The Ethics Forum is pleased to announce a new Seminar series with internal and external speakers. The series provides an opportunity for research debates on various issues relating to ethics, within and across academic disciplines. For further information about the programme, please contact the organisers Dr Joanna Drugan and Dr Michael Frazer. All UEA staff and post graduate students who work on aspects of ethics are free to join us.
Research Seminar - Wednesday 18 October - TPSC 2.05a (the Hub)
Title: Verbal Insincerity
Speaker: Dr Alex Barber - Open University Leeds
Abstract: Verbal insincerity, or verbal dishonesty, is an important category of morally objectionable act. It is also a category that has yet to be appreciated, let alone understood, by ethicists, despite its salience in law, politics, and pretty much any other social setting. Two factors lie behind this failure. The first is that discussion of verbal insincerity tends to be drowned out by the so called 'lying/misleading' debate. This concerns the question of whether lying - roughly: saying something you know is false - is distinctly wrong, or is instead on the same moral footing as cases of deliberate verbal deception where no literal falsehood is uttered, such as false insinuation. But verbal insincerity, I argue, while it does not always involve telling a lie, is not reducible to deliberate verbal deception either. The second factor is that he notion of verbal insincerity trades on the difference between communicative and non-communicative acts. This latter is a notoriously tricky contrast to pin down. Pin it down we must, however, and I make a proposal in this talk.
Research Seminar - Friday 15 December - TPSC 2.04
Title: The corruption of knowledge and the responsibility of epistemic communities.
Speaker: Prof. Dr Lisa Herzog - Technical University of Munich
Abstract: We live in an age of hyper-specialization. Labour in the private economy and in the public sector is extremely divided, which means that knowledge and skills are similarly divided, not only along technical, but also along geographical and technical lines. Often, only a handful of individuals (scientific "experts", or those with relevant local knowledge, etc.) have in-depth knowledge of a subject matter, while outsiders have to incur considerable costs, and are vulnerable to deception, if they want to understand an issue in detail. Nonetheless, collective decision-making, and in particular democratic processes, are based on an assumption of an open space of shareable, and shared, knowledge. Various mechanisms, such as expert hearings or mixed committees, are supposed to ensure that expert knowledge can be processed in collective decisions. But these mechanisms can be manipulated or distorted in various ways, either by experts themselves, or by other individuals or groups. Drawing on recent work by Ceva and Ferretti, I argue that at least some such distortions can be understood as forms of political corruption. I discuss the implications of this situation for epistemic communities.They are primary bearers of responsibility, not only because knowledge is usually produced and established within them , but also because individuals are likely to be influenced by the expectations and social norms set by them. Epistemic communities stand in a relation to society that resembles the relation between professionals and their clients. this means that they are responsible not only for internal quality control but also for the way in which the "interfaces" between different epistemic communities are managed, both on the sending and on the receiving end.