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Richard Kraut / Tanner Lecture One - The Richness of Human Experience

The Tanner Lectures consist of two lectures, each followed by a distinct discussion seminar.

This year's Tanner Lectures are given by Richard Kraut, Charles and Emma Morrison Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University. 

Series Abstract: To show that virtue is a component of well-being, Plato and Aristotle looked to the inner life of a good human being. I argue that this is only correct path to this conclusion. That commits me to what might be called “experientialism,” and so I offer a defense of that doctrine, as well as a series of observations regarding the inner life of a good person. This leads to a discussion of Nozick’s experience machine, often regarded as a refutation of experientialism. Another thought experiment plays a role in my argument: McTaggart’s claim that the life of an oyster (containing nothing but the mildest and simplest kind of pleasure) would be better than any human life, however rich – provided the oyster’s life was sufficiently longer than the human life.

Read participant bios here.

Lecture One: The Richness of Human Experience
Wednesday, April 19  5:30-7pm

This lecture introduces the historical problem that concerns me: the connection, if there is any, between well-being and virtue. It then turns to an extended discussion of McTaggart’s puzzle and various solutions to it.  A major topic is the contribution made by pleasure to the value of an experience. Nozick’s puzzle is introduced but postponed.  Here is a more detailed outline:

  • Plato: the effect of justice on the soul.
  • Aristotle: virtue, sleep, activity.
  • Nagel: “what is it like”: phenomenology.
  • A weakness in Aristotle’s function argument.
  • Aristotle’s rational egoism (eudaimonism) rejected.
  • Diminishing marginal value as a response to McTaggart
  • Incommensurable superiority and the richness of human life
  • Mill’s distinction between the quality and quantity of pleasure
  • Aristotle on the pleasures of childhood
  • Do plants lack moral standing because they lack consciousness?

Discussion One
Thursday, April 20 10am-12pm
Commentators are:
Rachel Barney, University of Toronto, Classics and Philosophy
Tom Hurka, University of Toronto, Philosophy

Lecture Two: Virtue and Experience
Thursday, April 20  5:30-7pm

Discussion Two
Friday, April 21 10am-12pm
Commentators are:
Stephen Darwall, Yale Philosophy
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Author



Wednesday, April 19, 2017. 05:30 PM


Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center


McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, the Office of the President, and the Department of Philosophy