Guest speakers to discuss group responsibility at Colloquium sessions hosted by Philosophy Department

Understanding the moral responsibility of groups and presenting an alternative view of a famous Western philosopher will be the topics discussed in the Philosophy Department’s Colloquium sessions.

Guest speakers Marcus Hedahl and James Mattingly will each host a lecture in Peck Hall.

Hedahl, a Leadership, Ethics and Law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, will discuss the importance of understanding the impact of collective groups on society and their moral responsibility on March 27 at Peck, room 2409.

Hedahl argues that moral responsibility in regards to groups lies more with the group’s collective action than it does when individuals act.  Hedahl wrote that individuals are not the only causal agents and that groups hold tremendous influence and hold significant moral implications. Hedahl’s research titled “The Collective Fallacy,” was published in the academic journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences.

SIUE philosophy professor Richard Fry said the topic can help students think more critically by introducing an alternative viewpoint on moral responsibility.

“When you think groups have acted badly and want to hold them responsible who should we be holding responsible leaders? Everyone in the group,” said SIUE professor Richard Fry. “When we think about these groups we need to not be thinking about them as stable. We need to think about the actions and not the actors themselves.”

Hedahl majored in physics at Notre Dame before accepting a position at NASA. He later served as an Air Force officer and later taught physics at the Air Force Academy after earning a Master’s in Philosophy at Georgetown University. In addition to studying moral ethics, Hedahl researches environmental ethics and metaphysics issues.

Fry added that changing technology and new communication forms could also affect the way groups communicate and assign responsibility.

“When groups become tightly interconnected we’re going to need new things to update our collective thinking,” Fry said. “As technology develops as groups become better at exchanging info and become tightly integrated and organized they’re able to be organized in more interacting ways we’re going to think about how to hold these groups responsible and whether it should be the same or different on how we hold individuals responsible.”

Mattingly, a philosophy professor at Georgetown University, will discuss 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume in room 3117.

Fry said there is some debate on whether Hume, who focuses on human feelings and a psychological analysis of human behavior, strayed from Isaac Newton’s principles. Mattingly will present at Peck Hall on April 17.

“Some folks think Hume is too pessimistic about what kinds of knowledge or systematizing of our observations we can do,” Fry said. “Professor Mattingly’s research shows Hume is actually following directly in the Newtonian tradition once we understand Newton correctly.”

The Colloquium is geared toward philosophy majors, but Fry said that students from all disciplines are invited to attend. Students will also have the opportunity to interact and ask questions following the hour-long presentations.

“One of the things (the Colloquium) does is that allows us to assess how others are doing philosophy other than at SIUE,” Fry said. “I encourage my students to go because philosophers trade in arguments and they trade in clear thinking and one of the things you get to see is people who are becoming very good at giving each other reasons to hold certain views and interact with each other. You get to see cutting edge research being done outside the university you get to spend some time watching folks who are very good at giving each other reasons to believe things.”


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