Thursday, February 17, 2022 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM EST
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Alex Ostrowski Schilling 
Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics 

2022 Annual Kissel Lecture in Ethics with Pamela Hieronymi: "Defensiveness, Making Excuses, and the Blame Game"

About the lecture:

In this lecture titled "Defensiveness, Making Excuses, and the Blame Game," Professor Hieronymi will discuss how public life has recently seen some spectacular displays of defensiveness and seemingly unending iterations of the blame game. Yet, this set of issues has not received much attention in the philosophical literature. Here she begins to rectify the relative neglect. She will first distinguish problematic cases of “making excuses” from simply offering excuses. Isolating the problem cases is more delicate and interesting than you might initially suppose; it will require distinguishing two very different kinds of “negotiation:” a cooperative sort and one that amounts to a power-struggle. She will then consider the broader power struggle of which “making excuses” is often a part: “the blame game.” Better understanding the blame game lets us see that, once it has begun, it is very hard to abort or even exit. It is easy to find yourself with no good options. She offer no solutions, but only the hope that naming and sorting can be a helpful first step—or at least offer the solace of better understanding your predicament.

The Kissel Lecture in Ethics is named for the late Lester Kissel, a graduate of Harvard Law School and longtime benefactor of Harvard University's ethics programs and activities.

About the speaker:

Pamela Hieronymi (AB, Princeton University 1992; PhD, Harvard University 2000) has been a Professor in UCLA’s Philosophy Department since July of 2000. Her research sits at the intersection of many different subfields in philosophy: ethics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of action. Her publications concern moral responsibility, forgiveness, blame, and the kind of control we enjoy with respect to our own states of mind, especially our beliefs, intentions, and moral motivations. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is currently working on a manuscript, Minds that Matter, that aims to resolve the traditional problem of free will and moral responsibility, thus reconciling human freedom and scientific explanation. In addition to her academic publications, Hieronymi has appeared on Philosophy Talk public radio, her thoughts on technology and teaching were published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and she has served as a consultant for NBC’s sitcom, The Good Place. In connection with the latter, she is now entirely comfortable with the fact that everyone hates moral philosophers.