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Visiting scholars to address race, social science

by Mark Schwerin

Nov. 23, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Ron Mallon.
KALAMAZOO--Visiting scholars from Duke University and the University of Utah will tackle such thorny issues as race and the impact of neuroscience in the courtroom in free, public talks early next month at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Ron Mallon, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Political Science Library on the third floor of Friedmann Hall. His topic for that lecture is "Was the Concept of Race Invented in the 19th Century?" Mallon's second address is a keynote for WMU's Fifth Annual Graduate Philosophy Conference at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in the Fetzer Center and is titled "Social Construction, Performance and Self-Explanation: A Casual Model."

Photo of Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.
Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, is also a keynote speaker at the philosophy conference. He will talk about "Law and Neuroscience" at 5:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, also in the Fetzer Center. His talk will describe how neuroscientists are being called upon as expert witnesses in court cases, with many undermining traditional notions of responsibility and arguing that addicts and psychopaths should be found not guilty, while others seek to determine which witnesses are lying, which jurors are biased or which plaintiffs are in pain.

Mallon is being brought to campus through the WMU Visiting Scholars and Artists Program. His research is in social philosophy, philosophy and moral psychology. He has authored or co-authored papers in Cognition, Ethics, Journal of Political Philosophy, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Mind and Language, Social Psychology and numerous other publications.

Mallon has co-directed the NEH Summer Institute in Salt Lake City and received the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, a Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellowship at the Princeton University Center for Human Values and an American Council of Learning Societies Fellowship.

Sinnott-Armstrong is affiliated with the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences. He serves as resource faculty in philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, partner investigator at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and research scientist with The Mind Research Network in New Mexico. He has received fellowships from the Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions, the Princeton Center for Human Values, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University and the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He has published widely on ethics, empirical moral psychology and neuroscience, philosophy of law, epistemology, philosophy of religion and informal logic, and his articles have appeared in a variety of philosophical, scientific and popular journals and collections. His current work is on moral psychology and brain science as well as uses of neuroscience in legal systems. He is also working on a book that will develop a contrasting view of freedom and responsibility.

In addition to the Visiting Scholars and Artist Program, sponsors include the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the philosophy department.

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