WICI Seminar: Is our Concept of Moral Responsibility Newtonian? with Karen Houle

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 15:30 - 17:00
Laurel Room, South Campus Hall, University of Waterloo
RSVP by contacting Catherine Mombourquette at 519.888.4567, ext. 84490 or cmombour@uwaterloo.ca

"Is our Concept of Moral Responsibility Newtonian?" Briefly, I argue that while we have come to appreciate that certain issues facing us today are genuinely complex, not merely complicated, we therefore need to build and mobilize interventions, whether epidemiological, architectural or economic, which are themselves sufficiently informed by complexity and thus, able to "meet" their intended objects of concern. We have not put as much time and effort into rethinking the basic concepts with which we try to make normative judgments and recommendations in and around those same complex issues. The conceptual landscape of moral philosophy is oddly Newtonian. This is especially true in the case of climate change and collective responsibility. I discuss what features a concept of responsibility adequate to complex issues need to have.

Speaker Profile

Karen L. F. Houle is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, specializing in ethics and in social & political philosophy. Author of articles on philosophical figures: Foucault, Spinoza, Deleuze & Guattari, Derrida, Butler & Irigaray; and topics: friendship, animal perception, abortion, surrogacy, intellectual property, feminism and ownership, politics and pedagogy, and standpoint epistemology. She is also a member of the Canadian "Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health", and a nationally-recognized published poet: Ballast (House of Anansi Press, 2001); and During (Gaspereau Press, 2008).