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Ethics in the Public Sphere

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UC San Diego, Faculty Club, Atkinson Pavilion

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Selves Like Us

Susan R. Wolf - Professor of Moral Philosophy and Philosopher of Action,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Abstract: Since at least the seventeenth century, philosophers have distinguished membership in the species homo sapiens from moral personhood, a category which they take to be of considerable ethical and practical significance. But there are other nonbiological features that are of ethical and practical significance as well, suggesting that there is an ethical, non-biological conception of humanity that is different from the standard philosophical understanding of moral personhood. After reflecting on the benefits and dangers of focusing attention on the idea of “the distinctively human,” the lecture explores the variety of features and capacities that distinguish “selves like us” from lower animals, artificially intelligent machines, and possibly imaginary divine and extraterrestrial rational individuals.

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