Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

1999-2000 Markkula Seminar Series to Focus on Cultural Relativism and Ethics

A professor of law at Santa Clara University studying the changing family and a professor from University of Wyoming interested in Eastern philosophy are just two of the scholars who have gathered at the Markkula Seminar over the past two years to exchange views on the critical ethical issues facing our society.

The seminar, now recruiting applicants for its 1999-2000 series on Cultural Relativism and Ethics, brings a select group of academics from different fields to the SCU campus for monthly study of cross-disciplinary issues. They are joined by prominent senior scholars who also give talks for the larger community.

The 1998-99 seminar, focusing on affirmative action, will conclude with a presentation by Amy Gutmann on Thursday, April 29, 7 p.m., in the Benson Memorial Center Parlors B, C, and D.

The director of the University Center for Human Values and the Program in Ethics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Gutmann holds the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professorship. Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison said of her that she articulates "with precision and subtlety those intricate issues of race that confound us all." Other speakers in the Affirmative Action Seminar were Orlando Patterson, Glenn Loury, and Richard Wasserstrom.

As a culmination to the seminar series, scholars hold a conference to present papers that grew out of their participation. "Spice for the Good Life" is based on one such presentation by SCU philosophy lecturer Brad Wilburn. Wilburn was a member of the 1997-98 seminar, which focused on civic virtue, that broad set of traits or characteristics citizens must develop if their society is to flourish.

He is also one of the coordinators of next year's seminar on cultural relativism. His co-coordinator, Professor of Philosophy Philip Kain, comments, "We live in an increasingly multicultural and global society, where interactions between different cultural groups may seem to lead to irresolvable dilemmas. Some argue that the legitimacy of each culture's perspective must be respected; others want to be able to engage in serious cultural criticism." The seminar, Kain says, will examine whether both concerns can be accommodated, and if so, how. Featured speakers for next year's seminar are Renato Rosaldo, the Lucie Stern Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University; Gilbert Harman, professor of philosophy at Princeton University; and Richard Rorty, professor of comparative literature, also at Stanford.

Scholars interested in participating in the Seminar on Cultural Relativism and Ethics should contact the Ethics Center.