Promises and Perils of Neuroprediction @ Faculty House, Columbia U
Apr 16 @ 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Neuroprediction, the use of neuroscientific data to predict human behavior, can sound like science fiction. But with the advent of neuroimaging and the continuing rapid development of other non-invasive brain measurements, neuroprediction is increasingly a real-world phenomenon.

Deep philosophical, legal, and neuroscientific questions arise regarding the use of these methods to predict behavior. Like all scientific tools, whether or not these technologies are used responsibly depends on who uses them. For instance, recent research illustrates the potential use of neuroprediction to assess an individual’s risk of (re-)engaging in antisocial conduct in forensic contexts. While the use of brain-based data may add predictive value to existing risk assessment tools, at the same time, the use (or misuse) of neuroprediction in courtrooms may imply violations of individual rights and liberties under the pretext of enhancing public safety. In addition to these legal implications, neuroprediction presents several technological and neuroscientific challenges. The non-invasive measures currently available are only indirect measures of cognitive activity. Understanding the conceptual, ethical, and legal dimensions surrounding the use of neuroprediction technologies helps crystallize the issues at hand and potentially provides moral guidance for those who wish to capitalize on these new tools as their prevalence and specificity continue to advance.

In this seminar, four experts from neuroscience, law, and philosophy will discuss recent findings in neuroprediction research, the predictive power of brain-based evidence compared to behavioral evidence, as well as the ethical and legal concerns emerging from the entrance of neuroprediction in the courts of law.

Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Yale University
Martha Farah, Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
Kent Kiehl, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of New Mexico
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics, Duke University

Jeffrey A. Fagan, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University

Federica Coppola, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Free and open to the public, but RSVP is required via Eventbrite. This event is part of the Seminars in Society and Neuroscience series.

The Ethical Stance and the Possibility of Critique. Webb Keane @ Wolff Conference Room, D1106
Sep 12 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Critique is an assertion of values pitted against a state of affairs. To say that things should not be the way they are–to respond to questions such as ‘Why do I think this political or economic arrangement is wrong (and why should I care?)?’ implies an ethical stance. Critique thus draws together fact and value, domains that a long tradition of moral thought has argued exist on distinct planes. For there are dimensions of political life that are incomprehensible without this conjunction between ethical motivations and social realities. But if they are to have political consequences, such questions cannot be confined to private introspection. Scale matters. This talk looks at the articulation between everyday interactions and social movements to show the interplay among the first, second, and third person stances that characterize ethical life. Drawing ethnographic examples from American feminism and Vietnamese Marxism, it considers some of the ways in which ethical intuitions emerge, consolidate, and change, and argues that objectifications and the reflexivity they facilitate help give ethical life a social history.

Balzan Conference: Dworkin’s Late Work @ Lester Pollack Colloquium Room, 9th Flr Furman Hall
Sep 13 – Sep 14 all-day

Ronald Dworkin’s work always spanned a wide array of topics, from the most abstract jurisprudence through the details of American constitutional law all the way over to political philosophy and theories of justice and equality. In the last decades of his life, however, Dworkin’s work flowered in ways that went beyond even this prodigious range. Though he continued his central work in the philosophy of law and constitutional theory, he also addressed issues in international law, human dignity, the philosophy of religion, the relation between ethics, morality and legal theory, and the unity of practical thought generally. This conference will explore some of these themes in Dworkin’s late work. Beginning with a panel on his understanding of religion, we will also convene discussions of his work on legal integrity, international law, and the relation between law and morality. There will be a total of nine presentations, with plenty of time for discussion. All are welcome.

Panel 1 (Friday 1:30 p.m.): Dworkin’s Religion without God.
Eric Gregory (Princeton),
Moshe Halbertal (NYU and Hebrew U.) Ronald Dworkin Religion Without God: Morality and the Transcendent
Larry Sager (Texas) Solving Religious Liberty

Panel 2 (Friday 4:30 p.m.): Dworkin on international law.
Samantha Besson (Fribourg)
The Political Legitimacy of International Law: Sovereign States and their International Institutional Order

John Tasioulas (King’s College, London)

Panel 3 (Saturday 10 a.m.): The idea of integrity in Law’s Empire.
Andrei Marmor (Cornell) Integrity in Law’s Empire
Jeremy Waldron (NYU)  The Rise and Decline of Integrity

Panel 4 (Saturday 2:15 p.m.): Law and morality in Justice for Hedgehogs.
Mark Greenberg (UCLA)
What Makes a Moral Duty Legal?  Dworkin’s Judicial Enforcement Theory Versus the Moral Impact Theory

Ben Zipursky (Fordham)

Legal Interpretation and Natural Law. Mark Greenberg (UCLA) @ Fordham Law School, Bateman 2-01B
Sep 16 @ 6:00 pm – 7:50 pm

Fordham Natural Law Colloquium

5:30-6:00 check in, 6:00-7:50 program

Location: Fordham Law School, Bateman 2-01B

Contact Michael Baur and Ben Zipursky for more information.

The Moral Imagination of the Novel @ Columbia U Philosophy Dept.
Oct 4 – Oct 5 all-day

Columbia University’s Department of Philosophy, the Morningside Institute, and the Thomistic Institute invite graduate students in philosophy, theology/religious studies, literature, and related disciplines to submit papers for “The Moral Imagination of the Novel.” The conference will examine the ways in which individual novels and the novel as a literary genre can be understood both to depict the search for moral, philosophical, and religious truth and to engage in this very search themselves. Is the novel a realistic or idealistic genre? Can novels expand our sense of moral possibilities? Can they contract them?

The conference will begin with four twenty-minute graduate student papers on Friday, October 4, followed by talks that day and the next from faculty. Confirmed speakers include:

Paul Elie (Georgetown)

Ann Astell (Notre Dame)

Thomas Pavel (Chicago)

Lauren Kopajtic (Fordham)

Dhananjay Jagannathan (Columbia)

 Limited financial assistance is available to defray the cost of travel for student presenters, but students are encouraged to seek funds from their own institutions as well.

 One-page proposals should be emailed to Molly Gurdon at mcg2197@columbia.edu by Saturday, August 31 to be considered. Invitations to present papers will be sent by Friday, September 6. Submissions should not contain any identifying information except for a title, but the author’s institution and program, along with the title of their proposed submission, should be noted in the e-mail submission.


Northeast Philosophy of Religion Colloquium @ Philosophy Conference Room, Collins Hall
Oct 12 all-day

Contact Crina Gschwandtner for more information.

Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy: Pop-up Session with Joseph Raz @ NYU Law School - Vanderbilt Hall, 3rd Flr, Faculty Library
Oct 17 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Although the Colloquium on Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy is on hiatus this year, it will convene a special “pop-up” session on Thursday, October 17 from 4-7 p.m. in the Faculty Library on the third floor of Vanderbilt Hall. Professor Joseph Raz, who has long been an important member of the Colloquium community, will present a pre-circulated paper on this occasion, which marks the end of many years during which he has taught regularly at Columbia Law School each fall. Professor Raz’s paper will be posted on the Colloquium website in due course.

Legal Theory Workshop with Miranda Fricker (CUNY) @ Fordham Law School, rm tba
Jan 29 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Contact John Drummond for more information.

Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Ethics and Religion @ Union Theological Seminary
Jan 30 all-day

Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Ethics and Religion” is an exciting one-day conference to be held on January 30, 2020, at Union Theological Seminary (UTS) in New York, in conjunction with the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), the Riverside Church and the Greater Good Initiative.

New technologies are transforming our world every day, and the pace of change is only accelerating.  In coming years, human beings will create machines capable of out-thinking us and potentially taking on such uniquely-human traits as empathy, ethical reasoning, perhaps even consciousness.  This will have profound implications for virtually every human activity, as well as the meaning we impart to life and creation themselves.  This conference will provide an introduction for non-specialists to Artificial Intelligence (AI):

What is it?  What can it do and be used for?  And what will be its implications for choice and free will; economics and worklife; surveillance economies and surveillance states; the changing nature of facts and truth; and the comparative intelligence and capabilities of humans and machines in the future? 

Leading practitioners, ethicists and theologians will provide cross-disciplinary and cross-denominational perspectives on such challenges as technology addiction, inherent biases and resulting inequalities, the ethics of creating destructive technologies and of turning decision-making over to machines from self-driving cars to “autonomous weapons” systems in warfare, and how we should treat the suffering of “feeling” machines.  The conference ultimately will address how we think about our place in the universe and what this means for both religious thought and theological institutions themselves.

UTS is the oldest independent seminary in the United States and has long been known as a bastion of progressive Christian scholarship.  JTS is one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism and a major center for academic scholarship in Jewish studies. The Riverside Church is an interdenominational, interracial, international, open, welcoming, and affirming church and congregation that has served as a focal point of global and national activism for peace and social justice since its inception and continues to serve God through word and public witness. The annual Greater Good Gathering, the following week at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs, focuses on how technology is changing society, politics and the economy – part of a growing nationwide effort to advance conversations promoting the “greater good.”


Introduction to AI: 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

Mark C. Taylor (Moderator)
Chair, Department of Religion, Columbia University. A leading figure in debates about post-modernism, Taylor has written on topics ranging from philosophy, religion, literature, art and architecture to education, media, science, technology and economics.

Daniel Araya
Consultant and advisor to companies within tech industry, focusing on innovation, public policy, and business strategy, chairs annual conference on Technology, Knowledge, and Society for Commonground Publishing.

Michael Kearns
Professor in the Computer and Information Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he holds the National Center Chair, as well as the departments of Economics,  Statistics, and Operations, Information and Decisions (OID) in the Wharton School; Founding Director of the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences; faculty founder and former director of Penn Engineering’s Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS) Program, external faculty member of the Santa Fe Institute; author, The Ethical Algorithm. 

Vikram Modgil
Founder of Pi Square AI – a decision design company specializing in AI based systems & algorithms, IoT, Augmented Reality & Robotic Process Automation; founder of The Good AI org to drive awareness and consciousness towards transparency in AI.

Ethical Implications: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Serene Jones (Moderator)
A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 182-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion. She is the author of several books including Trauma and Grace and, most recently, her memoir Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World. Jones, a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, race studies, history, and ethics.

Thomas Arnold
Researcher at Tufts University Human-Robot Interaction Laboratory (HRILab) working on AI ethics and human-robot interaction while drawing upon background in philosophy of religion and theology. Lecturer, Tufts University Department of Computer Science; PhD. ABD Committee on the Study of Religion, Harvard University; Co-author, “Ethics for Psychologists: A Casebook Approach,” (Sage, 2011); Member, IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Brian Green
Director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara Univ. His work is focused on the ethics of technology, including such topics as AI and ethics, the ethics of technological manipulation of humans, the ethics of mitigation of and adaptation towards risky emerging technologies, and various aspects of the impact of technology and engineering on human life and society, including the relationship of technology and religion (particularly the Catholic Church). Green teaches AI ethics in the Graduate School of Engineering and formerly taught several other engineering ethics courses. He is co-author of the Ethics in Technology Practice corporate technology ethics resources.

Michael J. Quinn
Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Seattle University. In the early 2000s his focus shifted to computer ethics, and in 2004 he published a textbook, Ethics for the Information Age, that explores moral problems related to modern uses of information technology, such as privacy, intellectual property rights, computer security, software reliability, and the relationship between automation and unemployment. The book, now in its eighth edition, has been adopted by more than 125 colleges and universities in the United States and many more internationally.

Wendell Wallach
Consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, where he has chaired the Center’s working research group on Technology and Ethics. Senior advisor to The Hastings Center, fellow at the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law (Arizona State University), fellow at the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technology. Author, A Dangerous Master: How to keep technology from slipping beyond our control and Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong.

Ethical/religious implications: 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

John Thatamanil (Moderator)
Associate Professor of Theology & World Religions, John eaches a wide variety of courses in the areas of comparative theology, theologies of religious diversity, Hindu-Christian dialogue, the theology of Paul Tillich, theory of religion, and process theology. He is committed to the work of comparative theology—theology that learns from and with a variety of traditions. Professor Thatamanil’s first book is an exercise in constructive comparative theology. The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation provides the foundation for a nondualist Christian theology worked out through a conversation between Paul Tillich and Sankara, the master teacher of the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta.

Levi Checketts
Adjunct professor at Holy Names University, PhD in ethics with focus on theological and technological issues.

Mark Goldfeder
Orthodox Rabbi, fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, working on a book with Yeshiva University on robots in the law tentatively titled “Almost Human.”

Ted Peters
Distinguished Research Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics, Graduate TheologicalUniversity; His systematic theology, God – The World’s Future, now in its 3rd edition, has been used as a text book in numerous seminaries around the world. For more than a decade he edited Dialog, A Journal of Theology. Along with Robert John Russell he is the co-founder and co-editor of the journal, Theology and Science, at the GTU’s Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Jason Thacker
Associate Research Fellow and Creative Director at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is also the author of The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. He writes and speaks on various topics including human dignity, ethics, technology, and artificial intelligence. His writing has been featured at Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Providence Journal, Light Magazine, and many more.

religious and theological implications: 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Arnold M. Eisen (Moderator)
Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Since taking office in 2007, Chancellor Eisen has transformed the education of religious, pedagogical, professional, and lay leaders for North American Jewry, with a focus on graduating highly skilled, innovative leaders who bring Judaism alive in ways that speak authentically to Jews at a time of rapid and far-reaching change.

Vincent Bacote
Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.  Professor Bacote‘s areas of teaching and research include theology and culture, theological anthropology, and faith and work.  His numerous published works include The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life and Erasing Race: Racial Identity and Theological Anthropology – Black Scholars in White Space. Professor Bacote is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degrees in divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a master’s degree in philosophy and PhD in theological and religious studies from Drew University.

Robert Geraci
Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics (Oxford University Press, 2010), Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life (Oxford University Press, 2014), and Temples of Modernity: Nationalism, Hinduism, and Transhumanism in South Indian Science (Lexington 2018).

Noreen Herzfeld
Reuter Professor of Science and Religion at St. John’s University and The College of St. Benedict where she teaches Computer Ethics and Doing Ministry in a Technological Age.  She is the author of In Our Image:  Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit; Technology and Religion:  Remaining Human in a Co-Created Age;  andThe Limits of Perfection; and editor of Religion and the New Technologies.

Hannah Reichel
Associate Professor of Reformed Theology Princeton Theological Seminary. She holds degrees in divinity and economics. Interests and work includes poststructuralist theory, scriptural hermeneutics, political theology, surveillance studies, feminist and queer theologies.

After the Welfare State: Reconceiving Mutual Aid @ NYU
Feb 15 – Feb 16 all-day

The 2020 Annual Telos-Paul Piccone Institute Conference
Keynote Speaker: Catherine Malabou, Kingston University and University of California, Irvine.

Conference Description

Although the rise of populism has often been interpreted as the atavistic return of racism and nationalism, the underlying sources have more to do with the collapse of the welfare state model in advanced post-industrial countries, which has resulted in the search for new forms of solidarity that could replace welfare state structures. These structures were first developed in the early twentieth century when a new type of nation-state and industrial economy came into being along with the developing capitalist regime of accumulation. Such a regime brought about the destruction of the existing networks of solidarity—based primarily on family, religious community, and workplace ties—thereby leading the state to intervene in different social services, including health, employment, and senior care, as well as in labor policy regarding such issues as the minimum wage, the length of the working day, retirement, and accident insurance. However, these interventions by the state, whether they responded to labor union protests or arose from anti-socialist preemptive actions by conservative forces, have been accompanied by the growing bureaucratization of its practices, which have come to constitute, along with capitalist commodification, one of today’s fundamental sources of inequalities and conflicts.

The shifting line between the private and the public has had ambiguous effects. In the end, state intervention was carried out not in the form of a true democratization but through the imposition of new forms of subordination. The social result with greater globalization and deindustrialization in most of the advanced industrial countries has been a sense of abandonment, as well as a loss of empowerment and autonomy in all segments of the population. At the same time, with the emergence of post-Fordist capitalism in the late twentieth century, this subordination to the state has taken the opposite form—that of a reduction of state intervention and care, based on the idea that the endless expansion of state services cannot serve as a panacea for all problems. As a result, new distortions in the private/public divide recently have appeared. In turn, the private sphere has become increasingly contentious, first, because of growing privatization of previously public services and, second, because gaining access to those services is left to individual initiative.

The feeling that governments are incapable of dealing with social problems has regenerated the awareness that collective self-management is perhaps inevitable, at both micro- and macroscopic levels: from neighborhood collectives up to lending circles, non-profit societies, religious organizations, and solidarity economies. The contemporary interest in structures of mutual aid relates to the fact that we are living in an era that is clearly looking for new models of human flourishing and social development. Not only must we deal with multiple and recurring crises (finance, food, energy, and environment), but there is a growing recognition that today’s normative agenda has to be much more encompassing and holistic, including issues of gender equality, fair trade, environment, and cultural and religious diversity.

A need to reconceptualize the concepts of the “common good” and “collective interest” is developing out of this set of conditions, leading to new definitions of civic sense, responsibility, and autonomy. The need for intermediary structures between the private and public sphere frames the space of intervention for mutual aid as a new form of social coherence.

But the concept of mutual aid has a complex and contradictory history. According to Peter Kropotkin, there is an innate biological evolutionary tendency toward mutualism in all living beings, an immanent social rationality that orients humanity toward a self-regulated political organization and society. Against social Darwinism, Kropotkin argues that species not only compete but also, and mainly, collaborate. Such an evolutionary vision later formed the core of Edward Wilson’s sociobiology, marking the beginning of the altruism/selfishness debates within which the problematic of mutual help has remained enclosed for decades. Libertarianism, for example, presupposes that individuals’ social behavior is grounded in a natural principle of selfishness that should then become the basis of aid. This vision allows for a deterministic idea of the capitalist economy in which Robert Nozick argues for the principle of a “minimal state” grounded on the fact that no distributive justice can come from above. Similarly, Friedrich Hayek argues that the “true” nature of liberalism lies in the doctrine that seeks to reduce to the minimum the power of the state. Democracy is then only the means for collective decision-making or a utilitarian apparatus for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom. The capitalist free market, in turn, is said to be the only type of social organization that respects the principle of individual liberty.

If the theory of mutual aid can no longer be grounded in an opposition between the two poles of society and the state, but must be reconceptualized in terms of the mediation between both, the modes of its mediation become the key to the implementation of mutual aid practices. Ideas of family, nation, and religion thus take on new potential significance as the forms of mediation between individuals that can create the basis for networks of mutual aid. Are these the key categories that would embed mutual aid in broader affective, ethical, and metaphysical frameworks, or are there alternative possibilities that would establish new types of networks?

This conference seeks to develop new concepts of mutual aid that are not predetermined by conceptions of biological, economic, or political certainties. Key questions include:

  • Why is mutual aid not linked with theories of social contract, and how do we determine its degrees of separation from the state?
  • How can mutual aid be reconceptualized by renewing intellectual traditions?
  • What are the moral implications and requisites of the concept of mutual aid today?
  • What are the privileged domains of application for mutual aid and what are the organizational principles underlying them?
  • Does mutual aid imply a reorganization of the economy, or is it compatible with or even essential to a capitalist organization of economic life?
  • Does the concept of mutual aid offer tools for reimagining socialism in a way that avoids an overreliance on state power?
  • Does mutual aid require a reconstitution of subjectivity that moves it away from the autonomous individual of liberal theory?
  • What are the prospects and problems of religious frameworks, such as Pentecostalism, that function as the basis for mutual aid?
  • Can the rise of populism be understood as part of a search for new networks for mutual aid? Does mutual aid imply the restriction of its networks to limited groups, implying a relationship to political identity?
  • How does the concept of mutual aid relate to state power and the sovereignty of the state?

Abstract Submissions

Please note: Abstracts for this conference will only be accepted from current Telos-Paul Piccone Institute members. In order to become a member, please visit our membership enrollment page. Telos-Paul Piccone Institute memberships are valid until the end of the annual New York City conference.

We invite scholars from all disciplines to submit 250-word abstracts along with a short c.v. to telosnyc2020@telosinstitute.net by September 30, 2019. Please place “The 2020 Telos Conference” in the email’s subject line.