WMU News

Presentation on disgust and the law will kick off ethics series

Sept. 2, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Decaying food, human waste, sexual deviance, and pollution disgusted yet? Consider passing a law.

How human disgust gets transformed into laws is the focus of a presentation by a distinguished University of Chicago legal scholar Thursday, Sept. 16, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Martha C. Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at U of C, is the first speaker in a series of public presentations planned by WMU's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society. She will describe "'Secret Sewers of Vice:' Disgust, Bodies and the Law" in a free public lecture at 7 p.m. in Putney Auditorium, 1010 Fetzer Center.

According to Nussbaum, disgust is a powerful human emotion that has figured as the primary or even the sole justification, for making some acts illegal, including sodomy and homosexual liaisons. She maintains that it is important for our society to protect itself from such reactions, especially where law is concerned.

Nussbaum, who is also the first scholar to visit WMU as part of the University's 1999-2000 Visiting Scholars and Artists Program, is the author of nine books, editor of 10 others and has written more than 100 articles in such areas as ethics, ancient philosophy, feminist thought and the philosophy of literature. She is currently president of the American Philosophical Association's Central Division and was formerly a research adviser for the World Institute for Development Economics Research -- Helsinki, a part of the United Nations University.

Nussbaum's lecture is being coordinated by the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and the Department of Philosophy, where she will be a visiting scholar.

Other presentations scheduled by the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society this fall are:

"Using Children's Philosophy to Examine How Children and Adolescents Relate to Nature" with Dr. Patricia Nevers, professor of biology education at University of Hamburg, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, in Putney Auditorium, Room 1010 of the Fetzer Center;

"The Dark Side of Globalization: Sweatshops and Child Labor" with Charles Kernigan, director of the National Labor Organization, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall;

"Impersonal Interaction and Ethics on the World Wide Web" with Dr. David V. Newman, WMU assistant professor of philosophy, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, in Room 208 of the Bernhard Center;

"The Mind of a Bad Samaritan" with Dr. Joseph S. Ellin, WMU professor of philosophy, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, in Room 208 of the Bernhard Center;

"Ethics Bowl Demonstration" featuring WMU communication and ethics students, 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the Lee Honors College; and

"A Revolution in Human Medicine in the Pharmacogenomic Era: The Interface of Science, Commercialization and Ethics" with Donald C. Anderson, vice president and chief scientific officer for Pharmacia & Upjohn, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13, in Kirsch Auditorium, Room 1005 of the Fetzer Center.

For more information, contact the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society at (616) 387-4397 or Dr. Insoo Hyun, assistant professor of philosophy, at (616) 387-3113.

WMU's Visiting Scholars and Artists Program was established in 1960 and has supported some 500 visits by scholars and artists representing more than 65 academic disciplines. The chairperson of the committee who oversees the program is Dr. James M. Hillenbrand, professor of speech pathology and audiology.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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