The Res Philosophica Speaker Series brings philosophers to Saint Louis University to present a paper to the department. Papers are published in the journal. Speakers are listed below.
2018 Speaker Series
Speaking at the March 1, 2019 Speaker Series Event
"Aiming for Moral Mediocrity"
Most people aim to be about as morally good as their peers, not especially better, not especially worse. We do not aim to be good, or non-bad, or to act permissibly rather than impermissibly, by fixed moral standards. Rather, we notice the typical behavior of our peers, then calibrate toward so-so. This is a somewhat bad way to be, but it’s not a terribly bad way to be. We are somewhat morally criticizable for having low moral ambitions. Typical arguments defending the moral acceptability of low moral ambitions – the So-What-If-I’m-Not-a-Saint Excuse, the Fairness Objection, the Happy Coincidence Defense, and the claim that you’re already in The-Most-You-Can-Do Sweet Spot – do not survive critical scrutiny.
2017 Speaker Series
"What Can Phenomenology Bring to Ontology?"
“Ontology” is understood and undertaken very differently in the phenomenological tradition than it is in recent analytic tradition. In this talk, I will try to identify the different ways in which the phenomenological tradition and the analytic metaphysics tradition understood ‘ontology,’ and to show that those differences are not accidental, and shouldn’t be thought of as reflecting a mere ‘verbal dispute.’ Instead, they reflect deeper differences in views about what the proper role and methods for philosophy are. I aim to show that, from a phenomenological perspective, questions about what exists can be answered ‘easily,’ in ways that provide a healthy alternative to the quagmire the neo-Quinean approach has left us in. As a result, the phenomenological approach can help put certain ontological debates to rest, by making questions of existence ‘easy’ to answer, whether through trivial inferences (in the case of ideal abstracta) or (always tentatively, of course) by ordinary empirical means—seeing how our observations hang together. As a result, it can get us away from the obscurities, epistemological mysteries, and skepticism that the neo-Quinean approach to ontology has left us in and provide a clearer and less problematic approach to questions of ontology.
"Frankenvaluers, Sticky Attitudes and Stone-Swallowing: Three Objections to the Hybrid Theory of Valuing"
What is it to value something? One might think that valuing is a form of believing—for instance, believing that the object of value is good or worthy. Alternatively, one might identify valuing with desiring—for instance, desiring to protect, promote, or engage with the object of value. A third possibility is that valuing is an emotional condition—a disposition to experience a range of emotions based on how things are with the object of value. According to the recently popular hybrid theory of valuing (Kolodny 2003, Scheffler 2010, Wallace 2013, Callard 2018), (i) valuing cannot be reduced to believing, or to desiring, or to feeling, but (ii) it can be reduced to believing, desiring and feeling, taken together. I argue that hybrid theorists are correct with respect to the first point but incorrect with respect to the second. Finally, I use these arguments to articulate some desiderata for a theory of valuing.
"The Therapeutic Reconstruction of Affordances"
The concept of affordance, originating in Gibson's ecological psychology with roots in phenomenology, has recently been extended to include social and cultural affordances. I'll argue that this extended notion of affordance is a useful tool for understanding specific neuro- and psycho-pathologies where affordance structure breaks down. From the perspective of enactivism, and drawing from resources in pragmatism, I'll consider the best way to think about changed affordances in such disorders, the role of intersubjective and social factors, and what the aim of therapy should be.
2016 Speaker Series
"Racial Ideology and Racist Practices: Moving Beyond Critique"
Racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice are more than just bad attitudes; after all, such injustice involves unfair distributions of goods and resources. But attitudes play a role. How central is that role? Tommie Shelby argues that racism is an ideology, and that an ideology is a set of false beliefs that arise out of and serve pernicious social conditions. In this paper I agree that racism is an ideology, but on my view, ideology is rooted in social practices. Social practices are patterns of interaction that distribute things of value, guided by culturally shared habits of mind. In the case of subordinated social groups, these habits of mind distort, obscure, and occlude important facts about those groups and result in a failure to recognize their interests. How do we disrupt such practices to achieve greater justice? I argue that this is sometimes, but not always, best achieved by argument or challenging false beliefs, so social movements legitimately seek other means.
Her research interests include metaphysics, epistemology, and ancient philosophy, social and political philosophy, feminist theory and critical race theory. Her book Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique was awarded the 2014 Joseph B. Gittler Prize for "outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences."
"Black Radical Kantianism"
A contradiction in terms? In this paper, I hope to demonstrate otherwise. I will make a case for a revisionist Kantianism—black and radical—informed not merely by Kant's own racism (that arguably makes blacks sub-persons rather than full persons) but by the historic black experience of racial subordination, and what would be necessary to remedy its legacy. Yet, I will contend that in the end this hybrid reconstructed philosophy is not merely not oxymoronic, but legitimately "Kantian," indeed arguably truer to the spirit of (ideal) Kantianism than its more familiar exemplars.
He works in the general area of social and political philosophy, particularly in oppositional political theory as centered on class, gender, and race. His first book, The Racial Contract (Cornell University, 1997), won a Myers Outstanding Book Award for the study of bigotry and human rights in North America.
2015 Speaker Series
"How Archaeological Evidence Bites Back: Scaffolding, Critical Distance, Triangulation"
Her areas of research include philosophy of science; philosophy of social science and history (archaeology); feminist philosophy of science; research ethics; and archaeological history and theory. Her most recent book, Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice, is co-edited with Robert Chapman and is forthcoming with Routledge.
"Gossip and Social Punishment"
Is gossip ever appropriate as a response to other people's misdeeds or character flaws? Gossip is arguably the most common means through which communities hold people responsible for their vices and transgressions. Yet, gossiping itself is traditionally considered wrong. This essay develops an account of social punishment in order to ask whether gossip can serve as a legitimate means of enforcing moral norms. In the end, however, I argue that gossip is most likely to be permissible where it resembles punishment as little as possible.
Her areas of research include ethical theory, metaethics, applied ethics, and social and political philosophy. She has worked, in particular, on moral issues that arise in the aftermath of wrongdoing, and her book on that topic is Making Amends: Atonement in Morality, Law, and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2009).
2014 Speaker Series
"Trust and Autonomous Agency"
This paper explores the role trust plays in the context of health care partnerships where the preservation of autonomy is desired. The case of IN RE: Maria Isabel Duran is used as a focal point for discussion. I argue that within the context of collective decision making of the sort that occurs in health care relationships, trust is consistent with autonomous agency, provided the trust is relational, a property of a triadic relation between the patient and her partners in health care, and between the patient and herself. Moreover, if it is the autonomy of the patient that drives the nature and the direction of her medical options, we must respect a medical ethic of informed consent and durable powers of attorney and the patient's right of self-governance this ethic serves. At the foundation of trust in others and in oneself is respect.
Her research in normative moral philosophy involves three broadly connected areas in ethics and moral psychology: the nature of personal autonomy and the conditions for autonomous agency, the meaning of moral responsibility and the conditions for responsible agency, and the nature of the self and of self-identity.
"Metaphysical Indeterminacy, Properties, and Quantum Theory"
It has frequently been suggested that quantum mechanics may provide a genuine case of ontic vagueness or metaphysical indeterminacy. However, discussions of quantum theory in the vagueness literature are often cursory and, as I shall argue, have in some respects been misguided. Hitherto much of the debate over ontic vagueness and quantum theory has centered on the "indeterminate identity" construal of ontic vagueness, and whether the quantum phenomenon of entanglement produces particles whose identity is indeterminate. I argue that this way of framing the debate is mistaken. A more thorough examination of quantum theory and the phenomenon of entanglement reveals that quantum mechanics is best interpreted as supporting what I call the "vague property" construal of ontic vagueness, where vague properties are understood in terms of determinable properties without the corresponding determinates.
She has been the recipient of several grants from the National Science Foundation, including most recently a Scholars Award to support her new book project on the role of idealized models in the Earth Sciences.
Professor Bokulich’s teaching at Boston University includes courses in the philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, gender, race and science, and science, technology, and values.