Fellow’s Talk: Drew Johnson on Moral and Political Judgment

2021–22 UCHI Fellow's Talks. Entrenchment and Disagreement in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse. Phd Candidate, Philosophy, Drew Johnson. With a response by Prakash Kashwan. October 13, 2021, 4:00pm, Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209

Entrenchment and Disagreement in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse

Drew Johnson (Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy, UConn)

with a response by Prakash Kashwan (Political Science, UConn)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 4:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209.

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The event will also be livestreamed.

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Disagreement in moral and political matters is particularly widespread and often resists easy resolution. Recent work by social epistemologists and psychologists has offered useful tools for analyzing disagreement and polarization both online and in person, by describing how general cognitive biases and heuristics, as well as the affective dimension of normative judgments, make certain moral and political beliefs resistant to rational revision through reasonable discourse. This talk discusses the affective and social aspects of moral and political judgment, how they contribute to explanations of deep disagreement and polarization, and their implications for the possibility of moral and political knowledge.

Drew Johnson is a Philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut. His dissertation project, “A Hybrid Theory of Ethical Thought and Discourse,” examines the nature and function of ethical thought and discourse. Drew has published on skepticism, deep disagreement and intellectual humility, and on self-knowledge (including co-authored work with Dorit Bar-On). During the Summer of 2019, he was the recipient of the Ruth Millikan Graduate Research Fellowship, awarded by the UConn Philosophy Department. Drew is currently a Dissertation Scholar at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute.

Prakash Kashwan is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic and Social Rights, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs. He is the author of the widely reviewed and acclaimed book Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2017) and a Co-Editor of the journal Environmental Politics. He also serves on the editorial advisory boards of Earth Systems Governance, Progress in Development Studies, Sage Open, and Humanities & Social Sciences Communications. Dr. Kashwan is a member of the global expert group for Scoping of Transformative Change Assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a member of the Academic Working Group (AWG) on International Governance of Climate Engineering (2016–18), a Senior Research Fellow of the Earth System Governance (ESG) Project, a member of the Climate Social Science Network (CSSN) established by Brown University, and an external faculty affiliate of the Ostrom Workshop. Dr. Kashwan is also the vice chair of the Environmental Studies Section of the International Studies Association (ISA). In addition to nearly two dozen scholarly publications, his research has been cited in national and international media, including the New York Times, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, NPR, Scientific American, and Down to Earth. Dr. Kashwan has written several influential commentaries for popular venues, such as the Conversation, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, and the Washington Post.

If you require accommodation, including live transcription, to attend this event, please contact us at or by phone (860) 486-9057.

Announcing the 2020–21 Visiting Humanities Fellows

The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) is thrilled to announce the incoming class of visiting humanities fellows: Erica Holdberg from Utah State University, David Samuels from New York University, and Amy Meyers from the Yale Center for British Art. Amy Meyers. More information about each fellow, including their biographical information, will be provided at a later date

Erica Holberg's headshot

Erica Holberg


Philosophy - Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies, Utah State University

Project Title: The Pleasures of Anger: Insights from Aristotle and Kant on Getting Mad, Staying Mad, and Doing This With Others

David Samuel's Photo

David Samuels


Anthropology - Department of Music, New York University

Project Title: Early Folk World: Music, Industrial Modernity, and the Anguish of Community in the 20th Century

Amy Meyers - Future of Truth Fellow


Art History - former director of the Yale Center for British Art, Yale University

Project Title: William Bartram and the Origins of American Environmental Thought

Jeffrey Peterson on the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis & Niche Construction

Niche Construction: Biosemiotics and Recursivity in Evolution

By Jeffrey Peterson


The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) has well-known antecedents in evolutionary biology. For instance, in the mid-20th Century Conrad Waddington anticipated the salience of developmental bias and epigenetic inheritance as evolutionary processes in the EES. Aspects of niche construction theory, another core process within the EES, was articulated decades ago by Richard Lewontin. However, the theoretical contributions of anthropologists regarding niche construction are lesser known. Gregory Bateson and Kinji Imanishi make particularly salient corrections to neo-Darwinian natural selection that are now foundational within the EES, such as the mutual mutability of organism-environment relations and the concomitant implications for selection within such dynamic ecological systems. Here, I further explore the potential contribution of Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotic theory toward elucidating the mechanisms of information flow in John Odling-Smee and colleagues’ formalized conception of niche construction. Drawing on the work of these theorists, I connect them with the underlying process of reciprocal causation in niche construction, which envisions co-responding proximate and ultimate evolutionary patterns. I argue that recognizing these integrated processes as biosemiotically recursive patterns will strengthen the conceptual and explanatory value of niche construction.

Monday, March 30 2020, at 2:30PM; UCHI Conference Room, Babbidge Library, Fourth Floor.

Co-Sponsored by UConn Anthropology Department; Philosophy Department; Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning (ECOM) Research Group; and James Barnett Endowment for Humanistic Anthropology.


Peterson HeadshotJeffrey Peterson
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Jeffrey Peterson is a postdoctoral fellow in the Anthropology Department at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on the wide-ranging manifestations of long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) social behavior in anthropogenic landscapes. He is interested in how social interactions facilitate and maintain relationships among the macaques, as well as between macaques and humans. His research has been supported by the National Geographic Society and the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Fellows Talk: Joe Ulatowski on Epistemic Gatekeeping

Epistemic Gatekeeping, Pride or Prejudice?

Joseph Ulatowski, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy, The University of Waikato – New Zealand
 October 23, 2019 – 4 to 5PM (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor South)

The continuous growth of intellectual ecosystems leads to an environment populated by mutually uncomprehending hyperspecialised groups. That there are such groups can be taken, quite rightly, to reflect the way that human knowledge has expanded and deepened to such an extent that one person can only have a detailed grasp of a very narrow field. People no longer specialise in medicine and law but hyperspecialise in endocrinology and patent law. They occupy a niche that has its own epistemic standards and only those hyperspecialists make appropriate use of its standards. Enter gatekeepers whose sole responsibility it is to assist new entrants to navigate these standards, so that novices not be left stranded upon remote cognitive islands. Whilst they may be highly skilled practitioners, epistemic gatekeepers are not free from acting upon their own cognitive biases and prejudices. In this excerpt from my project, Why Facts Matter, I argue that facts should serve against not only stranding novices on cognitive islands but also privileging biased gatekeepers.Ulatowski Talk Poster


February 4, 2016. Professor Susan Haack, “Credulity and Circumspection: Epistemological Character and the Ethics of Belief “

Credulity and Circumspection: Epistemological Character and the Ethics of Belief
Professor Susan Haack, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Cooper Senior Scholar in Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Law at the University of Miami


Sponsored by The Humanities Institute’s Public Discourse Project and the Department of Philosophy