Philosophy Spring Seminar Series: "Locke on Moral Responsibility and Medicine of the Mind", by Katie Tabb

Tuesday, April 26 at 4:30pm

Hybrid event: Join us in EWFM 520 for a group viewing or on Zoom

Abstract: When Locke introduced his famous concept of "person" in the second edition of his Essay concerning Human Understanding, he took pains to emphasize that the concept was a forensic one, intended to assist with the assessment of moral culpability. The concept, which attributes to one's personal identity all those actions which one is conscious of having committed, leads to some puzzling outcomes: it seems that actions we forget are no longer on our conscience, and actions we perceive ourselves to have done, even those that it seems impossible to outside observer that we ever did, we are accountable for. In this talk I argue that sense can be made of Locke's forensic account of personal identity once we attend to how responsibility accrues in Locke's broader philosophy. It begins with the formulation of our ideas, which, Prof. Tabb will show, Locke holds to be a highly normative process. It makes sense, then, that he believes us accountable for those actions that follow from our ideas; that is, those actions which are accompanied by consciousness. Locke argues extensively for the importance of mental hygiene and the development of proper habits of intellectual conduct, and Prof. Tabb concludes that he believes its importance to grow not just out of our capacity to be good citizens, but also good Christians: that is, to follow the moral law, and to view ourselves accurately as moral agents. 

About: Kathryn Tabb is an assistant professor of philosophy at Bard College. She completed a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science and a MA in Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh, and also holds an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Her work focuses on the history and philosophy of psychopathology, focusing on the early modern period as well as contemporary issues in psychiatric classification and explanation. She serves as a steering committee member for Columbia University's Center for Excellence in ELSI Research and has published her work in diverse venues including Philosophy of Science, Nature Human Behavior, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, Behavior Genetics, and Synthese. She is currently completing a monograph on John Locke's account of psychopathology. 


End Date: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 18:00