Ideas Matter

Ideas Matter

IDEAS MATTER lectures explore ideas that make a difference in the world.   Lecturers are invited to bring their expertise and individual experience into the discussion.  This page is intended to provide a brief history of the IDEAS MATTER lecture series, and to highlight some of the interesting ideas which have emerged from these lectures. This is "history" in a rather loose sense. We are more interested in the ideas raised than the actual "history" of our various series. There has been a lecture series each year since 1992. For some of these we have papers which served as the basis for the lectures actually given at that time. In other cases, however, the lecturers have given us permission to use other papers which deal with the same subject.

Each year, a different topic is chosen. 

Previous topics have included:

(click below or the right column for more information)

2011| Responsibilities To Future Generations

Ideas Matter 2011: Responsibilities To Future Generations

2009| The UN Declaration of Human Rights at 60

2009:  The UN Declaration of Human Rights at 60

Podcasts of the 2009 talks can be found on iTunesU!

A Discussion Blog was also created in 2009 and can be found here!

View the Ideas Matter 2009 Photostream

(this event was co-sponsored by the Health Equity Alliance) “Health, Health Care, and Justice”

2008| Who Owns the Sky? The Tragedy or Triumph of the Commons

2008: Who Owns the Sky? The Tragedy or Triumph of the Commons

Thriving forest, rich soil,clean air, fresh water, bountiful oceans--these are our common heritage. But in this thoroughly commodified and increasingly privatized world, the commons is everywhere diminished. Our challenge is to re-imagine the commons. How might our society be inspired to share both the gifts of the commons and the responsibility for their long-term well being?

Jan. 10 - The Commons: Issues and Quandaries: Cassandra Robertson, voice and guitar, Rob Birdwell, trumpet, Kathleen Dean Moore, philosophy, Charles Goodrich, poetry

Jan. 17 - Devon Pena, environmental anthropologist, University of Washington, author,  Mexican Americans and the Environment: Tierra y Vida

Jan. 24 - Eric Freyfogle, legal scholar, University of Illinois, author, The Land We Share: Private Property and the Common Good

Jan. 31 - Charles Wilkinson, environmental historian, University of Colorado, author, Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations

Tuesday, Feb. 5 - SPECIAL EVENT -- Campus Carbon Challenge Kick-Off: Gary Braasch, photographerEarth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World - 7:00 pm, Withycombe 109

Feb. 7 - Ted Jojola (Pueblo), Regents Professor of Community and Regional Planning, University of Mexico

Feb. 14 - Mark Hixon, marine biologist, Oregon State University; chair, Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee

Friday, Feb. 15 - SPECIAL EVENT--Ann Pancake, novelist, Strange as this Weather Has Been, 7:00 pm, Valley Library Rotunda

Feb. 21 - Kim Stanley Robinson, novelist, the Mars Trilogy; Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below Zero, and Sixty Days and Counting

Feb. 28 - Mary Wood, environmental law, University of Oregon, author, Nature's Trust: A Legal Paradigm for Protecting Land and Natural Resources for Future Generations

March 6 - Local Commons' Advocates.  "The Local Commons and the Common Good: Land Trusts, Watershed Councils and the Conservation of Endangered Species"

March 13 - David Korten, Co-founder, Positive Futures Network; author, The Great Turning: From Earth Empire to Earth Community

Sponsored by: The Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word; and the OSU Department of Philosophy

2007| Does Religion Matter?

2007:   Does Religion Matter?

In recognition of the exemplary teaching and research of OSU Distinguished Professor Marcus Borg, the Philosophy Department's 15th annual IDEAS MATTER Lecture Series will take up the ideas and phenomena of religion and examine whether and how religion "matters" in the contemporary world.

Jan. 11 - "Religion and Idolatry" - Marc Borg, Distinguished Professor and Hundere Chair, Department of Philosophy

Jan. 18 - "Moving from the Head to the Heart: Poetry, Silence, and Prayer" - Chris Anderson, Professor in Department of English & Deacon at St. Mary's Catholic Church

Jan. 25 - "Why Won't Religion Just Go Away?" - Sally K. Gallagher, Professor, Department of Sociology

Feb. 1 - "Science and Religion: Adversaries or Allies?" - Gary Ferngren, Professor, Department of History

Feb. 8 - "Topoi of the Mysteries" - Michael Beachley, Assistant Professor, Speech Communication

Feb. 15 - Gilfillan Aud., 4:00 pm
"The Secular Sacred: Where Marcus and I Walk Different Paths Through the Same Forest" -  Kathleen Dean Moore, Distinguished Professor, University Writer Laureate, Department of Philosophy

Feb. 22 - "Is the History of Religion Too Important to be Left to the Religious?" - Bob Nye, Professor, Horning Professor of the Humanities, Department of History

Mar. 1 - "We All Worship Something" - Rabbi Ariel Stone, Congregation Shir Tikvah, Portland, OR

Mar. 8 - "Bouncing into Graceland or (with apologies to Paul Simon) Still Christian After All These Years" - Susan Shaw, Associate Professor, Director of Women Studies, Department of Women Studies

Mar. 15 - "Buddhist No-self and Narrative: A Tale of Nobody in Religion and Religious Studies" - Mark Unno, Associate Professor of East Asian Religions,University of Oregon

2006| Borders, Boundaries, Frontiers

Ideas Matter 2006:  Borders, Boundaries, Frontiers

January 12, 2006
- Lise Nelson, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Oregon

"Contested boundaries of race, place, and belonging: The struggle over farmworker housing in Woodburn, Oregon"
Through an analysis of political resistance to the construction of subsidized farmworker housing in Woodburn, Oregon between 1991 and 1996, this presentation explores the defense of normative whiteness in relation to a largely undocumented Mexican immigrant population residing in the community.

January 19, 2006 - John Frohnmayer, currently an Affiliate Professor of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University

"The Doomed Pursuit of Aesthetics and its Turbo-charged Afterlife"
Philosophers through the centuries have struggled with the concepts of beauty, authenticity, originality. Frohnmayer argues that revisitng aesthetics in the 21st century holds promise not just for reinvigorating the arts, but for transforming society as well.

January 26, 2006 - Lana Gailani, Graduate student in Comparative Politics and Middle Eastern studies, Reed College

"The State Has No Borders: British Post-War Diplomacy and the Creation of Iraq"
The British approached Iraq with mixed messages and an unclear strategy which led some Iraqis to expect a measure of independence. The declaration of the Mandate in 1920 dashed all hopes of independence and united several opposition groups in violent rebellion. The British were forced to send men and money they could ill afford. In their hurry to settle the situation in Iraq, the Kurdish population was left in limbo: having been promised a Kurdistan, the British had no time and no resources to deliver.

February 2, 2006 - Andrew Light, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Affairs,  University of Washington

"When We Restore Nature, What Do We Owe the Past?"
This presentation will offer reasons to believe that instead we have moral obligations to both past and future human communities to retain elements of industrial or agricultural legacies, or "disturbance memories," in our restorations. Such a position may allow us to restore functioning ecosystems while also doing honor to people who have made use of an area in the past, rather than demonizing them for what we perceive as an environmental wrong.

February 9, 2006 - Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology and Gender Studies, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University

"Born and Raised: A Critical Analysis of Sexuality and the Nature/Nurture Debate"
An oft-posed question is: "is homosexuality genetic or is it a choice?" Any theory worth its salt must by dynamic, taking into account how experience trains the body, and how different bodies receive experience. A good theory will consider human desire as a life long process, and the expression of particular desires as both stable and changeable.

February 16, 2006 - Michael Blake, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington

"Cultural Survival"
Why is the survival of a culture a matter of moral importance? This talk will suggest that cultural survival is not itself a value; it is a placeholder for other values, including respect for autonomy. Recognition of this may force us to revise multicultural politics, both at the theoretical and practical levels.

February 23, 2006 - Ken Pendleton, Instructor in Philosophy, Oregon State University

"One Goal: Soccer, Global Capitalism, and the Erosion of Cultural Identity"
Using examples from internation soccer, Dr. Pendleton will argue that national identity is being inexorably eroded by globalization. He will attemt to show that two main forces -- the exent to which soccer has been influenced by global trade and the sheer quantity of money in the sport -- are undermining -- or homogenizing -- the approach that different countries take towards playing.

March 2, 2006 - Darius Rejali, Professor of Political Science, Reed College

"Torture and Democracy"
This lecture draws on Dr. Rejali's forthcoming book, Torture and Democracy (Princeton, 2006). This book focuses in particular on the history of torture technologies that leave few marks. This "clean torture" is used under conditions of public monitoring and disturbing implications are explored of the truth that we are less likely to complain about violence committed "cleanly." Dr. Renjali will also explore data on a variety of historical, philosophical, and anthroplogical claims about the nature of torture, in particular, whether it can be a science, whether it can be conducted professionally and under what circumstances.  

2005| The Examined Meal

Ideas Matter 2005:  The Examined Meal

Thursday, January 20 - Hunger in Oregon: What We Know, What to Do

  • Joan Gross, OSU Anthropology
  • Bruce Weber, OSU AREC
  • Courtney Campbell, OSU Philosophy

Thursday, January 27 - Ethics, Economics, and Animal Husbandry: Can They Coexist .  Candace Croney, OSU Animal Science

Thursday, February 3 - Last Supper: Final Meal requests of US death row inmates.  Julie Green, OSU Art

Thursday, February 10 - Bread and God, Spirit and Justice, in the Bible .  Marc Borg, OSU Philosophy

Thursday, February 17 - American Philosophy of Agriculture: A Guided Tour from Thomas Jefferson to Wendell Berry.  Paul Thompson, Michigan State, Philosophy & Agriculture

Thursday, February 24 - Feasting and Fasting in a Globalized Marketplace .  Gary Nabhan, Northern Arizona University, Enter for Sustainable Environments

Thursday, March 3 - Beliefs About Food: What Can Food Do for You?
Melinda Manore, OSU Nutrition

Thursday, March 10 - The Unexamined Meal is Not Worth Eating
Lisa Heldke, Gustavus Adolphus College, Philosophy

2003| Democracy and Dissent

Ideas Matter: 2003 - Democracy and Dissent

The New Holy War
David Loy, Bunkyo University, Chigasaki, Japan

September 25, 4:00 pm
Hovland 202

"Democracy Requires Dissent"
Lani Roberts, Oregon State University

"Thrasymachus, Domocracy and Dissent"
Bill Uzgalis, Oregon State University

"Becoming Estadounidense"
Joseph Orosco, Oregon State University

October 2, 4:00 pm
With 217

Is Democracy Dead?
Dennis Rohatyn, University of San Diego

October 9, 4:00 pm
WNGR 149
Against Patriotism
Robert Jensen, University of Texas

October 16, 7:00 pm
Milam Aud.
Latino Politics & Transnational Orgaizing in the Age of War
Anna Sampaio, University of Colorado at Denver

October 23, 4:00 pm
WNGR 149
War and Moral Responsibility
Cheyney Ryan, University of Oregon

October 30, 4:00 pm
WNGR 149
Film and the First Amendment
Jon Lewis, Oregon State University

November 6, 4:00 pm
WNGR 149
Democracy, Wealth & Justice: A Christian View
Marc Borg, Oregon State University

November 13, 4:00 pm
WNGR 149
Liberation Ecology
John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War

November 20, 7:00 pm
Milam Aud.

History of Dissent in the U.S.
Daniel Lykins, Oregon State University

December 4, 7:00 pm
Owen 102

2002| Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge


Ideas Matter 2002:  Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge

Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book, "Silent Spring". -- TIME magazine

Carson: Silent Spring

Join us to celebrate the legacies of Rachel Carson - an enduring love for the sea, a joyous sense of wonder, and her grave warning that whatever threatens the natural systems that sustain us threatens us all. Her life's work challenges us to recognize the relatedness of all life, and so to live our own lives in ways that honor the earth's well-being and beauty.  

People are a part of nature and
our war against nature is inevitably
a war against ourselves.

  - adapted from Rachel Carson, 1963

Rachel's Legacy, Rachel's Ocean

Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished Professor, OSU, Keynote Address
October 3 - 7:30 PM, Milam Hall auditorium

Professor Jane Lubchenco delivered the keynote address.

Jane Lubchenco

Dr. Jane Lubchenco is an environmental scientist and marine ecologist who is actively engaged in teaching, research, synthesis, and communication of scientific knowledge. She is Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at OSU. Professor Lubchenco has broad interests in understanding the natural dynamics of Earth's ecosystems and developing new approaches to improve the health, prosperity, and well-being of people without disrupting the functioning of ecological systems upon which all life depends.

Dr. Lubchenco is featured in the latest edition of National Geographic. She has received many awards including, most recently, the 2002 Heinz Award in the Environment, and holds many leadership and advisory roles. Notable among these are President-Elect of the International Council for Science, Principle Investigator of the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Rachel Carson: The Making of a Prophetic Voice

Rachel Carson: Witness for NatureLinda Lear, author of "Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature"
October 10 - 7:30 PM, Milam Hall

Linda Lear, biographer and historian, is Research Professor of Environmental History at George Washington University. She is the author of the acclaimed biography of Carson, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, (Holt,1997,1998) numerous articles on Carson and the politics of pesticides, and is the editor of the anthology, Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (Beacon,1998). Lear was historical consultant for the PBS/American Experience film Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. She has written the introduction to the new 40th anniversary edition of Carson's Silent Spring, to The Sense of Wonder, the preface to the Penguin editions of Carson's The Edge of the Sea, and Silent Spring. Lear's biography of Carson was awarded the prize for the best book on women in science by the History of Science Society in 1999, and has been optioned by Turner Television. Lear lectures both here and abroad on the environment and Rachel Carson's life and work. She is at work on a new environmental biography, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, under contract to Penguin Inc. UK.

Silent Spring to Scientific Revolution

Our Stolen Future


John Peterson Myers, co-author of "Our Stolen Future:
Are We Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?"

October 17 - 7:30 PM Milam Hall auditorium

Dr. Myers will speak about scientific evidence for the global extent of the dangers posed by the build up of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the environment and in human bodies.

He is a reporter, editor and publisher of, and co-authored the book Our Stolen Future:Are we Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival?. He is Senior Advisor to the United Nations Foundation and a Senior fellow at Commmonweal. From 1990-2002 he was director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, a private foundation supporting efforst to protect the gobal environment and to prevent the nuclear war. He received his Ph.D in zoology from the University of California, Berkeley and lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

 Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood

Sandra Steingraber, author of "Living Downstream"
October 24 - 7:45 PM, Milam Hall auditorium

Ecologist, author, and cancer surviver, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health. She is the author of Post Diagnosis a volume of poetry, and co-author of a book on ecology and human rights in Africa, The Spoils of Famine. She has taught biology at Columbia College, Chicago, held visiting fellowships at the University of Illinois, Radcliffe/Harvard, and Northeastern University, and served on Pres. Clinton's National Action Plan on Breast Cancer.

Living Downstream


Steingraber's highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. It was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with newly released data from U.S. cancer registries. In 1997 Steingraber was named a Ms Magazine Woman of the Year. In 1999, the Sierra Club heralded Steingraber as the "new Rachel Carson". In 2001, Carson's own alma mater, Chatham College selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel carson leadership award.

Continuing the investigation begun in Living Downstream, Steingraber's new work, Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood. Both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicity, Having Faith reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each crucial stage of infant development. In the eyes's of an ecologist, the mother's body is the first environment for human life.

Sandra Steingraber is currently on faculty at Cornell University's Center for the Environment in Ithaca, NY. She is married to sculptor Jeff de Castro. They are proud parents of three year old Faith and baby Elijah.

Under the Sea Wind: An Arts Celebration

Community celebration of the sea.
Open microphone for poems and essays about the sea, and an open carousel for color slides.
All invited to participate..
October 30 - 7:30 PM, Corvallis Library

 Inviting all local writers, muscians, and photographers... come help Corvallis celebrate the sea. Read a peom or an essay, share a song, or show some slides. Open microphone, open carousel, all welcome! Sign-ups start at 7 pm, events begin at 7:30 pm. Not a writer or photographer?- then just come and enjoy the show!

 A Chorus of Voices

Local cancer survivors raise their voices in warning or celebration.
Michael Grey-Eyes, flute. Program followed by reception and informational displays.
November 7 - 7:30 PM, Milam Hall

The Promise of Pesticides

Paul Jepson, Professor, Entomology, OSU.
A time-slice presentation, in which we hear scientists’ views of the promise of pesticides in 1942, 1962, 1982 and 2002.
November 14 -7:45 PM, Milam Hall

 The Religious and Secular Origins of Rachel Carson’s Sense of Wonder

Lisa Sideris, Religious Studies and Environmental Science, McGill University.
November 21 - 7:30 PM, Milam Hall

 Lisa Sideris received her Ph.D in Religious Studies from Indiana University in 2000. She is the postdoctoral fellow for this year's Thematic Project on Darwin and William Howarth, at McGill University. She will be working on a book project based on her dissertation, The Limits of Theodicy: Ecological Theology, Natural Selection, and the Problem of Suffering in Nature.

A Sense of Wonder

Art and essay exhibition by elementary and secondary school students.
December 5 - 6:30 PM, Owen Hall Atrium

Followed by:

Rachel's Challenge

Kathleen Dean Moore, Philosophy, OSU.
December 5 - 7:30 PM, Owen Hall, Room 102


November 17 -  A Sense of Wonder
A one woman play by Kaiulani Lee.
2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, Majestic Theater
The play is based on the life of Rachel Carson; Lee, who has acted on Broadway and in films as well as TV, plays Carson toward the end of her life.

On-going Public school art and essay project, "A Sense of Wonder", with OSU student interns in classrooms throughout Oregon

April 17, 2003  "Literature and Nature" will be the theme of the OSU Biology Colloquium.

Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge



This lecture series was the inspiration for Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge which was co-edited by Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore.


Click here to preview the book and/or purchase a copy.


2001| Biotechnology: Philosophical Perplexities, Ethical Enigmas

Corn in Hand Surrounded by DNA
The 2001-2002 IDEAS MATTER lecture series focused on "Biotechnology: Philosophical Perplexities, Ethical Enigmas." This page will introduce you to the important themes and institutional context of these lectures, and provide links to other pages that will provide the lecture schedule and lecture description, and to information about PHL 450/550, a course for OSU students that accompanies the lecture series.

Institutional Context

Oregon State University is in the middle of the biotechnology revolution. OSU researchers can engage in genetic modifications of plants and animals, do collaborative research with private-funded companies, and obtain patents on modified organisms. These research and commercial initiatives have not gone unchallenged, and some university researchers have been subject the subject of protests and vandalism by those opposed to genetic manipulations.



In sponsoring the IDEAS MATTER lecture series, "Biotechnology: Philosophical Perplexities, Ethical Enigmas," the Program for Ethics, Science, and the Environment (PESE) in the Department of Philosophy at OSU seeks to illuminate a variety of contemporary issues in biotechnology for the university and its community. These issues include:

The goal of PESE in coordinating these lectures is to enhance the understanding of citizens and the academic community on the nature of the questions at stake, and modes of their resolution, as we enter what will inevitably be a biotech century.


Several units at Oregon State University have contributed funding and expertise to bring about this year's series of lectures. They include the Department of Philosophy, Program for the Analysis of Biotechnology Issues, Program for Ethics, Science, the Hundere Endowment, and the Environment. Additional funding has been provided by The Whitaker Foundation.

Fall 2001




October 2

Gary Comstock

Vexing Nature:
On the Ethical Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology

This presentation examines the logic of the two types of ethical arguments against agricultural biotechnology: intrinsic and extrinsic. The extrinsic argument states that the potential harms of GMOs outweigh the potential benefits. The intrinsic argument states that GMOs are unnatural and ought not to be pursued, even if the benefits outweigh the harms. In examining the reasons for continuation of intrinsic arguments, we will consider the role of the Alarmist Response and the Endowment effect in relation to biotechnology. Logical conclusions of each argument will also be discussed.

Gary Comstock is the Coordinator of the Bioethics program and a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University. He has published more than fifty articles and book chapters in his areas of interest: life science ethics and philosophy of religion. His most recent work is Vexing Nature? On the Ethical Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology. Professor Comstock also edited Life Science Ethics. He has served as principal investigator or project director on more than fifteen grants totaling more than a million dollars, including major awards from NSF and USDA. His Ph.D. was earned at University of Chicago. Comstock has held positions at Oregon State University, is a Member of the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, past president of the Society for Agriculture and Human Values, and a popular speaker who has lectured in Asia, Europe, Central America, and Canada. In 1998 he won his College’s Award for Excellence in Outreach. 

October 9

Martin Lemon

The Monsanto Pledge

Monsanto is the world's leading developer of agriculture biotechnology products. What ethical concerns face Monsanto in connection with its place in the agricultural biotechnology market? What societal concerns can specific company pledges allay? The New Monsanto Pledge is a set of commitments that outline Monsanto's policy for the development, use and stewardship of what Monsanto believes are profoundly important agricultural technologies.

Specifically, the New Monsanto Pledge makes commitments in five key areas:

  1. Dialogue,
  2. Transparency
  3. Respect for others' views and concerns
  4. Sharing information and knowledge
  5. Delivering real benefits to farmers and consumers.

Martin Lemon is Environmental Operations Manager of the Western United States for Monsanto Agriculture Products. Lemon is currently responsible for biotech scientific outreach and education to the agricultural community, California food industry, community interest groups, and public forums. In these forums, he has spoken on such issues as risk perception and communication, toxicology, human health and safety, and the environmental behavior and fate of gylphosate. Lemon's research background is in the areas of water quality, product toxicology, and ecotoxiology.

October 16

Susanna Hornig Priest

Morality, Knowledge, Trust, and Public Responses to Biotechnology:  Convenient Mythology and Statistical Reality

Conventional wisdom asserts that the general public would be more supportive of biotechnology if only they understood the science better. While there is certainly some truth to this assertion, opinion data suggest there is more myth. In fact, the situation is far more complex than such a statement implies, presenting a challenge to our understanding that may be as great as the challenge of deciphering the functions of particular DNA sequences. U.S. citizens, like their European counterparts, seem to see biotechnology as a moral issue, one in which trust in relevant institutions appears more closely related to levels of support than does mastery of scientific knowledge.

Susanna PriestSusanna Hornig Priest is an associate professor of journalism and graduate advisor for the science and technology journalism program at Texas A&M University. She has also served as both Acting Director and Interim Director for the Center for Science and Technology Policy and Ethics at Texas A&M University. Priest also recently served on a National Science Foundation panel charged with reevaluating the indicators used to assess public understanding of science. She has also served on a panel for Division of Science Resource Studies and is the associate editor of Public Understanding of Science. Her current research involves comparative analysis of media, survey, and public opinion data from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, in cooperation with colleagues from each participating country; their new book, Biotechnology 1996-2000: The Years of Controversy, will be available soon from Michigan State University Press. Priest received a Ph.D. in communications from University of Washington. She has recently published A Grain of Truth: The Media, The Public, and Biotechnology.

October 23

Carolyn Raffensperger

The Precautionary Principle:
Making Wise Decisions in a Complex World

The precautionary principle states that if a technology or activity poses a threat of harm, measures to anticipate and prevent that harm are warranted even when there is uncertainty about the nature and extent of adverse impacts.

What is a precautionary approach to agricultural biotechnology? Under the principle, how do we evaluate competing claims that biotechnology is both environmentally damaging and necessary to feed the world?

Carolyn Raffensperger, J.D., is executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. SEHN is an "organization without walls" that is comprised of 42 organizational members and hundreds of volunteer scientists across North America. Founded in 1994, SEHN is concerned with the wise application of science to the protection of the environment and public health. It is a leading proponent of the precautionary principle as the basis for environmental and public health policy. It seeks to ensure that public policy is informed by science that is grounded in ethics and logic.

October 30

Scott Exo

Do GMOs Have a Place in a Sustainable Model for Agriculture?

The Food Alliance, a Portland-based nonprofit, operates a farm certification and marketing program to promote sustainable agricultural practices. In 1999, the board of directors of The Food Alliance grappled with the formulation of an organizational position on the use of GMOs: Should those farms using GMOs be eligible for Food Alliance approval? Should the Food Alliance endorse or condemn the use of GMOs? What factors should a public interest non-profit consider when analyzing this technology? Is there enough information known in order to make such decisions? This presentation will outline how the Food Alliance board ultimately decided to forbid GMO use by approved farmers, and how it arrived at an organizational policy in the face of these difficult questions.

Scott ExoScott Exo is the program director for The Food Alliance. He has over fifteen years experience in non-profit and program management. Prior to joining The Food Alliance, Scott served as director from 1991-1997 of the Grassroots Leadership Project at 1000 Friends of Oregon, where he brought diverse environmental and agricultural interests together to create a statewide network of grassroots groups to advocate for farm and forest land protection. As a graduate fellow of the East-West Center, Scott earned an MA in Geography and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Scott has also worked as an organizational consultant and has managed planning, rural development, and education programs in Hawaii, Asia, and Africa.

November 6

Katherine Anne Power

Does World Hunger Require that We Risk Transgenic Agriculture?

Transgenic agriculture presents environmental and health risks that are impossible to calculate. Proponents of transgenic agriculture argue that the benefit of relieving world hunger should count heavily in the decision to go forward with the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and the food supply. I will discuss the role of technology as well as social and economic factors in the problem of hunger, with particular emphasis on food security development programs in use in poor rural areas.

Katherine Anne Power


Katherine Power holds a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Ethics and Writing from Oregon State University.

As a poet, essayist and chef, she attempts to bring clarity and new vision to social conflicts.


November 13

Don Wolf

Animal Biotechnology

Nuclear transfer technology now supports the possibility of reproductive and therapeutic cloning in mammals and this presentation will focus on the question of whether cloning can be used responsibly in humans, and if so, under what conditions. I will review the technology along with the progress realized in these fields in the past 5 years. Arguments for and against the application of these technologies in humans will then be presented.

Don Wolf

Don P. Wolf is senior scientist at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center in Beaverton, Oregon, and Professor at Oregon Health Sciences University in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington. He is the primary or co-author on numerous professional articles, most recently focusing on the science and biology of reproductive techniques. He currently serves on the editorial board of BIOLOGY of REPRODUCTION.

Winter 2002
Location: Withycombe 217 - Time: 4 p.m.




January 22

Courtney Campbell

The Fear of God and Frankenstein:
Religious Perspectives on Biotechnology

Courtney CampbellCourtney Campbell is currently a professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Program for Ethics, Science and the Environment (PESE) at Oregon State University. Involvement in PESE includes development of new courses, invitation of guest scholars to OSU and the Corvallis community, publishing a newsletter, coordinating faculty forums, and organizing public conferences. Campbell received his Ph.D. and M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and his B.A. from Yale University. He has previously served as research associate for the Hastings Center and editor of the Hastings Center Report, the leading professional journal in the field of bioethics. Campbell has written numerous articles and papers on the topic of bioethics, and includes information and case studies on issues of biotechnology in many of his classes.

January 29

Terri Lomax

Educating the Public About Biotechnology

First introduced in 1996, genetically engineered crops have been adopted by growers faster than any other new agricultural technology, including the tractor. Since the first crops to be introduced included corn, soybean, and canola, GE components quickly became part of the food chain without much consumer awareness. Who can the public turn to for accurate information about this often misrepresented topic? Why haven't they been better informed? This presentation will cover real and perceived public concerns and the role public institutions can play in providing not only their students, but also growers and consumers with the resources necessary to make informed decisions.

Dr. Terri L. Lomax is Professor of Botany & Plant Pathology and the Center for Gene Research & Biotechnology at Oregon State University where she teaches Cell & Molecular Biology and Issues in Agricultural & Natural Resources Biotechnology. Since 2000, she has directed the OSU Program for the Analysis of Biotechnology Issues (PABI), which provides balanced information about genetically engineered crops to the public, press, and policy makers. In addition to PABI, her outreach efforts include the Science Connections program (K-12 science outreach for the Portland Public Schools), which she initiated and currently directs.

Dr. Lomax’s research interests are in the area of plant developmental biology, especially understanding how multiple hormones interact to regulate plant growth and responses to the environment. Her research group is currently investigating the mechanism of action of the plant hormone auxin, using the gravitropic response of tomatoes as a model system. She received her, B.S. in Botany from the University of Washington (1975), her M.S. in Botany/Biology from San Diego State University (1978) and her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1983. She was an NSF Plant Biology Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, CA from 1983-1986.

February 5

Steven Strauss

Biotechnology and Trees:
An Enigma of Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable forestry systems vary widely in their goals, management methods, and products. Some are managed as intensively as any agricultural system with wood output as the dominant product, while for others, natural values and services are the primary outputs. Genetic engineering or genetic modification (GM), as it is commonly called around the world, is under consideration only for highly intensive applications with trees such as short-rotation wood plantations, horticultural orchards, and to rescue species threatened by exotic pests. Nonetheless, social forces are pushing forestry systems toward “green” certification, some of which exclude all kinds of GM trees from all possible uses. Terrorism against research is also impeding open discussion and research into novel applications, estimates of benefits, and studies of ecological safety.

Although domestication of plants via intensive breeding, including for trees, has long-standing and broad social support, GM as a directed, highly conscious manipulation of nature appears to generate vociferous biopolitical opposition from a small minority of citizens. Because GM traits vary widely in benefit and safety depending on their nature, I argue that this excessively broad perception of GM - which attempts to define it as inappropriate ethical behavior when directed toward trees of any kind - may preclude substantial environmental and social benefits. Most notably, it may result in pressure to exploit more land or alternative management methods, at higher cost and environmental impact, then otherwise would be needed for meeting human demands for renewable materials and energy.

Steve StraussSteve Strauss is a professor of molecular and cellular biology, and genetics in the Department of Forestry and director of the Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative at Oregon State University. He was also recently a visiting professor in the Department of Plant Science at the Oxford Forestry Institute. He has also served as visiting professor or scientist in France, Australia, and Norway. Strauss received his Ph.D. in Genetics from University of California at Berkeley and his Masters in Forest Biology from Yale University. He has served on numerous grant review panels, including the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation.

February 12

Paul Jepson

Environmental Risk Assessment for GMOs

How does public concern about the risks posed by biotechnology affect the assessment, interpretation and management of risks? The recent history of risk assessment in GM crops suggests for example, that industry, government regulators and the public respond very differently to questions concerning the toxicity of insecticides, depending on whether the method of delivery is via novel gene insertion, or via a conventional sprayer. The high level of concern may reflect a complex interplay between many issues including environmental risks, health risks, consumer rights and labeling, basic ethical questions (i.e. is it 'natural'), exclusion of the poor and politically under-represented, the influence of large corporations and concerns about intensive agriculture and its unforeseen side-effects. Given that such concern exists, scientists and regulators must learn to operate within a new environment.

How can ethically appropriate scientific and regulatory procedures be developed that permit the risks and benefits of this new technology to be evaluated, within an environment where the pressure to commercialize is so intense, and where the need to regulate the technology is constantly questioned? This lecture will explore this dilemma by analyzing the recent history of the introduction of transgenic crops.

Paul Jepson is a professor and the Associate Director of the Integrated Plant Protection Center at Oregon State University and was the former Department Head of Entomology. He received a B.Sc. from Imperial College in London, and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Jepson worked at Southampton University in the UK, before coming to OSU in 1995. His research interests focus on integrated pest management, ecotoxicology and ecological risk assessment for agricultural practices including pesticide use and genetically modified crops. Jepson has worked in Europe, Africa and Asia, and is currently a member of a number of national and international working groups, evaluating risks associated with GM technology.

February 19

Carol Mallory-Smith

Crop-Weed Introgression

Carol Mallory-Smith the George R. Hyslop Professor, has been at Oregon State University since 1994. She is a member of the Department of Crop and Soil Science and the Department of Horticulture with a teaching and research appointment. Mallory-Smith received her Ph.D. from the Universityh of Idaho and was a Research Scientist there for four years before accepting the position at Oregon State University. Areas of research emphasis are weed biology and ecology, herbicide resistance, and weed management. Research is being conducted on hybridization between wheat and jointed goatgrass with an emphasis on gene movement and introgression.

February 26

Kori Haddix

Fear, Facts, & Food:
Public Education Issues in Ag Biotechnology

Stories about ecoterrorist strikes, corn that kills Monarch butterflies, and the possibility of superweeds embody the public controversy over genetically modified foods. Some researchers state that food biotechnology is the safest technology man has ever created, while Greenpeace activists stage protests against the development of genetically modified crops. What are the reasons behind this controversy? This presentation will examine the health and ethical aspects of the debate as well as a theory to explain the public outrage.

Kori Haddix is a student in the University Honors College and a senior in Health Promotion and Education at Oregon State University. She has completed a significant amount of research on the topic of food biotechnology, including her honors thesis.

March 5

Joel Corcoran

Has Patenting Cloned Mammals Become Passé?

While much public discussion has focused on whether humans should be cloned, we seem to pass over the significant philosophical, moral, and ethical issues surrounding the cloning of animals generally, particularly concerning patenting of cloned mammals. What are the reasons behind this lack of public interest and attention when the issues presented are, in many ways, simpler than issues raised by the prospect of cloning people?

Joel Corcoran is an associate with Klarquist Sparkman Campbell, LLP, where he is involved in intellectual property practice focusing on patent prosecution and appeals, primarily regarding biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and other biological inventions. He received his J.D. from University of Oregon School of Law and a B.S. in Biology and M.S. in Genetics from Oregon State University.

March 13

Phil Bereano

Responsible Use of Biotechnology 

Spring 2002
Location: Ag & Life Sciences 4001 * - Time: 4 p.m.




April 9

Craig Winters

The Controversy Over Biotech Foods:
Is Labeling the Answer?

Many scientists from around the world are questioning the safety of genetically engineered foods. New proteins never before consumed by humans are being fed to millions of people without pre-market safety testing. People with special dietary concerns are worried that they may be eating genes from foods they do not want to consume. Consumers in the U.S. and worldwide are demanding labeling. Are biotech foods “substantially equivalent” to other foods? Or should the “precautionary principle” be the appropriate way to deal with these new foods?

Craig Winters is the founder and executive director of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods and was founding president of Citizens For Health. Craig has been working in the natural products industry for 23 years and served as an instructor at Bastyr University from 1996-1999 where he taught nutrition students a course called “Nutrition in the Natural Products Industry.” He has given dozens of lectures and radio interviews on the issues surrounding genetically engineered foods.

* April 16

J. Knapp

Manipulating Natural Products and Processes in Crops:
Accelerating and Redirecting Evolution for Social Benefit

Plants are veritable chemical factories: they produce an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 secondary chemical compounds that have been used by humans for fuels, foods, medicines, clothing, and a wide range of industrial products (e.g., rubber, lubricants, and soaps). Many useful compounds are produced by endangered or threatened species and non-crop plants or are present in concentrations below economic thresholds. Genetic engineering has been proposed as the ideal way to exploit much of the chemical diversity found in nature by up- or down-regulating native or foreign genes by genetic engineering. I will present ethical dilemmas raised by manipulating natural plant products and processes for social benefit.

Steven KnappSteven Knapp is a professor and researcher in the Department of Crop & Soil Science at Oregon State University. His research focuses on the development of crops, such as sunflower and flax, to produce novel seed oils for consumption and industrial use. In addition, Knapp is involved in DNA fingerprinting, genetic mapping, and marker-assisted selection, as well as the development of genetic maps and the use of molecular breeding methods in new crops. Knapp received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in 1983.

April 24

Greg Fowler

Barry Anderson

Geneforum: Creating Informed Citizens for the Gene Age

Can citizens understand what they need to know to participate in dialogue about the new genetic technologies? Does the Internet have a role to play? In what ways might citizen’s values be considered in the development of public policy about genome science? These questions will be discussed in the context of recent efforts by Geneforum - a Portland-based educational organization - to involve citizens in Oregon’s genetic privacy legislation.

Greg Fowler
Greg Fowler is the Executive Director and Member of the Founding Board of Geneforum. He is also and Associate Professor of (Clinical) Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

Barry F. Anderson is a decision psychologist with special interests in the application of decision-analytic principles to ethical decision making and conflict resolution. He teaches, consults, and publishes in these areas and is known for his work on designing the original prioritizing system for the Oregon Health Plan. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Portland State University.

April 30

Paul Thompson

Unraveling the Riddle of Risk:
Risk Comparisons of Transgenic and Conventional Plants

Comparing the environmental risks of transgenic crops and trees with risks from non-transgenic commercial varieties is an important part of attempts to understand nature of environmental hazards associated with transgenic plants, the degree of risk and ultimately the acceptability of environmental risks from transgenic plants. Such comparisons are surprisingly difficult both for technical and philosophical reasons. A key part of the philosophical difficulty lies in a tendency to blur judgments about the probability that hazards will materialize with judgments about when it is important to undertake a deliberative or quantitative review of environmental risks.

May 7

Stephen Jones

“Corporate Biotech will feed the world”
and other excuses for plundering public research

Public breeding programs, many of which are over a century old, are transforming themselves at an alarming rate towards a business model. The value in these programs is being mined for immediate profit by, among others, corporations, universities and public researchers. Dangers in moving to a business model include the destruction of the very thing that produced the value in the first place: long term free ranging research efforts chosen for their scientific merit with ultimate success usually based on the free exchange of ideas and materials.

Stephen Jones is the winter wheat breeder at Washington State University. The winter wheat breeding program has been in existence since 1894, and Jones is only the 5th breeder to head the program. He has a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California, Davis and has been involved in wheat breeding since 1981. In 1997 Jones was elected as, and continues to serve as, the chair of the National Wheat Germplasm Committee.

May 14

Andrew Lustig

Is Human Nature “Natural”?: Reflections on Normative Appeals
to ‘Nature’ in Biotechnology Debates

Much of the recent environmental movement views technological progress as having occurred at tremendous cost, namely, the destruction of “nature.” Whether such harm is understood as instrumentally deleterious to human values or as an intrinsic wrong done to nature itself, the contrast is usually posed as one of a conflict between human technology and natural patterns. Yet human technology is itself an activity “natural” to our species; indeed, given evolutionary understandings, “remaking” the world may have been a central causative factor in the emergence of human consciousness. Hence, biotechnological interventions, rather than being a violation of natural boundaries, may be considered a characteristic and appropriate human behavior.

This presentation will explore how normative appeals to nature serve to illuminate, and sometimes obfuscate, discussions and ethical assessments of five general areas in biotechnology. It will suggest an approach that finds biotechnology a natural extension of human creativity but limits that capacity according to ethical constraints that are equally natural to us as responsible moral agents.

Andrew Lustig, Ph.D., is Director of the Program on Biotechnology, Religion, and Ethics, which is cosponsored by Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. Lustig received his Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from the University of Virginia and also holds advanced degrees in the History of Science from Princeton University and in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Before his current appointments, Lustig served as Academic Director at the Institute of Religion in the Texas Medical Center, as Research Fellow at the Baylor Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and as staff ethicist for Governor Mario Cuomo’s New York State Task Force on Life and the Law. Lustig is co-author, editor, or co-editor of eight books in medical and public policy ethics, and the author of more than one hundred other publications. He is a founding co-editor of the journal Christian Bioethics, and served as senior editor of the Bioethics Yearbook series for Kluwer Academic Publishers. He is currently a member of the editorial board of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

May 21

Mike Burke
Jim Peterson

Profit, Pitfalls, and the ‘Business’ of
Public Breeding with Private Technologies

Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson
Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Science
Oregon State Univ.

Mike Burke

Mike Burke (right)
Associate Director,
Oregon Ag.
Experiment Station
Associate Dean,
College of
Agricultural Sciences
Oregon State Univ.

2000| Minds, Machines and Animals

Ideas Matter 2000 | Minds, Machines and Animals

Minds, Animals, and Machines

The lecture series for 2000 focused on what is uniquely human, by exploring the triangular comparisons between humans, animals and machines. The French philosopher Rene Descartes clearly expressed this comparison in the fifth discourse in the Discourse on Method. This lecture series is going to last all year. In the fall quarter, we wil mainly be considering historical moments in the comparison of humans with animals and machines, Descartes, Hobbes and the Duchess of Newcastle, Locke and Darwin. In the winter we will take up the topic of minds and machines and in the spring animals and minds.

This page will introduce you to the theme of this year's IDEAS MATTER lecture series and provides links to other pages which will give you the schedule, information about the speakers, the text of some of the lectures, and information about Phl. 450 -- the class which accompanies the lecture series. The lecture series is going to be different in that it is going to continue through the course of the entire academic year -- from October to May. In Fall quarter we will mainly be concerned with historical moments in the development of the comparisons of people with animals and machines -- Descartes, Hobbes and Cavendish, Locke, Darwin and others. In the Winter quarter we will focus on minds and machines, and in the Spring on minds and animals.

Topics and Speakers this year included:

Introduction to Minds, Animals and Machines: Descartes and Discourse V Panel Discussion: Bill Uzgalis and Jon Dorbolo
What's Wrong with Anthropomorphism? - Horning Lecture: Elliott Sober
Animal Determinism: Thomas Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish on the Implications of Determinism Lecture: Lisa Sarasohn
Mr. Locke's Parrot: On animals, men, and persons Lecture: Bill Uzgalis
Darwin in Caricature Horning Endowment Lecture: Janet Browne
Does the Turing Test Have a Future? CAP@OSU Keynote Speaker and Ideas Matter Lecture: James Moor
Artificial Intelligence and Rational Behavior Lecture: Tom Dietterich
Robots: emergent properties and collective decisions Lecture: Gene Korienek and Bill Uzgalis
Consciousness, Free Will and the Brain Horning Endowment Lecture: John Searle
Artificial Life and Evolutionary Theory Lecture: Rob Skipper
The Mentality of Apes Revisited Horning lecture: Daniel Povinelli
Are Dolphins Just Whistling Gavagai? Methodology in Cognitive Ethology Lecture: Rob Skipper
Evolutionary Ethics: How to Get Good People from Selfish Genes and Nasty Environments Lecture: Bill Rottschaefer
One Step Up, Two Steps Back: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Savagery in Darwin's Theory of Evolution Lecture: Lisa Sideris
The Aesthetics of Reason: How Thought is Grounded in the Body Lecture: Mark Johnson

Support and Acknowledgment

The IDEAS MATTER lecture series now has an endowment. (You can find out about this on the IDEAS MATTER web site.) The endowment is growing but presently it is not large enough to pay the costs of this year's series. The units on the Oregon State University which have contributed funds to make this lecture series possible are:

  • The OSU Philosophy Department and the IDEAS MATTER Endowment.
  • The Program for Ethics, Science and the Environment (PESE)
  • The Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Endowment in the Humanities
  • The College of Liberal Arts

The IDEAS MATTER lecture series is regularly a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort that brings speakers from not only from other departments, but other universities. So this year we have speakers from the Computer Science and History Departments at OSU as well as philosophers from Lewis and Clarke College in Portland and the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin, the University of California, Berkeley, and Louisiana State University.


Discours de la Methode


Our theme in this year's lecture series is one of the great themes of philosophy -- self knowledge. The question is what are we? What is a human being? There are a variety of ways one can approach this intriguing question. The way in which we are going to explore the question comes from Descartes' Discourse on Method. It is a process of triangular comparison and contrast between people, animals and machines. How is this supposed to help us know ourselves? On the one hand, it seems natural to compare ourselves with our fellow beings -- the other animals and living things, the creatures of the animate world -- to see what we share with them and in what ways we are unique. Machines, on the other side, particularly in the form of computers and robots, also make for an interesting comparison. Could it happen that you could mistake a robot for a person or a person for a robot? Certainly these kinds of confusions happen regularly in science fiction. What then is true about computers and robots in 2001? Reflecting on how they are the same and how they are different from us may provide us with insight into our own nature. We may also come to see surprising and unexpected connections between animals and machines. In what follows I try to develop some of the main themes we can expect to appear and reappear as the lecture series continues.

From Descartes to Turing

Descartes sees humans as quite distinct from and superior to both animals and machines. Sometimes this view is identified with the entire Western intellectual tradition. But this is something of a mistake. Descartes, for example, is reacting to the writings of Michel de Montaigne who, to reduce the pride of human beings, made a considerable point about ways in which animals are superior to humans. In this competing tradition animals are viewed as either like us in having reason or different, but superior in other ways. These issues about similarity and difference are fundamental to our project. Should we see the other animals and living things as being like us and so being rated in some scale of importance by how much they are like us? (Thus we start taking chimpanzees and orangutans seriously when we discover they can, unlike the rest of the other animals, recognize themselves in a mirror.) Or are they basically quite different, but still valuable for other reasons. This issue about anthropomorphism is one which Elliott Sober, a well known philosopher of biology will take up early in fall quarter and which Daniel Povinelli will return to in spring quarter. One can, of course, ask a similar kind of question about machines. Descartes clearly thinks that one can compare humans with animals, and that humans are superior to animals. Why does he think this?

Descartes is a mind body dualist and the way he makes the comparison between humans and animals in the Discourse on Method reflects this. For Descartes, the mind is an immaterial substance, a thinking thing that does not occupy space. Bodies, by contrast are essentially space occupiers. Descartes holds that what is unique to humans is reason, ethics, free will and immortality. Descartes holds that animals are determined and mortal, and lack the kind of reason which one finds in an immaterial and immortal soul. The immortality of the soul is a necessary condition for ethics. (It is clear that people often do good or bad things in this life for which they go unrewarded or unpunished. Presumably these problems with desert and justice are remedied in the next world.) So there is a metaphysical gulf between humans and other animals -- though the human body is an animal body, it has connected with it an immaterial soul which no other animal possesses. Thus, animal cognition, if there is such a thing, is fundamentally different from human cognition.

What then of machines? Surely (one might think), the notion of a robot belongs to our time. But, in fact, this is not the case. Descartes was familiar with the hydraulic statues in French royal parks that moved when you stepped on a plate. There were stories, some of which went back to antiquity, about remarkable machines which could fly or walk, or do other remarkable things. Descartes, himself, was a member of a new movement that saw the world as a great machine created by God, and which was to be explained mechanistically. In Discourse V, Descartes claims that animal bodies (including the human body) are machines made by God.

He writes:

"Nor will this appear at all strange to those who are acquainted with the variety of movements performed by the different automata, or moving machines fabricated by human industry, and that with help of but few pieces compared with the great multitude of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and other parts that are found in the body of each animal. Such persons will look upon this body as a machine made by the hands of God, which is incomparably better arranged, and adequate to movements more admirable than is any machine of human invention. And here I specially stayed to show that, were there such machines exactly resembling organs and outward form an ape or any other irrational animal, we could have no means of knowing that they were in any respect of a different nature from these animals; but if there were machines bearing the image of our bodies, and capable of imitating our actions as far as it is morally possible, there would still remain two most certain tests whereby to know that they were not therefore really men."

These tests which Descartes proposes are tests of intelligence. These tests are somewhat like the famous Turing Test of our times. Turing was one of the original developers of the electronic digital computer. In a paper in 1950 he predicted that by 2000 computers could pass a test to determine if they could think. The idea of Turing's test came from a British parlor game in which someone would pose questions to try to determine which of the persons answering her questions was a man and which a woman. In the Turing test, a person poses questions to another person and a computer without initially knowing which is which. Turing's point was that if the computer could answer questions in such a way that the interlocutor could not tell which was the person and which the computer, this would be good evidence that the computer could think. Descartes clearly thinks that no machine has the linguistic and general problem solving abilities which human beings have because they have reason. There are interesting similarities and differences between Descartes' tests and those of Turing which we will explore.

Descartes and Turing are connected by the problem of other minds. I know what is going on in my mind by introspection. But I do not have similar access to your mind or indeed any other. So, how do I know that there are other minds than my own? Descartes solves this problem by an argument from analogy. Because other people's behavior is like mine, I assume that there is a similar connection between their behavior and their minds as there is between my behavior and my mind. The Turing test, on the other hand, represents a behaviorist criterion of intelligence. Behaviorists believe that intelligence, or mental states in general should be defined by there being an appropriate relation between stimulus and response. What goes on in between is of no importance. So, the similarity between Descartes and Turing is rather surprising. Nonetheless, both Descartes and the behaviorist must focus on behavior in deciding whether things have minds. We will hear much about the Turing test and the failure of Turing's prediction that computers would pass the test in 50 years from Professor James Moor of Dartmouth College. John Searle of U.C. Berkeley is famous for arguing that neither the Turing test nor more powerful functional theories of mind make plausible the claim that machines can think. Searle argues that we are profoundly different kinds of beings than digital electronic computing machines. Thomas Diderich and Gene Korienek (along with Bill Uzgalis) will provide some different perspectives on robots and their relations to human minds and the animal world.

From Descartes to Darwin

Descartes sees people as profoundly different from other animals. The view that the world is a great machine and God a great clock maker continued to be a well accepted view from the time of Descartes to that of Charles Darwin in the 19th century. Darwin offered a powerful challenges to both these views. A number of interesting developments occurred along the way. Lisa Sarashon from the OSU History Department will consider some contrasting views to those of Descartes. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, a contemporary of Descartes, championed a form of materialism and determinism.

Bill Uzgalis of the OSU Philosophy Department will explain how some of the reactions to Descartes' views give us some of the elements of the modern psychological view of the self, and a trans-species concept of the person. John Locke, in the next generation after Descartes and Hobbes, strongly endorses the view that animal and human bodies are machines or are like machines, but rejects Descartes view that the soul is the bearer of personal identity. Locke replaces the soul as the bearer of personal identity with consciousness. Aristotle had said that man is a rational animal. In making man an animal and person something that is different from man, Locke develops at least the possibility of a trans-species concept of a person. It is, however, with Darwin, that we find the strongest break with the Cartesian view of the place of people in the natural world. Darwin rejects the view that God made the world machine for the use of people. He also gives naturalistic accounts of the origin of ethics and the nature of reason. Janet Browne in the fall and William Rottschaefer and Lisa Sideris in the spring will help us understand various aspects of Darwin's thought.

Foundational Thought

Rene Descartes was a famous French scientist and philosopher. In the fifth discourse in his Discourse on Method, Descartes claimed that while we could make a machine which we could not distinguish from a monkey or other animal, we could not do this with a human being. Thus Descartes began our project of comparing humans, animals and machines and claimed that humans who have reason, ethics, free will an immortality were very different from animals and machines.

Margaret Cavendish was an English noble woman who wrote and engaged in the philosophical discussions of her day. She had read Descartes and Hobbes, and argued against dualism and for the rationality and dignity of animals. She rejected the claim that humans have a superior status in the hierarchy of nature.

Charles Darwin was the famous English naturalist who developed the theory of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection. Darwin defended the view that humans were part of the natural world and that rather than being vastly different from other animals, our most unique characteristics--reason and ethics, for example, have naturalistic origins. Thus Darwin sought to reduce the gulf between humans and other animals which Descartes had championed.

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician who responded to proposals for the development of calculating machines by predicting that such a machine might be used to compose complex music, to produce graphics, and would be used for both practical and scientific use. She is also famous for holding that in doing so, such a calculating machine would not be genuinely creative.

Alan Turing was a famous English mathematician and one of the creators of one of the first electronic digital computers. Turing and his colleagues wondered from the beginning if one could say that the machines they were building could think. In a famous paper, published in 1950 Turing proposed a test to determine if computers could think and made the prediction that by 2000 the machines would have enough memory and other capabilities to pass his test.

Schedule - Fall 2000

Jon DorboloIntroduction to Minds, Animals and Machines: Descartes and Discourse V

October 12, 2000 - 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Panel Discussion: Bill Uzgalis and Jon Dorbolo

Descartes distinction between animals and people plays an important role in Locke's distinction between man and person. Locke's reaction to Descartes leads to the creation of an essentially psychological and a trans-species conception of person.



Elliott SoberWhat's Wrong with Anthropomorphism?

October 16, 2000 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Horning Lecture: Elliott Sober

The scientific study of behavior in nonhuman organisms has long been dominated by the fear of naive anthropomorphism. If we attribute to nonhuman organisms the mental states that human beings occupy, we run the risk of falling into error. However, if we deny that other organisms occupy the mental states that human beings occupy, we also run the risk of making a mistake. How is this problem to be resolved?


Animal Determinism: Thomas Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish on the Implications of Determinism

October 26, 2000 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Lisa Sarasohn

The belief that the universe is composed of matter in motion is common to the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), and the first woman to write extensively on natural philosophy, Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673). Hobbes's materialism was essentially mechanistic: matter possesses extension and it moves. All change in the universe is due to the impact of one piece of matter hitting another. In such a universe, freedom consists in not being impeded from moving. Choice is not an option.

Cavendish's materialism was very different. Her matter is not inert, but rather she envisions a vitalistic monism. She argues that matter is infused with life and freedom. It is the self-conscious and self-determining substratum of life. While Hobbes eliminates liberty from his universe, Cavendish makes it her cardinal principle.

Starting from these different premises, Hobbes and Cavendish differ in their understanding of animal nature. The mechanistic determinism that Hobbes attributes to the material world characterizes animals, who merely respond to external stimuli in their actions. Cavendish, on the other hand, believes that animals possess reason, make choices, and are free, just like their constitutive matter.

I will discuss and compare Hobbes's mechanistic materialism and Cavendish's organic vitalism. Cavendish formulated her ideas partly in response to Hobbes; her husband was his patron. Both thinkers shared an antipathy for Cartesian philosophy and experimental science. Their views scandalized traditionalists and proponents of the new science. They demonstrate the different routes materialism could take in the mid-seventeenth century, and how different concepts of matter resulted in a divergent understanding of animal nature.


Mr. Locke's Parrot: On animals, men, and persons

November 2, 2000 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Bill Uzgalis

Descartes distinction between animals and people plays an important role in Locke's distinction between man and person. Locke's reaction to Descartes leads to the creation of an essentially psychological and a trans-species conception of person.


Darwin in Caricature

November 7, 2000 4:00 pm MU 208
Horning Endowment Lecture: Janet Browne

Janet Browne is a lecturer in the History of Biology at the Wellcome Institute in London. She was formerly a research fellow at Harvard University and associate editor of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin. She is the author of the most recent, and arguably the best, biography of Darwin-Voyages.

Winter 2001     

James MoorDoes the Turing Test Have a Future?

January 18, 2001 4:00 pm LaSells Stewart Center
CAP@OSU Keynote Speaker and Ideas Matter Lecture: James Moor
The famous Turing test has been criticized by philosophers such as John Searle and dismissed by some leading artificial intelligence workers such as Patrick Hayes. Moreover, Turing's famous prediction that his test would be passed at a qualified level about now appears disconfirmed by the Loebner 2000 contest and the absence of competitive artificial intelligence programs. Nevertheless, the Turing test can be defended and will play an important role in the future of artificial intelligence work and our understanding of minds. Turing, by the way, made another prediction which has yet to be tested.


Artificial Intelligence and Rational Behavior

January 25, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Tom Dietterich

Thomas G. DietterichThis talk will be in two parts. First, I will explore definitions of "intelligence" based on the work of Stuart Russell. Artificial intelligence research has pursued (at least) four distinct definitions of "intelligence", and these definitions vary along two axes. One axis concerns whether intelligence is a characteristic of behavior or of mechanism. That is, if two different mechanisms give the same behavior, must we judge the behavior as intelligent, or does the mechanism matter? The second axis is whether intelligence is measured relative to human behavior (or human mechanisms) or relative to some normative definition of correct behavior (or correct mechanism). The dominant definition in the field of artificial intelligence is that intelligence should be defined in terms of behavior measured normatively. However, a surprising consequence of adopting this definition is that the optimal behavior of a bounded agent depends on the "hardware" available to that agent. This is because different agents (composed of different "hardware") confront different tradeoffs and adopt different solutions. The result is that human intelligence and machine intelligence are likely to be very different, because their hardware is different. Hence, mechanisms matter, even under a behavioral definition of "intelligence".

The second part of the talk will report on some current work in artificial intelligence based on machine learning. Many critiques of artificial intelligence have focused on particular AI technologies, such as rule-based and model-based systems that are static and rely the intelligence of the programmer. I will briefly discuss systems that learn how to behave based on interacting with their environment. These systems depend less on their programmers and more on obtaining sufficient experience with their environments.


Robots: emergent properties and collective decisions

February 1, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Gene Korienek and Bill Uzgalis

Gene Korienek This presentation will consider connections between machines and biological organisms (including people) in terms of comparisons between the design of the decision making process for a robot arm and various phenomena in nature which we believe can best be explained as emerging from the interaction of phenomena based on a few simple rules rather than from a top down imposition of order.

Gene Korienek, Ph.D. (Chief Scientist) - Dr. Korienek has considerable research and development experience with control systems and artificial intelligence projects in academics, industry, and as a consulting scientist. He was a Senior Research Scientist at Johnson Controls Inc. from 1983-1989, where he investigated self-organizing control strategies and adaptive control heuristics in the Artificial Intelligence Group of the Corporate Research Department. From 1989 to 1995, Dr. Korienek owned and operated the artificial intelligence consulting company ARTIFACT, Inc. where he consulted extensively on object-oriented software design and development with Fortune 100 companies. He received his Ph.D. from Florida State University in 1992 and has since directed the Biological Robotics Project at Simon Fraser University and the Biological Control Lab at Oregon State University. Dr. Korienek is also a NASA Ames Research Associate involved with the Mission-to-Mars project.


Consciousness, Free Will and the Brain

February 22, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Horning Endowment Lecture: John Searle


Artificial Life and Evolutionary Theory

March 1, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Rob Skipper

This talk considers the intersection between foundational work in evolutionary genetics and computer science. Specifically, I discuss the intersection of mathematical population genetics with the development of adaptive programs. What has one field taught the other? That is, what has biological life taught us about artificial life? What has artificial life taught us about biological life?


Spring 2001     

Daniel Povinelli

The Mentality of Apes Revisited

April 12, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Horning lecture: Daniel Povinelli
Popular accounts of chimpanzees and other apes portray them as possessing mental lives nearly identical to our own. In contrast, I review a wide array of experimental evidence which suggests that there are profound differences in how humans and chimpanzees understand the physical and social world.

Are Dolphins Just Whistling Gavagai? Methodology in Cognitive Ethology

April 19, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Rob Skipper
Typically, communication between non-human animals is translated by scientists into some sort of human equivalent. For example, a specific alarm call in the Vervet monkey has been "translated" as "aerial predator." In 1960, the philosopher W. V. O. Quine, in Word and Object, argued that translation of communications isn't possible even between humans for cases in which the communicators do not speak the same language. In English, Quine's fictional, word, "gavagai," spoken by a fictional non-English-speaking tribesperson to a fictional English-speaking anthropologist might mean "rabbit," "temporal stages of rabbit parts," or "the class of all rabbits." According to Quine, there is no way for the anthropologist to precisely determine the meaning of "gavagai" in the tribesperson's language. Regardless of whether Quine is right, in what ways, if any, does the methodology in cognitive ethology allow scientists to determine the meanings of non-human animal communications? That is, can scientists understand non-human animals? And, if so, how does their methodology warrant their apparent understanding? Toward an answer to these questions, the recent case of signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins, by Vincent Janik, will be discussed.

Evolutionary Ethics: How to Get Good People from Selfish Genes and Nasty Environments

William A. RottschaeferApril 26, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Bill Rottschaefer
If genes are selfish and environments nasty, how do we become good people? In attempting to answer this question, I explore four models for understanding the emergence and development of moral agency. After a brief examination of a traditional Christian model of human nature and nurture and a secularized Hobbesian version of that model, I turn to a discussion of two recent scientifically based accounts. The first, the selfish gene model, reflects the moral pessimism about human nature and nurture of the Christian and Hobbesian models, while the second, the natural moral capacities model, is more optimistic. I focus on three central questions about moral agency: (1) how is it acquired, (2) how is it activated, and (3) how is it justified. First, I look at issues of acquisition and activation from the point of view of the evolution of moral agency. I find the selfish gene model of moral agency to be both scientifically and philosophically inadequate in its answers to the questions of acquisition and activation. Then I turn to the natural moral capacities model and explore its potential for answering the question of how nature endows us with moral capacities. Moving from issues of nature to those of nurture, I examine the ontogeny of moral agency. After a brief look at some classical scientific theories of moral development, I discuss some recent work in the socioemotional development of infants, toddlers and children. Finally, I raise the question of the justification of moral beliefs, motivations, and actions. To do so, I discuss a naturalistic model for relating questions about how we explain the acquisition and activation of moral agency with how we provide good reasons for the rightness of our beliefs, motivations and actions. In other words, I try to square the ethical circle, by moving from what is the case to what ought to be the case, without violating Hume's prohibitions about committing the naturalistic fallacy by deriving values from facts. In the end, I argue that our evolutionary and developmental learning histories provide us with capacities for becoming good people. I have both substantive and methodological goals. First, I aim to illustrate the relevance of recent work in evolutionary biology and developmental psychology for central philosophical questions about moral agency. Second, I argue for a scientific naturalistic philosophical approach to those questions, one that makes significant use of the best findings and theories of the sciences to develop and find answers to central philosophical questions.

One Step Up, Two Steps Back: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Savagery in Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Lisa SiderisMay 3, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Lisa Sideris
This paper examines Darwin's placement of what he calls "savage" races in his scheme of ethical and aesthetic evolution in the Descent of Man. In this work, Darwin argues that humans evolved from a stage of animal instinct toward an increasingly "civilized" stage in which humans have shed instinct and instead draw upon complex mental capacities such as reason, reflection, memory, and conscience. Yet, in light of Darwin's generally progressive understanding of evolution, savages appear anomalous in that Darwin considers them inferior to both "civilized" humans and to the lower animals, rather than an intermediate evolutionary stage. Darwin is often critical of savage aesthetic displays and social behaviors while praising similar behaviors among animals. The question I want to address is: How can savages be intermediate in Darwin's progressive account of evolution and yet be inferior to nonhuman animals?

Savages lie somewhere in between animal instinct and civilized human reason, according to Darwin. As such, they operate with a blend of weakened instinct combined with dawning consciousness, and this combination renders them inferior to animals, and even somewhat repulsive, in Darwin's eyes. Weakened instinct combined with rudimentary consciousness leads to vanity in savage aesthetics and selfishness in savage ethics. In all they do, savages are conscious of the benefits to be gained to themselves: ethical and aesthetic choices are always a calculating and self-serving endeavor. Moreover, Darwin believes that savage vanity and selfishness disrupt natural and sexual selection. Animals, on the other hand, act primarily from instinct devoid of consciousness and thus their moral and aesthetic behaviors are neither corrupted by consciousness nor dysfunctional in terms of natural and sexual selection.

The polar opposite of unconscious animal instinct is "civilized" (typically European) human conduct. At this apex of moral and aesthetic evolution, humans act in a way that resembles the smooth functioning of instinct but is in fact the product of perfected reason. Civilized humans no longer engage in flagrant and vain displays, Darwin argues, and choices of mates are made in accordance with rational considerations, rather than self-gratification or considerations of physical beauty. This account of the evolution of ethics and aesthetics, I argue, parallels Immanuel Kant's theories on many points. In particular, Darwin draws on Kant's notion of rational duty, and his emphasis on issuing disinterested judgments in both ethics and aesthetics. Thus, Darwin's seemingly anomalous placement of savages is clarified with reference to the normative assumptions embedded in his "scientific" account of the evolution of ethics and aesthetics in humans and animals.

Mark JohnsonThe Aesthetics of Reason: How Thought is Grounded in the Body

May 10, 2001 4:00 pm MU East Forum
Lecture: Mark Johnson

Human conceptualization and reasoning grow out of our animal, bodily engagement with our environment. I will survey recent research in the cognitive sciences that shows how structures of perception, bodily movement, and emotional response play an indispensable role in all aspects of our thought and language. These structures of meaning and thought are aesthetic in character. Once we recognize that such aesthetic dimensions lie at the heart of human understanding, we are forced to reconsider most mainstream theories of concepts, language, and reasoning. Even the very nature of philosophy itself is called into question.

1999| God at 2000

1999| God at 2000

The 1999 Lecture Series studied the idea of God in the year 2000, and asked seven popular speakers to present their own personal perspectives as they addressed the question, "How I See God/The Sacred. This was followed by the "God at 2000" symposium featuring the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and included a full slate of national and international scholars in a conference that was televised nationwide.  The 1999 "Ideas Matter" series is sponsored by the OSU Philosophy Department and the Hundere Endowment for Religion and Culture.

Speakers this year all addressed the theme of "How I See God/The Sacred" and included:

Marcus Borg
Jill McAllister
Rabbi Larry Halpern
Jan Bays
Isaiah Jones
Kathy Moore
Nicholas Yonker

as well as the God at 2000 Symposium which featured Desmond Tutu, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Lawrence Kushner, Diana Eck, Joan Chittister, Marcus Borg, and Karen Armstrong


"How we think about God matters. Our concepts and images of the sacred shape our sense of the reality or unreality of God, our sense of God's character, and our perception of what life with God is all about."
  -Marcus Borg, Oregon State University - Symposium speaker and organizer

How I See God/The Sacred

Seven popular speakers will present their own personal perspectives as they address the question, "How I See God/The Sacred."

Marcus Borg portraitOctober 12 - Marcus Borg, Hundere Distinguished Professor in the OSU Philosophy Department and organizer of "God at 2000."

Marcus J. Borg (Ph.D., Oxford University) is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture. Known as one of the leading historical Jesus scholars of this generation, he is the author of nine books, two of which have become best-sellers, Jesus: A New Vision and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. He has lectured widely in this country (including at the Smithsonian and Chautauqua Institutions) and overseas (England, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Israel, and South Africa). His books have been translated into German, Dutch, Korean, and French.

An outstanding teacher, Borg has received all of OSU's major awards for teaching, including one from the legislature. He is the first person in the College of Liberal Arts to be designated "Distinguished Professor" by the university. He has twice been President of the CLA Faculty Council.

Borg teaches both lower and upper division courses. His courses include Great Ideas, World-Views and Values in the Bible, Philosophy and Religion, World-Views and Environmental Values, Great Figures: The Historical Jesus, and a variety of special topics courses.

Borg sees philosophy as primarily concerned with the role of ideas in our lives. "Ideas matter," Borg says, "much more than we commonly think they do - especially our world-views and values, namely our ideas about what is real and how we are to live. We receive such ideas from our culture as we grow up, and unless we examine them, we will not be free persons, but will to a large extent live out the agenda of our socialization."


Jill McAllister


October 19 - Jill McAllister, Unitarian minister from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and former pastor at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Corvallis.



Educational and Pastoral Background

  • B.A. Duke University (Botany, Environmental Science) 1980
  • M.S. Washington University, Saint Louis (Technology and Human Affairs) 1982
  • M.T.S. Mt. Angel Seminary (Theological Studies) 1991
  • Clinical Pastoral Education, Oregon State Hospital (Psychiatric) 1991
  • Parish Internship, UU Congregation of Eugene, OR 1992
  • Ordained at Corvallis UU Fellowship 1992
  • Received into UU Fellowship 1993

Pastoral and Professional Experience:

  • 10 years of congregational lay leadership
  • 5 years of full-time parish ministry
  • 8 years on UUA Board of Trustees, 4 years as First Vice-Moderator
  • 3 years on Exec. Committee of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (founding member)
  • Adjunct Professor at Oregon State University Dept. of Philosophy (World Religions)
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, American Philosophical Assn. 1996
  • Focus on families and children, feminism, racism, homophobia, mental health

Personal: Born May 8, 1958
Married to Walter Balk (UCC minister)
Mother of 3: Ian; Caitlin; Calvin
Activities and Interests: Scout Leader, Soccer Coach, Classroom volunteer, Music (Sacred, Pop, and Folk), Piano, Ballet, Cooking and Nutrition, Fabric Arts, Poetry, Walking.


Rabbi Larry Halpern


October 26 - Rabbi Larry Halpern, Rabbi of Jewish congregations in West Linn and Bend, formerly senior rabbi in Orlando, Florida.


Jan Bays, Roshi


November 2 - Jan Bays, Roshi (teacher) at the Zen Community of Oregon in Portland, and a pediatrician specializing in child abuse.


Jan Chozen Bays, Roshi, was ordained as a Zen priest in 1977 and received Dharma transmission (authority to teach) from Maezumi Roshi in 1983. She is continuing to deepen her own practice by studying with Shodo Harada Roshi of Sogen-ji Monastery in Japan. She is a wife, mother, and pediatrician working in the field of child abuse.

Jan Chozen Bays is the author of Jizo Bodhisattva: Modern Healing and Traditional Buddhist Practice, Tuttle, 2001. In traditional Buddhist belief, a bodhisattva is an ideal enlightened being who has forsaken entry into nirvana until all beings are saved. Jizo, one of the four great bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, is known as "the Bodhisattva of the Greatest Vows." With its express vow to help all beings in all realms, Jizo is regarded as the protector of travelers - whether their journeys are in the physical world, or in spiritual realms. Jizo also has special significance for pregnant women and parents whose children have died.


Isaiah Jones


November 9 - Isaiah Jones, Campus minister at Westminster House, Presbyterian pastor, hymn-writer, Grammy Award winner.


Kathy Moore


November 16 - Kathy Moore, chair of Philosophy at OSU and a nature writer and seeker who is willing to be surprised. 


Kathleen Dean Moore is professor of philosophy and the founding director of the Spring Creek Project for ideas, nature, and the written word. Her current work is in the area of philosophy and nature, where she has published two books of essays: Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World (Lyons Press, 1999), winner of the 2000 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award; and Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water (Lyons and Burford, 1996; Harcourt Brace, 1996), recipient of a 1996 Northwest Booksellers' Award. By combining personal narrative with natural history and philosophical inquiry, she seeks to "bring philosophy to life" in essays published in journals that range from Field and Stream, Audubon (forthcoming), and Wild Earth to the North American Review and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She is currently developing a new field course, the Philosophy of Nature.

Kathy's Ph.D., from the University of Colorado, is in the philosophy of law, where her particular interest is in the nature of forgiveness and reconciliation. Her book, Pardons: Justice, Mercy, and the Public Interest (Oxford UP, 1989, 1997) outlines a neo-retributivist argument for pardons.

Long interested in innovative teaching, Kathy was named a Master Teacher in the College of Liberal Arts in 1995. She is the author of two textbooks that connect the skills of critical thinking and effective writing, Reasoning and Writing (Macmillan, 1993) and Inductive Arguments: The Critical Thinking Skills.

Kathy and her husband Frank, an OSU biologist, have two grown children, Erin and Jonathan. They are all wild for anything wet--big rivers, small boats, desert canyons, and the edges of the sea.

 "Moore's intense love for and close observation of nature combine with a keenly philosophical mind, reminiscent of the work of other fine philosopher-naturalists such as Thoreau, Dillard, and Muir." -- Library Journal

Nicholas Yonker


November 23 - Nicholas Yonker, former chair of OSU Religious Studies Department, Emeritus Professor, and author.

Nicholas J. Yonker is an Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Oregon State University. He taught at OSU for 30 years before retiring in 1992.

Yonker is the author of God, Man, and the Planetary Age: Preface for a Theistic Humanism, published by the Oregon State University Press. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion and was a contributor to the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Born and raised in Michigan, Yonker received his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Hope College in Holland, Mich., and his master's and doctoral degrees in religious studies from Columbia University in New York City.

He and his wife Thea currently live in Corvallis.


God at 2000 Symposium

Mark your calendar for "God at 2000" at Oregon State University February 11-12, 2000. This nationally televised symposium will feature noted lecturers and authors Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sister Joan Chittister, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, and Karen Armstrong, along with professors Diana Eck (Harvard), Seyyed Hossein Nasr (George Washington University), and Marcus Borg (Oregon State).

An on site audience of 1,100 people and a national audience at over 600 locations linked by live satellite television will participate in the symposium.  The lecturers are from the three major western religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (Catholic and Protestant). Following each lecture, there will be live interaction with both the on-site and television audiences.

"God at 2000" is modeled on the highly successful "Jesus at 2000" symposium, held at Oregon State in February of 1996. As with "Jesus at 2000," audio tapes and video tapes will be available, and a book on the symposium will be published.

Karen Armstrong portrait
Karen Armstrong, a leading British commentator on religious affairs now well on her way to a similar status in the United States, is the author of 10 books, including the best-selling A History of God. She spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun and became a freelance writer and television broadcaster in 1982.
Marcus Borg portrait
Marcus Borg, Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, lecturer and author of ten books, including the best-selling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and the award-winning The God We Never Knew.
Joan Chittister portrait Joan Chittister, Benedictine sister, lecturer and author of 19 books, including Passion for Life: Fragments of the Face of God and There Is a Season, both of which received a first place book award from the Catholic Press Association. Her newest books are In Search of Belief and Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men.
Diana Eck portrait
Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religions and Indian Studies at Harvard. Author or editor of five books on religion in India, her best-known book is the award-winning Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banares.
Lawrence Kushner Lawrence Kushner, rabbi, author and lecturer whose work reflects the Jewish mystical tradition. His ten books include The River of Light, Honey from the Rock, The Book of Words, and most recently, Eyes Remade for Wonder.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr portrait
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. One of the world's leading experts on Islam, he has been a Gifford Lecturer and is the author of over 20 books and 250 articles.
Desmond Tutu portrait
Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, churchman, author, and lecturer.


1998| The Ethical Legacy of Aldo Leopold

Ideas Matter 1998| The Ethical Legacy of Aldo Leopold

The lectures series for Fall 1998 focused on the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold, one of the greatest of America's pioneering conservationists. It is now fifty years since the publication of Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. The lecture series approached Leopold's legacy from perspectives as diverse as that of an ecologist concerned about the state of the biosphere, of philosophers concerned with the land ethic and the land aesthetic, of experts in forestry, fish and wildlife management, and nature writers.   The speakers this year were:

Jane Lubchenco - "Thinking Like an Ocean: Extending Leopold's Land Ethic to the Sea"
Peter List - "Aldo Leopold: The Man and his Work"
J. Baird Callicott - "The Land Ethic:Key Philosophical and Scientific Challenges"
Chris Anderson - "Aldo Leopold, St. Benedict, and the Spirituality of Reading"
Dale McCullough - "Of Paradigms and Philosophies: Aldo Leopold and the Search for a Sustainable Future"
Gary Snyder - "Gratitude to Trees: Buddhist Resource Management in Asia and California"
Laura Westra - "The Ethics of Integrity"
Jim Boyle - "Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic:Challenges for Foresters Today and in the 21st Century"
Flo Leibowitz (w/Loren Russell) - "Wetlands, Woodlots, & Native Prairies: Beauty in Leopold's Land Aesthetic"
Kurt Peters - "Leopold, Lopez, and the Pawnee Indians: Locating the Niobrara River in Time and Space"
Estella Leopold - "Leopold's Legacy in Education"

Aldo LeopoldAldo Leopold and A Sand County Almanac

In 1949 Oxford University Press published A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Leopold had died the year before of a heart attack while fighting a grass fire along with his Sand County farm neighbors. Before his death he had become one of the most prominent and indeed internationally famous leaders in the conservation movement in the United States.

Leopold's book of personal essays display his lifelong emersion in and scientifically informed experience of nature, his woodcraft; along with a remarkable sense of the interconnections of nature with human history and evolution. They reflect the experience of a man who has spent his life trying to understand nature as a hunter and naturalist, a scientist and a practicing land manager and policy maker. Leopold is keenly aware of the loss of biodiversity, and the impoverishment in wild things which our kind of civilization produces. Yet the essays, even when they express the sadness at the losses which humans have inflicted on the natural world, have a lightness which is an expression of the personality of Leopold himself. Many of them have a element of humor and perhaps self-deprecation which also adds to their charm. In short, they are beautifully written.

In the first part of the book, the "Sand County Almanac" proper, Leopold takes us month by month through the cycle of the seasons on the ruined Wisconsin farm which he and his family and friends sought to restore. In the second section of the book, "Sketches from Here and There," we move to a larger perspective in both time and space, essays which reflect Leopold's experience from different parts of his career as a forester and from a variety of different parts of the country. The final part of the book "The Upshot" rises to a more abstract and philosophical level. The famous concluding chapter of the book "The Land Ethic" contrasts those who view nature purely in economic terms, with those who see an intrinsic value in wild things. Leopold makes a variety of interesting proposals about how we must change the way we regard nature. The third and final section of the book gains weight from the reflections of the previous two parts.

Leopold's ideas have continued to have a remarkable influence since his death. A Sand County Almanac has had an enormous impact on environmental movements, and on nature writing in the United States over the last fifty years. Leopold's ideas about the nature of environmental systems, our place in them, and the ways in land should be managed continued to be debated. Leopold's views about education, and conservation education are still of interest. In this year's IDEAS MATTER lecture series we propose to examine the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold from a variety of different perspectives.

We hope you will become an active participant. You can attend the lectures, the schedule is available in a variety of different places, including the Home page of this web site, the Events page of the OSU Philosophy Department web site, and on flyers available from the OSU Philosophy Department. There are discussion forums for each of the lectures, and and a more general structured discussion of related topics. 

For more information about the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold, you might read the articles in the August 1998 special issue of Reflections -- the Newsletter of the Program for Ethics, Science and the Environment (PESE) -- which is devoted to this topic. Copies of this special issue are available from the Philosophy Department, the Progam for Ethics Science and the Environment, and the greater part of it is also available on line.

Jane Lubchenco

Jane Lubchenco - "Thinking Like an Ocean: Extending Leopold's Land Ethic to the Sea"
Weniger 153, October 1, 1998 4:00 P.M.

JANE LUBCHENCO: Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University, a Pew Scholar in conservation and the Environment, and a MacArthur Fellow, Dr, Jane Lub chenco is Past-President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a past President of the Ecological Society of America. She holds earned degrees from Colorado College (B.A.), The University of Washington (M.S.), and Harvard Univers ity (Ph.D.), and four honorary doctoral degrees. She was named Oregon Scientist of the Year in 1994 by the Oregon Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Science Board.

      A marine ecologist by training, Dr. Lubchenco is engaged in a wide range of s cientific, teaching and public service activities. These activities are intended to help address numerous serious environmental problems by improving the scientific understanding of issues, making the best possible scientific information and expertise more accessible to policy and decision makers and by improving the public's understanding of ecological topics.

      Dr. Lubchenco's current research interests include marine conservation biology, biological diversity, ecosystem services, ecological causes and consequences of global changes, and sustainable ecological systems. Her research focuses on rocky intertidal shores and nearshore coastal ecosystems in Oregon and around the world with special emphasis on the e cology of seaweeds, plant-herbivore interactions and community dynamics. Two of her papers have been named Science Citation Classics.

      Dr. Lubchenco has been active in promoting the importance and relevance of e cological research. She led the innovative efforts of the Ecological Society of America to set national prioritie;s for ecological research. This endeavor resulted in the Sustainable Biosphere Initiative, which advances ecological research and provides policy-relevant ecological expertise to national policy and decision-makers. Dr. Lubchenco co-ordinated the sections of the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Biodiversity Assessment which deal with the relationship between biological diversity and ecosystem functioning. She serves on the scientific steering committee for Religion, Science and the Environment, and international partnership between scientists and religious leaders to promote environmental stewardship. She co-chairs a working group for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis on Developing the Theory of Marine Reserves.

      Dr. Lubchenco is active in teaching and communicating science. She teaches courses in ecology, en vironmental sciences, and marine biology, and was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oregon State University in 1986. She has collaborated several times with James and Elaine Larison to produce educational scientific films. Their most recent effor ts included Oregon's Ocean, a PBS film, and Diversity of Life, a national Geographic Society film, which won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. Dr. Lubchenco lectures widely about marine conservation, biodiversity, climatic change, ecosystem services, ecological consequences of population growth and overconsumption, and other global environmental issues. She chairs the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, a project operated on behalf of the Ecological Society of America to train environmental scientists t be more effective communicators and leaders.

    Dr. Lubchenco served as Chair of the Department of Zoology at OSU for three years. She is a member of the Boards of Directors or Trustees of World Resources Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She serves on several advisory committees for the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Pew Charitable Trusts, National Public Radio's Living on Earth, the United Nations Environment Programme, and UNESCO. She has briefed heads of state (The President and Vice President of the United States), Congressional leaders (Speaker of the House of Representatives and Congressional committees), church leader s and industry leaders on climatic change, oceans, biodiversity and sustainability.

      Dr. Lubchenco and her husband Dr. Bruce Menge, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at OSU, have been pioneers in pursuing novel solutions to combine family and academic careers. Each relinquished a full-time Assistant Professorship (Jane at Harvard and Bruce at the University of Massachusetts at Boston) to accept a half-time tenure-track Assistant Professorship at OSU in 1977. This arrangement of splitting a single faculty position allowed each to teach and conduct research as tenure-track, and later as tenured faculty, but also to spend significant amounts of time with their young children. After ten years on half-time appointments and two years on three-quarters appointment, each resumed a full-time position. Their two sons are now 17 and 20. In view of the success of this arrangement, Drs. Lubchenco and Menge are strong advocates for part-time but tenure track faculty appointments.

Peter List

Peter List - "Aldo Leopold: The Man and his Work"
MU 105, October 8, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Peter List is the chief organizer of this lecture series. Peter is concerned about the continuing human exploitation and degradation of the wilder and more undeveloped parts of the earth. This has led him to focus his writing and research on the philosophical and value bases of environmentalism and natural resource management. His interest in these subjects as they relate to public forestry is evident in "Conflicting Values about Federal Forests," "The Land Ethic in American Forestry: Pinchot and Leopold," "Some Philosophical Assessments of Environmental Disobedience," and Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics, and a forthcoming book, Public Forests and Public Ethics.

Read a transcript of Peter Lists talk.

J. Baird Callicott

J. Baird Callicott - "The Land Ethic:Key Philosophical and Scientific Challenges,"
MU 105, October 15, 1998 4:00 P.M.

J. BAIRD CALLICOTT is professor of philosophy and religion studies at the University of North Texas. He is author of Earth's Insights, In Defense of the Land Ethic, Beyond the Land Ethic, and more than a hundred book chapters, journal articles, and book reviews in environmental philosophy. He is editor or coeditor of Companion to A Sand County Almanac, The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, and several other anthologies. In 1971 he designed and implemented the first philosophy course in environmental ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is president of the International Society of Environmental Ethics.

      As the list of publications makes clear, Baird Callicott has been one of the leading philosophical interpreters of Aldo Leopold. He has also been a leader in the effort to develop a multi-cultural environmental ethic which uses Leopold's work as its touchstone. Callicott and Roger Ames of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy arranged a number of conferences on views of nature in other cultures, which resulted in the publication of Nature in Asian Tradtions of Thought, and Callicott's own survey of multi-cultural resources for an environmental ethic spanning the enitre world -- Earth's Insights.

Read a transcript of Baird's talk.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson - "Aldo Leopold, St. Benedict, and the Spirituality of Reading"
MU 208, October 22, 1998 4:00 P.M.

CHRIS ANDERSON is Professor of English and Composition Coordinator at Oregon State and the author, co-author, or editor of eight books, including Edge Effects: Notes From An Oregon Forest, a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1983 and an M.A. in Theology from Mount Angel Seminary in 1997. He is also a recently ordained deacon of the Catholic Church and active in parish and campus ministry, preaching, assisting at the altar, baptizing, witnessing marriages, and presiding at funeral vigils and communion services. With his wife, Barb, the pastoral assistant at St. Mary's parish, and their three children, he lives at the edge of OSU's McDonald-Dunn Research Forest.

Read a transcript of Chris' talk.

Dale McCullough

Dale McCullough - "Of Paradigms and Philosophies: Aldo Leopold and the Search for a Sustainable Future"  MU 208, October 27, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Dale McCullough holds the A. Starker Leopold Chair in Wildlife Biology and is Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at the University of California at Berkeley. McCullough has studied the population ecology of large mammals for the past 35 years and has used population models extensively in his work. He co-organized Wildlife 2000 in 1991. McCullough has written and edited several books on population biology and metapopulations (McCullough 1979, 1996; McCullough and Barrett 1992).

Read a transcript of Dale's talk.

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder - "Gratitude to Trees: Buddhist Resource Management in Asia and California,"  Austin Auditorium, La Salle Stewart Center - October 29, 1998 7:30 P.M.

Six A.M.,
Sat down on excavation gravel
by juniper and desert S.P. tracks
interstate 80 not far off
     between trucks
Coyotes--maybe three
        howling and yapping from a rise.

Magpie flew down to a bough
Tipped her head and looked at me and said,

    "Here is the mind brother
    Turquoise blue.
    I wouldn't fool you.
    Smell the breeze
    It came through all the trees
    No need to fear.
    What's ahead
    Snow up on the hills west
    Will be there every year
    be at rest.
    A feather on the ground---
    The wind sound---

Here is the mind, brother, Turquoise blue" 

- Gary Snyder
From No Nature
By permission of the author

* * *

GARY SNYDER, Professor, Department of English, Program in Nature and Culture, and Creative Writing Program, University of California, Davis, was born in San Francisco in 1930. As a youth in the Pacific Northwest he worked on the family farm and seasonally in the woods. He graduated from Reed college in Portland in 1951. After a season of graduate study in Linguistics at Indiana University he returned west to attend Graduate School at U.C. Berkeley in the Department of East Asian Languages. In the Bay Area Snyder associated with Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others who were part of the remarkable flowering of west coast poetry during the fifties. In 1956 he moved to Kyoto Japan to study Zen Buddhism and East Asian culture.

In 1969 he returned to North America. For the last twenty-five years he has been living in the northern Sierra Nevada. He is married to Carole Koda, and has two sons and two stepdaughters. He has travelled widely, reading poetry, teaching Buddhist meditation and working on environmental and community issues. Since 1986 he has been teaching at the University of California at Davis.

Snyder has 16 books of poetry and prose in print. . He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Turtle Island won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1975, and his selected poems No Nature was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992. His most recent book, Mountains and Rivers Without End won the Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1997.

Gary Snyder's Lecture is co-sponsored by the OSU English Department's Visiting Writers Series.

Laura Westra

Laura Westra - "The Ethics of Integrity,"
MU 105 November 5, 4:00 P.M.


"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of a biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
        --Aldo Leopold


LAURA WESTRA, received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1983. She is presently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Windsor. She has nine published books, An Environmental Proposal for Ethics: The Principle of Integrity (1994), Ethical and Scientific Perspectives on Integrity (1995), Faces of Environmental Racisim -- Confronting Issues of Global Justice (1995), The Greeks and the Environment (1997),Technology and Values (1997), Ecological Sustainability and Integrity: Concepts and Approaches (1998), Living in Integrity (1999), The Business of Consumption (1998), and Freedom in Plotinus (1990). Westra also has about sixty published papers or chapters in books, most on environmental ethics, but also on Ancient, Hellenistic and Medieval philosophy, and about 150 presented papers and 50 invited papers. She has been funded by Canadian sources (SSHEC) since 1992 for her work on ecological integrity, and has arranged meetings and conferences in both philosophical and scientific venues on related topics. She is the founder of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, and has held the position of Secretary (now elected) since 1990.

Abstract:  Starting from the position of primacy which Aldo Leopold assigns to the notion of integrity,
I have argued that integrity, and which now informs a large number of regulations, laws and governmental statements, needs to be properly defined and properly understood as a scientific concept. A thorough understanding of integrity leads not only to the formulation of regulations, but also to moral principles based on its requirements and its primacy. I have developed a "categorical imperative" to that effect (1994) and followed it wth a list of second order principles. I have called this approach "The Ethics of Integrity", that is, I have spelled out the moral requirements that follow upon Leopold's famous words.

Jim Boyle

Jim Boyle - "Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic:Challenges for Foresters Today and in the 21st Century,"  Nov. 10, ALS 4001, 4:00 P.M.

Jim Boyle, Professor of Forestry and Soil Ecology in the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, was born in Iowa and nurtured in the loess bluffs, gardens, woodlands and farmlands of southwest Iowa. He studied forestry at Iowa State University and the Yale School of Forestry, and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Forest Research Institute of Finland. After two years in the army, he was Assistant Professor of Soil Science and Forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1973 he joined the faculty of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan, and taught summer courses at the U of M Biological Station at Douglas Lake. He was visiting research forester with Crown Zellerbach's Forestry Research Division in Wilsonville, Oregon during 1980-81. He became Professor of Forestry and Head of the Forest Management Department in the College of Forestry at Oregon State in 1981. In 1989 he resumed full-time professorial duties, teaching forest ecology, issues in natural resources conservation, and continuing education programs in forest ecology and forest soils. He has researched mineral weathering in tree root zones, impacts of whole-tree harvesting on soils, and soil properties that influence long-term forest productivity, and has visited forests and dug in soils from arctic Sweden to northern China and the islands of New Zealand. He is a member of the Society of American Foresters and a member and Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America.

Abstract:  Aldo Leopold's essay "The Land Ethic" was published in an early form in the Journal of Forestry more than fifty years ago. This essay, along with Leopold's shorter ones have provided a literary tapestry and intellectual challenge for foresters. It's my impression and opinion, however, that relatively few foresters have seriously considered these writings to be potential parts of their education relevant to managing forests. From my viewpoint, forestry education and culture in general have been so focussed on utilitarian views of forests that there has been little or no emphasis on conceiving of humans as "members of the community of the land". Nor have there thorough considerations of the concept of forest "land" as a set of holistic systems that include human communities. Foresters are, by and large, a pragmatic group with sound ideas, education and training in being good land stewards by growing and harvesting trees, avoiding massive soil erosion and maintaining good habitats for hunting and fishing. Multiple use, the mantra of forestry of the sixties, has been deemed sufficient. We have not thoroughly challenged each other to go philosophically beyond utilitarianism, in spite of a land ethic canon recently added to the professinal code of ethics. Today, Leopold's "Land Ethic", Garrett Hardin's ideas about "cultural carrying capacity", concepts of "ecosystem services", considerations of "ecological footprints" of human communities, discussions of potential sustainability of forests and forestry, in addition to basic sciences of forest ecology and forest productivity - (and, ideas from deep ecology!) - provide a rich basis for considering human interactions with forests. And, for considering how professional foresters can best serve society.

Flo Leibowitz

Flo Leibowitz (with Loren Russell) - "Wetlands, Woodlots, and Native Prairies: Beauty in Leopold's Land Aesthetic,"  Nov.12, MU 105, 4:00 P.M.

Flora Leibowitz is Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University and the director of the Philosophy Department's Graduate program. Her areas of specialty are contemporary philosophy of art, history of aesthetics, and philosophy of mind. Her scholarly work deals with philosophical issues of the mass arts (e.g., film,television, recorded music), mass media communication, and with the connections between art, mind, and action.

Read a transcript of Flo's talk.

Kurt Peters

Kurt Peters - "Leopold, Lopez, and the Pawnee Indians: Locating the Niobrara River in Time and Space"  MU 208, November 7, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Kurt Peters' PhD is from Berkeley Ethnic Studies, and he works primarily as a historian. His most recent research project is on the long-term relations between the Laguna Pueblo and the Santa Fe Railroad and the communities of Laguna people that followed the railway westward into California. Kurt comes to OSU from Cal State Sacramento and has taught at several other institutions in California and elsewhere. He has also had a research fellowship at the UCLA Indian Center, and has extensive experience in finance and economics. Kurt served aS interim chair for the 1996-1997 academic year.


Estella Leopold

Estella Leopold - "Leopold's Legacy in Education"
ALS 4001, November 17, 1998 7:30 P.M.

Estella Leopold, Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies at the University of Washington, daughter of Aldo and Estella Leopold, like many of her siblings, is a distinguished scientist. She worked in a number of places where her father had been, at the Forest Products Labratory Madison, Wisconsin, at Yale and as a visiting professor in the Department of Botany and the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Since 1976 she has been associated with the University of Washington. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974, and to the American Academy of Sciences in 1992, as well as receiving a variety of other prestigeous grants and awards in the course of her career. She was an Associate Editor of Quartenary Research and is on the editorial board of other journals. She has given a large number of invited papers and has a distinguished publication record .

Aldo Leopold, besides being a pioneering conservationist, was a remarkable educator, who stressed a kind of experiential education which was quite different from ordinary academic educational practices. Leopold regularly took his students out to observe nature, and asked them questions about what they were seeing. He sought to instill in them, some of his own remarkable "woodcraft." Estella Leopold herself profited from this kind of education from her father, and believes that Aldo Leopold's views and concerns about how to educate people about nature are still relevant to us today. This too is a part of the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold.

Estella Leopold's Lecture is co-sponsored by the OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

1997| Utopian Visions

1997| Utopian Visions

In this series we explored the history and nature of utopian (and dystopian) thought. What are the values and dangers of conceiving and trying to construct a better world? What can such an effort tell us about the world we live in.

Events included:

Utopian Writing: Its Nature and Historical Contex  - Brooks Spencer
Religion and Utopia: Heaven (On Earth?) - Marcus Borg and Jill McAllister
Brave New World: Soma, Shakespeare, and Suicide: The Terrors of Techno Utopia - Courtney Campbell
1984 Revisited:  Orwell's Vision of 2000 - Manuel Pacheco
A Luddite Looks at the Next Millenium - Kirkpatrick Sale
Plato's Republic: A Totalitarian Utopia? - Michael Scanlan, William Uzgalis, Gregory Johnson, Glen Dealy
Transcendentalism and the Utopian Mentality - David Robinson
Utopian Visions - David Anderson, Lisa Blasch, Kim Daley, Suzanne Gaulocher

Introduction and Background

Illustration for the 1516 first edition of Utopia.

The Utopian Visions lecture series was an attempt to think about the nature of an ideal society and the history of the efforts to do this, beginning with Thomas More's famous book of 1515 -- Utopia. Brooks Spencer began the series by tracing the history of utopian writing over some three centuries. Jill MacAllister and Marcus Borg treated us to an exploration of utopia from a religious perspective, providing a tour of heavens from around the world and an account of a anthropocentric and theocentric view of heaven in the Judaeo-Christian respectively. Courtney Campbell and Manuel Pacheco explored twentieth century distopian thinking in Huxley's Brave New World, and Orwell's 1984 respectively. Our distinguished visitor, Kirkpatrick Sale spent a day with us, giving several informal talks as well as his lecture: "ECOCENTRISM: A 'Good-Place' Nature-based Spirituality " in which he suggested that while utopian thinking often seems absurd, to fail to change our world from its unsustainable economic course is even more absurd.

A panel on Plato's Republic chaired by Michael Scanlan explored the utopian implications of Plato's masterwork. David Robinson helped us understand utopian thought in 19th century American by talking about Emerson and Brook Farm, and contrasting this with Thoreau's experiment at Waldon pond. Finally the IDEAS MATTER students gave the final event in which they gave lectures about the nature of utopian thinking, a prominent 20th century thinker -- Herbert Marcuse, and gave readings from literature which summarized many utopian themes.

Utopian Visions was the first lecture series to have an accompanying web site. The Utopian Visions web site was designed to provide information about the lectures, and resources for exploring the topic of Utopia. It is also designed to serve as a base for a discussion of the issues raised by Utopian thinking.

While it may be difficult to provide a precise definition of a utopia, we will work with the assumption that a utopian vision represents an ideal state of affairs for human flourishing. The generation of such an ideal is often the result of dissatisfaction with the state of some actual society. Still, while this assumption fits Plato's account of the best state in the Republic, it does not really fit More's Utopia as well. More seems to be creating a society which is significantly better, more ideal, than his own, yet not the absolute best. It may be good for us to remember this, since it may be significantly easier to produce a proposal about what would be better than the present state of society, than to be burdened with the necessity of showing that a proposal is the best possible.


The very idea that there might be a better society than the one we live in was a surprise to some. How would wealth be distributed in an ideal society? This is a question which is fundamental to utopian thinking, and brings us back to the issues of distributive justice of the 1996 series. What relationship would we have to the environment in an ideal society? This is a question which picks up the rise of environmental philosophy which Peter List discussed in 1993 and which is the main subject of the 1998 series -- "The Ethical Legacy of Aldo Leopold." In what situation will artists find themselves in a better world? What would government be like?


Utopian Writing: Its Nature and Historical Context

Brooks Spencer, emeritus, General Science Department
October 9, Thursday, 4:00 P.M. - Memorial Union 208

Read a transcript of Brooks' talk

Religion and Utopia: Heaven (On Earth?)

Marcus Borg and Jill McAllister
October 16, Thursday, 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208

The major Western religious traditions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam --all include ideas of 'the perfect life' in their concepts of heaven. Heaven has been variously understood as a 'place' elsewhere, a different level of reality, and a condition of human life -- a goal to strive for on Earth. We'll consider..."Who's heaven is it?" as we explore descriptions, and we'll ponder the question..."this worldly or other worldly utopia?"

Neither pictoral nor discursive philosophico-religious utopias are exclusive to the Western world. Taoism, Theravada Buddhism, and medieval Muslim philosophy are impregnated with Utopian elements. There are treatises on ideal states and stories about imaginary havens of delight among the Chinese, the Japanese, the Hindus and the Arabs, but the profusion of Western utopias had not been equaled in any other culture.
    --Utopian Thought in the Western World

"...if we must let alone everything as absurd or extravagant which by reason of the wicked lives of many may seem uncouth, we must, even among Christians, give over pressing the greatest part of those things that Christ hath taught us, though He has commanded us not to conceal them, but to proclaim on the house-tops that which he taught in secret."  

"The greatest parts of his precepts are more opposite to the lives of the men of this age than any part of my discourse has been..."
    --Thomas More, Utopia

Part 1:  Heaven's Many Guises: The Idea of Heaven in World Religions - Jill McAllister

Part 2:  Religion and Utopia: Heaven (On Earth?) - Marcus Borg

Brave New World: Soma, Shakespeare, and Suicide: The Terrors of Techno Utopia

Courtney Campbell
October 23, Thursday, 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208

Brave New World

Some 65 years after its publication, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World continues to exert a powerful influence in our culture. Huxley's "success" however is not literary but philosophical; Brave New World presents a set of ideas about technology and its humanizing and dehumanizing effects that we inevitably encounter in an era both fascinated by and fearful of the implications of "test tube" reproduction, mapping the human genome, and cloning animals and potentially persons. In a very real and profound sense, Huxley's "ideas matter."

Huxley is not technophobic, but his novel suggests two important questions about the relation of technology and culture: (1) For what purposes ought technology to be used?, and (2) Who should control technology? I will address these questions through an analysis of Huxley's symbols of "soma" (an anxiety-relieving drug), "Shakespeare" (an author whose texts are invoked as a form of social aspiration and social criticism), and "suicide" (which seems to be the only option by which one can retain their humanity).

Read a transcript of Courtney's talk.

Read Brave New World

1984 - Big Brother Is Watching You Mouse Over This Image1984 Revisited:  Orwell's Vision of 2000

Manuel Pacheco
October 30, Thursday, 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208

Chomsky has written that propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism. In 1984 Big Brother does not make this distinction, but instead utilizes both propaganda and violence as tools of the state. Though prepared to use whatever horrific violence is necessary to control people's minds, Big Brother understands that willing obedience from true believers makes for a more efficient and effective means of mind control. Hence every means available to the state is used in the indoctrination of minds, and the reduction of people to something less than human.

Orwell imagined a state at the end of the twentieth century wherein political power is in the hands of the very few, the inner party, where history and all memory of the past has been obliterated. Thinking is being eliminated as the official language of Oceania, newspeak, slowly replaces traditional English. As vocabulary shrinks into the new compressed language, concepts such as freedom no longer exist and hence freedom itself becomes unthinkable. So too with logic: contradictions become the norm and "double think" becomes the weapon of state ideology. Hence, freedom is slavery; war is peace; ignorance is strength. In short, 1984 is a vision of absolute and terrifying state power where war is continuous and "thought crime" makes one an enemy of the state. It is a vision of the future wherein the complete destruction of the human mind and spirit has been achieved. We are left to ponder to what extent Orwell's vision has been realized, as the century comes to a close.

Read a transcript of Manuel's talk.

Read 1984

Rebel's Against the FutureA Luddite Looks at the Next Millenium

Kirkpatrick Sale
Monday, Nov. 3, 7:30 PM, Milam Auditorium

Kirkpatrick Sale is an American nonfiction writer, journalist, editor, and environmental activist. In his non-fiction works, Sale frequently focuses on political, economic and ecological problems of contemporary society, proposing novel -- and often controversial -- solutions. He also explores environmental and sociological issues from both historical and modern perspectives. Born in Ithaca, New York, Sale has published seven books including Human Scale, The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, and The Green Revolution. His most recent book, Rebels Against the Future, the Luddites and their war on the Industrial Revolution, lessons for the computer age, will very likely be the basis for his lecture at Oregon State University.

A contributing editor of The Nation, he writes for periodicals here and in Britain and is a board member of The PEN American Center, the E.F. Schumacher Society,and The Learning Alliance of New York City. He now lives in Cold Springs and Manhattan.

"I write my books to help save society and the planet; I'm actually trying to influence the public psychology and policy of this and other industrialized societies, before it is too late...It's very important to me that my books be read, not for reputation or money, but because of what I am trying to do -- influence people in a profound way."      ---Kirkpatrick Sale, 1990

Read a transcript of Kirkpatrick's talk.

Plato's Republic 1713 editionPlato's Republic: A Totalitarian Utopia?

Michael Scanlan, William Uzgalis,
Gregory Johnson, Glen Dealy
November 6, Thursday, 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208


Plato's Republic was clearly one of the sources of inspiration for Thomas More's Utopia. It had been reintroduced to readers in Western Europe in the course of the Renaissance. More and his friends were enormously impressed. Whether it formally qualifies as an instance of that genre, it certainly shares some elements in common with those works which clearly count as Utopias. It seeks to find the best state for human flourishing. It discusses human nature, government, education, the role of wealth in society and many other fascinating topics. Plato's analysis of the best state for human flourishing is grounded in a theory about human nature which makes it clear why that state and not some other is ideal.
Nor was Plato unfamiliar with the problems of politics. He sees problem with his own society clearly, having lived through the Peloponesian War in which his city -- Athens was catastrophically defeated. His uncle Critias, the chief of the thirty tyrants, was killed in the brief civil which drove that terrible government from power.

Our panel will discuss various features of the work which link it with utopian thought and consider how the book might or might not inspire a present day utopian thinker.

Part 1:  Plato and the Republic by Glen Dealy
Part 2:  The Dangers of Utopian thinking and the Republic by Gregory Johnson
Part 3:  Utopia and the Republic by William Uzgalis

Transcendentalism and the Utopian Mentality

David Robinson
Thursday, November 13, 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208

Emerson"Build therefore your own world," Emerson wrote in his first book Nature (1836), an influential work that opened the New England Transcendentalist movement. His sense that new beginnings were both possible and necessary typified the restless and experimental outlook of the Transcendentalists, who began as religious reformers, but soon engaged themselves in various forms of political activism. The 1830s and 1840s were a period of much utopian theorizing and experimentation in the United States, and two such utopian experiments of the Transcendentalists are particularly notable. In 1841, George and Sophia Ripley established Brook Farm, an agrarian commune dedicated to the blending of intellectual and physical labor, and the construction of a cooperative economic structure for its members. Ripley later led the commune to declare itself a Fourierist Phalanx, adopting the utopian philosophy of Charles Fourier, as expounded by his American disciple, Albert Brisbane. In 1845, Henry David Thoreau established a very different kind of utopian experiment when he moved to a solitary cabin at Walden Pond and began experimenting with a life dedicated to strict economy, solitude, and disciplined study and thinking. His account of his life in the woods, Walden, formulated during the wave of utopian theorizing of this period has become an American literary classic, and continues to be influential in the American environmental movement. But can there be a utopia of one? Is Thoreau's experiment a fulfillment or a repudiation of the hopes for a harmonious community that were expressed but finally not fulfilled at Brook Farm?

Read a transcript of Robinson's talk.

Utopian Visions

David Anderson, Lisa Blasch, Kim Daley, Suzanne Gaulocher
Thursday, November 20 4:00 PM, Memorial Union 208

The OSU Philosophy Department believes that it is vitally important for education that students be involved as active participants in events such as this lecture series.  Thus it is, that the student of Phl 450 IDEAS MATTER are responsible for producing the last event of this series. In this case it is surely appropriate that those to whom the future belongs should have the last word. We look foreward to hearing what their utopian visions will be.

Exclusion and Utopian Thinking by David Anderson
Marcuse's Modern Marxism: Utopia for the Twentieth Century by Lisa Blasch
Elements Of Utopia by Kim Daley & Suzanne Gaulocher



1996| The Rich and the Poor: Inequality in America

1996| The Rich and the Poor: Inequality in America

In 1996, we attempted to give some sense of the growing division between rich and poor in America and to assess the consequences for our democratic institutions.

Events included:

The Widening Gap Between the Rich and the Poor.  An Interdisciplinary Panel:
Manuel Pacheco, Dylan Sandor, Susan Prock, Richard Clinton

Workshop: What is Fair? John Rawls and Distributive Justice - Kathleen Moore
Peasants, Prophets and Kings: Poverty and Wealth in the Bible - Marcus Borg
Economic Justice in the United States - Howard Zinn
Poverty, Race, Class and the University - Tommy Lott
Poverty and Violence - Carl Upchurch
Reading: Voices of the Poor in Literature - Multiple OSU Faculty
Panel Discussion: Women Living in Poverty
The New World Order and the Erosion of Democracy - Manuel Pacheco
Student Debate: Do Wealthy Nations have a moral obligation to help the world's poor?

The Rich and the Poor: Inequality in America


If economic power translates into political power, and economic power is concentrated in the hands of a small minority of the population, what is to become of democratic institutions?  How should wealth be distributed?  There are obviously different possible ways of doing so.   Which is the best?

An Interdisciplinary Panel: The Widening Gap between the Rich and the Poor

Manuel Pacheco, Philosophy OSU, Dylan Sandor, Economics OSU,
Susan Prock, Director Women's Center OSU, Richard Clinton, Political Science OSU

The panelists presented various facts about the distribution of wealth and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, and considered some of the possible causes and consequences of these developments.

A Theory of Justice

Workshop: What is Fair? John Rawls and Distributive Justice

Kathleen Dean Moore

Kathleen Moore, Philosophy Department,
Oregon State University

In this workshop, participants were asked to engage in a simulation of the process which John Rawls describes in his enormously influential book A Theory of Justice for determining how wealth and other goods ought to be fairly distributed in a society.


Marcus Borg portrait

Peasants, Prophets and Kings: Poverty and Wealth in the Bible

Marcus Borg,
Oregon State University

In this lecture Professor Borg explored the treatment of poverty and wealth in the Bible.

Howard Zinn

Economic Justice in the United States

Howard Zinn, Political Science,
Boston University

Howard Zinn presented his view that there has been inequality in America since it was founded, traced some of its negative consequences, and urged us to continue to struggle for economic equality.

Tommy Lott

Poverty, Race, Class and the University

Tommy Lott, Philosophy,
Saint Louis

Tommy Lott. Chair of the APA committee the Black Experience, argued in this lecture that the University should take a new and more activist role in dealing with issues of urban poverty and race.

Carl Upchurch

Poverty and Violence

Carl Upchurch, Director,
National Council for Urban Peace and Justice

In this lecture Carl Upchurch describes the personal growth and empowerment he experienced in prison as a result of reading Shakespeare and discussed the implications of lack of self esteem, and lack of education among the poor.

Reading: Voices of the Poor in Literature

OSU faculty

In this reading, ranging from the Chinese poet Tu Fu to Marx and voices from contemporary America, we got a dramatic sense of the effects of poverty.

Susan Prock

Panel Discussion: Women Living in Poverty

Moderator Susan Prock, director of the OSU Women's Center gathered a group of women on welfare as well as persons concerned with the then-just-passed Clinton welfare reform act, to discuss what it is like being on welfare and how the new laws may effect people on welfare.

Manuel Pacheco
The New World Order and the Erosion of Democracy

Manuel Pacheco, OSU Philosophy Department

In this lecture Pacheco explored globalism and some of its manifestations, privatization, lack of labor unions and restraints on environmental impacts, and its effects on a four countries, France and Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. Pacheco concluded that as organizations like the IMF gain power in determining the economic structure of the world, there is a significant loss of local power and an erosion of democracy.

Student Debate: Do Wealthy Nations have a moral obligation to help the world's poor?

Students enrolled in Phl 450/550 IDEAS MATTER taught by Manuel Pacheco, argued for positions originally articulated by Peter Singer who holds that we do have some obligation to help the poor, and Garrett Hardin who does not.

1995| Jesus at 2000

Ideas Matter 1995 | Jesus at 2000

Jesus at 2000

In 1995 Marcus Borg produced a series of lectures to celebrate the birth of Jesus, 2000 years previously. This pioneering series not only brought in an astonishing array of visitors -- Huston Smith, John Dominic Crossen, Harvey Cox, Karen Jo Torejessen, and Alan Segal, but used technology in new and interesting ways. The conference was held over two days in Winter of 1995. While Corvallis was partially flooded and virtually turned into an island, the conference (while attracting over 750 actual participants) was televised and viewed around the country. The conversation continued on the internet, and Marcus Borg edited the papers from the conference which were published by Westview Press as Jesus at 2000.

Conference Lectures

Introduction: Jesus at 2000
- Fred Burnham, Trinity Institute, and Marcus Borg, Oregon State University

Marcus Borg


From Galilean Jew to the Face of God: The Pre-Easter and Post-Easter Jesus

Marcus Borg

John Dominic Crossen



Jesus and the Kingdom: Peasants and Scribes in Earliest Christianity

John Dominic Crossen, DePaul University

Alan Segal



Jesus, Judaism and Early Christianity

Alan Segal, Barnard College

Karen Jo Torejesen



You are the Christ!" Second Century Views of Jesus

Karen Jo Torejesen, Claremont Graduate School

Harvey Cox


Jesus and Generation X

Harvey Cox, Harvard University and Divinity School

Houston Smith


Jesus and the World's Religions

Houston Smith, Syracuse University, emeritus

Concluding Panel (all speakers)

1994| War and Human Nature

1994 | War and Human Nature

General Douglas MacArthur and CompanyIn the Fall of 1944 Allied armies, having landed at Normandy in June 1944 were coming to the Rhine and preparing to invade the German heartland. The Battle of the Bulge was to come. In the Pacific, having captured Tarawa and Saipan in the Marianas -- islands which were to serve as air bases for the B29¹s which attacked the Japanese home islands -- the United States launched an invasion of the Philippines.  During late October 1944, perhaps the largest sea battle in history, the battle of Leyte Gulf, took place, and General Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines. Back in the United States, work on the atomic bomb was culminating. World War II was drawing to a close.

In 1994, we reflected on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. What was it which allowed the commission of the extraordinary crimes which were committed in the course of World War II? What could this tell us about human nature, human rights, and international law?


The relation between just war, propaganda and pacifism is one interesting strand in this lecture series. Does the effectiveness of modern propaganda make it impossible to determine whether a waging a war would be just or not? Should we then become pacifists? A related question is whether the United States in fact committed war crimes in dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The notion that Nazi mass murderers were pretty much ordinary people, makes it clear that circumstances can drive people to do things which they really ought not to do.

War and Human Nature "A Meeting of the Minds

A discussion of the views of philosophers from different eras about War and Human Nature"
In this panel discussion we considered the views of various historical philosophers, Plato, Aquinas, Marx, and Sartre, about war and human nature. We discussed the role of wealth, religion and ideology in armed conflict down the ages.

Blood Sweat and Tears: Collingwood and WWII

Dr. Bill Uzgalis

William Uzgalis, Philosophy Department, Oregon State University

In The New Leviathan R.G. Collingwood gave an analysis of the nature of the conflict between the allies and Germany in terms of the distinction between civilization and barbarism (a view also reflected in some of the most famous speeches of Winston Churchill). Much of what Collingwood has to say gets to the heart of some of our darkest difficulties with government in the twentieth century.

Richard Waserstrom

The Laws of War and the Weapons of War

Richard Waserstrom, Philosophy Department,
University of California -- Santa Cruz

Richard Waserstrom explored the relation between the development of weapons of war including nuclear weapons and the international accords about war crimes.

Jon Dorbolo

Propaganda and War: A Workshop

Jon Dorbolo, Philosophy Department, Oregon State University

In this workshop Jon Dorbolo explored elements of Nazi doctrine of propaganda and applied them to the coverage of the Gulf War. He argued that because information is so untrustworthy because of the modern art of disinformation, it becomes particularly difficult to apply the criteria of just war theory in determining whether one is beginning a just war.

Ordinary Men: The Agents of Genocide

Chris BrowningChristopher Browning, History Department, Pacific Lutheran University

In this striking lecture, Christopher Browing described the composition of a battalion of Hamburg police who became a Nazi death squad. This is the only such group about whom we have a good deal of information. This allowed Browning to consider and refute a number of hypotheses about those involved in carrying out the holocaust. The members of this death squad did what they did voluntarily. They were not all Germans. This suggests that the British view of the war as enunciated by Collingwood and Churchill was not correct. Browning's conclusion was that these were simply ordinary people caught up in evil institutions and the web of events.

Courtney Campbell

Pacificism between the Wars:  A Panel Discussion

Courtney Campbell, Philosophy Department, Oregon State University
Chaney Ryan, Philosophy Department, University of Oregon

Truman on Trial
President Truman on Trial

Oregon State University Students

The Philosophy Department instituted a class to go along with the lecture series. Before each lecture, a student from the class would remind people of events which took place in the fall of 1944 bringing us all closer to those events. This was also the first year in which the students produced the final event in the series -- in this case a trial of President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson for the decisions to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


1993 | Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

1993 | Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

In celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of the OSU Philosophy Department, we examined the nature and development of a variety of aspects of twentieth century philosophy.


The changing nature of the philosophical enterprise and the rise of new areas of interest as well as the development of new aspects of older areas of inquiry was the main theme of this series. Feminism, the environmental philosophy, and biomedical ethics all are new fields in the twentieth century.

Jon Dorbolo, Bill Uzgalis, Manuel Pacheco, and Charles Ippolito

A Meeting of the Minds:
A Discussion Amongst Philosophers from All Ages


The series began with a blast from the past -- (left) Descartes (Jon Dorbolo), Plato (Bill Uzgalis), Karl Marx (Manuel Pacheco) and Bertrand Russell (Charles Ippolito) all showed up to discuss their views about the significance of twentieth century philosophy from their own perspectives. They were questioned by moderator Kathleen Moore and one of our finest students, Carol Hansen.

Lani Roberts

From Invisibility to Inspiration: Feminism and Philosophy

Lani Roberts, OSU Philosophy

The development of a powerful feminist philosophy is one of the striking features of twentieth century philosophy.

Click here to read a transcript of Lani's talk.

Peter List

Environmental Crisis and the Greening of Philosophy

Peter List, OSU Philosophy

The second half of the twentieth century has witnessed and increasing awareness that we are in the midst of an largely unprecedented environmental crisis. Peter List traces the rise of environmental philosophy in the 20th century as a response to that crisis.

John Perry

Meaning and the Self

John Perry, Stanford University

John Perry explored the contingency of self knowledge and the conditions under which such knowledge becomes necessary.

Wesley Salmon

Scientific Understanding in the 20th Century

Wesley Salmon, University of Pittsburgh

Beginning with the recounting of experiments in the early 20th century which turned atomism from a metaphysical to an empirical theory, Salmon traced a positivistic history of scientific understanding in the 20th century.

Courtney Campbell

How Medicine Saved the Life of Philosophy

Courtney Campbell, OSU Philosophy

Courtney Campbell traced the rise of a particular branch of applied philosophy, bio-medical ethics and explained how it reinvigorated philosophical thinking in the 20th century.

Hugo Bedau

The Recovery of Normativity in Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Hugo Bedau, Tufts University

Bedau traces the development of social Philosophy from what he regards as the waning days of the analytic, linguistic and ordinary language philosophy through the publication of Rawls' A Theory of Justice to the development of applied philosophy in the field of ethics.

Click here to read a transcript of Hugo's talk.


1992| The Legacy of Conquest of the Americas: Greed, Violence and the debate about Natural Rights

Christopher Columbus

Ideas Matter 1992

The Legacy of Conquest of the Americas: 
Greed, Violence and the debate about Natural Rights


A lecture series reflecting on the 500th anniversary of the
arrival of Columbus in the new world and its consequences.

From Columbus to Lincoln: Reflections on Slavery and Natural Rights

Bill Uzgalis, OSU Philosophy

Dr. Bill Uzgalis


The five lectures in this series began with Bill Uzgalis' account of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the movement against this trade spawned by the conquest of the Americas.   Uzgalis focused his attention on an argument which points out the similarity between absolute monarchs and slave owners -- both violate the rights of those over whom they have power -- to condemn both forms of tyranny as illegitimate. The argument shows up first in John Locke, then Thomas Jefferson, and finally Abraham Lincoln.  


Courtney Campbell

Dirt, Greed and Blood: Just War and the Colonization of the New World

Courtney Campbell, OSU Philosophy

Courtney Campbell of the OSU Philosophy Department explained the origins of just war theory in connection with the conquest.

Click here to read a transcript of Courtney's talk.

God's Angry Man: Bartoleme de las Casas, Champion of the American Indians

Benjamin Keen, Department of History, University of Northern Illinois

Benjamin Keen


Benjamin Keen, a noted Latin American historian from the University of Northern Illinois and our first distinguished visitor, gave a lecture about Bartoleme de las Casas, the great sixteenth century defender of the native peoples of the Americas and his relation to the thought of Thomas Moore. Although that talk was given from notes and is unavailable, Professor Keen has supplied us with another published paper which ranges over much the same territory.


Click here to read Keen's paper entitled 'The Legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas.'

Manuel PachecoSo Far from God, So Close to the United States:
Racism, Rights, and Alienation in Contemporary Chicano Culture

Manuel Pacheco, OSU Philosophy

Manuel Pacheco gave a talk about the legacy of the conquest for contemporary Chicano culture. Pacheco gave a brief history of the relations between the United State and Mexico and other countries in Latin America and then read a chapter from his autobiography to illustrate the uneasy position in which peoples of mixed cultures find themselves.

Conquistadors and Puritans Defining a New World: Two Cultures, One Civilization

Glen Dealy, OSU Political Science

Glen Dealy


Glen Dealy, of the OSU Political Science Department, ended the series by illuminating the similarities and differences between the cultures of North and South America by comparing conquistadors with Puritans. He noted that while the two cultures are quite different, they represent two different expressions of something very different from the culture of Europe -- a distinctly new world culture.

Locke and Lincoln