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Contemporary Debates on the U.S. Constitution

October 11th, 2004, 7:00 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris
Louise Antony (Ohio State University,Columbus)
“What Do We Need to Know About Human Nature?”

It is commonly held that students of ethics, politics, and other broadly normative fields need to understand “human nature.” But how, exactly, is an appreciation of our natures supposed to be relevant to normative questions? Professor Antony will argue that while there is such a thing as “human nature,“ it neither limits nor mandates any particular ethical or social practices. In short, there's not much we need to know about human nature in order to figure out how we ought to behave, or how societies ought to be organized.

February 28, 2005, 7:00 p.m., Federated Church, Morris
Alisa Carse (Georgetown University, Washington D.C.)
“Subordinative Speech and Expressive Liberty: Reflections on Pornography, Hate Speech, and the Moral Bounds of Freedom”

What are the value and the price to equality of a robust commitment to First Amendment expressive liberty? Professor Carse will argue that, on the one hand, expressive liberty is crucial to social reform and change. On the other hand, she will explore whether there are institutional contexts in which it might be appropriate to constrain pornographic and hateful expression on grounds of their subordinative character.

April 18, 2005, 7:00 p.m., Newman Center, Morris
Brian Bix (The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis)
“Natural Law and the Constitution”

When Clarence Thomas was nominated to the United States Supreme Court, supporters had to reassure the Senators that the nominee did not believe “scary things about natural law.7rd What is “natural law” and what connection is there between that theory about the nature of law and morality, and the proper approach to interpreting the Constitution? Should we refuse to appoint or elect judges who claim to believe in natural law? Alternatively, should we refuse to appoint or elect judges who do not believe in natural law?

Each speaker will also present an additional paper, on the day of that speaker's evening presentation, at 2:30 p.m., Alumni Room (Antony) and Prairie Lounge (Carse and Bix), UMM campus. The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.