William R. (Dick) Connolly Ethics Lecture Series

The William R. (Dick) Connolly Ethics Lecture Series, sponsored by the Social Justice Program, brings ethicists from both religious and philosophical backgrounds to explore questions of value, justice, responsibility and meaning in the realm of human conduct and the moral life. Lecturers examine significant ethical issues in the contemporary world and ways in which moral reflection might be brought to bear on them. The series is intended to bring focus to the study and practice of ethics among our students and the larger community. Dick Connolly retired in 2013 after 42 years at the University of Evansville where he was a popular professor and much sought-after speaker. In honor of his dedication to the Social Justice Program, his generosity supporting the lecture series, and his years of service, this lecture series is now named in his honor.

Past Lectures

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Boots on the Ground: Ethics, Environmental Advocacy and Community Organizing

Schroeder Family School of Business Administration Building, Smythe Lecture Hall, Room 170, University of Evansville Campus, 1800 Lincoln Ave, Evansville, IN

Pohto of Rikki Parker

Rikki Parker, South Coast Project Manager and Legal Analyst for the Coastal Conservation League.

Watch a video of the Boots on the Ground: Ethics, Environmental Advocacy and Community Organizing lecture

Rikki will tell the story of her winding road to environmental advocacy, making stops in the worlds of toxic tort litigation and political campaigns (and yoga!).

She will highlight two campaigns she led, first describing her ongoing work with the Gullah community on Hilton Head Island to push back against a highway-widening project. The community is rightfully concerned that roadway expansion will displace them from their generational homes and businesses. Hilton Head Island’s history is one of rampant development and explosive growth in the tourism industry at the expense of Gullah families and the natural environment. This pattern can only change through citizen engagement, political bravery and creative policy solutions. 

She will close by sharing how a citizen-driven campaign to reduce plastic pollution culminated in implementation of South Carolina’s first ban on single use plastic bags.

Rikki was born and raised in Arthur, Illinois. In 2009 she graduated from the University of Evansville with a B.S. in cognitive science. Rikki earned her J.D. from Louisiana State University in 2013 where she served as president of the Trial Advocacy Board. After graduation, Rikki practiced in the areas of employment discrimination and environmental law. In 2015, she served as policy director to Scott Angelle’s campaign for Governor of Louisiana. In 2016, she joined the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, an environmental advocacy nonprofit where she works to protect local farms, prevent pollution from reaching South Carolina’s pristine waterways, and ensure all citizen have a say in how their communities look and feel.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Islam and the Challenge of E Pluribus Unum

William Rory Dickson, University of Winnipeg.

Watch a video of the Islam and the Challenge of E Pluribus Unum lecture

The Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum, or “Out of many, One,” was the de facto American motto from 1782 until 1956. Rooted in ancient Greek philosophy, the motto is based upon the Pythagorean ideal of friendship, wherein the love of the other unifies the friends as one. The motto’s profound social meaning is the possibility of a genuine unity forged across the borders of identity. Many observers would argue that drawing together peoples of diverse religious, cultural, racial, economic, and ideological identities into a common solidarity, remains the great challenge of America, one felt perhaps more acutely in recent years. It is of course a pressing global issue as well. This talk is premised on the question, what might Islam have to contribute to this perpetual and timely challenge? How might Islam’s rich intellectual tradition provide us with conceptual tools to navigate the contemporary social issue of making one out of many?

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - From ‘Ordinary’ Virtue to Aristotelian Virtue

Nancy Snow, University of Oklahoma

Watch a video of the From ‘Ordinary’ Virtue to Aristotelian Virtue lecture

Character education is of great importance these days.  This is true not only as regards children -- witness character education curricula offered in schools -- but also as regards adults – witness programs offered for the workplace. Apart from deliberate initiatives to cultivate character, I believe that  “ordinary people” can acquire virtue.  By “ordinary people,” I mean people who are not specifically or directly concerned with becoming virtuous, but who have goals or aims the pursuit of which requires them to develop virtue.  E.g., parents acquire patience and generosity in the course of pursuing their goal to be good parents; those concerned with being peacemakers acquire tact and diplomacy in the pursuit of that goal, and so on.  In this essay, I continue the exploration of ordinary virtue begun in earlier work with an eye to identifying possible pathways by which ordinary virtue can take on the characteristics of full Aristotelian virtue (see Snow, forthcoming and 2013).  In the spirit of empirical collaboration, I suggest these pathways of virtue development as testable hypotheses.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Solidarity in a Globalizing World

Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor of Religious Studies, Elon University

Over the last fifty years, globalization has transformed our world in previously unimagined ways. From the internet to an increased ease of travel to the development of life-saving medical procedures – technology has transformed our world. At the same time, increased global economic integration has been accompanied by rising disparities in wealth and poverty between and within many countries. In the midst of these complexities, first-world people need to think carefully about how we are to live and what responsibility accompanies the various forms of privilege that shape our lives. Forming relationships of solidarity across lines of difference offers an important avenue for shaping our lives in ways that witness to the need for justice in our economy and in our world.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Thomas Paine: The Making of a Neglected American Founder

What has Grantham, England, near Harlaxton, to do with contemporary debates about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Social Security, or labor unions? William R. (Dick) Connolly, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Evansville, will offer the 6th Annual Ethics lecture that will help answer that question. Connolly will discuss the often neglected American founder, Thomas Paine, who has two plaques in Grantham acknowledging him and his political contributions. Paine was involved in the American and French Revolutions, and his writings, such as Common Sense, The American Crisis, and The Age of Reason, laid the foundations for subsequent politics, defending as he did individual rights and liberties, freedom from religious persecution, the rights of workers to engage in collective action, and the basis for the modern social safety net. While Paine died in obscurity, his moral and political ideals have shaped modern America in ways that far surpass the influence of more renowned American founders. Those today that debate social security, the rights of labor to organize, and religious freedom have Thomas Paine and his writings to thank for framing these issues and offering insightful ideas that still affect our discussions in the 21st century.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Let them Die?: Restoring the Social in Responsibility

Frederick Glennon, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College

In his 1964 State of the Union Address, President Johnson launched an “unconditional war on poverty” which signified a renewed commitment to our collective social responsibility for one another, especially the poor and working class.  In 2012, tea party advocates yelled out “let him die” in response to a question posed to Ron Paul about what to do with an injured person who chooses not to buy health insurance.  Why this ethical shift?  This lecture will identify some answers to this question and will explore the moral frameworks any return to a more expansive understanding of our communal obligations to one another would entail in the current social and political climate.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Information Ethics and the Political Foundations of the Information Society

Luciano Floridi, UNESCO Chair of Information and Computer Ethics, University of Hertfordshire, Research Fellow of Wolfson College

The post-Westphalian Nation State developed by becoming more and more an Information Society. However, in so doing, it progressively made itself less and less the main information agent, because what made the Nation State possible and then predominant as a historical driving force in human politics, namely Information and Computing Technology, is also what is now making it less central in the social, political and economic life of humanity across the world. Geo-politics is now global and increasingly non-territorial, but the Nation State still defines its identity and political legitimacy in terms of a sovereign territorial unit such as a country. This tension calls for a serious exercise in conceptual re-engineering: how should new informational multi-agent systems (MAS) be designed in such a way as to take full advantage of the socio-political progress made so far, while being able to deal successfully with the new global challenges (from the environment to the financial markets) that are undermining the legacy of that very progress? This lecture shall defend an answer to this question in terms of a design of political MAS based on principles borrowed from information ethics.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - Jesus was a Low Wage Worker: Religious Activism for Living Wages

C. Melissa Snarr, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt Divinity School

In 1994, a coalition of Baltimore churches initiated a campaign that would change the face of worker justice organizing in the United States. Since that time over 150 cities have passed living wage ordinances in an effort to counter the growing phenomenon of “working poverty.” Religious activists have offered important resources to this successful movement through their ethical framing, racial bridge-building, and ritualized protests. This lecture will explore lessons (both positive and negative) form the activism of people of faith in the movement.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - How to Eat Ethically

William Stephens, Creighton University

Ethical issues pervade the kinds of food we produce, the way we produce those foods, the resources expended in food production, the waste generated by food production, the energy expended in transporting that food, the economics of food supply and demand, the nutritional value of food, and the health care costs of unhealthy eating. Stephens will discuss how ethical concerns regarding ecology, compassion, responsibility, fairness, prudence, and gender converge in the philosophy of food.

William R. Connolly Ethics Lecture Series - “Faith and Politics: Ethical Considerations”

Ellen Ott Marshall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Conflict Transformation, Candler School of Theology

Dr. Marshall will engage the issue of the place of faith in politics. She argues that the American public square has become a deeply divided place, largely because both the religious right and the secular left have couched their ideas in terms of unbending moral principles, absolutizing ethical positions that underlie political commitments. Marshall suggests that Christian ethics teaches that while God's truth is indeed absolute, our grasp of it never is. Recognizing this, Marshall offers key ways that Christians can more faithfully engage in the political sphere.