California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Cal Lutheran welcomes economics expert Philip Pettit

    Philip Pettit, an L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton, began on simple terms when he addressed the audience in the Samuelson Chapel. The word “corporate,” as he said, is rooted in the Latin word meaning “body.”

    If corporations are bodies, then they are alive and if they are alive, can they be held responsible for their actions? Pettit had a simple answer for this: yes.

    “I believe that economists commit one fallacy, lawyers another, in thinking about corporations. I have come to think that corporations are a challenge for anyone interested in seeing democracy thrive,” Pettit said in an email interview.

    Students attending the 31st annual Harold Stoner Clark Lectures welcomed Pettit with warm applause while California Lutheran University President Chris Kimball noted his many accomplishments.

    The quiet nature of the Cal Lutheran audience was met with the professional demeanor of a man who strongly believes that corporations have limited rights, but should be blamed for misdeeds.

    A quick glance at the lecture program revealed that Pettit sees the corporate body as an agent. Under that terminology, the program states that a corporate body’s actions should be seen as a whole. Furthermore, in order to be blamed for an offense, there must also be grave matter, full knowledge of guilt and full consent of the will to do the offense.

    “I think Pettit’s lecture was unique in one important respect, it dealt with political philosophy, which is not the typical subject of the lectures. The mandate for the lectures is primarily to investigate topics at the intersection of philosophy and science, but we regard political science as science,” Nathan Tierney, director of the Harold Stoner Clark Lectures said.

    Pettit’s second lecture later during the day focused on giving corporations limited rights within democratic contexts. He said he believes that the interests of individual citizens should trump the special interests of corporations, according to the program.

    “There needs to be a balance of the rights of corporations and the rights of the individual in order for democracy to thrive. This is especially pertinent in an election year when so many issues are being debated,” Eloise Cohen, assistant director for the Harold Stoner Clark Lectures said in an email interview.

    The presidential election this year served as an underscore for both lectures as Kimball stressed the importance of being well informed with ideas like Pettit’s.

    Immediately following Pettit’s lecture, there was a brief question and answer session. High school students visiting from the community asked about corporations that are allowed to pollute the environment, and whether or not markets can be seen as corporations.

    “I especially liked how the second lecture built upon the first. It felt like we got to take a one day mini–seminar from professor Pettit. I believe professor Pettit’s work is extremely important because he takes on the difficult task of investigating and arguing for abstract political and ethical ideals while also applying these ideals to concrete cases and contemporary contexts,” Brian Collins, a professor in the philosophy department, said in an email interview.

    Pettit has written several books, as noted by Kimball, which include “Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World” and “The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue and Respect.”

    The Cal Lutheran website states that the late Harold Stoner Clark endowed the free lecture series that started in 1985, requesting that presentations address his dual interests of science and philosophy. Cal Lutheran’s Department of Philosophy sponsors the talks and has done so since its origin.

    Mario Granados
    Staff Writer
    Published February 24th, 2016