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Philosophy & Religion | McDowell Conference 2012

21st Annual McDowell Conference
Fall 2012 Program


Friday, October 26, 2012
Abramson Family Recital Hall
Katzen Arts Center
1:00 pm to 6:00 pm



1:00–3:30 p.m. SESSION I:

Welcoming Remarks
Peter Starr, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, American University

Introduction: "Family's Value"
Jeffrey Reiman, William Fraser McDowell Professor of Philosophy, American University

"Family and Philosophy: Public and Private Revisited"
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School

"Sociality and Solitude"
J. David Velleman, Professor of Philosophy, New York University

"Equality, Liberty, and the Family"
Debra Satz, Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Philosophy; Stanford University

3:30–4:00 p.m. REFRESHMENTS

4:00–6:00 p.m. SESSION II:"Equality and Justice for Lesbian and Gay Families and Relationships"
Nancy Polikoff, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; 
Fall 2011-2012 McDonald/Write Visiting Chair of Law, UCLA School of Law

"Race, Genetics, and the Meaning of Kinship"
Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss Professor of Law and Sociology, and Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights; University of Pennsylvania

"The Power and Politics of Being Related: Why We Should Reject the Right to Know Genetic Origins"
Kimberly Leighton, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, American University


Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, with appointments in Political Science and the Committee on International Relations and holder of the Leavey Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom, Georgetown University. Her books include Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought; Meditations on Modern Political Thought; Women and War; Democracy on Trial (a New York Times “notable book” for 1995); Real Politics: At the Center of Everyday Life; Augustine and the Limits of Politics; Who are We? Critical Reflections, Hopeful Possibilities (recipient of the Theologos Award for Best Academic Book 2000 by the Association of Theological Booksellers); Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy (honored by the Society of Midland Authors in 2002); Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (named one of the best non-fiction books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly); and Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (her Gifford Lectures, 2008). She also has edited numerous books, writes frequently for journals of civic opinion, and lectures widely in the United States and abroad on themes of democracy, ethical dilemmas, religion and politics, and international relations. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kimberly Leighton is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at American University. After finishing her dissertation in philosophy on understandings of self-knowledge in modern and post-modern philosophy, she was awarded a Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cornell University. While at Cornell Dr. Leighton explored continental and analytic philosophy approaches to questions regarding the self, identity, and ethics. While her main areas of research are ethics and bioethics, her work is strongly informed by social/political philosophy, continental philosophy, and feminist philosophy. As she brings bio-ethics and political philosophy together, one question she asks is: how might current sciences of identity such as genetics and genomics, and the ethical problems they purportedly raise, affect current political, social, and legal critique, particularly in regards to articulations of rights and freedom?

Nancy Polikoff is Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law where she teaches Family Law and Sexuality and the Law. For Fall 2011- Fall 2012, she is the McDonald/Wright Visiting Chair of Law at UCLA School of Law and Faculty Chair of the Williams Institute. In 1976, Prof. Polikoff co-authored one of the first law review articles on custody rights of lesbian mothers. For the past 35 years, she has been writing about, teaching about, and working on litigation and legislation about LGBT families. Her book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, was published by Beacon Press in 2008. In 2011, she received the National LGBT Bar Association’s Dan Bradley award, the organization’s highest honor. Prof. Polikoff blogs at

Jeffrey Reiman is the William Fraser McDowell Professor of Philosophy at American University. He is the author of In Defense of Political Philosophy (Harper & Row, 1972), Justice and Modern Moral Philosophy (Yale, 1990), Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), The Death Penalty: For and Against (with Louis Pojman) (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), Abortion and the Ways We Value Human Life (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, 10th ed. (with Paul Leighton) (Allyn & Bacon, 2012), As Free and As Just as Possible: The Theory of Marxian Liberalism (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and more than a hundred and twenty articles in philosophy and criminal justice journals and anthologies.

Dorothy E. Roberts is the fourteenth Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at University of Pennsylvania, where she holds faculty appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics. Professor Roberts is the author of the award-winning books Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Random House/Pantheon, 1997) and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books/Civitas, 2002), as well as co-editor of six books on constitutional law and gender. She has also published more than eighty articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review. Her latest book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century, was published by the New Press in July 2011.

Debra Satz is currently the senior associate dean for the humanities and arts at Stanford University. She earned a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York and a doctorate in philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the ethical limits of markets, theories of rational choice, feminist philosophy, ethics and education, and issues of international justice. Her most recent book is Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Limits of Markets (Oxford University Press, 2010). In 2004, Satz received the Walter J. Gores Award, Stanford’s highest teaching honor. She co-founded the Hope House Scholars Program, which pairs volunteer faculty with undergraduates to teach liberal arts courses to residents of a drug and alcohol treatment facility for women.

J. David Velleman is a professor of philosophy at New York University. He previously taught for 22 years at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His most recent book is How We Get Along (Cambridge 2009). His forthcoming book, to be published in open-access format by Open Book Publishers, is titled Foundations for Moral Relativism. He is currently working with Herlinde Pauer-Studer on a biography of Konrad Morgen, who served as an SS Judge during World War II.