Monday, September 08, 2014

GPPC Public Issues Forum

UPDATE:  For the latest schedule of GPPC-sponsored events please see the GPPC website.

Please join us for this GPPC co-sponsored event at Rosemont College, Rosemont, PA.  It should be a lively discussion.

Ethics in Business: A Public Issues Forum on Corporate Responsibility

Saturday, September 27, 2014, 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Rotwitt Theater of the McShain Performing Arts Center
Dorothy McKenna Brown Science Building
Rosemont College
1400 Montgomery Ave., Rosemont, PA 19010

This Public Issues Forum will explore the ethical dimensions of the relationship between business and society. Speakers include philosophers and business ethicists whose work has focused on Corporate Responsibility, Stakeholder Theory, Organizational Ethics, Moral Imagination, and Ethics and Capitalism.

Free and Open to the Public. Refreshments will be served.

R. Edward Freeman, University Professor and Senior Fellow at the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics, University of Virginia: “New Models of Business in Society
Patricia Werhane, Wicklander Chair in Business Ethics and Director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics, DePaul University: “Globalization and its Challenges to CSR and Industrialized Capitalism
Gary Weaver, Professor of Management, University of Delaware.
Topic: Fostering ethical behavior in business organizations

Chair: Alan Preti, GPPC Board of Directors and Director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility at Rosemont College.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wesley Salmon's Early Interest in Whitehead

I was reading Probability and Causality: Essays in Honor of Wesley C. Salmon, and was interested to see it included an annotated bibliography, where Salmon provides contextual commentary regarding all of his publications up to that time (1988).  The first entry was an interesting surprise.  While his post-doctoral work was squarely in the mid-twentieth century empiricist tradition of philosophy of science, his MA thesis in 1947 was on the topic “Whitehead’s Conception of Freedom”, about which he comments: 

“A relic, best forgotten, of the days when I was totally committed to Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics.” 

In his later career, when stretching his empiricist commitments in search of a realist approach to causation, Salmon developed his own causal "process” theory (Salmon 1984).  No mention of Whitehead, but perhaps some background inspiration?

Here’s a bit longer autobiographical excerpt from Salmon’s book on Hans Reichenbach:

“On the basis of personal experience, I can testify to Reichenbach’s qualities both as a teacher and a man. I was a raw young graduate student with an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago when first I went to UCLA in 1947 to work for a doctorate. At Chicago I had been totally immersed in Whitehead’s philosophy; ironically, Carnap was at Chicago during those years, but I never took a course from him. My advisors barely acknowledged his existence, and certainly never recommended taking any of his classes. Upon arrival at UCLA I was totally unfamiliar with Reichenbach or his works, but during my first semester I was stimulated and delighted by his course, ‘Philosophy of Nature’, based upon Atom and Cosmos. Simultaneously, I continued my intensive studies of Whitehead’s Process and Reality. A severe intellectual tension emerged in my mind between Whitehead, the scientifically sophisticated metaphysician, and Reichenbach, the scientifically sophisticated anti-metaphysician.

     To the best of my recollection, the tension grew to crisis proportions when I heard Reichenbach deliver his masterful Presidential Address, on rationalism and empiricism, to the Pacific Division of the APA at its meeting in Los Angeles in December of 1947.  This lecture was precisely what I – as a naïve graduate student – needed to make me face the crucial question: on what conceivable grounds could one make reasonable judgments concerning the truth or falsity of Whitehead’s metaphysical claims? When I posed this question to myself, as well as to teachers and fellow graduate students sympathetic to Whitehead, I received nothing even approaching a satisfactory answer.  By the end of that academic year I was a convinced – though still very naïve – logical empiricist.”
Salmon, Wesley C. (1979). Hans Reichenbach, Logical Empiricist, Dortrecht: D. Reidel, p.8.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Metaphysical Intuitions; Blog Anniversary

First a housekeeping comment.  It turns out that this blog went mostly dormant when I began full time graduate work in philosophy two years ago.  It was a wonderful outlet for my thoughts when I had a different sort of day job, but now I have trouble making time for it. In any case, I note that its tenth blogiversary recently passed, and I’m grateful for all who have read or commented over that time.

One thing I’ve been thinking about again is whether our metaphysical (modal) intuitions are any good.  Reading Ladyman and Ross (Everything Must Go) was one trigger for this.  Another was reading (but not finishing) Peter Unger’s All the Power in the World.  The former included a strong critique of contemporary metaphysics, making the case that its disconnection from modern physics renders it futile.  The latter book can be viewed as L&R’s worst nightmare: a freeform conversion of imagination into metaphysical conclusions which is completely unconvincing.  (See Katherine Hawley’s review of L&R here, and Timothy O’Connor’s review of Unger here -- obviously most contemporary analytic metaphysics is much more disciplined and better argued than Unger’s book).

Clearly we make mistakes relying on our imagination and common sense intuitions.  What also perhaps could be better appreciated is the fact that leveraging insights drawn from physics (implicitly or explicitly) can easily go wrong.  This happens both because the physics is outdated (and is always provisional anyway), and because the formalisms of physics do not and arguably cannot represent all the relevant aspects of nature.

Still, along with my other interests, I will do metaphysics as best I can.  After all, I only have this one shot at trying to understand the world!