with David Wood

Centennial Professor
of Philosophy,
Vanderbilt University

more detailed information



Thinking Out
of the Lunchbox

FAll 2011

December 7, 2011
“Faith in Democracy”
Robert Talisse
Professor, Philosophy
Citizens in a democratic society share political power as equals.  This equality entails that the exercise of political power is legitimate only when it can be justified by reasons that all citizens could endorse.   Reasons deriving from religious doctrines are paradigmatic examples of reasons which are not endorsed by all citizens.  Consequently, it is widely held that when the state acts on the basis of religious reasons, it acts wrongly.  If it is wrong for the state to act on the basis of religious reasons, it is wrong for citizens to vote on the basis of their religious reasons — voting is an act that instructs the state about what to do, and it is wrong to instruct the state to do something that it would be wrong for it to do.   Democracy, then, seems to require religious citizens to “bracket” or renounce their religious convictions in public political contexts.  This requirement strikes many religious believers as deeply objectionable; in fact, it appears to violate freedom of conscience and religious exercise.  So what, then, is the proper role of religious conviction and social action in a democratic society?  In this talk, Robert Talisse examines arguments from religious and secular political philosophers and proposes a moral argument for keeping religious and civic obligations separate.
Watch streaming video of Outside of the Lunch Box discussion here.

November 2, 2011
“Newton’s Unfinished Business”

Vicki Greene
Professor, Physics and Astronomy
What is the universe really made of? From Newton onward, the concept of mass, or inertia, has been central to our understanding of the nature of matter in the universe. Neither Einstein's Relativity revolution nor quantum mechanics changed the importance of mass in everything from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest clusters of galaxies, and even the entire universe. Surprisingly, we don't really understand what mass is and where it comes from. Unraveling this longstanding mystery is the goal of the scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider, the greatest particle accelerator ever built; now operating in Switzerland. In this presentation, we will discuss how these experiments may bring us to the point of solving a centuries'-old puzzle.
Watch streaming video of Outside of the Lunch Box discussion here.

October 5, 2011
“Building the Local Living Economy”

David Hess
Professor, Sociology
Two of the great problems facing our twenty-first century world are the economic and environmental crisis. Increasingly we see that proposed solutions link economic development with the greening of the economy. Hess will discuss two approaches: the mainstream of building green-technology industries (such as electric-vehicle manufacturing) and the alternative pathway based on locally owned, independent businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Watch streaming video of Outside of the Lunch Box discussion here.