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Richard Kraut / Tanner Lecture Two - Virtue and Experience

April 20, 2017 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
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McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Office of the President, Department of Philosophy

The Tanner Lectures consist of two lectures, each followed by a distinct discussion seminar.

This year's Tanner Lectures are given by Richard Kraut, Charles and Emma Morrison Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University. 

Series Abstract: To show that virtue is a component of well-being, Plato and Aristotle looked to the inner life of a good human being. Kraut argues that this is only correct path to this conclusion, committing him to what might be called “experientialism,” and so he offers a defense of that doctrine, as well as a series of observations regarding the inner life of a good person. This leads to a discussion of Nozick’s experience machine, often regarded as a refutation of experientialism. Another thought experiment plays a role in his argument: McTaggart’s claim that the life of an oyster (containing nothing but the mildest and simplest kind of pleasure) would be better than any human life, however rich – provided the oyster’s life was sufficiently longer than the human life.

Lecture Two: Virtue and Experience Thursday, April 20  5:30-7pm

In this lecture I propose an answer to the question, “What is the good in being a good human being?”  My answer adverts to the inner life of such a person. I do not claim (as Plato and Aristotle did) that evil people suffer for their evil. I consider Kant’s view that arguments from self-interest are irrelevant or worse. The rest of the lecture turns to a detailed examination of Nozick’s thought experiment. There is a problem of interpretation, because he under-specifies what is available to someone inside the machine.  But the main point is that there are good and bad uses of the machine; if it is used well, the thesis that it diminishes well-being is significantly weakened. I then examine some other familiar objections to experientialism (as a thesis about well-being): the disvalue of false friends and the possibility of posthumous goods and harms. Finally, I address the problem of social isolation raised by the experience machine: I do not want to be the only mind there is.

Discussion Two

Lecture One: The Richness of Human Experience 

Discussion One

Read all participant bios here.

Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center
Free and open to the public.
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