I just know John Wilkins is going to gasp in horror and write frantic letters to Pieranna Garavaso, the organizer, telling her she’s making a horrible mistake, but I’m going to be on a panel at the 31st Midwest Philosophy Colloquium on 26 March, here in Morris, at (zut alors!) the Newman Center just off campus. Perhaps you too are reeling at that cascade of improbable associations, but really, it makes sense. Eric Olson of the University of Sheffield is giving a talk on defining the boundaries of the beginning and end of human life, so they dug up a local biologist, me, to contribute a bit to the discussion, along with Mark Collier, local philosopher, and Ben Waterworth, local student. Here’s the short summary:
The gradual nature of development from fertilization to birth and beyond leaves it uncertain when we cease to exist. Many philosophers have tried to answer these questions. Olson will argue that most of these answers are wrong and that a simpler answer follows from the apparent fact that we are biological organisms.
I was a little concerned — “simpler answer” in these discussions too often means “stupid answer” — but a quick skim of a few of his papers tells me he’s got some interesting ideas, and that I’m going to have to do some studying over spring break. I see a few places in his argument where I might disagree, but I have to dig a bit deeper and see if he’s already covered my issues elsewhere.