2021-2022: Daily Ethics: How Individual Choices and Habits Express Our Values and Shape Our World

We have shared a year in which rhythms of our daily lives were deconstructed. What has this experience helped us to understand about our values and priorities? What new perspectives has the past year offered regarding the kind of world we want to live in? How will we use these insights to craft our lives, moving forward?

The Mudd Center for Ethics is embracing this liminal moment to present a program about intentions and practices that comprise a meaningful life. How should we make sense of and carry out our responsibilities to ourselves, each other, ideals, society, and our world, now and in the future? How should we actualize our values on an individual scale - the decisions we encounter as we move through our days - and on a collective scale - actions that address systemic injustices, maximize health and well-being across the globe, and sustain resources to serve future generations? This series will prompt introspection and discussion about personal morality and agency: how our daily lives manifest who and how we strive to be in our days and in our lives.

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Speakers and Events

Daily Ethics Mosaic: A Community Artwork

The Mudd Center for Ethics and Staniar Gallery are coordinating a community art project to invite W&L students, staff, and faculty to personally engage with the Daily Ethics theme. The Daily Ethics Mosaic will be created through a series of Fall term workshops led by Richmond-based artist Jonathan Lee. Two-hour workshops will involve individual and collective art-making and will culminate in a large-scale community artwork on display in Wilson Hall. No artistic savvy or experience is necessary. Contact Karla Murdock or Clover Archer with questions.

Cheshire Calhoun Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University

Talk Title: "Responsible Persons in Everyday Life"
Monday, September 27, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"We approach those with whom we share everyday interactions with the presumption that they are responsible persons in three senses: they can be held accountable for what they do, they are disposed to comply with minimal normative expectations, and they ought and sometimes will take responsibility. Attending to these three conceptions of responsible persons helps explain the centrality of resentment, trust and hope in everyday life."

Jelani Cobb Ira A. Lipman Professor Journalism, Columbia University; staff writer, The New Yorker

Talk Title: The Half-Life of Freedom
Thursday, October 7, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

“Early in the American republic the new citizens obsessed over an idea called “republican virtue” – in essence the ethics of democracy. Having never lived in a democracy they were concerned with understanding the kinds of habits and practices that would ensure the health of the one they’d just created. We have never been more sorely in need of revisiting this idea and its application to our institutions, our politics and our lives.”

Andrew Chignell Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor, University Center for Human Values, Religion, and Philosophy, Princeton University

Talk Title: "What to Do When You Don't Make a Difference"
Thursday, October 28, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"Those of us who relish certain products of the global industrial economy but also believe it is wrong to consume them are often so demoralized by the apparent inefficacy of our private, individual choices that we are unable to resist. My goal here is to explore the challenges that this sort of futility poses to our moral resolve and argue for an approach that is at once non-consequentialist but still sensitive to the role that consequences play in our moral psychology. Along the way, I examine a number of different accounts of what it means to ‘make a difference' before articulating my own."

Chantal Bilodeau Playwright, founder and artistic director, The Arctic Cycle

Talk Title: "Living in the Questions of a Climate-Changed World"
Thursday, November 11, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"Theatre can help us surface the questions that science doesn't have time to ask. Gathering around stories is one of the most powerful tools we have to strengthen our values and create a more just and sustainable world."

Jonathan Lee Artist; Academic Support Librarian, Reynolds Community College

Artist's Talk
Tuesday, January 25, 2022, 5:30pm: Wilson Hall Concert Hall
Watch Jonathan Lee's talk

"My social practice is different from my studio practice because it's not exclusively centered around my interests or choices. It's dependent on the involvement of others and driven by whatever they contribute. Everyone who participates is a collaborating artist, applying their own unique imagination and point of view to the questions posed. My mission as the lead artist is to provide a flexible and sound framework on which both individual and group experiences can form. Those experiences make the work possible."

Jay Whitacre Trustee Professor in Energy; Director, The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University

Talk Title: "The Criticality of Technical Honesty in Growing Energy Technology Companies: How Even the Best Intentions Can Lead to Ruin"
Thursday, February 10, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"In this talk I will discuss the ethical challenges encountered by leaders in small and growing energy technology firms that must show progress to survive and so face temptations misleading investors and/or customers when progress is slow (which is common). I will offer personal experiences and reflections from the energy storage world and suggest ethical best-practices to avoid conflict or worse."

Neeru Paharia Associate professor, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

Talk Title: "The Ethics of Consumer Choice"
Wednesday, March 9 @ 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"Consumption is one of the drivers behind significant world problems. The fashion industry alone contributes 10% of global carbon emissions. In this talk, we will consider the psychology of consumer behavior, and explore psychological strategies to enable more sustainable consumption."

Katharine Hayhoe Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy; Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and Political Science Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law, Texas Tech University

Talk Title: "Environmental Ethics Right Now: Individual, Collective, Local, and Global Actions That Matter"
Monday, March 14, 5:30pm: Virtual Only
Watch Katharine Hayhoe's talk

"Climate is changing—throughout Virginia, across the United States, and for the planet as a whole. Temperatures are increasing, rainfall patterns are shifting, and extreme precipitation and heat wave events are becoming more frequent. In such a politically charged environment, how are we still able to act on climate? As a starting point, it is critical for us to talk about it: to consider why it matters to us here and now; explore solutions available to us today; and take action to address it at every level, from our families and communities to our institutions and businesses."

Kristie Dotson University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Talk Title: "Philosophy is Not a Luxury"

"In this talk, I will discuss the importance of identifying philosophy and philosophizing in public discourse for orienting collective and individual action towards transformed futures. As an example of the importance of exercising the art of philosophy in this current moment, I narrate recognizable public philosophies for locating them as philosophy and how that might impact daily practice of ethics."

Mark Coddington Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications, Washington and Lee University

Talk Title: "The Everyday Ethics of Scrolling Through Social Media: How to Avoid Getting Buried in an Online Information Avalanche"
Thursday, March 24, 5:00pm: Stackhouse Theater

"I will discuss strategies and habits for navigating the flood of misleading and distracting information on social media in order to find the quality news we need to be thoughtful, informed, and engaged citizens. I'll explore how our everyday digital media consumption embodies a liberal-arts philosophy and our values as members of the W&L community."