Just a quick note to say that I’ve worked up a tentative version of the program for the Tenth Annual Felician Institute Conference. As usual, we got more papers than we had spots to fill, so we couldn’t include all of them. But the ones on the program are really good, and I’d like to think that the sessions might well end up being more than the sum of their parts. There’s a nice blend of meta-ethics, normative ethics, applied ethics, and political philosophy this time (though not very much in the way of history). I was particularly gratified to get two hard-hitting pieces for our dedicated session on the ethics, politics, and economics of adjuncting–one by Michelle Ciurria (Washington University at St. Louis), and one by Derek Bowman (Providence College).
PoT’s very own David Potts has a revised version of a PoT blog post on the program (blind reviewed and approved for inclusion on the program by someone besides me). And PoT’s own Michael Young will be in attendance, ready to subject anyone within earshot to Hume-infected (infested?) claims about reasons for action.
The plenary speaker is J.L.A. Garcia of Boston College, whom I met at a conference on “Religion and Contemporary Liberalism” (= on Rawls’s Political Liberalism, p. 146 n.13) back in 1995. Professor Garcia is perhaps best known for his work on the moral psychology of racism, including, most famously (or notoriously, depending on your perspective), “The Heart of Racism” (Journal of Social Philosophy vol. 27 ), among many other publications.
Actually, what I remember of the paper he gave at the 1995 conference was its entertainingly curmudgeonly critique of liberal sexual mores, as reflected by passages like the following*:
Recall what Nagel seldom explicitly mentions, that paradigmatically sexual practices involve more than one person. (p. 228)
It is, of course, necessary for reason and will to rein these elements [of sexual desire] in, lest they victimize others or degrade oneself….Given the strength and importance of the sexual in human personality, however, this control is often best viewed as aspirational. (p. 228n.7)
Am I the only one to hear the dry humor in that? Or, come on, let’s cut to the chase:
Liberalism has gotten lost in the mire of fantasy. It may only locate its way in the splendor of truth (p. 252)
For our heathen readers: “Splendor of Truth” is a reference to Veritatis Splendor (1993), an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, devoted in large part to the rejection of moral relativism and the execration of sin (mortal and venial, carnal and otherwise).
It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear as a 25-year-old graduate student who’d waited four years to find a girlfriend, a mere two weeks before the conference. But I had to admit (and would still reluctantly admit) that there was something to Garcia’s attack on sexual liberalism. And though it’s not what he’ll be discussing at the Felician conference, the Garcia-Nagel dialectic on fantasy has fascinated me ever since. I’m sure Professor Garcia will be bringing the same crotchety acumen to what he is discussing, “the meta-theory of morals.”
So come by if you’re in the Rutherford area on Saturday, April 23–there’s a $20 cover charge, but a great line up, and drinks are on the house (after the show, at any rate).
*J.L.A. Garcia, “Liberal Theory, Human Freedom, and the Politics of Sexual Morality,” in Paul Weithman ed., Religion and Contemporary Liberalism (1997), discussing Thomas Nagel’s “Personal Rights and Public Space,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (1995):