Oct 302014
 October 30, 2014

Regulation-courseStudents interested in pursuing a career in public service, whether within government institutions or with an NGO, can take an interdisciplinary course to prepare them for their work and to be more informed and aware citizens.

The course takes a historical perspective on the evolution of modern regulatory states, with an emphasis on independent research. Throughout the Spring 2015 semester, the course will examine the dynamics and consequences of regulatory decision-making across various issue domains: rate-setting for public utilities; oversight of the financial system to prevent/mitigate crises; and consumer and environmental protection.

This course was first offered last spring, and several of the students were able to apply lessons learned to summer internship experiences with law, entrepreneurship, and rights advocacy. Read their reflections on their work in and out of the class for a sense of their experiences.

The Modern Regulatory State
History 365D/Pub Pol 219D/Political Science 340D/Environ 365D/
Tues-Th, 1:25-2:40; Section on Mon, 10:05-11:20 or 1:25-2:40

Oct 302014
 October 30, 2014

Class-400Register Now for Spring Course: “Business and Human Rights Advocacy Lab”

What does it mean to be a human rights advocate? This course explores this question with a focus on the exciting, rapidly evolving area of business and human rights. Student teams will work on research projects for outside organizations, such as the UN, NGOs based in India, and multinational companies that are in the process of developing human rights policies. Examples of broad issues that students might work on include child and forced labor, efficacy of voluntary vs. binding rules for corporate conduct, “best practices” for labor rights, and the role of the financial sector and human rights. These collaborative, hands-on projects introduce students to a range of critical policy skills, including legal research, designing and mapping project goals and implementation, client interviewing and, most importantly, writing reports and policy briefs for partner organizations.

In addition to policy projects, class readings and discussions will focus on core debates in the business and human rights field, as well as key ethical challenges of human rights advocacy: What are and what should be the human rights obligations of multinational corporations? Which advocacy strategies have worked in promoting corporate accountability, and which have backfired?  What are the risks and strategic benefits of civil society-corporate partnerships? How should human rights advocates confront the ethical challenges involved in promoting corporate accountability in foreign, and, especially developing, countries?  This course is available for writing, research and service learning credits, and is limited to 10-12 students. Permission of instructor is required. For more information, please contact: Suzanne Katzenstein (sk272@duke.edu)

Business and Human Rights
ICS 317S, Ethics 301S, PolSci 341S;
Requirements Fulfilled: Seminar, EI, R, W, Service Learning

Oct 282014
 October 28, 2014

Sinnott-ArmstrongFor the Slate online series “Are We Free?” KIE faculty Walter-Sinnott Armstrong examines the notion that neuroscience undermines free will. He examines several theories on determinism and causality, and discusses how work in the lab can help determine the relationship between mental activity and physical movement. He also mentions the limitations to what we can accurately study:

Moving your hand in a laboratory experiment is very different from moving to a new home. Hence, it is not legitimate to infer from any of these experiments to any conclusion about choices and actions that last long with much at stake. In these more meaningful cases, our conscious wills still might come earlier than our bodily movements.

Oct 272014
 October 27, 2014

Bass-KIEBass Connections at Duke University is accepting proposals for project teams for the coming academic year. Bass Connections supports interdisciplinary teams of collaborators, providing undergraduates with the opportunity to join faculty, graduates students, and post-docs. These teams work on problem-based research around the themes of brain & society; information, society & culture; global health; energy; and education & human development.

Additional support is available for projects through the Kenan Institute for Ethics. These projects must have an ethical dimension, preferably with a connection to one of KIE’s five program areas in Human RightsGlobal MigrationRethinking RegulationMoral Attitudes and Decision-Making, and Religions and Public Life. Another aspect of the KIE-supported research teams will be a public symposium on the project’s topic. Descriptions of the current KIE-Bass joint projects may be found at http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/students/bass-connections/.

This year, the Franklin Humanities Institute is also offering additional support to the Bass Connections themes for projects that feature historical perspectives, diverse language processes and products, or aesthetic dimensions of reflection.  Applicants from any field are encouraged to develop humanities-related connections, regardless of departmental home.  The FHI will facilitate connecting with potential partners to constitute interdisciplinary teams with a humanities dimension.  Please see this Bass Connections “Brain & Society” theme “Art, Vision, and the Brain” team video for inspiration: http://dibs.duke.edu/education/brain-society.

Proposals must be submitted by November 7, 2014 for priority review. Proposals will be reviewed, refined if necessary, and selections will be made by December 16, 2014. Projects selected may begin as early as Summer 2015 and must begin in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Download the proposal form (Word) or (PDF).

Oct 222014
 October 22, 2014

Berlin-wallThe Wall

Walls are built for many purposes—to protect, to secure, to mark, to define.  No wall in modern history has left a greater mark than the Berlin Wall.  November 9, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of its fall.  Erected in 1961, it was a symbol of the Cold War, the dividing line between the worlds of American-style market capitalism and Soviet style one-party communism.

Living a stone’s throw away from the wall seemed perfectly normal.  The twelve-foot high concrete monstrosity that cut right through the heart of my beloved city, I thought, had little impact on my life.  I was a student at the university in West Berlin.  I moved around freely, had close friends around the world.

Most young West Berliners knew virtually nothing about people living right behind the wall—fellow Germans, yes, but people who might as well have been from Mars.  Neither did we recognize the wall for what it was: a gruesome result of power politics, and a prison for our own hearts and minds. The wall, somehow, had become a fact of life.

It divided families, friends, neighbors, and communities. Some 5,000 East Germans tried to get across the wall—climbing it, digging under it, attempting to fly over it.  At least 136 people died in such attempts, the last being shot in February of 1989, just 9 months before it fell.

The construction of the wall was virtually inevitable. Political maneuvers on the part of the occupying superpowers had left two unequal parts—a booming West Germany, a struggling East Germany.  As a result, some 4 million East Germans fled to the West between 1949 and 1961.  By the time soldiers of the East German People’s Army rolled out the barbed wire and put down cement blocs in streets and intersections, East Germany had hemorrhaged its most vital talent.  As a nation, its options boiled down to collapse or wall.

It was a high-stakes poker between the U.S. and the USSR.  American troops stationed in West Berlin were virtually defenseless against an overwhelming presence of Soviet forces in the East.  Had the Soviets opted for occupation rather than demarcation, only nuclear weapons could’ve deterred a Soviet takeover of the city.  Not surprisingly, President Kennedy responded to the events of August 1961 by saying “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”

The result was a massive experiment in political engineering.  A people with a common culture, history, and language were thrust into two separate worlds—hostile and unequal.

In hindsight, it was perhaps less of a historical aberration than it would seem.  We still build walls and segregate people—in Korea, in Israel, in the Middle East, in India, and, of course, on our own border with Mexico. Separating people with a common homeland, we also create classes of people, divided by privilege.  Indeed, the privileges tend to rest on the separation.

Walls, it turns out, never solve the underlying problems.  They also never last.  But they do leave human wreckage and truncated ways of seeing.

When I asked Eastern European dissidents in July of 1989 if they thought Soviet rule might ever come to an end, they looked at me as if pitying my political naïveté. “Certainly not in my lifetime,” was one typical response. Four months later, the wall crumbled.  Two years later, the Soviet Union dissolved.

When it comes to walls that protect privilege and narrow nationalist interests, perhaps we should join Ronald Reagan in his famous call to “tear down this wall!”

The memory of the Berlin wall is fading.  And yet, Germans are still struggling to grow back together.  Some three decades of segregated life have left deep marks.

“We had great restrictions on what we could say,” one East German dissident told me, “but what we said meant a lot. Now we can say anything we want, but it no longer means much.” Some commentators called reunification “annexation.”

On the surface, it is a success story.  Germany is back.  The world’s fourth largest economy, the country of Mercedes and Siemens and soccer world cup championship fame is proudly flying its unified black-red-gold flag.

Processing the tortured history of divided life will take longer.  Nobody was able to escape the shadows of the wall.  Above all, the demarcation between socialism and capitalism proved as facile as it was false.  Neither provides good answers to the most pressing problems of today.

Creating segregated and insular experiences, walls that divide people inevitably distort and diminish.  By shrinking the lives of those who endure in its shadows, walls promote simplistic ideologies.  So here we are:  still holding on to demarcations of nationality or religion or ideology while the world is catching a fever from our collective addiction to consumption and endless growth.

Walls exacerbate the problem.  They stand in the way of collective solutions.  Germany, for one, is much better off pooling resources and talent from both East and West.  Freeing ourselves from the suffocating presence of walls, both physical and mental, we could renew our exploration of what really ails us as inhabitants of a common planet.  In the words of a dissident, “We fought for a better alternative to both actually existing socialism and capitalism.” East Germany’s opposition movement was ahead of its time.

Dirk Philipsen, author of We Were the People – Voices From East Germany’s Revolutionary Autumn of 1989 and the forthcoming The Little Big Number – How GDP Came to Rule the World, is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

Oct 152014
 October 15, 2014

campus-grants-400Every semester, the Kenan Institute for Ethics grants awards of up to $500 to projects at Duke University or Duke Medical Center that promote ethical or moral reflection, deliberation, and dialogue at Duke and beyond. Past projects that received support have included conferences and panels on issues such as sports and ethics and the legacy of Machiavelli’s writings, as well as events such as the Me Too Monologues and a performance at the intersection of public health and the arts. The grants may also support research projects, such as a recent study on well-being and college life, or an MFA student’s mobile food truck installation examining food workers’ rights.

For more information on requirements and past recipients, visit the Campus Grants page. For Fall 2014 consideration, please submit the application (PDF or Word doc) by 11:59pm November 1 via email to Michaela Dwyer.

Oct 062014
 October 6, 2014

brainA recent grant from the John Templeton Foundation will bring philosophers together with neuroscientists to learn each others’ fields and then design and perform experiments together.

The project, headed by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Felipe De Brigard, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, will hold three annual two-week summer seminars for emerging scholars in both neuroscience and philosophy. Both Sinnott-Armstong and De Brigard are members of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS).

While neuroscientists and philosophers are separated by different methods of study in the sciences and humanities, both groups are trying to answer many of the same big questions about free will, morality, perception, memory and consciousness.

“I am thrilled at the support Walter and Felipe have drawn from the Templeton Foundation for the summer institute in neuroscience and philosophy,” says Michael Platt, director of the DIBS. “This project builds upon growing interactions between neuroscience, philosophy, ethics and law, supported and encouraged by DIBS and the Kenan Institute for Ethics over the past few years. This award clearly marks Duke as a leader in this interdisciplinary effort.”

In addition to funding the summer seminars and a selection of the resulting research proposals, a public conference will be held each year, bringing together project fellows and key researchers. Papers that emerge from the seminars and conferences will be collected together with classic essays on the subject in the form of an anthology to be used in undergraduate and graduate courses, further bridging science and philosophy in higher education.

This project will build on the existing work of the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Moral Attitudes and Decisions Laboratory (MADLAB), an interdisciplinary group for research conducted by undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty.

Kenan Institute for Ethics director Noah Pickus says that the grant “further enhances our investment in the MADLAB as an explicit strategy to more realistically account for how people make ethical decisions.”

Alex Rosenberg, chair of the Department of Philosophy, said “I am very enthusiastic about this project for the opportunities that it will afford young philosophers to integrate the findings and theories of neuroscience in their work on fundamental questions in the philosophy of psychology and the philosophy of mind as well as the nature of human behavior.”

Oct 032014
 October 3, 2014

Panel shot-400On October 2, the Kenan Institute for Ethics hosted a panel on food utopias with Ben Barker (Magnolia Grill), Josh Evans (Nordic Food Lab), Scott Howell (Nana’s Restaurant), Charlie Thompson (Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University), and moderated by Saskia Cornes (Duke Campus Farm). Nordic Food Lab, located in Copenhagen, has achieved worldwide reknown through its affiliation with Restaurant Noma, but it also serves a broader educational mission to highlight local, often marginalized or otherwise overlooked ingredients, by making them delicious. Issues explored included ethical supply chains and balancing a responsibility for public food education with a dedication to craft that leads to fine dining’s more elite audience.

The panel was co-sponsored by Humanities Writ Large and Duke Romance Studies, who are hosting Visiting Faculty Fellow Thomas Parker for this year’s Subnature and Culinary Culture project. Read our tweets from the panel via Storify.

Oct 012014
 October 1, 2014

Cultivating Community 400Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Duke Service Learning Program invite applications for an intensive three-day Alternative Fall Break program on food and inter-religious dialogue. Learn more about how food can be used to address some of the Triangle’s longstanding cultural and social divisions. Connect with faculty and religious leaders for a deep dive into the diverse, often complicated religious and social fabric of the city. At the same time, work with religious and secular organizations committed to building stronger communities.

The Triangle has become famous as an area that takes food seriously. From farmers’ markets and community gardens to its renowned restaurant scene, food brings people together here. Yet in the midst of this food renaissance, significant numbers of people continue to struggle with access to good food. For many newcomers to this consciously Southern community finding the right food can also be a challenge. This is particularly true for many of the religious communities that now call the Triangle home.

Productive engagement among people with fundamentally different beliefs is hard work. The program will take a serious approach to inter-religious dialogue, working to understand the profound differences of perspective and belief that characterize different faiths, while appreciating the food traditions and approaches of various religions. The program will give both religious and secular students an opportunity to cultivate a common community interested in making space for everyone at the table.

Applications for priority consideration are due by October 5th.

For more information contact christian.ferney@duke.edu. Click here for the online application form.

Sep 302014
 September 30, 2014

Reg-RR-capThe Rethinking Regulation Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics invites graduate and professional students to apply for small research grants to fund the costs of research related to the analysis of regulatory governance, either for a pilot study that might turn into an eventual dissertation topic, or for an already formulated dissertation project. The Institute will furnish up to $2,000 per award, which must be used for research expenses (travel, purchase of research materials, etc.). In addition to the funding, the awardees will have the opportunity to engage with the Rethinking Regulation program’s interdisciplinary community of scholars and visiting professionals.

For more information and application requirements and instructions, visit the Graduate Research Awards page.