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Symposium - Ethics and What Is Not Seen

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GISME’s fall 2016 symposium will explore "Ethics and What Is Not Seen: The Effects of Remote Consequences on Ethical Analysis." The symposium will be held November 18, 2016 in the McDonough School of Business on Georgetown University’s main campus. The event is open to the public. To attend, please register here.

This Fall's topic is derived from Frederic Bastiat's 1848 essay, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen. In that essay, Bastiat pointed out that,[i]n the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

Bastiat then warned against thinking like the bad economist who "confines himself to the visible effect," rather than the good economist who "takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen,"for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

Bastiat also noted that,The same thing, of course, is true of health and morals. Often, the sweeter the first fruit of a habit, the more bitter are its later fruits: for example, debauchery, sloth, prodigality. When a man is impressed by the effect that is seen and has not yet learned to discern the effects that are not seen, he indulges in deplorable habits, not only through natural inclination, but deliberately.

Bastiat devoted the rest of his essay to exploring the economic implications of his observation. The purpose of next fall's year's symposium is to explore its implications in the realm of "health and morals;" that is, to explore the effect of remote consequences–the unseen–on ethical decision making.

Agenda at a Glance

8:15 - 8:30 am - | Welcome

John Hasnas, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics

8:30 - 10:00 am | Panel I - Interpretations and Extensions

Moderator: John Hasnas, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University


        Eric Mack, Philosophy, Tulane University: What is Seen and What is Not Seen: Hayekian Extensions of Bastiat's Insight

        David Schmidtz, Philosophy, University of Arizona, The Return of Political Economy

        Geoff Brennan, PPE, Australian National University/ University of North Carolina, The Seen and Unseen: Immediacy and Salience

10:15 - 11:45 am | Panel II - Philosophical considerations

Moderator: Jason Brennan, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University


       Tobey Scharding, Philosophy, Bloomsburg University: Remote Consequences for Non- consequentialists: A Kantian Approach to the Ethics of Uncertainty

        Andrew I. Cohen, Philosophy, Georgia State University: Apologies and remote injustice

        Marcus Cole, Law, Stanford University: Does Too Much Fa Mean Less Li?

12:00 - 1:15 pm | Lunch Recess

1:30 - 3:00 pm | Panel III - Remote Consequences and Moral Reasoning

Moderator: Peter Jaworski, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University


        Richard Fumerton, Philosophy, University of Iowa: Costs and Benefits of Profiling

        Meghan Sullivan, Philosophy, Notre Dame: A philosophy for the end (whenever it comes)

        Govind Persad, Johns Hopkins University: Why Wide-Scope Benefits Should Count in Public Policy

3:15 - 4:45 pm | Panel IV- Public Policy Implications Moderator:

Moderator: William English, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University


        Paul Kelleher, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison: On Some Alternatives to Discounted Utilitarianism in Climate Change Economics

        Nancy Tuana, Philosophy, Penn State: Ethically Valuing the Future: Non-market Loss and Damage (NMLD) in the Context of Climate Change

        Jonny Anomaly, PPE, Duke University: Ethics, Antibiotics, and Public Policy

4:45 - 5:00 pm | Closing remarks

John Hasnas, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics

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Friday, November 18, 2016 - 9:00am
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