James Madison Statue in the flowers

Toward an Objective Conception of the Welfare of Life on Earth:Biocentric Ethics and Public Policy 

John Nolt

4:00 EDT Thursday, March 30 - Engineering/Geosciences (EnGeo)  2101 

ABSTRACT:  The most widely accepted measure of how life on Earth is faring is biodiversity.  Conceptions of how humans are faring are for the most part conceptions of welfare.  But the diversity of life and the welfare of its creatures, though empirically related, are conceptually distinct.  This talk considers the extent to notions of objective human welfare can be generalized to non-human creatures.  Developing such generalizations might sharpen and enrich philosophical value theory, integrate it with empirical data from conservation biology, and help make biocentric ethics more relevant to public policy. 


Incomparable Values

John Nolt

3:30 EDT Friday, March 31  - Cleveland 114

Incomparability is value difference without superiority; two values are incomparable if and only if neither is greater than or equal to the other.  Value structures containing incomparable values are not linearly ordered (from better to worse) but merely partially ordered.  Some have claimed that incomparable values render rational decision theory and consequentialist ethics inoperable.  I maintain, to the contrary, that allowance for incomparable values generalizes and greatly enriches them.

John Nolt is Professor Emeritus in Philosophy at the University of Tennessee, and a Research Fellow at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. He has published seven books, including most recently Incomparable Values: Analysis, Axiomatics and Applications (Routledge, 2022) (https://www.routledge.com/Incomparable-Values-Analysis-Axiomatics-and-Applications/Nolt/p/book/9780367563684) and numerous articles on logic and environmental, intergenerational, and climate ethics. 


Passcode 35905

Co-sponsored by JMU's Institute for Sustainability of the Natural World, Logic and Reasoning Institute, Ethical Reasoning in Action, Department of Philosophy and Religion, & Department of Computer Science


The Logic and Reasoning Institute promotes the interdisciplinary study of logic and reasoning at James Madison University. The LRI sponsors and encourages coursework and research, as well as promoting the teaching and application of logic across the university.


The mission of the LRI is to develop and maintain an innovative, interdisciplinary undergraduate program in logic and reasoning, and to promote interdisciplinary research in logic, its application, and its pedagogy.


The LRI will

  • Foster collaboration among faculty and students in the study of logic and reasoning across disciplines
  • Emphasize the key role of logic and formal reasoning in the humanities, sciences, and mathematics
  • Develop and maintain a logic and reasoning minor
  • Develop new and existing courses in logic and reasoning (including interdisciplinary and team-taught courses)
  • Emphasize the philosophical foundations of logic and reasoning in and across the disciplines such as mathematics, the sciences, philosophy, and economics.

Dr. Thomas Adajian (Philosophy) is director of the LRI. 

For information on the Logic minor, click here

Back to Top