The Burman Lectures in philosophy have been given annually by internationally leading philosophers since 1996. The lectures are arranged by the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University.
The Burman Lectures in Philosophy 2021: The Ethics of Creating, Saving, and Ending Lives
Jeff McMahan, Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford Time: 1-3 December 2021, at 13.15-15.00 PM Place: Umeå University, NAT.D.450
Lecture 1: Abortion, Prenatal Injury, and What Matters in Alternative Possible Lives
Wednesday December 1, 13.15-15.00, Hörsal NAT.D.450
Abstract: There are certain assumptions about the nature of interests and the basis of rational egoistic concern that imply that death is not a misfortune for an individual of our kind for a certain period after that individual comes into existence. If this implication is correct, and if the nature of a fetus provides no basis for attributing to it a moral status that makes killing it wrong even though its death is not a harm, then there may be no moral reason not to have a painless abortion. On these assumptions, having an abortion is relevantly like preventing a person from coming into existence, which most regard as permissible. Yet the same assumptions imply that a fetus has no present interest in avoiding a painless injury. The obvious response is that, although abortion does not frustrate any interest of the fetus, prenatal injury is likely to frustrate interests that the fetus will later have independently of whether it is injured. I will argue, however, that although this is true to a limited extent, it is insufficient to show that prenatal injury will later be worse for the injured person in the relevant sense of “worse for.” I will conclude that the infliction of prenatal injury is often relevantly like causing a less well-off person to exist rather than a different, better-off person.
Lecture 2: The Population Ethics Asymmetry and the Permissibility of Procreation
Thursday December 2, 13.15-15.00, Hörsal NAT.D.450
Abstract: Many people accept that there is a moral reason to cause a better-off person to exist rather than a different, less well-off person. I will argue that most of those who do not already accept this claim ought to do so since, because of Parfit’s Non-Identity Problem, it provides the only plausible basis for a strong moral objection to causing future people to suffer a great range of bad effects as a consequence of such phenomena as climate change. I will also argue, however, that it is difficult to identify an account of the nature of the reason to cause a better-off rather than a less well-off person to exist that is compatible with the common sense view that there is no moral reason to cause a person to exist just because that person’s life would be well worth living. This puts pressure on us to reject this latter view, which, I will argue, is also incompatible with another common sense view with which it is often paired – namely, that there is a strong moral reason not to cause a person to exist if that person’s life would be intrinsically bad, or not worth living.
Lecture 3: Moral Reasons to Cause People to Exist
Friday December 3, 13.15-15.00, Hörsal NAT.D.450
Abstract: I will continue to explore the tensions between the idea that there is a strong moral reason to cause a well-off person to exist when the alternative is that a different, less well-off person will come into existence instead, but no moral reason to cause a well-off person to exist when the alternative is that no new person will come into existence. I will consider, for example, whether it makes sense to suppose that the reason to cause a well-off person to exist is conditional either on the inevitability of someone’s coming into existence or on one’s decision to cause a person to exist. I will argue that there is a reason to cause a person to exist both when the alternative is that a less well-off person will exist and when the alternative is that no new person will exist. If that is right, we must determine how strong this reason is in each case and how the strength of the reason compares with, for example, the strength of the reason to save a person’s life.
All interested are welcome to these lectures!
Previous Burman Lectures
Professor Ingrid Robeyns, Utrecht University Why worry about wealth? Lecture 1: What is limitarianism? Lecture 2: Arguments for economic limitarianism Lecture 3. Objections to economic limitarianism
Prof. Jennifer Saul, University of Sheffield. Race, Manipulative Language, and Politics Lecture I: Dogwhistles, Political Manipulation and the Philosophy of Language Lecture II: Racial Figleaves, The Shifting Boundaries of the Permissible, and the Rise of Donald Trump Lecture III: 'Immigration' in the Brexit Campaign: Dogwhistle Terms in Complex Contexts
Jenann Ismael, University of Arizona Determinism, Time, and Totality Lecture I: Determinism and the Causal Order Lecture II: Time and Transcendence Lecture III: Totality
Karen Bennett, Cornell University. Making things Up Lecture 1: Building Lecture 2: Causing Lecture 3: Relative Fundamentality
Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan. Pragmatism in Ethics: Why and How Lecture 1: Why Pragmatism? Lecture 2: How to Be a Pragmatist 1: Correcting Moral Biases Lecture 3: How to Be a Pragmatist 2: Experiments in Living
Michael Smith, McCosh Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University What We Should Do and Why We Should Do It Lecture 1: "The Standard Story of Action" Lecture 2: "A Constitutivist Theory of Reasons" Lecture 3: "A Case Study: The Reasons of Love"
David Chalmers, Australian National University and New York University Structuralism, space, and skepticism Lecture 1: Constructing the world Lecture 2: Three puzzles about spatial experience Lecture 3: The structuralist response to skepticism
Stephen Finlay, University of Southern California Metaethics as a Confusion of Tongues Lecture 1: Metaethics: Why and How? Lecture 2: The Semantics of "Ought" Lecture 3: The Pragmatics of Normative Disagreement
Dag Prawitz, Stockholm University Bevis, mening och sanning
Tim Crane, University of Cambridge Problems of Being and Existence Lecture 1: Existence, Being and Being-so Lecture 2: Existence and Quantification Reconsidered Lecture 3: The Singularity of Singular Thought
2009 Jerry Fodor, Rutgers University What Darwin Got Wrong Lecture 1: What kind of theory is the Theory of Natural Selection? Lecture 2: The problem about 'selection-for'
2008 Susanna Siegel, Harvard The Nature of Visual Experience Lecture 1: The varieties of perceptual intentionality Lecture 2: The contents of visual experience
2007 Alex Byrne, MIT How do we know our own minds? Lecture 1: Transparency and Self-Knowledge Lecture 2: Knowing that I am thinking
2006 Jonathan Dancy, University of Reading and University of Texas, Austin Lecture 1: Reasons and Rationality Lecture 2: Practical Reasoning and Inference
2005 Ned Block, New York University Consciousness and Neuroscience Lecture 1: The Epistemological Problem of the Neuroscience of Consciousness Lecture 2: How Empirical Evidence can be Relevant to the Mind-Body Problem
2004 John Broome, Oxford Reasoning
2003 Wlodek Rabinowicz, Lund Värde och passande attityder
2002 Kevin Mulligan, Genève Lecture 1: Essence, Logic and Ontology Lecture 2: Foolishness and Cognitive Values
2001 Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley Lecture 1: What is moral maturity? A Phenomenological Account Of The Development Of Ethical Expertise Lecture 2: The primacy of the phenomenological over logical analysis: A Merleau-Pontian Critique of Searle's Account of Action and Social Reality
2000 Herbert Hochberg, University of Texas, Austin Lecture 1: A Simple Refutation of Mindless Materialism Lecture 2: Universals, Particulars and the Logic of Predication
1999 Susan Haack, University of Miami The Science of Sociology and the Sociology of Science Lecture 1: Social Science as Semiotic. Lecture 2: Sociology of Science: The Sensible Program.
1998 Howard Sobel, University of Toronto Lecture 1: First causes: St. Thomas Aquinas's 'Second way'. Lecture 2: Ultimate reasons if not first causes: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz on 'the Ultimate Origination of Things'.
1997 Ian Jarvie, York University Science and the Open Society
1996 David Kaplan, UCLA What is Meaning: Notes toward a theory of Meaning as Use
About the Burman Lectures
The Burman Lectures started in 1996 on the initiative of Inge-Bert Täljedal, then mayor of Umeå and later vice chancellor of Umeå University. The lectures commemorate Erik Olof Burman (1845-1929), Umeå's "first professor of philosophy".
Burman was born in Yttertavle outside of Umeå, went to high school in Umeå, and became professor of practical philosophy 1896-1910 at Uppsala University. Nowadays Burman is best known as the teacher of Axel Hägerström, who is known for his expressivist theory of moral judgments, among other things.