Digest Week 2 Trinity Term 2019

TT19, Week 2 (5th - 11th May)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place in the Radcliffe Humanities Building on Woodstock Road, OX2 6GG.


Notices - Events taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond

WEH/Ethox Seminar | Rethinking Consent in Medical Education Panel | 14.30 - 16.00 | Seminar Room 1, Big Data Institute 

Panel members: Robin Wilson (College of Law, University of Illinois), Ashok Handa (Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, Oxford), Michael Dunn (Ethox Centre, Oxford), Phoebe Friesen (Ethox Centre, Oxford)

This panel will consider challenging ethical questions surrounding how to navigate informed consent within medical education. Robin Fretwell Wilson and Phoebe Friesen will speak about their work regarding the practice of non-consensual pelvic exams on women under anesthetic by medical students, which is forbidden by the GMC, but still takes place at many teaching hospital in the United States. Prof. Wilson, who has been instrumental in developing recent legislation requiring consent for educational pelvic exams, will speak about her experiences with public engagement and offer rebuttals to some of the common defenses of the practice that are given. Dr. Friesen will unpack the importance of consent for this practice, examining how autonomy, bodily rights, and trust, are each under threat when consent is not given for educational pelvic exams on women under anesthetic, and whether these threats extend to other forms of medical student involvement in care. Ashok Handa and Michael Dunn have both been involved in recent revisions to the guidelines surrounding consent in medical education at the University of Oxford and will offer reflections on their involvement in this process as well as the broader legal framework in England. Dr. Handa, who is currently the Director of Surgical Education, will consider the unique issues and challenges that arise in relation to medical students and consent within surgery, and the guidelines that shape students’ learning experiences and consent requirements by the bedside. Dr. Dunn, Director of Undergraduate Medical Ethics and Law in the Clinical School, will explore two specific elements of English medical law, and critically reflect on the application of these legal provisions in the educational setting. The focus here will be on a new standard for information provision concerning risk in the law of consent and established legal principles for substitute decision-making for patients lacking mental capacity. Each participant will speak for 10-15 minutes, followed by a lengthy question period.


Mereology Reading Group | 17.00 - 19.00 | Meeting Room 4, Radcliffe Humanities

This reading group will focus on some recent work on mereology. Our focus will be on how the notion of parthood and other mereological principles can be extended to apply beyond the realm of material objects. The group will meet each Tuesday from 17.00 - 19.00. Please e-mail sabine.bot@philosophy.ox.ac.uk if you would like to attend.


Set Theory Reading Group | 19.00 - 21.00 | Ryle Room, Radcliffe Humanities

Our reading group welcomes anyone interested in Set Theory. We shall discuss topics such as large cardinals, forcing, and inner models. No prerequisites are required. Organised by Wojciech Woloszyn.


WEH/Ethox Seminar | Care and Control: An ethical analysis of parenting support within a UK prison mother and baby unit | 11:00 – 12:30 | Rosemary Rue Meeting Room, Richard Doll Building

Speaker: Rose Mortimer

In this talk I present some of the key findings from my DPhil project, entitled 'Care and Control: An ethical analysis of parenting support within a UK prison mother and baby unit.' I am grateful for this opportunity to share my work with you, and practice fielding questions in advance of my viva.

In recent years, the idea of state provided ‘parenting support’ has gained prominence within the early intervention (EI) policy agenda. A central claim of EI policy is that poor parenting during the early years of life can lead to a range of bad outcomes for children, such as ill health, academic failure, poverty, and crime. Therefore, EI often involves identifying babies and children who are at risk of being ‘poorly parented,’ and intervening upon these parents in order to help them provide better care to their children.

In the UK, female prisoners who are pregnant or who have a small child are able to apply to serve their sentence within a prison mother and baby unit (MBU). The baby can remain within the unit up until the age of 18 months, and whilst the mother serves her sentence she is provided with various kinds of parenting support. Some of these forms of parenting support look very similar to that which is provided to women enrolled in EI programs in the community. However, prison policy is unclear as to the goals of parenting support in this environment and it is possible to anticipate a number of ethical challenges that may arise in practice: how can prison provide a good start in life for children? What is the relationship – if any – between crime and being a good mother? To what extent can and should women exercise parental autonomy in a prison environment? How do the goals of the MBU as regards parenting support and childcare sit alongside the other goals of the prison: justice, security, and delivery of punishment?

Over a period of 7 months I conducted interviews, focus groups, and participant observation within the MBU of a women’s prison in the North of England. In my thesis, I provide a rich ethical analysis of the practice of parenting support as it takes place within the ‘moral world’ of the MBU. In this presentation I focus particularly on the 'dual role' of parenting support as a form of both care and punishment/control. I discuss some of the ethical challenges that arise as a consequence of this 'dual role', and consider the extent to which women can or should be afforded parental autonomy in a prison environment.


Seminar on Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae | Confuting Heresies with Aristotelian Logic. Boethius and Leontius of Byzantium against Eutyches and Nestorius | 17.00 - 18.30 | Seminar Room, Corpus Christi College, Seminar Room

Speaker: Christophe Erismann (University of Vienna)


Brain and Mind series | Dementia and the Brain | 17.00 - 19.15 | Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda's 

This term's topic of the popular St Hilda's 'Brain and Mind - from concrete to abstract' series of workshops is 'Dementia and the Brain'. Sana Suri (Oxford University), Marinella Cappelletti (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Tim Thornton (University of Central Lancashire) will address this topic from the points of view of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy respectively. There will be a break with refreshments. Entry is free, but tickets have to be booked on Eventbrite.


Wilde Lectures: God, Human Nature and Mathematics | The Argument from Beauty | 17.00 | Harris Lecture Theatre, Oriel College 

This year’s Wilde Lectures in Natural Theology will be delivered by Alexander Pruss, Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, USA.

ALexander Pruss holds PhD degrees in both mathematics and philosophy. In addition to many peer-reviewed articles, his publications include the following academic monographs: Infinity, Causation and Paradox (OUP 2018), Necessary Existence, (with Joshua Rasmussen, OUP 2018), One Body: An Essay in Christian Sexual Ethics (Notre Dame 2012), Actuality, Possibility and Worlds (Continuum 2011), The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment (CUP 2006).

There will be a wine reception following the lecture. 


Appeals to Nature Seminar | The Psychology of Nature Bias: When is Something Good Just Because It’s Natural? | 17.00 | Hovenden Room, All Souls College

Speakers: Julian Savulescu & Lucius Caviola (Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics). All are welcome.  


InParenthesis Reading Group | 20.00 - 21.30 | Ryle Room, Radcliffe Humanities 

Women in Parenthesis (www.womeninparenthesis.co.uk) is a research collaboration between Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman. The project is dedicated to the study of the lives and friendships of four women philosophers: Iris Murdoch, Phillipa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe, and Mary Midgley. For questions, please contact sasha.lawson-frost@philosophy.ox.ac.uk 

The Meaning of Life Reading Group | 11.30 | St Peter’s College  

Oragnised by Tim Mawson. This small reading group/seminar will be arranged during weeks 1-8 on (mainly recent) contributions to the literature on ‘the meaning of life’, broadly construed, as given by philosophers, theologians, scientists, psychologists and others. Readings will be circulated in advance each week. The seminar is aimed at graduate students and faculty members; anyone wishing to attend should email tim.mawson@philosophy.ox.ac.uk to be included on the circulation list for further information. Suggestions for suitable readings are most welcome.


WEH workshop - Ethics Oversight and Committees for AI: Towards a Future Research Agenda | 10:00 – 18:00 | Level 1 Ax Meeting Room, Big Data Institute

Increasingly, concerns are being raised about the lack of ethics oversight in the development of technologies and tools utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) techniques within industry. In response, some companies have developed internal committees or processes of ethics oversight. Yet little is known about the varying forms of guidance, oversight, or spaces for ethical reflection that are emerging within the development and varying sites of application for AI and machine learning. Within the academic realm, detailed systems of oversight, including regulations and research ethics committees, are in place. However, these systems were developed in order to provide ethical guidance for those engaged in paradigmatic forms of medical research, such as clinical trials and laboratory research. Many have raised concerns that these systems are not appropriate for the ethical evaluation of research projects involving AI, given the distance of these projects from the clinical encounter, the ways in which traditional conceptions of ‘human subjects’ are challenged, and the unique ethical issues they bring to light.

This workshop, which will bring together participants from both academia and industry, asks what the oversight of the development of AI / machine learning tools currently looks like, within industry, academia, and collaborations between the two, and what it ought to look like in the future. Taking inspiration from the model of research ethics committees (RECs, also called IRBs and REBs), although not limiting the discussion to this form, questions that will be considered include:

▪ What novel ethical issues arise within the use of these technologies?
▪ Who should be involved in such oversight and why?
▪ What kinds of expertise are necessary and desirable for those involved in ethics oversight of AI?
▪ What forms of oversight for AI are currently being developed within industry and academia and collaborations between the two?
▪ What are the benefits and shortcomings of traditional and novel systems of ethics oversight?

Participants will be invited to briefly present themselves and their work, questions and perspectives. Much of the day will consist of discussion of the above questions, and others that arise throughout the workshop. We hope to collectively outline a set of primary concerns, current responses, and directions for future research, and publish a manuscript documenting these.

The day will run from 10am - 6pm on May 10th. Lunch will be provided. Please contact Rachel Douglas-Jones or Phoebe Friesen by May 5th if you are interested in taking part. Please briefly explain why you would like to participate, as spaces are limited.

Iris Murdoch: 100 Years On | 17.00 | St Anne's College

Speaker: Peter J. Conradi, Professor Emeritus of English at Kingston University.

This year marks the centenary of esteemed writer and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch’s birth. In celebration of this anniversary, her biographer Peter J. Conradi will be coming to St Anne’s to give a talk about Iris Murdoch’s life and work. 

Conradi is an author and academic, Professor Emeritus of English at Kingston University. He was a close friend of Murdoch, and has produced acclaimed studies of both her writings and personal life. His talk will also feature a discussion of his soon to be published memoir, 'Family Business', a 'biographer's autobiography' which explores not only his long standing close friendship with Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, but also narrates the riveting story of his own life.

Born in Dublin, Iris Murdoch moved to Somerville College, Oxford in 1938 where she studied Greats. After completing a postgraduate degree in Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, she moved to St Anne’s, where she became a fellow and taught philosophy until 1963.

Murdoch was a highly prolific, respected and influential novelist; her first novel was published in 1954, and she went on to write a further twenty-five. Her novels are famed for their interrogation of morality and human nature, some of which include: The Bell (1958); A Severed Head (1961); The Black Prince (1973); and The Sea, the Sea (1978), which was retrospectively awarded the Booker Prize. She was also a pioneering philosopher whose wholly original and distinctive work, such as The Sovereignty of Good (1970), is increasingly seen as radical and ground-breaking. A selection of her extensive body of correspondence was published in 2016. 

You can also find the Facebook Event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/453313312092585/