Featured Research: Professor Oliver Hallich joins Philosophy as Visiting Professor (September – December 2019)

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Professor Oliver Hallich joins Philosophy as Visiting Professor (September – December 2019)

This semester we are joined by Professor Oliver Hallich of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. Professor Hallich works in normative ethics, and during his stay at Liverpool he will be collaborating with members of the faculty, in particular Prof. Michael Hauskeller and Prof. Thomas Shramme.

Michael’s research into death and the meaning of life connects to Prof Hallich’s interest in philosophical pessimism as well as to the philosophy of forgiveness. Prof Hallich explains:

"Very broadly speaking, philosophical pessimism holds that life is pointless and that it would have been better if no one had come into existence. Philosophers, most notably Schopenhauer, have tried to give argumentative support to these claims. I investigate these attempts, paying particular attention to David Benatar´s argument from asymmetry as he developed it in his books Better Never to Have Been (2006) and The Human Predicament (2017).

The philosophy of forgiveness examines the nature of forgiveness and the necessary and sufficient conditions of justified forgiveness. It also addresses questions pertaining to the philosophy of emotions and the appropriateness of retributive emotions in particular. I intend to pursue these questions by investigating the relation between forgiveness and time and the normative status of apologies."

With Michael Hauskeller, Prof Hallich will host a workshop on “David Benatar and the Evil of Existence” to which everyone is warmly invited (21 November, 10:30 to 5:00)

Prof. Th. Schramme has a research interest in paternalism that links up well with Prof Hallich’s work on autonomy and paternalism in medical ethics. Prof Hallich says:

"It is widely agreed that respecting patients’ autonomy is of central importance in medical ethics. However, there are cases in which respect for autonomy seems to conflict with other values, such as the value of preserving life. I want to investigate whether in these cases the respect for autonomy trumps these other values and what the limits of autonomy are.

The ethics of reproduction is a central subfield of applied ethics. In recent years, ethical questions connected to various kinds of “third party reproduction” (sperm donation, oocyte donation, embryo donation) have increasingly attracted attention. I am particularly interested in the question of whether donor-conceived offspring should have a right to know their genetic origins."

Oliver will give a talk in our Stapledon Colloquium on November 28th, 3-5 pm on “The Dark Side of Forgiveness”:

Forgiveness usually counts as a virtue. In my talk, I challenge this assumption and cast a critical light on forgiveness. My starting point is the “alteration thesis” of forgiveness, recently defended by David Owens and Chris Bennett. Bennett argues that forgiveness is a “normative power”: the forgiver undertakes an obligation no longer to treat the wrongdoer as standing under the obligations generated by the act of wrongdoing.

This, I argue, is correct, but the forgiver “changes the normative landscape” not only by committing himself to no longer holding the act of wrongdoing against the wrongdoer, but also by introducing presuppositions into the discourse which often remain unthematized. More precisely, the forgiver presupposes that the addressee of forgiveness is guilty of an offence; he also presupposes that he himself has the standing to forgive and that what he purports to forgive is forgivable. All of these presuppositions may turn out to be highly questionable. Bringing these presuppositions to light will often cast doubt on our positive assessment of forgiveness. It will often lead us to see forgiveness as a way of cloaking one´s own interests under the guise of exercising a virtue rather than as the real exercise of a virtue. It will make us realize the dark side of forgiveness.