CHESTERTOWN — Washington College’s Holstein Program in Ethics will host Justin Tiwald, a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at Princeton University, in a talk that “examines the fundamental question of when it is up to us to figure out a moral problem, or when we should defer to others’ expertise,” a news release states.

The Oct. 16 talk “Moral Expertise: Confucian Philosophers on Deference and Deliberative Autonomy” is free and open to the public. It begins at 6:30 p.m., in Hynson Lounge of Hodson Hall.

According to the release, “in his talk, Tiwald will examine a fundamental issue in human life: When and under what circumstances should we defer to people who know more than ourselves about certain moral matters? We trust the experts when we seek a plumbing repair or auto maintenance, but what about when we face a moral problem? Suppose the problem is whether to buy organic or whether to support restrictions on gun ownership.

“Undoubtedly there are experts who know more about these issues than we do, but many still think that we have a responsibility to reach conclusions on our own. Bringing Confucian philosophy to the complicated moral challenges of today, this public lecture explores various positions on the use and misuse of moral expertise.”

As chairman of the Department of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, Tiwald works on Chinese philosophy broadly construed, but has largely focused on Confucian, Daoist and neo-Confucian accounts of moral psychology, well-being, and political authority, as well as the significance of Confucian views for virtue ethics, moral epistemology and individual and human rights.

He is the editor of, among others, “Oxford Handbook of Chinese Philosophy” (Oxford University Press, 2019), and is the author, with Stephen C. Angle, of “Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (Polity, 2017).

The Holstein Program in Ethics was established in 2014 thanks to the $5 million legacy gift of Richard Holstein ’68, a pediatric dentist. Previous speakers include Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Jonathan Rauch, contributing editor of the Atlantic and the National Journal, and Mary John Miller, former Undersecretary for Domestic Finance of the U.S. Treasury.

In addition to bringing national leaders in ethics to speak with students and the community about current issues, the program supports and enhances the study of ethics throughout the curriculum and fosters interdisciplinary research on a broad range of ethical issues.

Its goal is to spark an appreciation for the importance of moral courage as a foundation for leading a life of purpose and meaning. For more information about the Holstein Program in Ethics see washcoll.edu/departments/holstein-program.

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