UW News

October 13, 2015

UW philosophy department to hold six public discussions of migration crisis

UW News

Syrian refugees cross the border between Hungary and Austria on their way to Germany and Hungary on Sept. 6, 2015.

Syrian refugees cross the border between Hungary and Austria on their way to Germany and Hungary on Sept. 6, 2015.Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons

What does it mean to have a right to asylum? Does religion matter in deciding to help refugees? What kind of public health is owed to migrants and refugees? What is “climate justice” and how is it relevant to refugees and immigration policy?

According to a June 2015 report from the United Nations, worldwide displacement — the total number of people forcibly displaced from their homes — had risen to 59.5 million, the highest level ever recorded, by the end of 2014.

The University of Washington Department of Philosophy will examine these questions and more in a series of six public discussions on different aspects of the migration crisis. These will be held at noon on Wednesdays Oct. 14, 21, 28, Nov. 4, 18 and Dec. 2, all in the common area outside the department’s main office, Room 361 of Savery Hall.

“Our response to the ongoing migration crisis in Syria and in many other places in the world has many dimensions,” said Michael Rosenthal, department chair. “One crucial question is the nature and extent of our ethical obligation to help people in need. Philosophers in our department spend a lot of time thinking about this question and would like to stimulate discussion about this important topic in its various aspects.”

Each session will begin with a short presentation, followed by discussion.

Oct. 14: Human rights. William Talbott, professor of philosophy will moderate. What does it mean to have a right to human asylum? What should the United States be doing to secure that right for asylum-seekers from the Middle East?

Oct. 21: Justice. Michael Blake, professor of philosophy and public affairs, will moderate. Is it always unjust for a country to keep out those who would prefer to enter that country? Should some people have special rights to enter? How should we identify those people?

Oct. 28: Compassion. Colin Marshall, assistant professor of philosophy, will moderate. Can we really feel compassion for the millions of refugees? If so, should we?

Nov. 4: Religion. Rosenthal will moderate. Is religion or culture relevant to our decisions about helping refugees or our own immigration policy?

Nov. 18: Climate change. Philosophy lecturer Lauren Hartzell Nichols and graduate student Alex Lenferna will moderate. How is climate justice relevant for immigration policy and considerations of responsibility to help refugees?

Dec. 2: Health. Carina Fourie, assistant professor of medical ethics, and Sara Goering, assistant professor of philosophy, will moderate. What kind of access to health care and public health do we owe undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees?

The events are open to faculty, staff and students. “The only prerequisite,” advance notes say, “is that you come willing to listen and discuss with respect.”


For more information, contact Rosenthal at 206-685-2655 or rosentha@uw.edu; or email philinfo@uw.edu