Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices


The workshops to be held in conjunction with the conference, Advancing Public Philosophy, October 6-8, 2011 are posted here.  You may also download a pdf of the workshop schedule for consultation when you sign-up for workshops here.  If you have not already done so, please be sure to also complete the conference registration form.

Morning Session, October 7, 2011.  Washington Plaza Hotel

  • Social Media Ethics (Mark Fisher and Veena Raman, Penn State University, and Vance Ricks, Guilford College) Social media technologies give their users new ways to experience self-presentation, public exposure, and social connectedness.  They give their designers, no less than their users, a framework in which to reflect on and discuss these experiences.  They also give philosophers and others with training in ethical analysis (or in normative analysis more generally) an opportunity to raise questions about whether and how some of our fundamental ethical/political commitments can take tangible forms in the technologies that we use.  As citizens in a democratic society, we should encourage both users and designers to examine the relationships between social media technologies and democratic values related to identity, equality, and accountability.  The goal of this workshop is to foster discussion between philosophers and designers and users of social media technologies.  How can we best serve as advocates for the reflective incorporation of moral values in both design and usage decisions?  How can those technologies be used to provide new venues for the development of moral literacy and moral agency?


  • Philosophers Working in Collaborative Research Teams (Paul Thompson, Michigan State)  Philosophers are classically thought of as solitary individuals who pontificate on big questions. Yet arguably the discipline of philosophy can make some of its most important contributions in conjunction with empirical work from scientific disciplines. In this workshop we will focus on three questions: 1) How can philosophy contribute to interdisciplinary inquiry and problem solving research on issues of practical significance? 2) How does one develop and maintain successful collaborations? 3) How can obstacles to and pitfalls of participating in collaborative research be addressed? 


  • Feminist Bioethics (Mary Rawlinson, SUNY Stony Brook, with Lisa Eckenwiler, GMU, Ellen Feder, American University, and Kim Leighton, American University) Feminist bioethics is transforming bioethics in both its problems and its methods. While bioethics tends to focus narrowly on issues raised by science and technology, feminist bioethics addresses the broader horizon of health and justice in a global context.  Feminist bioethics also offers new models of collaboration for ethics and philosophy, as well as new strategies for integrating philosophy, policy, and practice.  The panelists will present two collaborative projects as points of departure for discussion and will explore with participants the entrepreneurial aspects of public philosophy, including fund-raising. Participants will be invited to present their own projects and to investigate new conceptual and practical strategies with panelists and other participants.


  • Foundations and the Common Good   (Mark Rosenman, Ph.D., Director of Caring to Change, a project that aims to promote foundation grantmaking to further the common good, and the former vice-president for Social Responsibility at the Union Institute & University) Foundations ostensibly work towards the common good, but what does that mean? In the first part of this practitioner-facilitated workshop, we'll explore the workings of private foundations, which tend to focus on niche interests and narrow program areas rather than the common good.  In the second part of the workshop, we will discuss how foundations might contribute to the common good, and the challenges that they face.  This last point will open up discussion about the common good, justice, and the role of philanthropy in a democracy.   The goal of this workshop is to foster a discussion among philosophers about the ways that they might help shape the agenda of private foundations. How might philosophers develop projects of interest to private foundation officers?  Why might foundations be interested in philosophers' work? Caring to Change is a project that aims to promote foundation projects that further the common good.   


  • Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) workshop (Henry Shue, Oxford University, Matthew Lindauer, Justine Kolata and Gilad Tanay, Yale University)  This workshop will focus on how philosophers can contribute to the project of eradicating global poverty. It will consist of three parts: (i) a conversation with Henry Shue on how philosophers can be effective and what they should avoid when trying to intervene in the public sphere, (ii) a short presentation of ASAP, a growing network of academics collaborating  in order to increase their collective impact on global poverty, and (iii) a focused discussion on one of ASAP's main projects, the "Global Poverty Report,"an attempt in to capture and articulate a broad academic consensus on global poverty and development. We will discuss how philosophers can contribute to this project both in terms of methodology and in terms of content. We will also address what kind of other efforts might complement the work of ASAP?


  • Punishment and Prisons (Rita Manning, San Jose State University) When one surveys the philosophical literature on punishment and related topics over the last 10 years and divides it into what appear to be the central categories: historical interpretation, discussions of Foucault, justifications of punishment, and what Anthony Duff calls “normative critique of the penal state”, one finds that the justification of punishment literature is by far the largest category and the normative critiques is by far the smallest.  So, at least in terms of what makes it into press, philosophers have been concentrating their work on the justification question.  It’s an empirical question whether the justification literature creates an impression that the actual practice can be justified.  But if philosophical ideas have played some role in the harsh penal practices of the U.S., what is our current responsibility?  In this workshop I would like to explore three questions: 1) What is the responsibility of the profession in responding to the crisis of mass incarceration?  2) What methodological approaches can be used to deepen this critique?  (e.g. political philosophy, philosophy of law, applied ethics, feminist philosophy, race theory) 3) What current research are participants working on?  What are people using in their classes to create a philosophically informed normative critique of mass incarceration?


  •  Public Philosophy in Other Genres (Richard Hart, Bloomfield College, and Travis Holloway, Stony Brook and NYU) This workshop will explore the prospects for doing public philosophy through fiction and poetry and other literature that could rightfully be called philosophical, inasmuch as such works raise and explore a variety of philosophical issues, questions and problems. Such literature represents a way of reaching out to an intelligent and curious public that is not necessarily trained in philosophy but, nonetheless, enjoys the encounter with and discussion of ideas as presented in literature and creative writing. Such engagements might take place in short courses, workshops, even one-day events at local libraries, senior citizen centers, churches and synagogues, prisons, community centers, non-credit continuing education programs, even perhaps on board cruise ships as part of their educational and cultural offerings.  In our workshop, Richard Hart will lead a case study of one short story and then discuss both the philosophical content of the story and a variety of ways in which it could be used in various public venues to advance philosophical discussion. Travis Holloway will then take the workshop through a discussion of the uses of poetry, picking up on the renewed growth of small poetry collectives, public reading series, community writing workshops, and independent presses and considering how these movements are creating public and interestingly democratic forums for expression in everyday bars and cafes.
  • Philosophical Debate with Religion (John Shook, University at Buffalo and George Mason University)  As a philosopher who works for the Center for Inquiry, a think tank that advocates secularism and science, I speak to the public about the nonreligious stance. There are perhaps as many as fifty academic philosophers in North America who do this sort of work in blogs, debates, public talks, or mass print publications, at a part-time to full-time pace. A few, such as Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, are among the most recognizable names in philosophy today. It's time to reflect on what this philosophical challenge to religion is accomplishing: what are the distinct strategies of secular philosophers, and are any of them working? Opinions vary widely, from "Its not even a rational thing to debate" to "Naturalism and secularism are making good headway with people's minds." This workshop invites people to share their encounters with secular/naturalistic philosophy and its confrontations with religious belief in recent years. Is philosophy contributing much to this secular-religious dialogue? Can any tentative judgments be formed about the philosophical merits or pitfalls of secular-religion debate?  What kind of practices and engagements might be most productive in doing this kind of work?


Afternoon Session, October 7, 2011.  Washington Plaza Hotel

  • Bioethics and Biopolitics (Jonathan Moreno, University of Pennsylvania)

Over the past decade, as issues like cloning and stem cells have become part of our public discourse, bioethics has become biopolitics.  I describe these developments in my new book, "The Body Politic: The Battle Over Science in America." In this workshop we will consider how and why the new biopolitics has emerged and how it is changing both bioethics and politics. We will reflect as well on the cultural history that has led to biopolitics and the ways the new biology has stimulated reactions that transcend the familiar left-right spectrum.  In this new biopolitical atmosphere we find bioconservatives and bioprogressives, the former (which comprises greens as well as neocons) fretting over the blurring of lines between humans and the rest of creation, the latter lamenting the drag on innovation that

 might save or radically improve lives.


  • Climate Change (Nancy Tuana, Penn State University and Andrew Light, GMU and Center for American Progress) This workshop will focus on various ways philosophers have been and can continue to contribute to climate science, policy, and activism.   While there has been an explosion in good academic work by philosophers on climate change in recent years the avenues for us to actively participate in climate policy and activism have been slower to develop.  This workshop is designed to foster discussion amongst philosophers who are currently engaged in or interested in becoming involved in climate change work or related work in environmental issues beyond the academy.  Goals of the workshop include sharing models for interdisciplinary research and practice in this field, as well as determining how to enrich collaborations between philosophers and the publics engaged with climate change issues.  Included in the workshop will be opportunities to engage with members of the US government working on climate adaptation and mitigation.


  • Agriculture and Animal Welfare (Ike Sharpless, University of Massachusetts, Lowell)  (Ike Sharpless, UMass Lowell, wiki at and blog at The goal of this workshop is to foster collaborations between interested citizens and people working in animal agriculture, government, advocacy NGOs, think tanks, and academia. The workshop will focus on the following issues: 1) Framing Animal Welfare – Why do different groups of people assess farm animal welfare differently, and how do these different frames claim privileged status? Emphasis will be placed on bias and polarizing narratives, the science-policy interface, and the role of interdisciplinarity in applied animal welfare studies. 2) Food Politics and Food Choices – How is animal welfare balanced against other 'process distinctions' in our food choices? How are animal welfare claims translated into first, second, and third-party standards? And how do we connect the local and the global, especially in an age when the international political economy of food and animals is so fraught with tension. (An important aside: the divide between 'animal rights' and 'animal welfare' is complex and contested, but this forum will be predominantly welfarist in scope.)


  • Philosophy through Public Dialogue (David Morrow, University of Alabama at Birmingham) This workshop will provide practical advice about producing events in which philosophers engage in public dialogues or debates with one another or with non-philosophers. Sample topics for such dialogues include: food ethics; gender and global justice; climate ethics; evolution, intelligent design, and philosophy of science; philosophy of law; gay marriage; the proper role of religion in public life; philosophy and the examined life; moral self-cultivation; etc. This workshop will cover: identifying topics for events; identifying participants; finding space to host the event (inside or outside a university); funding; attracting an audience; structuring the dialogue itself; and the potential goals and benefits of the event. Workshop participants who have been involved with such an event will be encouraged to share their own experiences. All participants will receive materials to help them organize events of their own.



  • Philosophy and/in the City (Sharon Meagher, University of Scranton, editor of Philosophy and the City and; with Chris Keegan, SUNY Oneonta and Loren King, Wilfred Laurier University) In this three hour workshop, we will focus on two questions:  1) how and why philosophy might matter to the city, and 2) how the practice of philosophy is (or might be) transformed by philosophers’ urban engagements.  The workshop will be divided into three parts.  In the first hour, we will focus on pedagogies, sharing teaching methods for bringing philosophy to the streets.   In the second hour, we will focus on research projects that address urban problems and prospects, sharing ideas for collaborative research projects and the possibilities of doing so with urban-based community groups.  In the third hour, we will discuss other community-based projects that might benefit from collaborations with philosophers and assist philosophers in thinking about the city.


  • Philosophical Approaches to Cross-Disciplinary and Intercultural Research (Stephen Crowley, Boise State University and Michael O’Rourke, University of Idaho)  The Idaho-based Toolbox Project has developed a philosophically-based workshop approach to facilitating cross-disciplinary research. Using a philosophical instrument, the "Toolbox", we conduct workshops designed to enhance mutual understanding and improve collaborative communication. We are currently engaged in work on translational science that pushes this model out beyond the walls of the academy. In this session, we conduct a workshop designed to introduce participants to this practical, public deployment of philosophical concepts and techniques.


  • Philosophy and the Digital Public (Chris Long and Cori Wong, Penn State University) New digital media technologies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have transformed modes of public communication and human literacy.  This workshop will simultaneously explore and demonstrate how digital technologies have revolutionized philosophy by presenting new possibilities (and limits) for pedagogy, philosophical practices, and the nature of public philosophy. Three areas of focus will be: 1) new media literacy and its impact on scholarship, teaching and the academy; 2) examples of concrete practices with digital media, including our own YouTube channels, podcasts, and blogs; and 3) creating an online identity and building a digital community that focuses on engaged public philosophy. Because we will utilize these digital media technologies throughout the workshop to perform what we discuss, participants are strongly encouraged to bring laptops so that they can participate through live blogging, tweeting, etc.


  • Opportunities for Philosophers for National Science Foundation Funding (Bob Frodeman, University of North Texas) This workshop will address the many kinds of philosophically interesting fundable projects via NSF and the nuts and bolts of how to apply. The workshop will start with a brief history of NSF, with an eye to its place in US culture and will then describe the gradual penetration of opportunities for philosophers to be funded. Next we will describe the peer review process and during the final hour go into an RFP and describe how an actual application happens.

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