

10.15- 10.45 Discussion

10.45-11.00 coffee break

11.00-11.45 Lorenzo Greco (Oxford University) “Making Sense of Williams’ Humanism: Between Ethics and Politics”

11.45- 12.15 Discussion

12.15- 12.30 Stefano Virgilio (PhD Student Università La Sapienza di Roma) “Philosophy and the Limits of Science: 30 years after ELP”

12.30- 12.45 Discussion

12.45- 13.45 Lunch and Coffee

  • 00-18.00 Session 2: Carla Bagnoli, Roberto Mordacci, Vanessa De Luca

14.00-14.45 Carla Bagnoli (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia/ Oslo University) “Shame and Responsibility”

14.45- 15.15 Discussion

15.15-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-16.15 Roberto Mordacci (Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele) “From Analysis to Genealogy. Bernard Williams and the End of the Analytic-Continental Dichotomy”

16.15-16.45 Discussion

16.45- 17.00 Vanessa De Luca (PhD Student Université Paris 1 Phantéon Sorbonne/Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele) “Conclusions: the Legacy of ELP”

17.00-18.00 Panel Discussion on Bernard Williams’ Legacy

Alan Thomas Humanities Research Centre, ANU, August 11th, 2015


‘A Republican Theory of Linguistic Justice’

In the first book length defense of a justice-based approach to linguistic policy in Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World Philippe Van Parijs defended two claims: that we ought to encourage the spread of English as a global lingua franca and that each language group is entitled to “official monolingualism” in its own territory. In this paper I will focus on the first argument and argue that it depends too closely on the particular form of Van Parijs’s commitment to a cosmopolitan theory of global justice. In this lecture it will be argued that an alternative, liberal-republican, theory of global justice will give us more plausible results when applied to linguistic policy than Van Parijs’s combination of luck egalitarianism and cosmopolitanism.

Julius Stone Institute, School of Law, Sydney University, Alan Thomas, ‘Rawls, Piketty and the New Inequality’.